Geoff Wikel's ('08) Path to Graduate School: Marine Science and Public Policy

One of the few students studying both public policy and marine science, Geoff Wikel’s path to graduate school has been “a circumambulatory process.” At Washington & Lee University he paired Natural Science with English for a double major. These led him to work at Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and then at Ohio’s DNR, where projects relating to Lake Erie piqued his interest in marine science and coastal management.

It was then he decided to enroll at VIMS, the Virginia Institute for Marine Science.  When he learned that he could also apply to the Public Policy Program, Geoff leapt at the chance.  “I was gravitating towards the nexus of science and resource management,” he said.  “Resource management affects people at the ground level.  It can be a very important policy issue, and very politically charged. 

"The courses at VIMS and in the Public Policy Program have been excellent complements, Geoff believes.  “The environmental curriculum in Public Policy is still in a developmental phase,” he noted.  “But the program promises to be strong.   A lot of components that W&M has – like environmental studies and environmental law – allow public policy students to reach outside of the program.”

His graduate work, Geoff said, “let me develop a fuller language to approach environmental problems, and  from multiple perspectives.”   With degrees almost in hand, Geoff has landed a job at the Minerals Management Service, a bureau within the Department of the Interior.  His working group is located in Offshore Minerals Management, and he'll be involved in “projects involving the use of sand and gravel to replenish beaches, offshore alternative energy use – things like that.”

Already Geoff has been involved in the Cape Wind Project, a heated and controversial plan to install 130 wind turbines in Nantucket Sound.  The complications are myriad, involving everything from aesthetic visibility issues to potential impact on the flight paths of migratory birds.  “It’s important work, I think.  While beach nourishment is a critical issue because of increasing coastal develpment and associated hazards spurred by climate change, domestic alternative energy sources may even be of greater significance.”