Mentorship Spotlight: The Growing Adaptation Workforce, Finding Your Fit

Mentee Sarah Collins is a mother, educator, researcher, and scholar pursuing dual master’s degrees at the University of Michigan. She seeks to blend her Environment & Sustainability M.S. and Educational Studies M.A. toward addressing education for sustainability in the United States by helping local and state governments build robust adaptation plans that include how we educate children and the Sustainable Development Goals. She currently serves as the Education Program Manager for Pierella Rainforest Reclamation Project, where she puts her B.A. in Early Care and Education from the University of Washington and teaching experience to use. Expanding her experience with the global community, Sarah is working with the UNFCCC’s Climate Technology Centre & Network to understand the technology needs of the Global South toward a carbon-neutral future.

Mentor David Merino has over 25 years as an emergency responder (15 as Captain), and knows firsthand what communities need to build their adaptive resilience. Experienced in teaching multiple audiences (children, general public, NGOs, firefighters, fire officers, elected officials) regarding life-safety topics, Merino brings energy and nuance to his mentorship role. His experience in community hazard assessments, disaster planning, emergency response, and crisis management creates the depth and breadth needed to help emerging professionals find their fit in the local and state sectors in adaptation.

The adaptation field is growing rapidly, with investments being poured into it across the public and private sectors with increasing prevalence. For Sarah, this brings increasing hope that as she finishes her graduate program there will be more opportunities to help build a sustainable future for her daughter and the generations to come. Sarah has felt that finding where she fits in the puzzle has been overwhelming, with so many opportunities and needs across the field. Through her work with David, finding the perfect fit for her passion and skill has begun to take shape. Their work together this year has focused on how to look for local opportunities and understand individual strengths. David has helped Sarah get over her emerging professional jitters and helped her to dive into this work now, by getting involved on the local level. Sarah is attending local sustainability committee meetings and asking questions. David has inspired her to look for gaps, ask questions, and become the authority.

David and Sarah have spent their mentorship sharing insight about how topics like migration, racism, and classism are enmeshed in climate justice and adaptation. David’s authority of California state and local adaptation governance brings to life how these topics, histories, and legislation play out in real-time. Their talks focus on life over property and managing human displacement. These two are both passionate and driven, bringing a lot of energy to their work together.

Thanks to both for sharing what they’ve learned.