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Working at CSU

Celebrate! CSU Milestone: Joe Stevens, 15 years

March 5, 2014
By Geneva Mueller

It's clear that Joe Stevens, the ecology team leader for the Colorado Natural Heritage Program in the Warner College of Natural Resources,has received much more than just his degree at CSU.

GLORIA alpine vegetation monitoring crew at the trailhead in Yellowstone National Park. From left to right: Betsy Bultema, Bernadette Kuhn, Joe Stevens, Vinamra Mathur, Monica Kopp, Dan Shryock, Travis Talbot.Joe Stevens, the ecology team leader for the Colorado Natural Heritage Program in the Warner College of Natural Resources, came to Colorado State University in 1982 to obtain his degree in natural resource management. Years later, it’s clear that he has received much more than just his degree.  Originally from Ohio, Joe grew up in an environment that inspired him to pursue the career that he now holds.

“Where I grew up, there were a lot of forests and open spaces around my home. My brothers and I spent all our time playing in the woods,” Stevens said. “I think that was part of it; I really enjoyed being outside and really learned a lot about nature by being outdoors.”

Before coming to Fort Collins, Joe moved to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where he found himself escaping every weekend to the Everglades to camp, fish and surround himself with nature. It was during his time in Florida that he realized what he truly wanted to do.

Coming back to Fort Collins

After earning his degree at CSU, and a short time in Vail, Stevens moved to North Carolina where he earned his master’s in environmental management with an emphasis in wetlands and water quality from Duke University. He fondly recalls talking with his classmates about what they were going to do after graduation; Stevens knew without a shadow of a doubt that he was coming straight back to Fort Collins.

“People would ask what I was doing when I graduated and I would say that I was going back to Colorado. And they would say, ‘You got a job in Colorado?’ And I would say, ‘No, I don’t have a job there, but that’s where I want to live. So I’m going back, job or no job,’” Stevens said.

After 10 years in the private sector as a consultant for international mining and oil and gas projects, Stevens began working for CSU.

Beautiful places to work

In his capacity as the ecology team leader, he focuses on community ecology and specifically on vegetation mapping for the National Park Service. He spends most of his time in the field, managing crews of younger ecologists just beginning their careers, teaching them how to collect plot data that is then used to make vegetation maps using remote sensing. 

Stevens feels fortunate to work in some extremely beautiful places, such as the Bighorn Canyon, Sand Dunes National Park and Lake Mead. The work itself, he said, is interesting and engaging, but the rewarding part is seeing young professionals truly come into their own, realize their true potential and the extent to which they truly understand what they are doing.

Looking back on 15 years at CSU, Stevens has enjoyed reconnecting with people that he initially met while obtaining his first degree at the University. Looking ahead, he sees himself continuing to work here at CSU, although potentially in a different realm. As he and his team have been producing remote sensing maps of vegetation for the National Park Service for many years, much of the work in that area has been completed. Stevens is interested in getting involved with time series data and future projections of climate change on the composition and structure of vegetation.

Work/life balance

In his spare time, Stevens enjoys mountain and road biking. He does a long-distance tour each summer. He has frequented Southern Colorado, Lake Mead and Utah, having biked the White Rim Trail in Canyonlands National Park numerous times. He particularly enjoys technical and challenging mountain biking. He also enjoys backcountry skiing and has rented a cabin with some friends for the 2014 season.

Stevens is extremely appreciative of all the opportunities that working for the University has presented and looks forward to many more years at CSU.

“In addition to Fort Collins being a great place [to live], the University is a fantastic place to work, just because the work/life balance is important to me, and that’s recognized within the University,” Stevens said.

Celebrate! CSU Milestones honors University employees for years of service and retirement, and will be held this year on April 30, 4 p.m., in the Hilton Fort Collins Ballroom. Between now and then, Today @ Colorado State will be featuring selected employees Celebrating! Milestones this year.

Contact: Nicole Franklin