Middlebury Institute international environmental policy student Sam Blakesley MAIEP ’19 has always been an avid surfer and ocean enthusiast. In his early twenties, feeling the need to give back to his community and be part of a greater cause, Blakesley donated to the local chapter of Surfrider Foundation in Santa Cruz.
“Afterwards, I got an email inviting me to a local meeting where they were recruiting for a new project,” Blakesley shares. “It was the Blue Water Task Force, Surfrider’s water quality monitoring and education program. They collect water samples from different local beaches and test their quality.” Blakesley’s involvement focused on coordinating volunteers, collecting samples, and running the lab to identify the most impaired areas. Blakesley and the Surfrider Foundation were surprised to discover that the dataset they built was useful to the City of Santa Cruz, especially with regard to Cowells Beach, which was at the top of California’s “Beach Bummer” list.
Blakesley’s volunteer work with the Surfrider Foundation expresses his dedication to the environment. “The oceans and coastal areas are essential indicators of life on Earth. They’re key ecosystems and we must continue actively monitoring their health in order to insure adequate levels of protection.” Blakesley’s passion likely influenced the Surfrider Foundation’s decision to invite him to Washington, D.C. for a lobbying session in February 2018.
While serving as a member of the California delegation, Blakesley met with 10 congressmen and senators or their staff. They lobbied against offshore drilling and ask local representatives to continue ocean-related funding, which had been cut from the EPA. Other members of this delegation included Surfrider’s CEO and their legal advisors. “The Institute definitely helped me with lobbying in D.C. I felt better prepared, more eloquent, and more knowledgeable on the issues we were discussing,” Blakesley says.
Blakesley has advice for other budding environmentalists on involvement and active participation in organizations. “If you’re feeling the need to do more, but don’t know how, or as though you’re not doing enough for what you feel matters, find a local community organization doing something you believe in and start by committing just one hour per week.” Now, going on six years with Surfrider, Blakesley actively shares the benefits that come from working with local community-based organizations, noting their part in helping him grow as an individual.
Following his graduation in May 2019, Blakesley plans to continue working within conservation and education, where he hopes to inspire the next generation of environmental and ocean advocates.
As part of a course on “Managing International Marine Pollution,” seven Middlebury Institute environmental policy students had the opportunity to experience a United Nations diplomatic meeting in London firsthand, meeting with delegates and other stakeholders.
Whether working to save sharks in China, help sustainable cacao farmers in Belize, or improve a Danish company’s environmental management practices, environmental policy students at the Monterey Institute are adding valuable professional experience to their degrees.
Recent MIIS alumna Julia Townsend has successfully built a career applying behavioral science approaches to solving environmental issues, and will serve as a Global Youth Ambassador at the upcoming World Parks Congress.