cels alumnus seeks to protect natural resources and reach people through law enforcement

cels alumnus seeks to protect natural resources and reach people through law enforcement

By Gabriella Placido, CELS Communications Fellow

Whether it’s searching for a lost hiker, cruising Rhode Island waters on a boat patrol, or checking that fishermen are in line with regulations, Joshua Bergeron says that there are many diverse aspects to his job as an environmental police officer (EPO). “No single day is the same,” he states. “One day you may be breaking up a fight at Scarborough State Beach, while the next day you could be checking fishermen. It’s exciting and gets your blood flowing!”

Bergeron is an alumnus of the University of Rhode Island’s College of the Environment and Life Sciences (CELS) and a new recruit of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management’s (DEM) law enforcement team. He graduated from the police academy this past May and completed his final field training in September. Bergeron is now officially a certified EPO and deputized federal agent for DEM, the agency that oversees commercial fishing in Rhode Island.

Most of Rhode Island’s waters are within Bergeron’s jurisdiction, encompassing a large area. This includes the Port of Galilee, which is a large hub for Northeast commercial fishing. As a native Rhode Islander, he strives to protect Rhode Island’s natural resources through this role, as well as educate others on the collective importance of abiding by rules designed to protect natural resources that we all share. “My favorite part of the job is making an impact on people’s perspectives through conversations about natural resources and why

we each need to play our part in following the rules,” he explains.

Bergeron recalls educating a group of young fishermen who didn’t think that catching two extra fish was harmful to the species’ population. “I explained to these kids that the two extra fish they caught over the harvest limit may not affect the resource drastically in itself, but imagine if 10,000 other people also illegally caught two extra fish,” states Bergeron, emphasizing the cumulative impact. The fishermen admitted that they hadn’t considered that possibility and released the fish. “This was a crucial moment to educate a younger generation on how important these natural resources are, and that we each individually can have an impact,” he states. “It is my ultimate goal as a law enforcer to inform everyone that we each must play our part.

“It’s been an exciting ride since graduating in 2016,” says Bergeron about his diverse experiences prior to becoming an EPO. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in plant and life sciences and originally considered a lifelong career of working in turfgrass management and horticulture. He wanted to follow in the footsteps of other CELS graduates who were serving lead roles managing top venues including Yankee Stadium and Gillette Stadium. Bergeron interned at a golf course and a landscape company. He also had an opportunity to work as a crew foreman at Gillette Stadium for two years after graduating.

Bergeron returned to URI as a landscape maintenance technician, where he helped maintain collegiate athletic fields. He also enrolled in two CELS graduate-level courses: environmental law and environmental planning. Although Bergeron enjoyed working in the landscape and turfgrass industry, he says he always had an interest in environmental regulations and began to consider a different career path. The guidance he received from CELS faculty members, including Michelle Fontes and William Gordon, helped point him towards environmental law. “If the guiding conversations with these key faculty members hadn’t happened, I don’t know where my career would have taken me,” says Bergeron.“I could have potentially been doing something completely different.” Bergeron also credits the two CELS courses with opening his eyes to critical aspects of environmental regulation.“It was great working in the landscape industry while also taking these critical classes, tying all of my varied interests together and helping lead me towards EPO work.”

Looking towards the future, Bergeron plans to obtain a graduate degree, most likely from CELS, saying that “you should never stop learning.”He’s also focused on honing his boating skills to better perform his job as an EPO.  As for Bergeron’s long-term goals, he hopes to land a leadership position in environmental law enforcement one day.