As the assistant deputy director for climate and energy at the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE), Angie Lottes ’09 plays a pivotal role in fighting catastrophic wildfires on the West Coast. A love for the natural world, intellectual drive and work opportunities at Berry laid the foundation to this challenging—and rewarding—career.
When Angie began her freshman year at Berry, she started off in biology. But she soon discovered her interests more closely aligned with environmental science and tailored her courses to pursuits that would expose her to ecological studies and concerns. While diving into academic work, Angie got hands-on experience in ongoing campus endeavors like the Longleaf Pine Project, which seeks to re-establish a fire-maintained Mountain Longleaf ecosystem. She participated in the maintenance of frequent controlled (prescribed) burns that reduce the likelihood of wildfires in managed areas.
“For me, having classes on the edge of a huge native forest and fire ecology lab was transformational,” Angie says. “In addition to learning technical skills that I could use in future jobs like how to mix and spray herbicide, scratch fire lines, fill and use a drip torch, or prepare solutions for lab experiments, I also observed important processes like preparing prescribed fire plans and other management processes. This was useful in applying for jobs after graduation in terms of understanding opportunities and filling my resume, and also in understanding what work in the land management sector would entail.”
Professor of Biology Martin Cipollini, who championed Angie’s career interests, supervised her work on the Longleaf Pine Project and the prescribed burn team. “Angie is a great person and was instrumental in helping me get my Longleaf Pine Project off to a good start,” he says. “She was really enthusiastic and a hard worker in the field.”
After graduating from Berry, Angie worked on prescribed fire crews with the Nature Conservancy and earned a master’s degree in environmental systems from Humboldt State University. Additional studies and work with the Watershed Research and Training Center in California took her to the next level and her role as an environmental steward with CAL FIRE.
Angie offers advice for future Berry students: “Get out and travel. Not only will it help you interact better with the world, it may make you appreciate your Berry experience even more.”