L&C Restoration Ecology Student Lives His Passion

Article by: Jan Dona, L&C Media Services,

EAST ALTON – Hard work and a clear vision of what he wants to achieve has helped a Lewis and Clark Community College student step from his degree program into his field of choice.

Although sophomore Philip Rathz isn’t set to graduate with his Associate in Applied Science in Restoration Ecology until December, it’s no accident he’s landed a job as a habitat junior project assistant at the National Great Rivers Research and Education Center (NGRRECsm).

Rathz, a 2016 graduate of Duchesne High School in St. Charles, Missouri, knew right away he wanted to turn his appreciation for hiking and the outdoors into a career.

“I want to help in the effort to restore our remaining ecosystems to a functional state and I wanted a job where I get to work outdoors,” Rathz said. “I decided to attend L&C after learning about their Restoration Ecology program.”

While working on his degree, Rathz earned himself a spot on NGRREC’s Habitat Strike Team.

“Philip has worked as a paid student with the NGRREC Habitat Strike Team,” Conservation Program Manager Justin Shew said. “Doing so gave him the opportunity to learn side-by-side from experienced Strike Team Members.”

Rathz was also among NGRREC’s 2020 summer interns and focused his research on the invasive bush honeysuckle, considered to be the strike team’s top nemesis. The pandemic, however, limited Rathz’ research to analysis of data collected by previous interns.

“He did an excellent job on his presentation and it was great to see all his hard work pay off,” Shew said. “The pandemic presented the perfect time to give this data set some renewed life. I’m so thankful Phil was able to help and learn some valuable analytical and data management skills along the way.”

Rathz considers Shew among his mentors in the Restoration Ecology program.

“I have gained several mentors and people that I look up to throughout my time in the Restoration Ecology program and my work with the Habitat Strike Team,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot and gained a lot of valuable advice from Shew, (Restoration Ecology Program Coordinator) Scott Moss, (Habitat Senior Project Assistant) Lindsay Griggs and (Habitat Project Coordinator) Cody Berry.”

There are several reasons why Rathz would recommend the Restoration Ecology program.

“I like how flexible and approachable the classes and programs are,” Rathz said. “My counselors and instructors have all been excellent at helping me learn at my own pace. A lot of the classes are hands-on, so students gain a lot of useful information and experience.”

His plan is to continue his education by earning a bachelor’s degree and, eventually, pursuing a master’s degree.

“I plan to pursue a career working for a federal agency such as the Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, or any such agency,” Rathz said. “I prefer to be working collecting data in the field.”

To view Rathz’ presentation on the effects of bush honeysuckle on the birds of Illinois, visit

For more information on L&C’s Restoration Ecology program, contact Scott Moss at (618) 468-4875 or

To learn more about NGRREC and the Summer Intern program, visit or email