Mark Aspelin, Founder & CEO
Profitable Conservation LLC
I remember it like it was yesterday. While working as a conservation biologist in a remote region of the western highlands of Kenya, I was asked the following question by one of the tribal leaders: “Can you help us develop income-generating projects for the local community?” At the time, my answer was a polite form of “heck no!” After all, I was clueless about business and I was hoping to keep it that way. My training had been in medical physiology, behavioral ecology, and conservation biology (BS in Biology from the University of Notre Dame and MS in Biology from Creighton University). I was one of those idealistic college grads who had no intention of working in a “soul-sucking” job, toiling away in some lifeless cube farm in a large company. Business was the furthest thing from my mind. But the more I worked in rural Africa, the more I saw the need to learn how to make conservation profitable for the local community.
To make a long story short, I decided to take the plunge into business. From my tent in rural Kenya, I filled out an application and mailed it to Austin, Texas. A few months later, I was accepted to the MBA program at the University of Texas at Austin, where I completed an MBA with concentrations in Natural Resource & Environmental Management and Operations Management. Of course I didn’t even know what Operations Management was when I arrived in Austin. Needless to say, it was a steep learning curve.
Fast forward 20 years, and I’ve now had the opportunity to experience more than my fair share of cube farms and “Office Space” – movie moments in a wide variety of large corporations. The amazing part was that I actually enjoyed a lot of it! I’ve worked on an incredibly wide variety of projects in the areas of corporate sustainability, conservation biology, environmental planning, information technology, process improvement, and business intelligence and analytics.
My resume provides plenty of laughs for any job recruiter as I’ve bounced from company to company in the environmental and healthcare industries. Here’s a snapshot for your entertainment:
- The International Crane Foundation, Aviculturist and Conservation Biologist
- KPMG, Consultant – Environmental Management Practice
- The Coca-Cola Company, Environmental Programs Manager
- Intel Corporation, Business Process Reengineering Specialist
- The Nature Conservancy, Conservation Biologist
- Sandia National Laboratories, Senior Project Manager – Environmental Planning and International Security
- Environmental Resources Management Inc., Environmental Consultant
- D. Pennington & Associates (Transportation Planning), Senior Environmental Planner
- Fidelity Investments, Senior Operations Project Manager – Health & Welfare
- DaVita HealthCare Partners, IT Project Manager
- Molina Healthcare, Senior Project Manager
- Optum (United HealthGroup), Program Manager
I’ve also been a Certified Project Management Professional since 2005 and received certification in Corporate Sustainability Reporting (GRI) in 2012.
And then there’s the travel part. I’ve had the opportunity to travel … a lot. So far, I’ve visited 100 countries (22 on business) and all 50 U.S. states.
In July of 2018, I decided to publish a book that captured much of what I’ve learned over the years in my work at the intersection of business and biodiversity. It’s called “Profitable Conservation: Business Strategies that Boost Your Bottom Line, Protect Wildlife, and Conserve Biodiversity”.
All of this is a long-winded way of saying that I’ve been around the block a few times in the world of biodiversity conservation and corporate sustainability, and I hope you’ll find that the ideas and insights I share to be valuable to your organization.
Thanks for reading!