Spotlight Story

31 May 2023

Virginia Ansaldi: Ensuring Access to Nature Through Conservation Advocacy

Category: Spotlight Story

Virginia Ansaldi has always felt a deep connection with the ocean, growing up between Florida and Argentina allowed her to experience different landscapes and understand from a young age conversations around leisure, well-being, and privilege. The ocean was always that familiar place where she could reconnect with her childhood, and this motivated her to build a career around ensuring access to nature to further improve health equity.

Virginia has been working in outdoor education since 2009 when she started working with the University of Miami Shark Research Program while completing a degree in marine science affairs. In addition, she completed a master's in communications, focused on multimedia journalism from the University of Miami.

“As a communicator, you have such an advantage because some of the research you come across lacks accessible communication to different communities, so unifying both is important for conservation.”

As a result of her teaching opportunities, she saw a need to elevate the voices of minorities in the science research field and amplify the efforts and results being carried on by researchers themselves. That motivated her to concentrate on providing solutions for challenges Latinos face in conservation. In 2018, she received the Rising Star Award for Sustainability from the City of Coral Gables due to her work in conservation education. As she recalls, “I would come across all this research that was happening, but there were opportunities for only a small group of people, and I felt like more people needed to know about what was going on when it comes to conservation sciences overall.” She wanted to guarantee open access to the information, and that’s how she started getting involved with citizen science programs.

Virginia started working with Hispanic Access Foundation in 2015 through an internship at Biscayne National Park. At that time, she had the opportunity to engage in events leading to Latino Conservation Week, an initiative she keeps organizing for each year. For Latino Conservation Week 2022, Virginia brought a group of people together to help remove invasive pythons in the Everglades.

“A lot of our events have mostly been focused on making sure that there are fair recreation opportunities for people, especially when it comes to getting on boats. That itself can be pretty exclusive for a lot of folks. So, this year we'll be able to take out families that wouldn't otherwise be able to get those experiences.”

She has also been involved in advocacy work with Hispanic Access Foundation as part of the Olas y Acción Advisory Council since 2020. They focus on conservation and marine management issues surrounding the Latino community across the United States. Virginia will be traveling to Washington D.C. for World Oceans Week this June to discuss some of the initiatives Hispanic Access supports through the council. One of the council's commitments is making sure there is a platform for community leaders in conservation to speak about ongoing issues in their communities. “There's often still work that needs to be done to make sure those conservation efforts are equitable. We're monitoring different policies to advise the organization on conservation programming and help them organize conservation-related events for their initiatives.”

Virginia believes that in order to be equitable, conservation policies need to consider not only the environmental aspects of it but also the health and well-being of the communities impacted by these policies.

“When I'm feeling overwhelmed, going to the ocean is always a bit of a respite for me, and if other people can find respite in something like that instead of many other things that they could be doing to destress, I think it is an overlooked aspect of outdoor immersion. I want people to connect to nature because I know what it can do for our physical and mental health, too. Writing opportunities for connections in nature is more about health equity.”

Hispanic Access is inspiring, training, and working with leaders like Virginia Ansaldi, 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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