Introducing Loren Taylor: Ornithologist Turned Beaver Enthusiast
Hailing from the soggy bottomland hardwood forests of Kentucky, it didn’t take long to observe the magic and diversity of life found near water, even as a child. As I reflect on the tangled spaghetti trail life has led me down to land me in this new role, I find myself remembering my childhood, where my passion for nature bloomed. Thinking back it is hard for me to recall a core memory of nature that didn’t involve some aspect of water. From playing in creeks as a kid to my first research project studying seasonal bird diversity in constructed wetlands during college, water always seemed to be incorperated. My childhood passion for nature inevitably led to my becoming a Wildlife Biologist. I developed a fascination for birds during my undergrad, and like all aspiring biologists, I accepted as many wildlife tech positions as I could, hoping to someday land a permanent job. I researched birds from the coastal marshes and forests in Florida to the banks of the Mackinac Straits in northern Michigan. Eventually arriving home again in the Bluegrass State working as an Avian Biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.
I can’t say I gave beavers much thought in my early career, other than the thrill of seeing them in a beaver pond, or the acknowledgment they provided excellent wetland habitats for birds. However, after moving from the Southeast to the Mountain West, I almost instantaneously became a beaver fanatic. All because of water. Water conservation in the wake of climate change in the Western U.S. is both intriguing and concerning to think about, especially having spent the bulk of my life in the East, here water rights and the reliance upon the depleting groundwater aquifers are virtually unknown. Now, I spend my days like other Westerners, hoping for years with big snowpacks, small wildfires, and more beavers.
As an Idahoan, I recognized the critical role of beavers and beaver wetlands in our semi-arid ecosystems. Astonished by their ability to recharge aquifers, raise groundwater tables, and combat wildfires, my passion grew for these incredible engineers, thinking they could have a key role to play in water conservation in the West. I stumbled upon the Beaver Institute while working with Wyoming Untrapped and the U.S. Forest Service to install culvert fencing at a site in the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Working with landowners and land managers to find nonlethal solutions to beaver damming conflicts seemed to be an excellent way to rebrand the beaver from nuisance wildlife to climate change fighting partner. I began participating in the Beaver Institute’s National Beaver Working Groups and continued installing culvert fences and flow devices in a few other locations in Wyoming throughout the remainder of 2022.
I am thrilled that my spaghetti trail has led me to serve as the Program Director for the Beaver Institute’s BeaverCorps Program. I couldn’t be more passionate about educating and training beaver conflict mitigation professionals in innovative coexistence methodologies around the country. I look forward to meeting all of our current and future trainees and sowing beaver knowledge and appreciation far and wide. These tiny engineers have a lot to offer our evolving world, and I am honored to be on the leading edge of human-beaver partnerships and discovering how to work with wildlife to positively impact our environment.