Catching Conservation


Charlie Conn serves as Executive Director of the Taimen Fund, an organization dedicated to the conservation of wild taimen in Mongolia through community partnerships and sustainable practices. Charlie came to his conservation work in Mongolia through fishing. “I walk backward into a lot of things,” he admits. “A lot of people I work for, they got their master's at Yale and have a degree in conservation. For me, I was fishing in Mongolia and thought of some pretty easy things to do to work on these watersheds.”

But directing the Taimen Fund isn't all Charlie does. He’s also a local fishing guide in Montana, taking clients through Yellowstone National Park, and internationally in South America. He likes to keep moving. This Gustavus graduate took the school’s multidisciplinary-stay-involved encouragement to heart. “Gustavus was helpful in that way,” he says. “I played hockey. I played in the symphony orchestra, and I ended up being a political science major. I’ve continued to live like that. I was able to travel during J-Term, and that was an important experience. It was the first time I'd traveled on a big trip like that. Then I just absolutely wanted to go everywhere. Still do. Gustavus gave me the opportunity to explore.”

Gustavus gave me the opportunity to explore

Whatever he’s working at, Charlie emphasizes that it has to have purpose. There also has to be an element of kindness underlying it all. Charlie is an active example of what is at the heart of a Gustavus education. “Recently I took a guy fishing here in Montana where I live. I’ve been fishing with him for 20 years. He’s 87 now. He called me a couple months ago and said, ‘I don’t know if I can make it out.’ I said, 'Just come on out you’re going to be fine.' He said, ‘I’m not going to fish.’ I said, 'Just come out and visit with the family.'” A lot of Charlie’s clients have become good friends. “So I took Paul out fishing for two days in a row. Of course he knew I’d get him out to catch a few fish. That feels really good. That he’s still able to enjoy it. He’s part of the family.”

Recently Charlie came up with some life rules for his daughter that encapsulate his liberal arts experience: “Play a team sport. Play a musical instrument. Do your best in school. Don’t be a jerk.” Flexibility and experience are inherent to his success. “Travel is important to me but doesn’t define me,” he says. “My success has been in networking, making those connections, teaching. I like to help people,” he says. “It also helps that I live in the most beautiful place on the earth.”

Charlie Conn - Executive Director, The Taimen Fund
Catching Conservation
Charlie Conn
Gustavus Class of 1994
Executive Director, The Taimen Fund