Marilyn Castriotta, MS Candidate

Conservation Biology
“In regions of the world, safe havens for flora and fauna are threatened by climate change. Higher elevations are very vulnerable. That’s the area I want to focus my attention on as a conservation biologist.”

Advocating for Climate Change

Marilyn Castriotta spent a decade in the medical field until discovering her passion for the environment. At Antioch University New England (AUNE), she’s now training to be an expert on the impact of climate change, particularly on alpine ecosystems.

“I’m one of those people, one of those environmentalists, who really understand the grave situation we’re in,” she said. “Our exponentially growing population coupled with our consumption rate is threatening the planet, not only for the human population, but also for other species.”

A Midlife Career Change

Marilyn, a New England native, is a former vascular technologist. After leaving the healthcare industry, she worked for an organic farming association, and later as events manager for Ceres, a Boston-based nonprofit that advocates for sustainable leadership and a sustainable global economy.

By chance, while there, she learned about The Climate Reality Project, an international nonprofit organization founded by Al Gore, former vice president and Nobel laureate. She applied and was selected to be one of a thousand people personally trained by Gore to raise public awareness of climate change and possible solutions. Eventually, she participated in three subsequent trainings, and currently serves as the organization’s Northeast District manager.

AUNE Was an Easy Choice

Soon after, Marilyn decided to return to graduate school, and she didn't have to look far for a school that met her needs. Her brother graduated in 2002 from AUNE and had a good experience, she said. Beyond that, she attended a workshop given by ES professor Tom Wessels, who greatly impressed her.

“I wanted to study under Tom,” said Marilyn, who applied and was accepted into the Conservation Biology program, becoming a full-time AUNE student in 2011.

“My first year, I had three classes with him,” she said. “He’s one of the people at AUNE that encouraged me to keep exploring and to follow my interests, and not rush the process.”

During her first year, Marilyn completed a summer internship as a conservation easement monitor at the Harris Center for Conservation Education in Hancock, New Hampshire. In her program, class work is interspersed with field studies, including a recent five-day trip to the Adirondacks. She’s also involved with the Student Alliance and serves as the student representative on the AUNE presidential search committee.

“I’m in my forties. This is a midlife shift for me,” she said. “I’m really enjoying being here. It’s an enriching experience. The academics and experiential learning, and just the AUNE community, have been very influential in having a positive experience. This is where I want to be.”

In August 2012, she was chosen from a field of candidates to be a training mentor at the three-day Climate Reality Leadership Corps training session in San Francisco. Participants from forty-seven states and fifty-eight countries were trained to give multimedia presentations of the slideshow featured in An Inconvenient Truth, Gore’s Academy Award-winning film.

“I’m applying what I’m learning to a world in need,” she said. “I’m not in such a hurry and much more thoughtful now about how I go about doing it.”

-February 2013