Scraping the surface
How a Jersey Shore school teacher influences the next generation of makers and doers.
Adam Sprague (Master of Environmental Studies ’14) has spent a lifetime observing the environmental impact of human beings on our Earth. Adam grew up in the Florida Keys, worked on shrimp and clam farms, surfs often and he now teaches at The Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science. “The planet is resilient. If we scrape the surface a bit, things will grow back,” he encourages, “But how much of the surface of the earth can we scrape before it’s no longer inhabitable for us?”
It was during his time at Penn that Adam observed how urban landscapes recover after enduring natural disasters and man-made damages. “When I looked into remediation in areas that were polluted outside of the city, it gave me a different perspective. I learned that it’s not all doom and gloom,” He adds, “Even when resources have been depleted, there is hope to transform them. You can see life coming back and there are fully-functioning ecosystems all around Philadelphia.”
And, it turns out, the City of Philadelphia was one of the reasons this Barnegat Light, NJ resident joined the program. “I enjoyed going out to the city. I love Philadelphia. The program was also very convenient for me. My classes started at 5 p.m., and the program was so flexible. I could select the courses that best suited me and what I wanted to bring back to my classroom.” He then added, “It was also so amazing to have the people who write the journals I read be my professors and advisors.”
The hands-on approach and diversity of Adam’s coursework in the MES program ignited his interest in environmental resiliency and remediation. He now shares that focus on planning for the future with his students. At The Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science, Adam teaches biology, biotechnology and environmental science. He often takes his students out into the local landscape to see what changes our planet is experiencing. He also had such a positive relationship with the faculty that he brings his students to Penn to visit his professors for special lectures and tours of green infrastructure on campus.
He shares, “Not all of my students are going into environmental science. Many become engineers or work in finance. However, I want them to understand that no matter what industry they go into, they need to make decisions that are sustainable for our planet.”
Now celebrating its 20th anniversary, the Master of Environmental Studies program helps teachers like Adam share the cutting-edge research that can keep our planet and our species moving forward.
“Water is elemental to our continued existence,” shares Brian Byrnes (Master of Environmental Studies, ’04), “it is the most important shared resource that we have and everyone needs and deserves clean water.
When Bob Wells (Master of Environmental Studies ’13) talks about the White Oak, it’s like listening to an artist talk about his muse, “It’s the most beautiful tree there is on the eastern seaboard.” As the Arboriculture Director at Morris Arboretum, Bob admits, “people get very emotionally involved with their trees.”