Scientist Profile: Mike Bolinder

Growing up, Mike Bolinder, spent a lot of time in the clean waters of his rural hometown swimming and fishing (and eating what he caught!). As he got older, he realized that not everyone had access to the same clean water he did, and it upset him. He became angry when he realized some people would rather pollute clean water than clean up their mess. But he says, “When I realized that I had the skills to help make a difference, I knew that I wouldn’t be happy doing anything other than fighting for clean water.”

Now, as the Anacostia Riverkeeper and a member of the Waterkeeper Alliance, Mike defends clean water for those in his watershed and beyond. He says that being a Riverkeeper is “one part scientist, one part Batman.” He uses methodical science to support all of his ideas and assumptions. His “Batman” side comes out when he’s working with lawmakers and creating advocacy campaigns to enforce clean water policies for everyone. Without the scientific evidence, he says, “I would have no ability to speak with authority in court or with policymakers.”

Mike went to Gordon College in Wenham, MA where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. For him, being a great Riverkeeper takes a combination of his degree, an understanding of science and ecology, and his passion for clean water. He says the best part of his job is “seeing a watershed resident’s face light up when they catch a fish, paddle a kayak, or see an osprey snatch a fish. At that moment they realize the imperfect river in their community is a resource to be treasured and defended.”

When asked what advice he could give to students looking to go into careers in science, he said, “learn how to be passionate about something and then transfer that knowledge to what you want to do… I learned that passion is a skill, not a feeling, and you can apply that skill to anything. If you want to become the kind of scientist who defends clean water, I’d first suggest you learn how to be passionate.”