Meet Megan Cowan-Cranmer has been a field biologist at the Illinois Natural History Survey's (INHS) Great Rivers Field Station (GRFS) for over 14 years, and also this year's 2021 Confluence Conservation Leader awardee. Since 2007, the Mississippi Earthtones Festival Committee recognizes local residents who make significant contributions to environmental conservation in the Riverbend. Confluence Conservation Leader recipients work tirelessly to advocate, educate and inspire action in areas of environmental education, sustainability, and land conservation.
"I am excited to receive this award and to receive it next to two women that I respect, admire, and am friends with makes it that much more special," said Cowan-Cranmer.
Cowan-Cranmer is no stranger to the Mississippi River's shoreline, in fact, the River has always had an integral presence in her life as well as her young family.
"I have lived next to the Mississippi River my whole life, I have seen it every day, that makes an impact on a person. I love being outside in nature and have always been interested in conserving our natural spaces and helping our environment. I have four children that I am passing that respect onto and know that they will be stewards of these places too," she said.
Cowan-Cranmer started off at GRFS doing vegetation sampling on the Mississippi River and moved on to water quality and fisheries field and lab work. Along the way she did work sampling and identifying macro- and microzooplankton, flood level sampling, entering data, commercial fishing research, participating in outreach, and other various tasks, including converting the stretch of grass into a pollinator garden.
"I'm very proud of the progress. It brightens up the neighborhood, is visited by many types of native pollinators, and is a registered Monarch Waystation," said Cowan-Cranmer.
Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Cowan-Cranmer credits her success to being flexible, a team player, and having a positive attitude.
"A couple of extra steps for all the tasks, being considerate to coworkers and making sure everyone is feeling comfortable and safe. Luckily, our field station is smaller and I work with an amazing group of people, so it has made things much easier. I think I have succeeded in this field because I am adaptable, willing to help with any project, enjoy working outside in all types of weather and have a good attitude. I think those traits are important for success," she said.