Nelson master’s graduate puts environmental conservation theories into practice

January 15, 2018

Whenever there’s a wild animal in need, Jacqueline Sandberg is ready to jump into action. She sees many different kinds of animals every day, and she wants to be able help all of them return to the wild where they belong.

Sandberg is the Wildlife Rehabilitation Training Coordinator at Dane County Humane Society’s Wildlife Center, coordinating volunteer efforts and training on how to provide care for injured animals. She has been working there for the past six years, turning what initially started as an internship into a full-time career.

Through an independent study credit with the Nelson Institute, Sandberg was able to start working at the Humane Society as an undergraduate. She’s now a two-time Nelson alumna, holding an Environmental Studies certificate from her undergraduate years and a master’s degree from the Nelson Institute Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development program (today the Environment and Resources program) continuing her wildlife rehabilitation work throughout her academic career.

For Sandberg, a passion for birds and animals runs in the family, as her grandfather was there for the beginnings of the ornithology program on campus. She said she fondly remembers her grandfather and father taking her to see rare birds in both Kansas and Wisconsin—and that had a big influence on her career decision.

“I just always loved birds growing up, so that made me want a career working with birds,” Sandberg said.

Two ornithology courses on the UW campus helped set her on the path towards becoming a wildlife rehabilitator. Sandberg said she was fortunate to have taken “Birds of Southern Wisconsin” with Mark Berres, a professor of animal sciences, and “Birding to Change the World” with Jack Kloppenburg, a professor of community and environmental sociology and environmental studies, and Trish O'Kane, an alumna of the Nelson Institute Environment and Resources program.

After taking those courses, Sandberg was on the path to find a career that would help birds in their natural habitat. Now as a wildlife rehabilitator, she is able to do just that, placing birds and other native species back into the environment where they belong.

“As wildlife rehabilitators, we want [animals] to go out in the wild, to be natural in their habitat and healthy as if they never came into rehab before.”

Sandberg said there’s a line between nature and the human world, warning people to not try to take care of wild animals they find. She said her goal is to help without impacting their ability to survive in the wild.

There’s a distinct value to keeping wildlife separate from humans, Sandberg said. But she also lauds the efforts of people who want to take care of wildlife that are often injured because of human activities.

“It’s hard because wildlife is very stressed out. They don’t know we’re trying to help them and that’s the hardest part,” Sandberg said. “But overall, it’s definitely a good feeling to be able to help the animals, help the community, and help the people that bring in those animals.”

Sandberg is among Nelson alumni invited to speak this spring at the Careers in the Environment (ES 402) course taught by Paul Robbins, Nelson Institute Director, Rebecca Ryan, Undergraduate Program Coordinator, and Emily Reynolds, Assistant Director, Community Engagement and Alumni Relations.