Protecting Precious Resources
Raul Galvan ’21 does whatever it takes to preserve vanishing green spaces.
By: Mary Elizabeth DeAngelis
Raul Galvan’s workplace spans thousands of acres. There’s no job too small or big during a workday that’s never typical.
He might spend a Monday talking with a farmer about preserving land instead of selling to a developer. Or lead a group of bankers on a Tuesday cleanup, then spend a day researching maps. Sometimes he’s an educator teaching kids about greenways and drinking water sources as he leads them on a kayak tour. And on others he’ll grab a giant pruner to clear invaders like kudzu from a field so that native grass and wildflowers can grow.
Galvan, from the class of 2021, serves as a Davidson Impact fellow for the Catawba Lands Conservancy and The Carolina Thread Trail. He’s working with both non-profits to protect, preserve and connect the Charlotte area’s most precious natural resources.
His job takes him around Mecklenburg and nearby North Carolina and South Carolina counties. Conserving land is particularly challenging in what is now one of the country’s fastest growing regions. With housing in short supply and land at a premium, there’s an ever-growing pressure to replace trees with townhouses, open fields with office parks.
Galvan says he often encounters people who are surprised by how much greenspace still exists. Conservationists guard it nervously.
“These are absolutely stunning areas, so close to Charlotte and Davidson, and they’re in danger of disappearing,” he says. “It’s a shame because people really don’t know what they’ll be missing until it’s gone. We try to stay optimistic and hopeful and do what we can to make sure we preserve these spaces that are so important.”
At Davidson, Galvan majored in Environmental Studies and worked with the non-profit, Sustain Charlotte, as a Sustainability Scholar. He also collaborated with college and town leaders on Davidson’s 2021 climate action plan.
“Raul consistently raises his hand when there is a need for action, keeps showing up, and asks the right questions,” says Yancey Fouché, the college’s director of sustainability. “His beyond-his-years knack for collaborative solution-building is a tremendous gift to the community of sustainability professionals.”
A first-generation Mexican American, Galvan grew up outside of Chicago and received a scholarship to the prestigious Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, where he often hiked and spent time outdoors. He attended Davidson on a full QuestBridge scholarship.
Any workday spent outside is a good one, and when his fellowship ends next summer, Galvan plans to explore a variety of options, including careers in land and resource management, urban planning and environmental policy.
“It’s satisfying to get substantial work done with your hands,” he says. “When I see a field we’ve cleared of an invasive species, it’s exhilarating.
“I really do like working on the local angle with people who are committed to this. You have a better chance of making a bigger impact when you find a way to take local action.”