Thursday, January 8, 2015

Belated Greetings from Jingwei Zhang, Policy Intern at Save the Harbor/Save the Bay

As much as I was surprised to find that Boston beaches are not as crowded as those in China where I am originally from, I was also both baffled and excited to learn that Save the Harbor/Save the Bay was doing great work to connect the harbor and the beaches with kids and families in the region. Such a non-profit public-interest organization model is barely seen in China, although organizations resembling it are on the rise in recent years. With a belief that environmental protection goes hand-in-hand with community strengthening, and with interests in sustainable place making and non-profit operations, I joined Save the Harbor/Save the Bay as a policy intern last September and since then have been enjoying every aspect of my work here while learning a lot along the way. 

From my graduate studies in City Planning at Boston University, I learned about the history of Boston Harbor cleanup that turned it from “the dirtiest harbor in America” almost 20 years ago into “a great American jewel” today in EPA’s term. That story made possible the City’s focus of planning and development in the South Boston Waterfront, which I was privileged to contribute in part as a business development intern at the Boston Redevelopment Authority supporting retail sector development strategies in that area. What I did not know until I started my policy internship here was that Save the Harbor/Save the Bay played a leading advocacy role in the tale of Boston Harbor transformation, and it continued to protect and restore Boston Harbor through science, policy and programs.

My very first project here was exactly on beach water quality and the accuracy of the flagging system which provides notification to the public on whether the water was clean and safe to swim in. I was fortunate to work with an incredibly talented policy team including Ben and Yudan (and also Mehar and Vicent who came on board later), who shared a lot of resources with me. With their guidance, I was able to quickly dive in the analyses. In collaboration, we have completed the executive summary of the 2014 Beaches Report Card on Water Quality to be released in early summer this year. We have also been working on analyzing the implications of EPA’s 2014 Beach Guidelines and examining various predictive modeling opportunities for beach safety flagging. Our work has shown significant results that will contribute in policy recommendations to MassDEP, DPH and DCR to improve the notification system and ensure public access to beaches when they are clean.

In addition to water quality policy analysis, I am also able to get involved in several planning projects where I was able to apply my knowledge and skills developed through attaining my Master’s degree. This is why I appreciate this internship so much, that the work and the learning strike a good balance so I feel valued and growth at the same time.  It also expanded my view in determining my future career path.  In my next career move, I would welcome opportunities in the energy and environmental policy field especially around planning and development sectors, so it can use a combination of my undergraduate education in Environmental Science, Master of City Planning, and various experiences across both disciplines in non-profit settings. I want to build up further experiences and gain enough knowledge and skills, and bring these back to China to develop a non-profit environmental organization there. The first step I took in 2015 in achieving all these goals was that I became accredited as a LEED Green Associate. With this good start, I am looking forward to another exciting and challenging year at Save the Harbor, and anywhere else.

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