Many RC students explore myriad subjects during their four (or more) years at U-M, and they often come up with novel combinations of multiple disciplines into careers that don't fit into one easy category. Nicholas Bratton, RC '98, is no exception. He double-majored in Geological Sciences and French as a student in Ann Arbor and his later academic pursuits were again two-pronged, this time an MS in Forestry from the University of Washington, and then an MPA from the Daniel J. Evans School of Public Policy and Governance, also at the University of Washington. These programs uniquely prepare Nicholas for a career that has included 11 years as policy director at a Seattle area sustainability nonprofit, Forterra, as a mounteering guide in the Cascade range of Washington, and co-founding an organization called Global Exploration and Recovery that is dedicated to finding and returning the remains of American service members who have vanished in the Arctic (you can read more about that in his story in the LSA Magazine from 2015). 

"No matter how hard the work was and no matter how frustrated we became with the pace of the search, none of us ever forgot why we were there: to find those three men beneath the ice. Our challenges paled in comparison to the suffering of the families who lost a father, son, or brother in the Duck crash. My grandfather came back from the war. We owed it to these men to see if we could help them do the same." Nicholas has skills and appreciation for every aspect of an expedition like this one in Greenland. He draws upon his safety training, he documents the experience in sometimes technical and othertimes highly readable text, and then he photographs what his words can't fully express. His research has appeared in top-tier journals and his writing has appeared in several nonfiction publications, and he also publishes writing and photography on his website, As an administrator of public resources, Nicholas has helped to design ten local market-based conservation programs in Western Washington and has contributed to the design of two pieces of state legislation in Washington that have resulted in the conservation of over 60,000 acres of forest and farm land through private market transactions. 

Nick's time at the RC shaped his life and career path in two important ways.  First, his professors inspired him to think critically about the world, taking nothing at face value but searching for deeper meaning.  Nick applies this approach across all his professional pursuits, from designing conservation policy to nonfiction writing.  Second, the RC taught him to cultivate curiosity across a range of interests. He says, "switching gears between arctic exploration, sustainability, and writing about travels in South Africa feels like a natural extension of the multidisciplinary spirit of the RC."

Congratulations, Nick, for finding a way to feed your adventurous spirit with work that conserves history, the earth, and the people on it. We are proud to call you an RC graduate!

RC students are encouraged to see Robby Griswold in Greene 1812 or by email at to get Nick's contact information. 

Photographs taken and provided by Nick Bratton. Top photo: Nick exploring eastern Lesotho by Land Rover. Bottom photo: In Search of the Experience Racing makes their debut at the Baja 1000 in a 22-year old Range Rover.