Julie Blackburn, an environmental consultant and former assistant director of the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources joined the Freshwater Society Board in late 2013.
We asked her to reflect on her connections to water and her hopes for the Freshwater Society.
Q. What’s your story? Where did you grow up and go to school? What have you done in your professional life?
A. My family moved the from Chicago area to owning a resort on Gull Lake just north of Brained when I was 6. We eventually sold the resort and moved to Pequot Lakes where I graduated from high school. I went to SCSU and have a BA in Cultural Anthropology and Environmental Science and went to the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry/Syracuse for a MA in Systems Ecology. Since then I have worked as a watershed district administrator for two watersheds, was assistant director of programs and policy for the Board of Water and Soil Resources, and now I work for a private consulting firm.
Q. Do you have a personal connection to water?
A. Water has been a major component of my life since that first day I jumped out of the car after the long drive from Chicago when I was so young. The lake was amazing to me and it’s never lost its allure. Many of my most favorite moments both personally and professionally have been in or on water – whether white water rafting down the Rio Pacuare in Costa Rica or conducting my first benthic study on a stream or training volunteers on sampling techniques.
Q. Is there a book you have read, maybe a speaker you have heard, or an experience you have had that influenced who you are today and the positions you take with regard to water?
A. There have been many significant influential forces in my life that instilled in me the desire to protect water. My friends growing up that liked to fish and play with critters as much as I did. My graduate school instructor, Dr. Charlie Hall, was a key figure in keeping my curiosity strong. My father was the most influential. He taught me so many things, but most importantly he always encouraged my continual learning.
Q. Why did you agree to serve as a member of the Freshwater board?
A. I have a strong belief that clean water and conservation success can only be obtained through a concerted effort on many levels including government, business, non-profit and on an individual basis. It’s been both my personal and professional goal to continually work through these multiple levels. I am very excited to be part of a strong organization that provides that opportunity for me and that allows me to be part of a larger effort.
Q. What are the main water challenges you want the Freshwater Society to address?
A. I believe that the Freshwater Society’s current focus on the issues of groundwater and agriculture are the right challenges to take on. These are issues I care deeply about and think that we have the opportunity to make positive changes. However I also believe that the greatest challenge may be developing a common understanding of the science, the policies, and the forces behind these issues which make them so difficult to tackle.
Q. What are you currently reading?
A. 1688, a Global History by John E Wills, Jr; Still Life with Woodpecker, by Tom Robbins; The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho; and the Harvard Business Review are all sitting on my coffee table right now.