Dusty Vaughn ('06) | Biology
USDA Forest Service, Stanislaus National Forest, Calif.
"I love working in the outdoors," says Dusty Vaughn, recreational specialist for Stanislaus National Forest and an avid photographer. "[It's] where I feel that I am much closer to God."
Vaughn says he's been drawn to nature his entire life.
It's amazing to me how often I refer to some of the basic biology concepts I learned at ACU when planning recreation opportunities across the forest. The ecology and botany classes I took at ACU definitely prepared me for my work today.
"I initially fell in love with the outdoors as a child while exploring the woods in the backyard at my home in Tennessee," he says. "I learned to respect nature, not just as God's creation but as a place to learn about the constancy and creativity of God’s nature."
Vaughn graduated from ACU in 2006 with a degree in biology and went on to study Recreation Resource Management at Utah State University before beginning his work for the Forest Service. His dream was to utilize his passion for outdoor recreation by pursuing a career in recreation ecology, but his first job did not go as planned.
"I worked in a downtown area conducting groundwater sampling and cleaning up underground storage tank spills. It meant spending hours standing on asphalt in the hot Texas sun - not exactly my favorite scenery," he says.
Though the environment was drab, Vaughn did not lose hope.
"Throughout my life, God has always proven to me that he will provide," Vaughn says. "I knew that once again God would provide - and he has. I love my new job at the Forest Service, and we have been blessed with a beautiful daughter who was born to us in October 2010."
When Vaughn thinks back to his time in Abilene, he remembers how ACU shaped his spiritual life, as well as his understanding of nature.
"I was impressed with ACU's biology program and wanted to learn from professors who could teach about the natural world in the context of God's plan for the world," he says. "It's amazing to me how often I refer to some of the basic biology concepts I learned at ACU when planning recreation opportunities across the forest. The ecology and botany classes I took at ACU definitely prepared me for my work today."
Vaughn's extracurricular activities also equipped him with skills he still uses in his day-to-day life.
"I was a member of the Service Action Leadership Team (S.A.L.T.), and I also co-founded the ACU Outdoor Club to promote outdoor ethics, knowledge and service. I am currently developing a volunteer program to recruit local volunteers to encourage teamwork, build a sense of ownership, and to get feedback on project ideas. I'm using the skills I learned at ACU to build this program," Vaughn says.
Honoring God’s creation
As a recreation specialist, Vaughn studies how recreation activities impact the natural and social environment and applies his research to develop maintenance techniques that encourage forest conservation.
"My greatest experience while in graduate school was with the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern Alaska," he says. "I was able to spend three months in Alaska flying, backpacking and rafting across refuge sites and rehabilitating them so that future visitors would still have the chance to experience the pristine wilderness without coming across human-created distractions."
Vaughn recognizes the importance of maintaining nature's purity, and instills the same values in his family.
"We try to exemplify how you can honor God by honoring His creation," Vaughn says, "[by] recycling, treading lightly and leaving no trace."
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