Jamie Brunkow of the James River Association

Jamie Brunkow of the James River Association

Title: James Riverkeeper and senior advocacy manager for the James River Association, a nonprofit founded in 1976 to serve as a guardian and voice for the James River

Born: April 1985 in San Clemente, Calif.

Education: bachelor of science in biological sciences, Virginia Tech, 2008; and master’s of natural resources, Virginia Tech, 2016

Career: Stone Environmental School, 2008; AmeriCorps — Friends of the Rappahannock, 2008-10; Sassafras River Association, 2010-12; James River Association, 2012-present

In which part of the metro area do you live?: Chimborazo neighborhood in Richmond

Best business decision: “In college, I was enrolled in the Corps of Cadets and on a path to a commission in the Army. I knew I wanted a career in public service but ultimately decided on the nonprofit sector, where I could specialize in river conservation. It was a significant shift, but a personally rewarding one. So was moving back to Virginia to pursue the position at the James River Association. It brought me closer to some really good friends and it’s how I connected with my wife. We were married last September.”

Worst business decision: “I once discovered a faulty fuse on the Riverkeeper patrol boat but chose to delay replacement. Without power to my fuel gauge, I had to guess what was left in the tank and that was the only time I’ve ever run out of gas on the water. Maintenance is important.”

Mistake you learned the most from: “In my early 20s, I was in a role I loved, which allowed me to learn a great deal and to work on all kinds of water quality issues. But I was gradually taking on too much work. When your mission is something as big as restoring a river, the number of emerging issues and calls for help can feel never-ending. I had to learn when to lead on an issue, when to follow, and when to say no.”

First job after college: was an educator at the Mountain Lake Conservancy teaching a class on aquatic entomology

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently: “I would spend more time on the river. My time outdoors is relaxing and motivating; it reminds me why I work to protect Virginia’s natural resources.”

Book/movie that inspired you the most: “The Future of Life,” by Edward O. Wilson, a Harvard professor acclaimed as the father of biodiversity. “He succinctly lays out environmental challenges facing our planet, is optimistic about the future, and provides a road map on how to make a difference.”

Favorite/least favorite subject in school: “I really enjoyed indigenous ecology, a class at Virginia Tech focused on the environmental history of North America.”

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