Environmental education is necessary for change

Brea Jones/ Staff Writer

Imagine going to every class and being depressed about how damaged the world is in almost every aspect.

That is how I felt every week going to my FIU environmental science class last semester.

Truthfully it wasn’t something I minded, I actually grew to appreciate it.  

Taking EVR 1001, Intro Environmental Science, really opened my eyes about the main environmental issues in the world, their roots, or ways the everyday person can contribute to getting closer to a solution.

Another thing that made this class so interesting was my professor, Jesse R. Blanchard, Ph.D.  

As an ichthyologist and invasion ecologist he shows a true passion and knowledge about all topics.

If he wasn’t sure about an answer to one of our questions he would be sure to find an answer.  

His drive for educating people and ‘convincing’ students to go out and be the change is inspiring.

“I have two goals in my career: 1) advancing our understanding of invasion ecology & ichthyology toward the better management and protection of natural resources and 2) advancing conservation efforts through education,” said Blanchard.  

Although learning this can be a rude awakening for some who are not aware of global environmental issues it is a necessary alarm.

“My favorite quote which is now pinned up in my office came from a student last semester ‘I never thought I was going to enjoy my science class and lab.

I am not changing my major, but you definitely made me change my way of life,” said Blanchard.

This is a common theme for students who After taking this class I have been able to identify ways that I used to contribute to the pollution and waste that is killing the earth.

The very first step is to change is educating people about the problem and then we would all be able to find the triple-bottom line.

What is your focus in science?

I am an ichthyologist and invasion ecologist, meaning I specialize in how fish interact with each other and their environment, and what it means for those interactions when new species are introduced.

My current research has three main subjects: 1) how fish use ephemeral spatially structured environments, such as the Everglades marshes, and how species invasions alter those uses; 2) how non-native fish in Florida have and will respond to climate change; and 3) what non-native fish are eating in South Florida and what that can teach us about their potential impacts on natives and restoration efforts.

What made you become a professor? Do you feel as though you have accomplished this goal?

I have two goals in my career: 1) advancing our understanding of invasion ecology & ichthyology toward the better management and protection of natural resources and 2) advancing conservation efforts through education. Working at FIU, which is both a top ranked research and public education university, allows me to pursue both efforts simultaneously.

Am I happy with my current status, yes.

I am well positioned at this early stage in my career to do what I want and need to, as well as to grow professionally and personally.

Do I feel I’ve accomplished my goals?

No. The work of conservation, and the circuit of science are never done.

There is always more. Always another question to be asked, always another challenge to be conquered.

Yes there are landmarks and checkpoints which must always be celebrated, but I don’t anticipate ever being ‘done’.

What is the most common feedback you have received from students?

Over the past several years I have mostly taught various environmental science classes to non-science major undergraduate students.

The common themes in responses are simple but encouraging: “I never realized just how much impact my daily decisions had on the environment”, “I never realized how amazing the ecology of South Florida really is, or how fragile”, and my favorite quote which is now pinned up in my office came from a student last semester “I never thought I was going to enjoy my science class and lab. I am not changing my major, but you definitely made me change my way of life”.

It’s my favorite quote because it embodies why I love teaching non-science majors.

If you’re a sustainability major, or an ecology or conservation major, or any of the other ‘related’ majors, then you’re already likely partially aware of the subject and can directly link the information to your life without my help.

However, if you’re an architect or a lawyer, if you’re in sports management or hospitality, then this stuff matters for you too.

It matters for your life, for your family, and for your health. Yet, you probably have never heard of or thought about it.

If you have, you probably have partial truths or flat out wrong information.

In my classes I strive to plainly and simply put forth the issues that affect your life, and mine.

Tell you the truth, interpret the science for you, and let you know how you have an impact whether you want to or not.

I strive to teach the subject, and allow you to naturally arrive at your own version of personal conservation goals and a vision of how your life could be tweaked slightly toward the betterment of all environmental commons, and all life.

DISCLAIMER:

The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

Photo retrieved from FIU flickr.

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