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William & Mary Alumni Discuss Green Jobs

WILLIAMSBURG-Several alumni from the College of William & Mary recently led a discussion on green jobs as part of the college’s Conversations and Connection series.

The presentation, held August 19, featured a panel of three alumni who’ve pursued careers focusing on the environment: Caitlin Bovery, a scientist who works with sea turtles in Florida; Dani Wise-Johnson, owner and founder of Blueline Environmental; and Jessica Taylor, the director of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division, who deals with enforcement and compliance issues at the federal level.

Bovery, who sees change more on a local level, stressed the importance of banning balloons in public places as well as the use of single use Styrofoam containers. Both are dangerous to animals and the environment. On the outreach level in her community, opinions about the environment have changed.

“We had a senator on the committee for climate, and we changed opinions on sea turtles, the Ocean Protection Act, and the Clean Water Act,” Bovery said.

As head of Blueline Environmental, established in 2005 as a one-woman venture, Wise-Johnson works in river restoration. She consults with large corporations, universities, and other organizations on climate change through planning, assessment, research, implementation, and education. Blueline has been involved in a variety of ecological restoration and planning projects and provides knowledge that comes with more than 20 years of experience.

“The impact that a changing climate has on the work that I do is not just a change from the obvious changes in weather patterns, but also a change in focus for a lot of clients,” Wise-Johnson said. “Private landowners have issues where changing climate has negatively impacted water resources on their property, so they must do the work to protect structures and habitats.”

A renewed or new focus on sustainability and climate friendly practices is vital to protect water, land, and animals. Taylor especially takes her job seriously.

“Stewardship, it is an old institution, we are just tenants here,” she said.  “The more that folks understand, I am just here to hold this and make it better, every field is going to be able to grow it.”

A common thread among the three panelists is that finding funding opportunities and getting money to the right places is always difficult.  More focus on collaboration by more players is key.  Overcoming a lack of awareness and apathy is also a challenge.

“A lot of folks are getting burned out on the climate conversation, and not interested anymore,” Bovery pointed out.  “How do we reengage them in the efforts to protect the environment?”

 Wise-Johnson suggested not to give up. “Just jump in to make a difference” she said. “The way we live our lives day to day in our own homes is a good place to start.”

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