Lauren “Ren” Bettencourt
B.A., English, University of New Hampshire, Durham, 2005
M.A. in Teaching, Education Concentration, Simmons College, 2009
M.S. in Animals and Public Policy, Tufts University, 2016
Project Coordinator at Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs
What were you doing before entering the Masters in Animals and Public Policy program?
Working in the arts for a few years— most recently I’ve been focused on writing a science fiction novel which I hope to publish someday, and working on a documentary film about a small farm on Whidbey Island, WA.
What aspects of MAPP led to your decision to join the program?
I liked that the program seemed to have practical application, rather than just theoretical. I want to actively help animals, not just talk about helping them.
Interests in and experience with animals
Although I love all animals, mostly my experience has been with dogs. I used to work at a doggie daycare/training facility, and worked as a freelance pet walker/sitter. I’ve had two dogs in my adult life, and more than anything it is my experience with and love for them that lead me to want to work with animals.
Some of the other animals I find particularly interesting are: buffalo, beavers, sloths, Great Blue Herons and other shorebirds, dolphins, horseshoe crabs, otters, pigs.
In what ways do you use your Masters in Animals and Public Policy degree in your current position?
In my current job at Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs, we use the arts and education to advocate for ocean health. One of the biggest aspects of the job is deciding how to communicate with the general public about issues like plastic pollution, climate change, and marine mammal entanglements in a way that motivates people to change their behavior for the better. The MAPP program prepared me well to think about how to frame issues when working with the public to hopefully create many allies and ocean caretakers.
Tell us about your MAPP project or preceptorship. In what ways did it help you form your career goals?
I worked with Dr. Jennifer Jackman on the Public Attitudes Towards Seals pilot study on Nantucket. Working on this study gave me the opportunity to be a part of a research team from survey collection and analysis through to presenting the research at conferences as well as co-authoring a paper in Marine Policy. It has been really satisfying to be a part of a scientific study that is now being used by animal advocates to help promote continued protection for seals.
Through this externship, Dr. Jackman introduced me to many of the leading scientists who work on pinniped and other marine mammal issues, both at scientific and government organizations like Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and NOAA as well as animal welfare groups like IFAW and HSUS. It was exciting to be able to meet these amazing people, and I came to feel a part of the marine mammal and ocean protection world. Being immersed in the science and advocacy of marine issues has given me a wide range of experiences, knowledge, and connections that are useful in my current job.
What did you enjoy most about participating in MAPP?
I loved being in a place where everyone around you cares about animals. We animal people are sometimes viewed as a bit quirky by mainstream society, but for one year you are surrounded by people who also love animals and want to think and talk about ways to improve the lives of animals.
I also feel like I learned something new every day of the MAPP program. Whether related to animal science, human psychology, government, or policy, it was exciting to realize how much more there is to learn about the world.
Is there anything else you would like to share with prospective MAPP students?
I am very glad that I experienced the MAPP program. I made lifelong friendships and had the opportunity to meet some of the leading figures in the animal protection world. Because of the MAPP program, I am now able to pursue a career in ocean conservation and marine mammal protection, which is something I never would have been able to do without this degree. The program really changed the way I view the world, and I now feel like I have the skills in policy, science, and communication to help create positive progress for animals.
MAPP Externship Summaries and Presentations 2016 Click here
Selected Publications and Presentations
* Jackman J, Bettencourt L, Vaske J, Sweeney M, Bloom K, Rutberg A, Brook B. (2018) “Conflict and consensus in stakeholder views of seal management on Nantucket Island, MA, USA.” Marine Policy, DOI: 10.1016/j.marpol.2018.03.006
* Jackman, J., Bettencourt, R. (2017) “Seals, Conflicts and Public Policy: A Study of Voter Attitudes Toward Seals on Nantucket” 2017 Presentation, Society for Marine Mammalogy’s Biennial Conference, Halifax Nova Scotia, Tuesday, October 24, 2017
* Jackman, J., Bettencourt, R. (2017): “Stakeholder View of Seals, Conflicts and Public Policy: A Survey of Attitudes toward Seals Among Voters, Anglers and Tourists on Nantucket” Presentation, Marine Mammal Commission Annual Meeting, Woods Hole, Massachusetts, on April 6, 2017
Bow Seat’s New Hire Announcement for Ren