Marcela is seated on ground next to bike with mountains in distance

Alumni Success Stories in Environmental Law -
Meet Marcela Bonells

Name: Marcela Bonells
Year Graduated from Stetson Law: 2012
Short Bio: Marcela Bonells works at the Ramsar Convention Secretariat as the scientific and technical support officer, coordinating the implementation of the work plan of the Scientific and Technical Review Panel of the Convention. When she is not working on wetland-related matters, Bonells spends her spare time riding her bike in the mountains.

What was your inspiration for wanting to practice environmental law?

My inspiration for pursuing a career in the environmental law field was a strong desire to be able to make a contribution to the stewardship and conservation of our increasingly threatened environment. I spent many years of my life in the lush country side of Colombia, which gave me an enormous appreciation for the many benefits and services we derive from natural ecosystems.

How did your studies at Stetson Law prepare you for a career in environmental law?

The analytical skills, as well as research and writing skills, I learned at Stetson have been invaluable and I have put them in practice in other domains, outside the practice of law. Whether a student decides to pursue a conventional career in law or follow a non-traditional career, like I did, the tools that a Stetson law degree offers will be an asset.

What sets Stetson’s environmental law program apart?

I think that what makes Stetson’s environmental law program so unique are its brilliant and devoted faculty members. While the program offers a wide variety of environmental law courses, students also have the opportunity to explore niche areas of law, such as wetland law and policy. Stetson’s Institute for Biodiversity Law and Policy provides a number of exciting learning opportunities through its Foreman Biodiversity Lectures, International Environmental Moot Court Competition and International Wildlife Law Conference. Not the least, Stetson has a Memorandum of Cooperation with the Secretariat of the Ramsar Convention, which can provide service opportunities to students.

How did you benefit from your internship/externship experiences?

As a Stetson student, I was quite fortunate to have a wide variety of hands-on learning opportunities. For example, I served as a Biodiversity Fellow at the Institute for Biodiversity Law and Policy, where I had the opportunity to work on projects for the Ramsar Convention Secretariat, which led to an externship with the Secretariat and being invited to present at the Fifth Pan-American Regional Meeting of the Ramsar Convention in 2011. I also did an internship with NOAA, conducting legal research and writing on issues under federal statutes.

How did the environmental law faculty members act as mentors for you?

I had a very good relationship with my environmental law professors and have very fond memories of them. They were always very approachable and happy to help me when I had a question or sought career advice. Professor Gardner was an excellent mentor during my law school studies. It was thanks to him that I discovered the fascinating world of wetlands law and policy.

What opportunities were available to you to contribute legal scholarship on environmental law?

I served a student editor for the Journal of International Wildlife Law and Policy and had the incredible opportunity to publish an article about the diversity and benefits of National Ramsar Committees in a special issue about the Ramsar Convention, alongside renowned wetland experts. I also published my wetlands law and policy seminar paper in Environs: Environmental Law and Policy Journal.

How did your participation in student groups support your studies and your overall law school experience?

I was president of the Environmental Law Society, which really enhanced my learning experience. We organized lectures on diverse environmental issues with local experts, so we were constantly learning about the latest trends and hot topics in environmental law outside the classroom. We also organized field trips and beach clean ups. Joining a student group can be a great vehicle to learn more about a particular field of law, to meet experts and network, or to connect with fellow students and raise awareness about particular issues. It is also a good mechanism to be proactive.

Can you offer one tip to prospective students?

It is very easy to get overwhelmed when you first start in law school and to lose sight of why you came there in the first place. My advice would be to never lose sight of this motivation and to take advantage of all the learning opportunities and activities that Stetson offers. During my first year of law school, I did not even know that there was such a thing as wetlands law and policy or that there was an international treaty to protect wetlands. It was later on when I became a Biodiversity Fellow that I got to learn about these interesting subjects. I encourage prospective students not to be afraid to approach faculty members and ask them about learning opportunities or how to become more involved in a particular area of law.