Blog 1: Welcome to the US State Department

When I initially found out I would be interning at the Department of State in Washington D.C. this summer I was in shock, denial. I was in denial of the gravity of the environment I had just placed myself in. The people I would surround myself with for 12 weeks. I just couldn’t wrap my head around the climate, so to speak.

Some would say that I was a climate denier.

*crickets, then more crickets*

That’s a joke I thought I would use as a segway to explaining what my office at the State Department does. It was clearly well worth the buildup.

Working in the Oceanic and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES) bureau, my wing of the Harry S. Truman Building covers all things sustainable that require diplomatic engagement. Examples are many; the depletion of Atlantic Salmon; the Polio outbreak in Syria and how it might impact American citizens; the diplomatic implications of American innovators developing super batteries for Australia; wildlife trafficking; air or water quality and transboundary concerns, bilats, trilats, and I wish I was exaggerating but those are all from this week. Anything that you can imagine to be related to sustainability outside of America with the ability to impact America or its citizens, which I must admit is a large skew of things, falls under the diplomatic responsibility umbrella that is the congress made OES bureau at the State Department.

Luckily, my office focuses on one thing. The Office of Global Change (OES/EGC) specializes in climate diplomacy. Treaties, agreements, mitigation and adaptation, climate resiliency, all things involving the words “CLIMATE” and “CHANGE” are our cup of tea. I am working alongside the people who negotiatied the Paris Agreement. I’m going to repeat that in case you missed it. Yesterday, I had lunch with the lead negotiator for the Paris Agreement, and she’s only 31. With that being said, climate governance is more than the overly media focused withdrawal announcement, UNFCCC, and Paris Climate Accord. We are involved in numerous carbon offset programs such as REDD+, ICAO, VCS, anything the GCF can get its hands on that reduces carbon emissions really. It’s a good office filled with better people. I wish I could go more into detail about my daily responsibilities and current projects, but I can’t due to the information being classified as sensitive or above, let’s just leave it at that.

What I can tell you is that everything I have experienced this summer would not have been possible without PCGS preparing me to do so. When we go around a table and introduce ourselves and our academic backgrounds to say, a director, ambassador, foreign minister, you name it, I’m always surrounded in a sea of Ivy Leaguers. Georgetown, Duke, Yale, Columbia… federal agencies really like big name schools. And you know what? I am always proud to say that I am obtaining my Masters in Global Sustainability at PCGS. I’m proud to be a bull! I smile knowing that I worked that much harder to get my seat at that very same table.

There is a ‘motto’ that the entire DOS adheres to:
The Department of Defense has its weapons, we have our words.

This encompasses diplomacy. Communication and the art of the compromise are how the State Department achieves its goals for the betterment of the American people. I realized that without PCGS, I simply wouldn’t have the words, dedication, or knowledge to be in the room representing our nation’s climate governance to the world, I would lack the ability to communicate and compromise effectively.

My next blog will be less about my bureau and office, and more about my experience as an intern. I promise no more climate denier jokes next time, and I’ll try to keep it shorter as well. Hope everyone is having a life changing summer!

Until then,

Travis

The last couple months

I can’t believe it’s June 20th already! In the beginning I was so good about keeping a blog, but as internships ramped up, the blogging slowed down.

I have been at the zoo consistently since my last post, pretty regularly Monday-Friday, with Wednesdays reserved to visit my local hotels for the marketing internship. The rest of the time has been spent auditing the narrations in the park for my capstone. I’ve been able to hit most all of them three times each (there’s around 22 of them ranging from 5 min. long to 25 min. long).

This auditing was “phase 1” of my capstone and was definitely the most time-consuming. Starting last week, I met with my supervisor for the capstone here at the zoo and we discussed taking on the manatee talk as my specific project to work on. Because of that, I am now in the initial stages of assessing the effectiveness of the manatee talk to communicate proper conservation messaging. I am currently asking visitors open-ended questions about manatees such as: “What is the first word that comes to mind when I say the word “manatee”?” and “What are some things you can do in your daily life that can help manatees?” to get a baseline of what the guests already know and feel about manatees. Then from there, we will do another visitor assessment about behaviors people already do/will do/won’t do (recycling, turning of lights, reusing items, etc.) All of this information will be considered as a new draft of a manatee chat narration is made. Ideally, I would be a part of this entire process seeing it out until the new narration is implemented. However, due to the length of my internship that simply won’t happen. Not to mention, I am very happy to report that I have been offered a full-time position in the education department at the zoo!! So, the amount of time I have to dedicate to the rest of the narration reworking will definitely be shortened, but for good reason! Luckily, my supervisor does work closely with the education department (and the education department is the one that gives this narration) so hopefully I will actually be able to still work on this project, around upcoming trainings!

On a bit of a side-note, here: I attended the National Association for Interpreter’s Certified Interpretive Guide training last week and it was fantastic. Assuming I passed the written test, I am soon to be a certified interpretive guide! At this training, I was able to present an example of a manatee talk I think would be suitable for the zoo, tying it into my capstone project. I learned a great deal and truly think it has already helped. I gave a tour on Sunday that I have given plenty of times before (at my old job- I was filling in this time!) and it was honestly the best one I have given. I’m so glad I did this training and recommend it for anyone who works in a field where you have to interact with the public: parks, museums, zoos, aquariums, etc. There’s also one called Certified Interpretive Host which is a little less intensive but just as valuable for those who perhaps work in hotels and other customer-service related fields that aren’t necessarily “teaching” the public.

Alright, I think that’s what I’ve got for this week. I’ll keep you posted as I go through orientation on Saturday! In the meantime, here are some pictures from my “secret shopping” in the park listening to the narrations:

Sustainable Transportation

 

Concentration Description

The M.A. in Global Sustainability concentration in Sustainable Transportation teaches methods for achieving a more sustainable transportation system and how that system fits into efforts to improve community design and the livability of urban areas.


Concentration Director

Dr. Robert L. Bertini
Click to view the Director’s page
Concentration Director
Sustainable Transportation
CV/Vita
rbertini@usf.edu
Office: CUT 100
(813) 974-9797

Concentration Courses (9 credit hours)
Choose three

  • TTE 5501 – TRANSPORTATION PLANNING & ECONOMICS (3)

Fundamentals of urban transportation planning: trip generation, trip distribution, modal split, traffic assignment. Introduction to environmental impact analysis, evaluation an choice of transportation alternatives.

*This course is available on-campus and online.

  • TTE 6651 – PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION (3)

The objective of this course is to create an understanding of public transport by students whose careers are likely to involve interaction with or working in public transportation. At the completion of the material, students should have a working knowledge of the role that public transportation plays in providing mobility. The course will cover the full spectrum of public transportation issues including: history and evolution of public transportation, travel behavior and mode choice, public transportation planning, financing, marketing, public transportation technologies, transportation land use relationships, multimodal planning, service planning and scheduling, strategic planning, and public transportation administration.

*This course is available on-campus and online.

  • TTE 6655 – TRANSPORTATION AND LAND USE (3)

The relationship between transportation investment and transportation facility design is increasingly being recognized as a critical aspect of transportation and land use planning. A host of topics such as those excerpted above will be the focus of this course. Classes will focus on lectures and discussions of classic and contemporary readings on transportation and land use. Extensive discussion and participation by class members and guest speakers is planned.

*This course is available on-campus and online.

  • URP 6711 – MULTIMODAL TRANSPORTATION PLANNING (3)

This course focuses on multimodal transportation planning, including planning for roadways, public transportation, bicycling, pedestrians, and the movement of freight. It addresses contemporary transportation planning from a multidisciplinary perspective, reviews the roles of various agencies and organizations in transportation planning, and emphasizes the relationship of transportation to land use and urban form. Related themes include the role of transportation planning in advancing sustainability and livability objectives. A goal of the course is to familiarize urban planning, engineering, and architecture/community design students with the diversity of contemporary transportation issues and multimodal planning best practices pertinent to these disciplines.

*This course is only available on-campus.


On successful completion of this program, participants should be able to:

  • Describe the concept of sustainable transportation and how transportation and land use planning practices impact modal options, public health, the natural and built environment, the economy, community cohesion, and social equity.
  • Become familiar with public transportation options, as well as innovations in urban transportation, such as car sharing, bike sharing, automated vehicles, electric vehicles, and intelligent transportation systems.
  • Become familiar with data, analytic tools and performance measures used in sustainable transportation decision-making.
  • Apply multimodal transportation planning concepts and best practices, such as context sensitive solutions, smart growth and complete streets.
  • Analyze the opportunities and constraints for implementing sustainable transportation planning solutions and be able to critically analyze sustainable transportation policies and programs.

For more information about this concentration, please contact the PCGS Academic Programs Director,

Randall Pape
rpape@usf.edu

National Tourism Week

I’ve been eating quite well this week! I think the best way to break down this week may, in fact, be by using food.

On Monday I attended a team-building session with the zoo marketing team. We did a scavenger hunt (which, admittedly, consisted mostly of eating bread and drinking coffee at Columbia in the Tampa Bay History Center), took the new “zoo express” water taxi ride which brings guests from downtown Tampa directly to the zoo via pirate water taxi, and we finished at the Florida Aquarium (funny since I just wrapped up my other internship there!) with a fantastic lunch. I decided to stay past lunch in order to be a part of the marketing meeting that followed. The staff reflected on the past year’s events in a very warm, open environment lead by the Senior VP/Chief Marketing Officer.

Tuesday I went back to my normal diet, but by Wednesday I was being spoiled again. Last week was National Tourism Week, and as such there were luncheons held each day to celebrate. Wednesday’s was at the Bryan Glazer JCC and it was fabulous! Busch Gardens was a large sponsor and provided us with entertainment, centerpieces, and gift bags to take home. Bay News 9’s Veronica Cintron was the host for the event and kept the event moving very smoothly. Awards were given, the impacts of tourism on the local economy was discussed, we ate a great lunch, and called it a day.

Thursday was another day to recover from the food, but by Friday I was right back at it. Friday’s luncheon was held at the Tradewinds Resort in St. Pete. It was the first time I had the chance to visit and I am so glad I had the chance to go. The lunch was held outside in their permanent tent fixture. While it wasn’t as exciting as Wednesday’s lunch with the dance performances, there was still a lot to be learned as our guest speaker discussed what happens to tourism/what may happen to tourism in an uncertain economy. I just finished up Economics & Finance for Sustainability class and was pretty excited when I understood the language he was using and was able to keep up! (Thanks professors!) I carpooled to this event with the catering manager at the zoo and she is close friends with an employee at Tradewinds who, after the event, volunteered to walk us around the property and show us the different guest rooms/ballrooms/outdoor areas. It was an impressive resort, for sure! Next time I’ve got to pop over next-door to the Guy Harvey Outpost (which they measure in “flip flops away” distance!)

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It’s now Saturday and all I’ve eaten for dinner is popcorn because I’m still coming down from this week’s food-load! What really stood out to me about this week is how welcoming the marketing department was towards their interns. We were invited to these events (even the meeting & team-building day!) and were treated as any other employee in the group. We lucked out that there was room at these lunches, and our boss was kind enough to extend an invitation to us.

Now that classes have finished it’s been nice to be able to spend so much time at/with the zoo and get to know new people! This internship has truly been a wonderful experience. I’m so glad I get to continue.

Now, on a non-food note, I have been working on my capstone project, auditing the narrations in the park and have heard quite a few so far. On Monday I’ll head back in and spend the whole day visiting the different talks/encounters/etc. Can’t wait to report back again! In the meantime…I’m gonna go digest.

That’s a Wrap

April 20th was my last day at the Florida Aquarium and as such my last day collecting data. It was a great last day, full of dolphins and sunshine and friendly boat guests. During my 16 weeks (every Thursday) I was able to get 80 surveys filled out. It was definitely a learning experience, figuring out how best to approach people in order to encourage them to volunteer to take the survey both before and after the cruise.

What I learned:

  • The best way to gather volunteers was to wait until the top deck was full of guests and make an announcement over the speakers: I’m a PCGS student, sustainable tourism, dolphin conservation, thank-you prize for volunteers
  • Perhaps for more accurate results I should have asked for one person per family
  • There may have been biases involved- I was worried folks were telling me what they thought I wanted to hear, despite it being anonymous
  • I should have asked for an age-range from the participants
  • The question I had about “what stood out most about this cruise” was inconsistent as sometimes we saw dolphins and sometimes we didn’t. This made the option “seeing wild dolphins” unavailable to some guests.
  • The FLAQ boat captains & crew (MarineOps) are really great people 🙂

If anyone is interested in doing an internship at FLAQ I do recommend it. Particularly if you have the same opportunity that I did, where I was able to suggest my own research project, it was approved, and I got to follow-through. Rebecca was a great point of contact, and I recommend reaching out to her.

In the meantime, I decided to extend my zoo internship on the marketing team. Once classes are over it’ll mean that I can spend more time with the department working on other projects. In the meantime, I continue my usual hotel routes. I also will be working on my capstone at the zoo this summer and I can’t wait!

Until next time!

Rhinos, Penguins, and Internships…oh my!

Things have picked up quite a bit with the zoo and the aquarium, so I haven’t blogged in a while. The aquarium surveys are going well, I’ve gotten 10 people taking the survey each day the last few attempts. The dolphins have also been cooperating, so that’s nice. The zoo has opened up its “Dinos Alive” exhibit, which has meant a lot of marketing opportunities for us interns, as well as some fun on-site. We’ve been delivering dinosaur themed gifts to the local hotel employees, including “mochasaurus” and “tea-rex” mugs. I also attended Feast with the Beasts, an evening where local restaurants came to the zoo and provided endless samples. At this event the zoo was also open to the guests, and it was great fun to drink wine while watching the elephants frolic.

Most exciting recently was when the marketing team was invited to attend the rhino encounter, where we fed one of the rhinos and were given a short introduction to rhino biology and conservation. This talk was also the start of my capstone project, where I will be assessing the narrations on-site, so it was incredibly valuable.

Here are some recent photos from my internships, one is during the rhino feeding, the other is a selfie with Rocky at FLAQ.

“I Do at the Zoo”

The Knot, the “#1 trusted authority for all things wedding” as it says on their website, held an informational meeting today at the zoo. This is a quarterly meeting held at different venues throughout the year for those who work locally in the wedding industry. The zoo does host weddings and decided to also host this meeting this quarter. It was super interesting to see how the zoo sets up for a wedding and I even got to meet a clouded leopard cub (one of the “animal ambassadors” that may make an appearance at a wedding held on-site) and a snake. I got to hear some marketing techniques used to snag the millennials, as the theme of this meeting focused on how to get millennials to go to contract with you (be it vendors, florists, photographers, wedding planners, you name it). It was super interesting, being someone going through this process now as “the bride”, and learning the techniques used by vendors to land me as a client. Some things I identified with, others I did not. Some recommendations I thought were great, others I was’t too sure about (using LinkedIn to connect with your brides & grooms?) Overall, it was a fun experience and I even walked away with a copy of The Knot magazine (hello, planning!) and a zoo themed mug for their new Dinos exhibit.

Oh yeah…everyone go see the Dinos!!

First day of Clearwater Marine Aquarium

When I started my first semester at PCGS, I was taking core classes to learn everything I possibly could in order to be able to narrow down to concentrate on what means the most to me. I also wanted to take internship opportunities to gain field work. As I was discussing with my internship coordinator possibilities, she said PCGS started a partnership with the Clearwater Marine Aquarium for internship opportunities. I felt this was a perfect fit for me! I applied for nonprofit management but ended up being accepted for dive operation team. After I found out I had been accepted, I cried from joy that the steps I took towards to that point is finally falling into place.

When I showed up at CMA for my first day of internship, I was really nervous about how to communicate with the team and my supervisor. It turned out they had a white board on the wall ready for communication as necessary. I was relieved by their thoughtfulness on alternative forms of communication. However, they went ahead with hands-on demonstration of what to do around CMA. I was surprised when they told me to put on a wetsuit, scuba dive equipment and get into the pool! The first pool we had to get into was the Sawyer’s Passage, filled with different turtles of various injuries.

They showed me the proper way to clean and the proper equipment to clean with. As I was observing the volunteer diver and their cleaning technique, I had a funny feeling. I went to look above and saw a humongous turtle aim for my hair that was flowing upwards! Their mouth was open and seemed ready to take a bite! In a panic, I moved backwards and circled around the turtle. The turtle still followed me, aiming for my hair. I didn’t realize my hair looked delicious to the turtle! It continued for 5 minutes, which was the longest 5 minutes of my life thus far. Finally, the other diver noticed and went to help gently push the turtle away from me. I signed to him, “thank you!” and he signed “welcome!”. Phew!

From that day on, I knew it would be exciting to work at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

Starting my journey

My story with environmental advocacy began the day I found out about the BP oil spill in 2010. I was a simply naive 18 year old Florida native that thought the Earth has infinite resources and that it was impossible for humans to have a tremendous impact through our activities. As I watched the aftermath of the BP oil spill, I had heard of people finding oil balls on beaches along the Panhandle. I was livid at the thought of the beauty of the ocean and beaches being ruined by an oil spill that occurred miles away.

Few months later, my friends and I traveled from Tallahassee to Destin to have fun at the beach. I was so excited about getting some time at the beach! When we arrived there and set up our things, we finally got to go into the ocean. As my friend and I were floating and talking, I had not noticed anything at first until I saw a dark ball go by. Puzzled, we went to go investigate it. My friend had picked it up and it reeked of oil. We immediately made the connection to the BP oil spill that had occurred a few months back. I was livid that the oil balls were still in the ocean and that the BP company was not making effort to clean up the mess thoroughly. From there, my life changed.

I started researching different topics regarding climate change from that point on, but was always overwhelmed by the complexity of perspectives and approaches, as well as problems. I would talk about it with friends when I attended Gallaudet University in Washington, DC. I also joined as a member to Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Oceana, and Green Gallaudet Club. I tried my best to get involved however I could with nonprofit organizations volunteering my time and efforts throughout college and after. But I always craved for more involvement. I felt I was not doing enough.

It was not until I went to Climate Reality conference in Miami, FL that I felt a calling. Spending time with empowered activists, business leaders, climate change experts and environmental educators inspired me to explore different paths that I could connect with. As I was watching my interpreter interpret Al Gore’s comment on the growth of green economy regarding solar jobs, renewable energy innovations, and job creations, that comment stuck to my mind for some reason I couldn’t identify at first. But at that point, I knew I had to learn more about what the green economy pillars is made up of.

“I tried my best to get involved however I could with nonprofit organizations volunteering my time and efforts throughout college. But I always craved for more involvement. I felt I was not doing enough.”

Afterwards, I went to a different conference hosted by the National Association for the Deaf that was focused on language acquisition, improving educational opportunities, and removing barriers to job opportunities. As I discussed with different people at the conference, I noticed a common barrier faced by deaf people which is that job opportunities and job training are not readily accessible for the deaf to take initiative on. At that point, I was able to make the connection of addressing a social issue experienced in my community and turning that into job opportunities that could also promote the growth of green economy in the United States. That connection led me to Patel College of Global Sustainability, thus I am here today to study Sustainable Entrepreneurship.

I am very excited to be here and share my journey with you all.

Quick Dolphin Update

This post is going to be a quick one!

My surveying at the aquarium is still working out some kinks. Some of the naturalists/narrators will mention that I’m on board, others do not. Yesterday I took the microphone a couple of times to give my rundown about the survey, but did not individually approach groups of people. The best success I had was when I made an announcement as folks were standing in line, and then with the naturalist mentioning (3 times!) that I was on board doing this survey. Then I made myself accessible to guests on board and asked a few if they’d want to take it. I do now have some little goodies to give out to those who take the survey and perhaps that will help next week. Every day is different in the way guests are brought on board and which naturalist is presenting, so I have to be flexible, but also have to figure out the best way to go about this project that works best in all scenarios.

Despite my lack of participation with the survey, we did have a wonderful cruise yesterday. We reached just before the point we usually turn back to head to the dock when we found ourselves in the middle of a feeding nursery group. The naturalist pointed out that their behavior was very odd, and she believed that a female in that pod may have been giving birth. I agree that the behavior was a bit strange but didn’t even consider that possibility! We saw them from about 50 ft out and then close enough to the boat that if we could reach the water we could have touched them. What was so strange was that they hung out in that spot right next to the boat. Usually, when dolphins are checking out boats that are passing through they still move around and give what I refer to as the “sideways eye”, where they continue to travel but keep one eye on the boat. Not yesterday, they were seemingly hovering right next to the vessel. I’d never seen 3 dolphins do that at once!

That’s all I’ve got this week! But here’s a picture from the trip!

dolphin