Sophia Bass Werner

Sophia accepted the Walden Woods award on behalf of SCA

Student | Arlington, MA

Sophia, a U-Mass Boston environmental science major who served last summer at Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, represented SCA’s 75,000 alumni last week when she accepted the Walden Woods Project Environmental Challenge Award.  A huge Eagles fan, she was thrilled to meet the Project’s founder, Don Henley, and chat with the night’s major award winner, Robert Redford.  We also took a moment to speak with her.

Your work at Boston Harbor Islands was the subject of a Boston Globe story. Tell us about your internship. 

It was a mammal monitoring project. I was in charge of setting up motion sensor cameras, graphite powder track plates, performing dusk and dawn walks and collecting other sightings. I learned how to spot animal trails, recognize tracks and scat from different mammals.  I was also a liaison for the Green Ambassadors, a program for employment in “Green Career” exploration, environmental awareness and stewardship.  And another part of my job was leading Stewardship Saturdays, a weekly volunteer program where we provided citizen science opportunities for volunteers to further expand their learning experience.

In your SCA application, you noted the sharp differences between national environmental policies and your homeland of Bolivia…

When I moved here I was amazed by how clean the streets were and how everyone thought it was morally wrong to throw trash in the streets, very differently from Bolivia Street where trash was a huge problem, so bad that it created air pollution. I believe that comes from a lack of education, more specifically environmental education, as well as the enforcement of laws. There is a lot of corruption there that makes enforcement quite difficult. In 2010, however, Bolivia passed the Law of the Right of Mother Earth, which states that the environment is entitled to the same protection rights as humans.  

How does all this factor into your studies, volunteerism and career plans?

After college, I plan to join the Peace Corps. I want to go anywhere in South America where I can start a project that encompasses the skills I have gained in the US in a way that I can help a community with a specific problem.  Following that, I will probably come back to the United States and try to get a job with the National Park Service or in environmental education or.  Working with SCA this summer helped me realize that I want to focus on environmental education, especially with kids.

What was it like hanging with Don Henley and Robert Redford? 

I was very honored to have met them.  I had previous knowledge of Don because the Eagles are one of my favorite bands. I knew he was the founder of the Walden Woods Project, that was one of the reasons for my interest in the Eagles and attending the awards event. Don clearly stated his interest in SCA, and Bob was very interested to hear all about it. I told him I was an alumna and he asked me where I did my internship. The tight schedule made it a bit difficult to have a long conversation with them, but it was a great experience to exchange some words.

What was the highlight of your evening?

There are many moments of that night that will stay with me forever, including meeting Don Henley and Robert Redford, seeing the Eagles in concert and being able to be front row!  As well as having the honor to receive an award for SCA.  However, the moment that not only stood out but also amazed me was meeting [fellow Challenge Award winner] Deepika Kurup, a young innovator. She created a composite that both filters water and harnesses sunlight to purify it. It was an honor to meet such a bright young person, and it made me realize how important it is to encourage young people to innovate, create, and be aware of important current issues.