Mark L. Kraus, Ph.D., earned his B.S. in Oceanography from CUA in 1979, and he's spent a career working in the field of wildlife preservation ever since.
"It's been my experience that very few people start out with a Bachelor's Degree and make a career out of what they wanted to do. I've been one of the fortunate few. Working in the field of wildlife preservation is exactly what I wanted to do when I came to Catholic University as a freshman." Now, more than a quarter century later, Dr. Kraus is living his dream of working on the front lines of environmental research and preservation, currently serving as the Senior Vice President & Chief Operating Officer of the Everglades Foundation in Palmetto Bay, Florida.
"I was always interested in nature as a child," says Dr. Kraus. As a commuter student for four years at Catholic University, Dr. Kraus says he was immediately fascinated by and attracted to what was then CUA's brand new program in oceanography, which included four six-week courses of study on Wallops Island on the eastern shore of nearby Virginia. A combination of class work and field work, this program gave students like Mark the chance to conduct firsthand research on subjects ranging from ornithology, wetlands biology, and marine science - all while on the water of a living, breathing ecosystem.
One of these research projects saw the CUA students spend a full 24 hours on a boat to conduct round-the-clock water sampling tests. "Twenty four hours on a boat was a lot of science," jokes Dr. Kraus. "It was living creatures that always interested me more."
After earning his M.S. and Ph.D. from Rutgers, Dr. Kraus immediately began work in the wetlands area of Hackensack, N.J, where he studied the effects of heavy metal contamination on plants and animals in the region, and helped handle development permits to ensure the preservation of the wildlife native to the area's ecosystem.
From there, Dr. Kraus returned to the familiar eastern shore of Maryland, working for Environmental Concern, a small, non-profit organization that did a lot of habitat restoration. The efforts of Dr. Kraus and his colleagues at Environmental Concern proved instrumental in the field, as the outlet helped pioneer a radical (and now standard) approach of shoreline preservation that replaced "rip rap" (large boulders that help prevent against erosion) and bulkheads, and used the cultivation of native marsh plants to protect shorelines.
After spending the better part of a decade in the northeastern United States, Dr. Kraus followed the pattern of many a migratory bird and headed south for the Florida wetlands. There, he took a position with the National Audubon Society, running state-wide programs on restoration and environmental protection, working with the Society's programs for hawk and owl rehabilitation, and helping to protect and manage more than 60,000 acres of sanctuary owned by the society in Florida.
In 2007, Dr. Kraus was named Senior Vice President & Chief Operating Officer of the Everglades Foundation in Palmetto Bay, Florida, just south of Miami. In this full-time position, Dr. Kraus helps the organization in its mission to advance an understanding of the irreplaceable environmental and economic value of the Greater Everglades Ecosystem (spanning from Orlando to Key West), "which has really become my love." In addition, he works to help the environmental community develop the staff and tools necessary to tackle restoration challenges, including research, grant writing, funding and legislation both on state and national levels.
Dr. Kraus lives in Palmetto Bay with Doris, his wife of 25 years, and three teenage daughters. On Monday nights, he's spent the last twelve years teaching Confirmation class for 8th grade students at the nearby St. Richard's Catholic Church.
To learn more about the Everglades Foundation and its tremendous efforts in preserving Florida wildlife, visit: www.evergladesfoundation.org.