The Technical Matters: The Value of Science in Advocacy and Leadership


Jobs, Internships, Volunteer Opportunities: Western Resource Advocates

Engaging with leaders in the advocacy world can provide emerging leaders with insight into some of the most pressing environmental and social issues in different geographic areas. Western Resource Advocates, an advocacy nonprofit based in Boulder, Colorado, works to facilitate local and regional action to protect Western land, air, and water.

I had the opportunity to speak with Laura Belanger, the Senior Water Resources Engineer and Policy Advisor at Western Resource Advocates (WRA). We talked about how Laura came into her role at the organization, the focus areas in her work, and her advice to future leaders in the field.

A licensed professional engineer, Laura is primarily responsible at WRA for water supply planning; this includes completing hydrologic analyses to secure and protect flows for fish and stream habitat, and collaborating with relevant partners and stakeholders.

Before being hired at WRA, Laura volunteered for the Peace Corps in Guatemala. This experience helped her realize the value of having a technical understanding when addressing environmental and public health concerns pertaining water and forestry issues. After her time in Guatemala, Laura worked for a consulting engineering firm for over five years, completing hydrologic analyses to secure and protect flows necessary to aquatic ecosystems. Having this technical foundation, according to Laura, gives her an advantage at WRA when advising on policy issues pertaining to water resources.

This conversation helped me to identify the value of my own scientific background and how I can apply it to my work, and as I develop my own leadership and advocacy values.

A major emphasis throughout my program at Bard College’s Center for Environmental Policy has been on translating complex scientific and technical ideas for a variety of audiences. In my experience, drafting factsheets for the general public on complex scientific ideas and processes is a challenge—but also a vital component of policy development and stakeholder engagement.

As I begin my career as an advocate, I will hold on to these ideas from a leader in the field. Knowledge sharing and networking across geographic regions can support the work of emerging environmental advocates.

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