Curtis Bennett

Allison GinsburgAs the director of conservation community engagement, my primary responsibility is to work collaboratively with internal and external partners, community stakeholders and residents to develop— and ultimately implement—environmental stewardship programs and projects that help meet community needs. Most importantly, these programs and projects are delivered where people are: in their own communities. In doing so, we are working towards building transformational relationships with community stakeholders and residents. Outside of work, I enjoy any activities that allow me to enjoy the outdoors—including hiking, kayaking and canoeing—as well as dancing, going to museums, cooking and exercising.

Background

What did you want to be when you were growing up?
For as long as I can remember, I have always loved nature and animals. So growing up, being a veterinarian was my goal. But as I got older and was exposed to other opportunities in the environmental field, through both internship and job experiences, I realized that while I still love animals, that being a veterinarian wasn’t my true passion. It was about this time in college when I discovered environmental science (wildlife ecology) and I haven’t looked back since! It just felt right and I knew instantly that I was where I needed to be!

What did you study in school?
I have a Bachelor’s of Science in environmental science and policy (specializing in wildlife ecology and management) from the University of Maryland, College Park. And I have an Master’s of Science in wildlife conservation from the University of Delaware. While I was learning the hard sciences through school, I was also immersing myself in environmental education and community engagement through a variety of internship programs and job experiences.

How did you get started in your field of work?
The natural world has always been my safe space … when I spend time in nature, all my worries and stresses go away. Along with that, I’ve always had this curiosity about the species that call our environment home. So growing up, I remember doing a lot of nature programs and camps and just spending a lot of time exploring, having those unmediated experiences in nature. And over time, this sense of discovery turned into an interest, and from there it grew into a passion. It’s this deep connection I’ve developed with the environment that has driven me to learn and ultimately do all that I can to give back.

So what does giving back mean to me? Initially it was just about working directly with wildlife species and habitat, and while those experiences were and continue to be absolutely incredible, I knew that there was something missing. This is when environmental education and community engagement came into my life. It’s a powerful moment that I won’t forget! But at that time, I have to admit that this was new to me and out of my comfort zone, but something was drawing me to this sector of the field. And as it turns out, not only did I really enjoy it but I was good at it, too! I’m a huge proponent of going with what works, and so from there on out I’ve worked within that ever-so-important intersection of wildlife ecology/habitat restoration/environmental education/community engagement. It’s just all connected! Being able to share that connection with others and finding new and innovative ways to engage, inspire and empower people to give back to their communities and the environment as a whole—it’s truly special! I’m living my dream!

At the Aquarium

How long have you been at the Aquarium?
Since August 2014

I love what I do because...
Each and every day, I wake up and I’m able to fulfill my personal conservation ethic, which is to take everything that I’ve learned and experienced and give it all back to our environment and our communities … inspiring people to experience their own connection to the natural world around them and empowering them to make a daily positive impact.

Most memorable moment at the Aquarium
For me, it’s not just a single moment that stands out, but a group of them that center around spending time with local students and community members, hearing their stories and working side by side with them to give back to their community and the environment, seeing that look of excitement in their eyes when they have learned or experienced something new … the only way I can describe it is that it’s just magical!

Fun Facts

Hometown: Bowie, Maryland

Favorite Animal:
River otters.

Three things you never leave home without?

  • Keys
  • Smile on my face
  • Positive attitude (A lot of people say that I’m the most positive/optimistic person that they know)

One lesson you wish you'd learned earlier in life?
I wouldn’t necessarily say that this is a lesson that I wish I learned earlier in life, but one that I would want to share with up-and-coming, as well as current, professionals in the field. I am an incredibly hard worker, an extremely driven and dedicated individual, especially towards the work that we’re doing in the environmental/conservation field, because it’s truly my passion. But at the same time, you have to make sure to always make and take that time for yourself, to pursue any other interests and hobbies.

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