Passionate, Empathetic, & Fearless: Carolyn Enquist

March 27, 2023
Carolyn - Profile Picture For Website News Post

Welcome to our new staff profile series, People of the SWCASC! Follow along with this series of profiles that will highlight the important work and unique life experiences of staff members of the Southwest Climate Adaptation Science Center.  


Carolyn Enquist is the Acting Federal Director of the Southwest Climate Adaptation Science Center. In her role, Carolyn leads the SW CASC’s development of an interdisciplinary research program that conducts and supports user-driven and solution-oriented research to address priority climate adaptation needs. She also works to build, strengthen and maintain partnerships with natural and cultural resource managers, policy makers, Native Nations, and researchers across the Southwest to ensure the co-development of knowledge for climate adaptation.

Carolyn Headshot - July

Originally from Manitou Springs, Colorado, Carolyn studied International Relations and French during her undergraduate degree at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. She later earned her master’s and PhD from the University of New Mexico in Biology. During her time as a graduate student, Carolyn studied tropical dry forests and climate change in Costa Rica. “When I started to study climate change for my master’s and PhD,” Carolyn said. “I recognized that the pace and scale of the issue were beyond what conventional conservation wisdom could do. That’s when I started turning to the idea of climate adaptation, especially in the context of biodiversity conservation.” 

Carolyn has previously served in positions with organizations such as The National Park Service, National Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy chapters in Arizona and New Mexico, USA National Phenology Network. She also served on detail at the South Central CASC. She has over 20 years of experience working as a climate-adapted conservation practitioner and has worked with the SW CASC since 2014 in building partnerships with others to start initiatives such as the Southwest Adaptation Forum, the SWFireCAP, and the Southern California Montane Forest Project. “It gives me hope to see those partnerships and momentum grow, and to get closer to moving the needle for on-the-ground adaptation,” Carolyn said. The energy and passion of the SW CASC partners gives Carolyn hope for the future, “and especially seeing the emergence of some very strong female Indigenous leaders,” she said. 

Carolyn grew up with a love of nature and a conservation ethic and her work initially was centered around finding her spiritual connection [to nature]. “Over the years [my work] has become much more about people and working together to find common goals,” Carolyn said. “And recognizing that these ecosystems and landscapes are so integral to life.” She is passionate about the outdoors and wants to encourage people to rebuild their connections with nature and ensure future generations have the same opportunities. 

In her spare time, Carolyn enjoys being active and communing with nature. She loves living in a mountain town and takes full advantage of her access to hiking, biking, and skiing. Carolyn is also an avid traveler. “Even before I became a conservation practitioner,” Carolyn said. “I studied international relations and French with the hope of traveling the world and doing good things around the globe.”

Carolyn Enquist Profile - SWAF Group

Carolyn describes herself as passionate, empathetic, and fearless. She feels honored to be working in a field that she is so passionate about and that has allowed her to grow her sense of empathy over the years. “I started my career as an ecologist which wasn’t initially because of people,” Carolyn said. “But now I see this does involve people and conservation is all about values. Through the years I’ve developed my sense of empathy and understanding for how people connect or don’t connect to nature and the services that it provides.” As her career has progressed, Carolyn has also developed fearlessness. “I’ve been around long enough and have had enough experiences that I’m just not scared of things as I once was, particularly in my career as a female scientist,” Carolyn said. In her nine years with the SW CASC, Carolyn is proud of the progress made in climate adaptation work.