LIHUE — Melissa Fisher is excited to dive deeper into the community.
And as the newly appointed Kauai program director for The Nature Conservancy of Hawaii, she’ll be able to do just that.
“I want to take a more active role in relationship building and just see what else we can do to further good work on Kauai,” Fisher said.
Fisher isn’t new to directing activities here for The Nature Conservancy — she’s been the deputy director of the Kauai program since 2011. But she’s taking over for Trae Menard, who launched the Kauai program in 2005.
Menard has been serving in dual roles — as Kauai program director and director of forest conservation. He will now turn his full attention to strategic management of watershed forests statewide.
“It’s been this transition over the years and I’ve just been taking on more and more,” Fisher said. “It’s nice to get the promotion and have that happen.”
Menard said he’s pleased Fisher is heading the Kauai program.
“She has been effectively managing our complex field operations for years, developing innovative technologies, supervising our team, and working well with partners. Melissa’s good-natured demeanor, intellect and willingness to go the extra mile is appreciated by all of us who work with her,” he said.
Fisher started with The Nature Conservancy in 2008 as a project coordinator. Her first project was working on an environmental assessment for a 4.5-mile fencing project, which meant managing all aspects of the environmental assessment process.
“It really just gave me a deep dive into conservation,” Fisher said. “I was hooked; it was my own back yard that I was working to protect.”
In 2011, Fisher was promoted to Kauai program deputy director.
“My boss stepped up as the statewide person and for the past few years I was running it, and he would look over his shoulder now and then to check on it,” Fisher said. “It’s nice to have the recognition and get promoted.”
In 2012, Fisher participated in the conservancy’s Emerging Leaders Program, and earned a master’s degree in business administration from Marylhurst University.
In addition to her work on Kauai, Fisher led The Nature Conservancy’s Women in Nature diversity initiative and has contributed to operational improvements that enable the global organization to more efficiently manage equipment life cycles, contracts, databases and risk.
Fisher is an able outdoorswoman who attributes her ability to lead fieldwork in remote areas to the four years she co-captained a 35-foot sailboat from Washington to Panama.
“On our sailboat, we did everything ourselves — when something broke, we had to figure out how to fix it with what we had on board,” she said. “That gave me the experience and understanding required to support our team when they face similar situations in the remote areas of Kauai’s native forests.”
In her spare time, Fisher works with her husband remodeling their home and growing food in their garden. She enjoys making jewelry and volunteering in the community. Currently, she is helping form a conservation women’s group on Kauai.
Until recently, the group has been a conglomeration of women in management on Kauai who meet for support and inspiration.
“We’re wanting to expand this and shift the focus to sharing skills, finding ways to help each other, and finding out what people need,” she said.
The community has a lot of power, she said, especially when people connect and support each other’s causes. Fisher hopes to tap into that.
“You can connect people and your efforts become larger — that’s true both for women’s groups and for conservation,” she said. “I’m eager to keep doing all I can for Kauai, not only for my friends and family, but Hawaii, our planet and future generations.”