From bullfrogs to biology


“Ired rainboots in a puddle’ve always enjoyed nature,” said Margaret “Meg” Symington ’78. “As a child, our house backed up on Rocky Brook - the same that flows through Hightstown - and I would traipse round in rubber boots trying to catch bullfrogs.”

At Peddie, Symington would have a well-rounded experience as secretary of Student Council, a Gold Key member, a student tutor, a member of the lacrosse and field hockey teams and the chairwoman of the Student Athletic Committee.

In the classroom, Symington’s childhood interest in nature, born in the woods and streams surrounding Peddie, would be fostered and encouraged. “My science classes at Peddie, especially biology with Mr. Oram, expanded my knowledge of and curiosity about the natural world. They definitely prepared me well for majoring in biology at Yale.”

From Yale, she would go on to earn her Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology from Princeton University. After serving as an environmental advisor in the Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean at the U.S. Agency for International Development, she went on to join the World Wildlife Foundation and take her current position as managing director for the Amazon, specializing in tropical forest ecology and conservation, primate behavior and biodiversity conservation.

In addition to Mr. Oram’s influence, Symington’s breadth of experiences at Peddie have continued to inspire her along her career path. “I would have to say that learning the value of hard work, and to keep trying even though the task may seem overwhelming are Peddie lessons that definitely come in handy when working on a Ph.D. dissertation. Playing on the field hockey and lacrosse teams taught me a lot about the value of hard work and persistence in the face of adversity, as well as teamwork!”

“My current work focuses on helping countries figure out sustainable financing plans for their national parks and other protected areas,” said Symington. “We help them to understand the values that those protected areas contribute to their citizens and to the world, and then to develop innovative mechanisms to monetize those values. We package those together with funding from donors and put together a long-term plan that ensures the protected areas can actually be protected for the next 20-25 years.”