Ben Reynard's office is not climate controlled. In winter, wind howls through the prairie environments where he plants native species, and the mercury drops below zero. In summer, as he plants willow stakes to control erosion, the temperatures often get up to over 100 degrees. But Ben isn't looking for a water cooler and a thermostat. In his work as an eco-contractor with Applied Ecological Services, he's protecting the Midwestern environment he's valued since growing up in Oklahoma.
Ben grew up under big skies in Tulsa, working on a farm throughout high school. At Macalester College, he majored in international studies and environmental economics with a focus on ecotourism. "I studied how natural services were valued," Ben says. "In a study abroad program in Baja, Mexico, I learned how to protect the environment as part of a green business model." After graduation, Ben spent 10 years in the corporate housing and hospitality fields, but kept his environmental experience in the back of his mind — "I knew I wanted to do that kind of work down the road."