Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey

Heidi Hansen


Heidi Hansen worked for the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society in Massachusetts during her DPMI Plus assignment.

January 15, 2013

Program: International Environmental Policy

DPMI Plus Assignment: Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (Plymouth, MA)

Undergrad: University of Iowa

"Working with WDCS was a truly collaborative experience and gave me insight into the challenges and rewards of working with and for a small nonprofit."

When Heidi Hansen first came to the Monterey Institute to study International Environmental Policy, she was not sure what environmental concentration she wanted to focus on.  But one seemingly innocent activity changed all of that.

"One of the things I did during my very first week in Monterey was to go on a whale watch," Heidi said. "Little did I know that that experience would be the first of many that would have such a profound impact on my life."

As a result of that experience, Heidi started studying marine conservation, focusing on cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises). While writing a research paper early in her second semester, Heidi came across the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, which is where she would eventually serve her DPMI Plus assignment.

"WDCS is the leading global charity dedicated solely to the protection and conservation of cetaceans," explained Heidi. "My experience there was literally life changing."

While working for WDCS, Heidi was able to participate in a variety of projects and initiatives. She collected photo identification of humpback whales in Cape Cod and also educated whale watching passengers about marine conservation issues.

"This became one of my favorite things about the internship, because I realized that if I was able to make a connection with people and show them my passion for these animals and that they are still not saved, I could potentially have an impact on them and enable more people to become more aware and active to help protect the environment," said Heidi.

Heidi also had the honor of being chosen by the executive director of the WDCS North American branch to pilot a study that analyzed the impact of anthropogenic scarification on the humpback whale population. WDCS used this study to apply for and win a substantial grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to continue both the scar study and other essential conservation projects.

"Working with WDCS was a truly collaborative experience and gave me insight into the challenges and rewards of working with and for a small nonprofit," Heidi said. "Certainly the challenges are great, but the rewards are invaluable."

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