Sustainability Snapshot: Diving Into Policy Change at Environment America

Q&A with Senior Biophysics Major Jacquelyn Veatch.

March 05, 2019

Headshot of Jacquelyn Veatch

Environment America has one mission: to build a greener, healthier world. That’s why the political action group researches and advocates for environmental policies through lobbying, litigation, and mobilization of public support. 

Emily Robinson (CCAS ‘19) asked biophysics major Jacquelyn Veatch (CCAS ‘19) about her experience interning at the organization that is committed to a vision of a better world.

What is a day on the public lands team at Environment America like? 
Environment America’s public lands team is a very collaborative team. Our office is very open and people from many different teams often meet and discuss how their specialties overlap. My two main areas of focus are restoring protection to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) from oil drilling and permanently reauthorizing the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Both of these priorities are riding on bills that have been introduced recently so it’s an exciting time to be working on public lands! We often take the short walk from our office in Eastern Market to Capitol Hill to meet with congressional offices to talk about ANWR and LWCF as well as the environmental issues that directly affect the district of the congressional office that we are visiting. To these offices, Environment America acts as a bipartisan resource and a partner in creating a greener, healthier world. 

What responsibilities and opportunities do you have? 
Daily, I do the more typical intern things: search the web for interesting things to tweet for Environment America, schedule meetings with congressional staff members for my team, research to prepare for meetings. I have also been able to work on a couple of outreach projects. There was a public hearing last week here in DC about the Bureau of Land Management’s plans to move forward with oil exploration and drilling in the ANWR, and so we worked to get as many people there as possible and record as many testimonies as we could. There will be a community hearing in Albuquerque in early March so I have been researching groups that we can partner with in that area of the country to get their members out to that event. Other outreach projects have included researching the top environmental reporters in target districts and university groups that support the mission of Environment America. These responsibilities and opportunities have been a little out of my academic comfort zone as a biophysics major but I have enjoyed the challenge and the new experiences.

How did your sustainability courses prepare you for this internship? 
I think the most helpful thing that I took away from my sustainability courses was how humans relate to the outdoors. Reading about things such as the Anthropocene and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals gave me a good foundational understanding of how society addresses nature and climate change. My culminating experience has definitely allowed me to specialize further on my specific interests but I am thankful for the broader perspective that my coursework has given me. 

How did your previous internships prepare you for working at Environment America? 
This is my first policy-related internship – as a STEM major, all of my previous professional development experiences have been in a laboratory setting, so sitting at an office desk in business casual is all very new to me. My first few lab internships were in immunology laboratories, which was interesting but it wasn’t really where my passions were. I then started in GW’s Coastal Ecology Lab under Dr. Keryn Gedan, which is what really got me into environmental research. My scientific understanding of dynamic ecosystems gives me a unique perspective at my internship at Environment America. I think it’s really important to bridge the gap between the scientific community and government officials, and I have enjoyed using my background knowledge to help explain some of the more technical processes to my team – such as the intricacies of trophic systems and the flow of energy in and out of ecosystems. 

What are you most excited about working on with the public lands team? 
It would be amazing to see the major public lands bill (S.47) that will permanently reauthorize the LWCF pass through the House. I am also at the edge of my seat watching the Arctic Cultural and Coastal Plain Protection Act that Jared Huffman (D-CA), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Don Beyer (D-VA) jointly introduced. To see these bills pass would be a huge victory for conservationists everywhere, and knowing that I was even just a small part of the team that made that happen would be awesome. 

How has your culminating experience shaped your plans after graduation? 
My culminating experience has definitely given me inside look into how environmental policy comes into action. I think that I will use my newfound understanding as I (hopefully) continue my research career after graduation. Currently I am looking at graduate programs in Physical Oceanography. I hope to bring a better understanding of environmental policy to whatever lab that I end up in.