Big cats were last summer. This year it’s wolves.

Those are just a few of the animals that Patrick Murphy, ’14, enjoys working with. The junior discovered a passion for conservation while interning on a South African lion preserve in 2011. For him, the real threats are not the animals with a dangerous reputation, but the potential loss of species due to a lack of biodiversity.

“I remember when I first got there I was intimidated,” Murphy says. “But some of the lions were just big babies.”

The preserve where Murphy worked hopes to establish a large enough pride to release into the wild, but right now they are focusing on a more sustainable goal: increasing genetic diversity among the lions. Those efforts piqued Murphy’s interest in combining his love of all creatures great and small with promoting conservation and the environment.

It’s work that comes as second nature to Murphy, who made a four-year commitment to community engagement as a Bonner Scholar. This summer, he is working with a wolf conservation program in New York, where he will spend six weeks helping to run educational outreach and assisting with maintenance of the preserve. Given his experience with the lions, he hopes he’ll get the chance to work directly with some of the wolves used for public programs.

Murphy took the passion he discovered in South Africa and applied it to his campus studies. Last year he helped lead a group researching how to include conservation and the environment when defining ideas of the common good. His group was part of a Sophomore Scholars in Residence program that examined what constitutes well-being for societies and individuals and how leaders help communities achieve it.

Preserving nature and biodiversity are just some of the ways that Murphy engages with the community. On and off campus, Murphy stays busy. He is a member of Alpha Phi Omega, the University’s service fraternity. His commitment to engagement includes volunteering at a free clinic downtown and also helping acclimate new students to University culture as an associate chair for orientation.

Murphy is majoring in leadership studies with minors in business and music, but that doesn’t mean he plans to trade the natural world for office life. He would like to work either on a preserve or in the corporate world helping businesses identify and implement practices that are better for the environment.

“I think that some people believe that the business realm and the environmental realm are two distinct, separate entities,” Murphy says. “But I think the relationship is a lot closer.”