Heidi W. Weiskel
Staff Scientist, Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide
What were you doing before entering the Masters in Animals and Public Policy program?
I was living in Buenos Aires, Argentina, teaching English at the University of Buenos Aires and training as an Argentine tango dancer with the tango master Miguel Angel Pla in the city.
What aspects of MAPP led to your decision to join the program?
I knew I wanted to work with marine mammals and to do environmental work but I wasn’t sure if I should be a veterinarian, lawyer, research scientist, policy maker or advocacy professional. The program looked like an excellent way to learn more and help me move toward answering my questions about my career path. Above all, I wanted to be effective in protecting marine species and their habitats.
In what ways do you use your Masters in Animals and Public Policy degree in your current position?
I am now working as a Ph.D. scientist to help public interest environmental attorneys around the world understand and use scientific arguments in the protection of habitats and indigenous communities. The policy contacts and wherewithal I gained during my MAPP experience were invaluable to me in advancing my career and setting me on my professional trajectory. I feel more confident interacting with stakeholders, explaining scientific information to non-scientists, and helping our partners understand the scientific context for their work.
Tell us about your MAPP project or preceptorship. In what ways did it help you form your career goals?
My final project was done in Argentina; I worked with artisanal fishermen on ways to reduce dolphin bycatch in their nets. In addition to working with the fishermen and the marine mammal scientists up and down the coast of Buenos Aires province, my colleague Pablo Bordino and I also interviewed the Argentine Coast Guard and members of the federal government about the problems of enforcement and fishery sustainability. We did all our work in Spanish. I am still doing about 30 percent of my work in Spanish for ELAW, as ELAW works all over Central and Latin America and I travel frequently to meet with our partners and see project sites.
What did you enjoy most about participating in MAPP?
I loved having financial and mentoring support to work on my final project, and I loved every aspect of doing my final project. The contacts I made from that experience are still close friends and allies.
Is there anything else you would like to share with prospective MAPP students?
It’s an unusual program and it is best suited for self-directed, energetic, enthusiastic students who want to apply their degree to work which has strong integrity. I would encourage students to be creative in their ideas about their career paths and to take advantage of every opportunity to do an externship, meet a visiting lecturer, or travel.