You have to have PASSION and perseverance.
Lindsay Griffin is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara's Environmental Studies Program. Additionally, she is a Certified Inspector of Sediment and Erosion Control (CISEC) as well as a Qualified Stormwater Practitioner (QSP). Following the conferment of her Bachelor of Science Degree in Environmental Studies, she immediately went to work at Rincon Consultants, Inc. as a Biologist/Project Manager. Her work schedule keeps her busy for approximately 40-50 hours per week, but not too busy that she can't spend time in the ocean enjoying her passion-surfing.
Lindsay, how did you decide to study Environmental Science, specifically Biology?
When I was 4 years old, I wanted to work with dolphins. I was obsessed with dolphins and in grade school, I was known as “the Dolphin Girl” because I wrote every single report assignment on bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops trucatus). When I was 10 years old, I remember going to the Santa Barbara pier and noticed that the water was a murky brown color under the pier and that there was trash floating on the surface of the water. I remember feeling very upset. I asked my mom who was with me what I could do to stop the ocean from being polluted. My mom had an awesome answer- she said that I should write a letter expressing my concern to the President of the United States. I came home, and immediately wrote a 4 page letter in pencil and sent it off to the White House. A while later, I received a response that went something like this, “Thank you for your concern…we thank you for writing…blah blah blah.” I remember feeling really frustrated! What was the President actually going to DO about the pollution issue? My mom sensed my frustration and had a second idea. She told me to join Greenpeace. That day, I became a member of Greenpeace and sent my membership check in.
It sounds like your family played an inspirational role in your career!
My Grandmother, Margot Butler, recently passed away this past Christmas Eve. She was a stubborn, funny, loving and kind German lady who taught me how to bait a fish hook and catch trout and make daisy necklaces in Canada. She worked at the poppy preserve in Lancaster for a number of years and for the Forest Service. She would tell me stories of how she lived in the Black Forest of Germany and during World War II, had to put our air aid forest fires with the other women and children left in the village, while the men were fighting the war. She said that times were tough. She collected beech seeds and pressed them for oil for the lamps and caught rain water in rain barrels to water their gardens. She was an entrepreneur in her day too- she use to pick berries from the woods and sell them to “the rich man on the hill” (her words!). My Grandma is the one that really taught me about the environment. She loved gardening and could take a cutting of any plant and make the cutting grow better than the plant she cut it from. When I travel to Big Sur and hike up mountains and see banana slugs, or when I surf and see dolphins in the line-up, or a butterfly joins me on a long run down the coast- I think of my Grandma with so much love and gratitude, for walking before me on this path.
So your involvement in Environmental Science was a natural progression?
Yes. I believe I always knew that my purpose was to love the earth and to teach and learn from others. I don’t see my job as a job, I see it an opportunity- a gift. I love working for Rincon Consultants, Inc. They are an amazing local firm and I have never worked for a better company for a better group of people. The people I work with are all environmentally conscious. I am proud to be a part of the Rincon Team for the past 3 years.
Was it challenging to get to where you are today?
I’m not going to kid you; it took a lot of hard work to get where I am today. I think the hardest part was getting through school in the peak of the recession, trying to pay my own way while tuition increased 4 times in a year and a half. Furthermore, employers are impressed with the fact that you can earn a degree from a UC, but they also want to see work experience on your resume. Thankfully, I always had a work ethic, and got my Real Estate license at 18 years old and went into property management. I had 10 years of property management experience when I started working for Rincon. While earning my degree at UCSB, I was also teaching surf lessons back-to-back on the weekends, and doing some boat-based dolphin research on the side in Santa Barbara and Monterey Bay with a couple non-profit groups and presenting our research at scientific conferences. It was a busy time, but I was in love with everything I was able to do. So, to answer your question, it was a lot of work and it took some sacrifice, but the rewards were sweet. When you are doing what you love, it feels exciting and challenging- not impossible or hard.
Hang with people who inspire you, and get involved in your community.
What should someone focus on if they want to be a success?
You have to have PASSION and perseverance. I have guest lectured at Ventura College from time to time and I always encourage students to get involved in their community. Meet people, build relationships, be of service, learn something! There are so many great non-profit groups in Ventura and Santa Barbara doing restoration of our creeks, conducting water sampling to ensure that our water quality is maintained, etc. The more people I worked with, the more my passion was ignited and I felt more connected to what I was doing.
Also, for adults, mentorship is so important. It is critical not to forget to give back. We need to make time for the next generation, to guide them and help them thrive. If it hadn’t been for my professors at UCSB, Helene Gardner and Greg Graves among others, I wouldn’t be where I am today. They were amazing mentors to me.
What personal qualities have helped you in your career?
I am generally a positive solution-oriented person. My friends would say that I am extremely determined and focused. I look at the big picture, dream big, and create the vision that I see. Sometimes results are quick and sometimes they are slow, but persistence is key. Gratitude keeps me centered and taking time to enjoy what I am trying to conserve is what keeps me inspired!
What gets you excited about your job and why?
I love learning about the natural world around me. I get to work on local projects in Ojai along San Antonio Creek conducting steelhead surveys, and then the next day I’ll be in another watershed doing a pond turtle survey. My colleagues are phenomenal and my clients are amazing. All care about the environment, and have a consciousness about how the choices we make every day impact our environment. Rincon Consultants, Inc. is a full service environmental consulting firm and we have various service lines that include site assessment and contaminant remediation, water quality, cultural resources, sustainability services, land use planning, and of course, biological services. I learn something new every day working for Rincon, so work is never boring. Plus, I feel like I am making a positive difference in my community, which makes me feel excited and grateful on a daily basis.
As you know Lindsay, we are an educational resource for students and all others seeking information about a career in Environmental Science. Please give us some tips regarding getting a degree in Environmental Science.
- My company has hired a number of graduates from the UCSB ES program, Cal Poly, and UC Davis. These schools have great undergrad programs.
- It is important to work with a counselor from the beginning. UCSB has an amazing counseling department for Environmental Studies majors and Eric Zimmerman (counselor) is phenomenal. Take advantage of the guidance.
- Write an undergraduate thesis. This is hard work, but it is worth it. You’ll get some solid writing experience and you’ll learn about the peer review process that is critical for scientific publications.
- Go to scientific conferences and meet people that you might be able to intern with.
- Get an internship while earning your degree so that you have experience in the field when you graduate. There are lots of non-profit groups out there and ways to get involved. Groups doing restoration work (i.e. South Coast Restoration and Ventura Botanical Gardens) use volunteers. I completed an internship at Heal the Bay, and was the volunteer/student internship coordinator and research assistant with Protect Our Dolphins (POD) of Santa Barbara.
- Stay focused!
What aspects in the field of Environmental Science would you like to see improved?
I think the environmental professionals are doing an awesome job advocating for new legislation and change that promotes sustainable business practices and protection of our environment. I think what really needs to change is the perception that we as individuals need so many “things” in order to be happy.
In your career, do you have time for a “personal” life?
I spend a lot of time with my friends and family. The relationships with my friends and my family are a very important part of my life. I find a lot of joy in riding waves with friends, and going on camping trips to Big Sur with my girlfriends. I have two little 7 month old pugs that also get a lot of my time! We frequently walk the beach and hike up to the Ventura Botanical Gardens together. They are a blast!
I understand that you are quite athletic—is it hard to make time for what you like to do?
I definitely make time! I am an avid long distance runner and surfer. Being outside as much as possible helps me connect to my environment. I usually run and bump into fellow runners and we waive and smile. I love getting to know my community out in the water and on land. I usually find time to surf every week and I run a little less frequently than I use to, about 30-35 miles per week.
I love what you say on your surfing lessons website;
“Surfing is a sport of intense excitement and athleticism. The chance to dance with waves, propelled by a force of nature in a mad rush of water is what excites the spirit of all who love the ocean!”
Please tell us all about the surfing school you own—Lindsay’s Surf School.
When I was in college, I was working to put myself through school. I was struggling to pay rent and put food in the fridge. A good friend of mine told me to go make some business cards and start teaching surf lessons. I had my doubts about whether I could really be a good surf instructor. I made the cards. Next thing you know, I am walking into Ventura Surf Shop asking if they can display my cards. Of course Ventura Surf Shop said yes. VSS is the best local surf shop we have and they support their local surf community. Pretty soon, I was giving 2-3 lessons a day on the weekends! My little business started growing slowly. After a couple years, I had repeat clients and friends of past students calling me to give them a lesson. I met great people who travelled to Ventura from all over the world- Denmark, Sweden, Canada, London, etc. I remember all of my students because all of them really touched my life.
After the first year, I was certified as a surf instructor through NSSIA (National Surf Schools and Instructors Association). I found my niche in teaching women how to surf. I incorporated my love for our ocean environment into my lesson. Students learned about ocean safety and how to dance on waves. After the lesson, there was always so much joy and excitement- like a new flame had been lit! I knew then I had done my best in passing along the gift of surfing to another. Surfing has changed me in so many ways. It has taught me so many things and brought me so much joy. I believe it is my responsibility to give back to the earth while I am here, in any way that I am able. Thus, I teach and carry the message of conscious sustainable living wherever I go.
What are your dreams?
I would love to teach one day at the community college level and possibly start my own non-profit that provides research grants to undergraduates. There is so little funding available for kids and grants are really competitive. There are so many passionate, talented, and ambitious young people out there who need to be supported in their efforts to make a difference for our environment. When I am finished with my career, I hope to have been a mentor to many your people who have the same passion and love for the environment and all creatures, as I do.
Any final words of wisdom?
There are so many career opportunities available in the environmental field. Water is a huge topic today, given climate change and the drought. There are so many possibilities for career paths in this field. Just put one foot in front of the other, and don’t give up. Hang with people who inspire you, and get involved in your community. If you need a mentor, you know where to find me!