Name: Bert Barnes
Title: Biologist
Company: O’Brien & Gere


Q: What brought you to Philadelphia and how did you first get involved with YPN?

A: I grew up outside of Philadelphia, so this was a logical place for me to look for jobs after graduating from college. However, I wasn’t familiar with YPN until last fall, when some of the Chamber staff gave a presentation at my office. I kept in touch with them after the presentation and read a little more about the breadth of things YPN does, and that’s what crystallized my interest in getting involved. I’ve sat on the Social Media & Marketing Committee since.

Q: How did you decide to become a scientist and what does your day-to-day look like?

A: My fascination with science started as a childhood obsession with dinosaurs. Growing up, my interests evolved away from the more abstract conception of nature and towards biology, my favorite aspect of which was ecology. As a result, my academic focus developed at the confluence of biology and ecology. This time of year puts me in the field a lot, typically conducting wetland delineations, sampling environmental media, performing habitat/site evaluations. When I’m not in the field, I’m usually writing reports, preparing permit applications, and working on environmental and human health risk assessments. I also work intermittently with our sustainability practice to manage the sustainability portfolios of corporate clients.

Q: What aspects do you enjoy most about your job?

A: My favorite part of being a biologist is working outdoors. It gets me out of the office and allows me to see and learn things I otherwise wouldn’t. There’s no way to replicate the outdoor aspect of what I do, and that’s part of the reason it’s so important to me. I also enjoy the opportunity to work with different groups within our company because it exposes me to topics that aren’t technically within my job description, and that’s never a bad thing.

Q. What are your favorite summer activities (outside of attending YPN events)?

A: I try to get the beach as often as I can during the summer. I recently got back into fishing after a hiatus of a couple years, which is something I look forward to during the summer as well. I love swimming and basketball too.

Q: Do you have a professional mentor? If so, tell us how having one benefits you.

A: I don’t in the explicit sense. My group within O’Brien & Gere is small relative to the other divisions, and we all work very closely together. As a result, informal mentoring happens continually, especially benefiting those of us who are younger. Learning from one’s mistakes can be beneficial, but learning from someone else’s mistakes without having to make them yourself is definitely a better deal. Having mentors also allows me to observe firsthand the nuances inherent to each slightly different career trajectory within my group of coworkers.

Q: What are the next steps you’re taking to advance your career?

A: Starting this fall, I’ll be applying to Masters programs. The programs I’m applying to generally fall under the category of “Environmental Sciences,” but given the interdisciplinary nature of the field, each school has its own unique curriculum, often with a handful of distinct concentrations. Having been exposed to the nuts and bolts of environmental science and policy through consulting, I’m interested in studying the relationship between corporate environmental stewardship and environmental policy. More concisely, I’d like to investigate how market-driven policies can be engineered to be more prevalent, accessible, and effective.

Q: Do you have any trips planned soon (or one you’d like to plan)?

A: I spent ten days in Thailand and Singapore in January, and it cemented my interest in seeing Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. But before that, I’d like to see Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands. I’m hoping I’ll have a couple months before going back to school to check a few of those off my list.