Blog : Green Collar Careers: Jen Kennedy, Co-founder of the Blue Ocean Society

By Anna | Nov 13, 2014 | in

By Anna Murphy

UNH and Cornell graduate Jen Kennedy, along with research partner, Dianna Schulte, founded the Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation in 2001 with the mission to protect marine mammals in the Gulf of Maine through education, research and conservation. Since then, the organization has grown to include the Blue Ocean Discovery Center at Hampton Beach. A non-profit research and education organization, BOS strives to connect the public with marine life and the coastal environment. Part of that connection includes inspiring and encouraging young, future marine biologists' interest in marine life conservation.

Through several outreach programs, the Blue Ocean Society brings the Gulf of Maine to children with engaging, age-appropriate learning. School and group programs include: Traveling Tide Pools, Marine Biology Day, Bag It (a presentation about America's dependence on plastic bags) and Get "Eaten" by an Inflatable Whale, the last of which includes an interactive program where students walk inside a 65 foot, blow-up fin whale named Ladder.

The Blue Ocean Society has inspired children and adults by putting together more than 20 groups to conduct monthly cleanups through their Adopt-a-Beach program and organizing new clean ups each year. It is hard but rewarding work for volunteers and the Blue Ocean Society who have helped remove thousands of pounds of refuse from the coastline.

In 2008, the Blue Ocean Society partnered with New Hampshire Sea Grant and the UNH Cooperative Extension to spearhead the Marine Debris to Energy Project. This project resulted in the proper disposal of over 120 tons of derelict fishing gear found on public beaches, which is then recycled and turned into energy. They also collaborated with several groups in 2014 to facilitate the remove of 24 inactive lobster traps and more than 400 pounds of abandoned rope in New Hampshire's first underwater lobster trap cleanup.

Anna Murphy (AM): What do you like most about your job?
Jen Kennedy (JK): I love that we are working for a good cause. Working in environmental and nonprofit funding is challenging; there are so many other worthy causes out there. But it's so important. If you don't have a healthy environment, you don't really have anything. It's at the foundation of what people should be concerned about. Having a healthy environment affects the quality of life for everyone. I love that I get to be outside and work with wildlife. Working outside and at a job related to animals has always been a passion for me.

AM: Where did you go to college? Does your college education help with your current job? What skills from college most prepared you for the work you do now?
JK: I have a Bachelor of Science in Natural Resources from Cornell University and a Master of Science in Resource Administration and Management from the University of New Hampshire. My college education has helped me a lot. It familiarized me with field research, identification of species and the technology used in the field. It also taught me about the complexity of managing natural resources while working with various stakeholders, such as fishing and recreation, while ensuring whales in the Gulf of Maine receive adequate protection.

AM: What do you look for in an employee in this field?
JK: We look for someone who is interested in the cause, enthusiastic and who pays attention to detail. Our employees need to have strong organizational skills and the ability to work well both independently and as a team. Having volunteer or work experience in a related field is also important. Everybody here wears a lot of hats, so there are a lot of skills that are useful. There is a lot we can teach too, like how to collect data, identifying marine life in the field, customer service and informal education skills, and nonprofit management

AM: What made you integrate sustainability into your business or go into a green industry?
JK: Our business is as an environmental organization, so incorporating as many sustainable practices as possible is a natural step for us. We don't produce a lot of products; we sell Blue Ocean merchandise and we try to purchase organic, sustainable materials whenever possible. We also work with reputable whale watch companies that minimize fuel consumption. Educating the public about our research and the importance of protecting the environment is a major concern for us.

AM: What are you most proud of in your business as relates to sustainability?
JK: I am most proud of our work in education and our cleanups. Each year, we reach approximately 50,000 people who will learn more about marine life and how their actions impact the environment. The Blue Ocean Discovery Center had over 20,000 visitors since last year. We also work with volunteers who do a tremendous amount to clean our beaches, resulting in the removal of thousands of pounds of marine debris from area beaches each year. Last year, we organized 264 clean ups that brought together about 3,000 volunteers and removed over 12,000 pounds of litter.

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