Spotlight Story

09 March 2022

Shley Suarez-Burgos: MANO Alumni finds her place in Ocean Advisory Council

Category: Spotlight Story

Born in Miami, Florida to Cuban and Puerto Rican parents, Shley Suarez-Burgos was involved with coastal life at a young age; however, she never anticipated a career in conservation until she was struck by a National Geographic article calling attention to a fish shortage.

“I remember reading a Nat Geo saying salmon and tuna were on the brink of extinction,” said Suarez-Burgos. “There are some species that are endangered, but because they have such a high economic and food level, we kind of look the other way.”

To make a difference in the fishing industry, Suarez-Burgos left her job and moved across the country from Florida to Washington State. She worked as a distributor in the salmon industry, for a local business that purchased sustainably caught seafood from Native tribes in the Olympic Peninsula.

During her time in Washington, Suarez-Burgos learned about the MANO Project internship through a friend that was completing an internship at Biscayne National Park. Suarez-Burgos landed a yearlong internship as a digital media ranger for the National Wildlife Refuge System, administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Her career has allowed her to connect with culturally diverse communities, address inequities and bridge the gap between the Latino community, and environmental careers.

“I would have never thought that was an option for me as a career,” said Suarez-Burgos. “I want to help people have a safe space because it’s such a white dominated industry and show them that they can continue that domino-effect of getting people outdoors and caring about it in ways beyond what they already do.”

As a full-time affiliate at the Ocean Advisory Council, Suarez-Burgos has been able to pursue a career that she didn’t think was possible, but that has not stopped her from accomplishing everything she has.

“I don't have a science degree and in a lot of the jobs that I've gotten, I haven't been taken seriously by like a biologist because I am marketing,” said Suarez-Burgos. “Now, being with the Ocean Advisory Council, I feel like I'm taken seriously.”

Through the council, Suarez-Burgos has planned events and conservation initiatives to educate the public and worked on research projects to present a collection of coastal issues, and their impact on environmental and social groups. One of the projects she has worked on is the White Paper, a research publication used for legislation and grant funding.

Her journey as a learner has been unique and full of opportunities. The programs and initiatives she has been a part of to protect wildlife and the environment have not only shaped her leadership, but created a pathway for Latinos that want to make a difference in their communities.

Hispanic Access is inspiring, training, and supporting local leaders like Shley Suarez-Burgos, who have a stake in their community and have the drive for positive change. To help support and continue this work, please consider making a Charitable Donation

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