Cooper Breeden is the recently hired Conservation Coordinator of the Tennessee Plant Conservation Alliance, a new initiative that connects university programs, botanical gardens, government agencies, land managers, environmental consultants, and botanical experts to facilitate the conservation of rare plants across the state. Cooper is also in the process of finishing up his MS at Austin Peay State University, where his research is focused on the dendroecology of the Nashville Basin limestone glade and savanna ecosystem in central Tennessee. The TPCA position is supported by Austin Peay State University Biology Department.
Cooper is a middle Tennessee native and has spent most of his life in Nashville. With a bachelor's degree in international business, he started his professional life pursuing a career in international and community development. After a short stint in the International Development graduate program at George Washington University, he got a job at the nonprofit GlobalGiving, where he helped connect major corporate giving and social responsibility programs, such as Pepsi and Nike, to high impact community-based organizations around the world. As an outdoorsman who enjoyed backpacking, fly fishing, and paddling, Cooper was frequently frustrated by the environmental degradation he came across while venturing outside, and he wanted to actively be a part of the solution to the problem.
To that end, he quit his job at GlobalGiving and began seeking opportunities in conservation. After a few seasonal jobs--a cuthroat trout restoration project in the Eastern Sierras with the nonprofit California Trout and a stewardship position at the Anacostia Watershed Society outside of DC--he got a job at the Harpeth Conservancy (formerly Harpeth River Watershed Association). At HC, Cooper managed the restoration and education programs. Among many other things, he worked with farmers to implement best management practices on their land, landowners to plan and implement riparian reforestation projects, and partnered with schools and camps to lead hands-on water quality and wildlife educational programs.
While Cooper truly enjoys many aspects of natural history and ecology, he became truly passionate about botany over the years. He wanted to deepen his knowledge of the floral diversity and natural communities of the region, and also further develop his technical skillset. To that end, he began the MS in Biology at Austin Peay State University, studying under Dr. Dwayne Estes, director of SGI.