Paul Leonard '06

Name: Paul Leonard '06
Residence: Fairbanks, Alaska
Degree: Biology
Occupation: Lead ecologist, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Ecologist Paul Leonard '06 was looking for adventure during his senior year at Winthrop.

After battling bone cancer beginning in 2002, he was ready for a different experience. 

“I wanted to see the world. I was confident and felt like Winthrop had trained me well,” said Leonard, who earned a Bachelor of Science degree in biology. After graduation, Professor Emeritus of Biology Peter Phillips helped him acquire an internship in Alaska

It was there that his adventure began.  

“I found myself flying around the iconic peaks of the Brooks Range in a Piper Super Cub tracking Dall sheep, wading in wild rivers for salmon and endless summer hiking,” he said.   

During his excursions, he met wildlife biologists with jobs that were unknown to him at the time. His connection to the outdoors was obvious and would lead him to a voyage to western Australia to work in sustainable forestry. He went on to earn a doctorate in wildlife biology at Clemson University.   

Today, he manages the biological program for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. He studies the ecology of tundra and alpine ecosystems and monitors the habitats of birds and bears, to name a few.   

Leonard has received a number of recognitions for his work and most recently was awarded Clemson's Dwight A. Holder Award for his commitment and achievements toward fostering the conservation of natural and cultural resources. Watch the virtual award ceremony here

“To be honest I was completely surprised and humbled. The award honors a great public servant of South Carolina. Many people may be unaware of the powerful work that public agencies do to protect and enhance the outdoor experiences that we all treasure, but I've seen a lot of this firsthand,” Leonard said. 

His firsthand experiences include everything from witnessing the 9-day, nonstop flights of the bar-tailed godwit (large wading bird) from New Zealand to Alaska to the thousands of miles traveled annually by Porcupine caribou (herd of reindeer).   

“There is life and nature all around us.  Everywhere we choose to look, we will find pattern, color, complexity and overt beauty. The relationships between living organisms are infinitely interesting,” he said. 

Leonard spends his days truly enjoying the majesty of Fairbanks, Alaska by birding, kayaking and hiking, and taking photography of the state's beauty