Berit Bergquist

Are you originally from this area? If not, where did you grow up, and when did you move to Washington?

I was born in New Jersey; I grew up there, in Pennsylvania, and in Massachusetts. I’d probably define myself as “from Massachusetts,” since I lived there from elementary school until I moved to Washington a few years after college. My first home here was on San Juan Island, where I lived for a few years while working at UW’s Friday Harbor Laboratories in the summer. It was absolutely beautiful, a great introduction to the Pacific Northwest, and I’ve been here ever since.

Who was your childhood hero?

Well, like so many other girls my age, I really admired Dorothy Hamill. I was very much into figure skating in 1976, when she was Olympic champion, and even though I never aspired to get to that level of competition myself, I was basically in awe of her.

Why did you decide to go into environmental science?

I was fortunate enough to have excellent science teachers in high school, but what really clinched it was my senior year, which was very non-traditional. As part of an “experiential learning” program, I was one of a group of seniors who traveled all over the United States that year on a school bus, with the outdoors as our classroom. With backpacks strapped to the top of the bus, we slept under the stars every night and learned about the natural history, human ecology, and geology of each region and ecosystem we visited. Our adventures included clamming and fishing in Maine’s Bay of Fundy, an archeological dig in the Utah desert, canoeing in the Everglades National Park, and even snorkeling in the Virgin Islands, which my 18-year-old self absolutely loved!

After that, I knew without a doubt that I wanted a career that involved protecting our precious natural environment and resources, so I attended college for environmental studies. After college, I managed to land a dream job—working in the Ecosystems Center at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole. It was a great opportunity, especially right out of college, as I was able to work alongside some very influential minds and really begin to understand the potential of my chosen field.

When it’s sunny, where is the weekend likely to find you? How about when it’s raining?

I do love being outside whenever possible. At home, I spend a lot of time in the garden – we grow flowers, vegetables, and all sorts of berries and fruits that we freeze for use in smoothies all winter long. Away from home, I enjoy cycling, hiking, and swimming (when I can find PNW water that’s warm enough!).

When it’s rainy, I often knit or read; I belong to two different book groups. And no matter the weather or time of year, I love the practice of yoga. I teach group classes at the Dayaalu Center on Bainbridge Island where I live, and I also teach private sessions out of my home studio. If I had to name my passion in life, it would definitely be yoga.

What’s your favorite comfort food?

I tend to gravitate toward hearty soups, gumbos, and chowders when it comes to comfort foods. But if I’m just looking to indulge myself, nothing beats Häagen-Dazs coffee ice cream!

Where is the coolest location you’ve traveled to for work?

Well, this will probably sound a little funny, but I really enjoyed all the time I spent on the Passaic River in New Jersey. I know that the Garden State isn’t exactly a vacation destination, but as I said, I was born there (just a few miles away from the project office), so Windward’s work there afforded me some great chances to visit relatives and some old stomping grounds. Not to mention the easy access to New York City and some amazing cuisine!

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