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Alumna shares Laker Effect through passion for environmental advocacy

  • Angela Chaffee, '04, removing invasive species along the Connecticut River.

Posted on January 30, 2018

Angela Chaffee's love for nature and the environment began during her childhood while enjoying fishing trips with her father, gardening with her mother and spending countless days exploring the flora and fauna of the outside world. 

That love blossomed into passion, which Chaffee further nurtured while attending Grand Valley.

"Grand Valley was able to give me the science of those streams, soil and trees," said Chaffee, who graduated in 2004 with a bachelor's degree in natural resources management. "I gained a deeper understanding of something I was already passionate about, and then our professors challenged us to think about our role and place in nature."

Through her coursework at Grand Valley, Chaffee developed a sense of responsibility toward caring for the environment.

"I realized the importance of our choices and the power of working together," recalled Chaffee. "Grand Valley gave me a foundation and set me on the path to become the environmental advocate I am today."

Chaffee currently serves as the outreach and events director with the Connecticut River Conservancy in Greenfield, Massachusetts, a position she has held since 2011. The organization helps protect the Connecticut River, the longest river in the New England region.

"We advocate on behalf of the river, the wildlife that rely on it and the people who love it," said Chaffee. "We seek the balance of responsible use with protection."

Achieving that balance doesn't come easy, which is why a crucial piece of Chaffee's work is enlisting the help of members of her local community.

"Making the world a better place is a huge, overwhelming and exhausting job, so it's easy to feel discouraged and alone, but when you have a community working alongside you, anything is possible," said Chaffee. "We could not do the work we do without the support of our community — the thousands of volunteers who collect tons of trash each fall, the citizen scientists who help restore endangered mussels and count herring populations, the landowners and the partner organizations at the local, state and federal levels."

After graduating from Grand Valley, Chaffee worked at various nature centers and participated in multiple internships in Michigan, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. She received her master's degree from the Environmental Advocacy and Organizing Program at Antioch University New England in 2010. While pursuing her master's degree, Chaffee worked on numerous community projects with organizations such as the Antioch New England Institute, Green Mountain Conservation Group, and for the Sunapee Watershed Infrastructure Project.

Following her time at Antioch, Chaffee served as the AmeriCorps community outreach coordinator with the Connecticut River Watershed Council in Massachusetts, where she was then hired into her current position.

The ethos Chaffee has adopted throughout her environmental advocacy work is a simple one: the natural resources of the world belong to everyone.

"That's a fact that surprisingly few people realize or think about," said Chaffee. "The air we breathe, the rivers and lakes, the water we drink — we all own it and we all have an obligation to use it responsibly and, when necessary, protect it, because if you don't, if I don't, if we all don't, then who will?"