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nurturing nature

Todd Sampsell '99

It’s paradise found for Todd Sampsell.

Early in 2019, he began his job as president of the Friends of Virgin Islands National Park, on St. John, the smallest of the three Virgin Islands.

The organization works with the National Park Service to promote, preserve and protect Virgin Islands National Park, which comprises more than 7,000 acres on land and 5,500 marine acres.

“We raise support and awareness,” Sampsell says. “We help the National Park Service protect natural, cultural and historical resources and connect people to the park.

“Projects range from building and maintaining trails, boardwalks and facilities to restoring trees and protecting other natural features. Part of the park is marine, so we support coral reef protection and sea turtle nest monitoring.”

The Virgin Islands are still recovering from two major hurricanes, Irma and Maria, that struck in September 2017.

“We lost a lot of our infrastructure all over the island, and staff and locals have been working hard to restore it,” Sampsell says.

He graduated from Cal U in 1999 with a master’s degree in biology, and worked for the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and for nonprofit organizations such as the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy before moving to Missouri.

There, he was state director of The Nature Conservancy and then deputy director of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and Missouri Department of Conservation.

Sampsell’s new job blends his work experience with nonprofit organizations and governmental agencies.

“I’ve always loved the ocean,” he says. “My wife has a graduate degree in marine biology from Bloomsburg University,” one of Cal U’s “sister schools.”

Sampsell relishes the privilege of caring for the island’s resources.

“Conservation is a passion that is personal,” he insists.

“Thankfully, many people are realizing the connections between the environment, human health and our economy as we experience a changing climate and other global challenges.

“There’s no question that protection of nature has to be an important and relevant topic for everyone, whether you’re in the field or not. It impacts everyone.”

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