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Meet Michelle!

In the summer of 2006 I was going into my sophomore year of high school and I still didn’t have any defined ambitions for my future. There was a lot I was interested in, of course, but there was nothing that I was overly passionate about. I had been living in Montgomery County, MD, where I had grown up, and was on the swim team, enjoyed being outside and spending time with friends and family – nothing out of the ordinary for a person my age. It seemed like all of my friends were beginning to focus on certain subjects and starting to get ideas of what career they wanted. But there I was: just going through the motions of high school.

Then, my cousin shared with me the documentary An Inconvenient Truth, in which Al Gore raises public awareness on global warming and how humans play an active role in this destructive trajectory. For many people, this was another hoax; another documentary describing a scientific phenomenon that was not real. But for me, this documentary changed my life. I was so naïve about the world around me at the time and, like many people, I was feeling overwhelmed.

What could I do to help slow down the pace of global warming?
…to save species around the world?
…to help communities who were already seeing the effects of a changing climate?

At the time, I felt helpless.

The only thing I knew I could do was to share this documentary with as many people as possible. I was excited thinking about educating others and inspiring them to be a part of the solution.

But, frustratingly, I didn’t inspire anyone. People watched the documentary and just didn’t buy it. I felt once again helpless – and now a little deflated. But as I thought about climate change and other environmental issues I began doing my own research. Soon, I found myself completely submerged in this topic that previously I had not given a moment’s thought to. Little did I know where that journey would take me.

In late 2007, the movie Across the Universe debuted and portrayed a fictional story of romance, war and peace in the 1960’s. As the movie goes, it shows turbulent times of anti-war protests and the struggle for free speech and civil rights with a backdrop of relative songs by The Beatles. Oddly this movie had a large impact on my life as well. It was inspiring to me to see people “coming together” (no pun intended) on an issue that was so dynamic but that was so important to these people. I thought to myself “This may be a fictional movie, but I bet we can get people to rally together and care that much about environmental issues!”

By this point I knew what I wanted to do with my life:
inspire others and work to improve the environment for people today and generations to come.

I eventually graduated from Salisbury University with a B.S. in Environmental Studies and Geography and was ready to start my career. While attending SU I realized I loved living on Delmarva, and I knew I wanted to tackle climate and water quality issues. I worked at a few different organizations over the years including the Chesapeake Conservation Corps, Farm Service Agency, and American Forest Foundation. Earlier this year I enrolled in Virginia Tech’s Master of Natural Resources program through VT’s Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability which I will complete this December.

My journey has led me here to the DE Center for the Inland Bays where I am excited to work with a great group of coworkers, community members, and key stakeholders to protect an invaluable resource: the Inland Bays. The Inland Bays provide a myriad of benefits but like many of the places in Al Gore’s documentary, faces many threats as population grows and stressors on the environment increase. I am proud to contribute to the impressive work being done around the watershed to protect and restore the Inland Bays and to help ensure the benefits they provide can be enjoyed for generations to come.

About the Author

Michelle Schmidt

Michelle Schmidt

Michelle is the Watershed Coordinator with the Center for Inland Bays. Prior to this position, Michelle worked for the American Forest Foundation as the Western Conservation Coordinator and for the USDA Farm Service Agency as a Program Technician. She holds a B.S. in Environmental Studies and Physical Geography from Salisbury University and a Master’s of Natural Resources degree from Virginia Tech.


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