Aubrey Germ ’14: From marsh mucking to leading sustainability efforts in Baltimore
Written by William Dahl ’25, Morehead-Cain Scholar Media Team
For Aubrey Germ ’14, her career in protecting the environment began on a remote island.
After receiving her bachelor’s from Carolina in environmental health science and engineering, she accepted a role with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Port Isobel Island Program on Port Isobel Island near Tangier, Virginia. At the time, only two other employees lived and worked on the remote 250-acre island located 13 miles from the mainland.
As an educator and assistant manager, she taught students in the residential outdoor education program about various topics, including how pollution and over-harvesting have threatened the estuary’s oyster populations.
“We’d do things like crabbing, canoeing, marsh mucking, and oystering on a daily basis,” said Aubrey, who received her minor in marine biology from Carolina.
After a year and a half living and working on Port Isobel, Aubrey switched over to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Baltimore Harbor Program to better understand urban environmental challenges from the source.
Witnessing the effects of human impacts on the environment inspired her to pursue work in policy and planning.
“Working at Chesapeake Bay Foundation was a really unique and interesting job experience, but at the same time, I recognized that it wasn’t going to be my formal career path,” the alumna said.
She pursued a master’s degree in urban planning from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design to learn more about the connections between the economy, population growth, development, and climate change.
“I realized I needed to learn more about how and why our society in our cities and our communities are built the way they are,” she said. During the graduate program, she interned with Linnean Solutions in Boston to help the consulting firm implement community-driven climate and resilience projects.
After earning her master’s in 2018, Aubrey was tapped by the City of Baltimore’s Department of Planning to be the city’s climate and resilience planner. She was attracted to the position by the opportunity to return to the city she worked in previously to “be a part of the solution and to hopefully influence some structural change” from inside local government, she said.
She currently manages two planning processes for the city: the Climate Action Plan and Hazard Mitigation Plan. The alumna also leads Baltimore’s Community Resiliency Hub Program, a national model for how government and communities can build resilience and work better together in the face of increasing climate disasters.
In both her community-facing and strategic work, a perennial obstacle in working with local government is having sufficient resources, according to Aubrey.
“In a city that has a lot of other very important priorities, it can be challenging to get climate and sustainability agendas up in the priority ladder,” she said.
Despite how daunting the work can seem at times, Aubrey encouraged Morehead-Cain Scholars to consider working in government.
“I’d like to encourage scholars to really lean into their Civic Collaboration summer as a way to gain insight into the challenges and opportunities of good governance,” she said.
For Aubrey, what makes the hard days worth it are the strong relationships she’s developed with community leaders and mission-driven partners throughout Baltimore.
“The government needs smart, caring, compassionate people who want to figure out how to build a better world. And if you’re really motivated by that desire, then there’s really no better place to be than in government.”
About the Morehead-Cain Scholar Media Team
The Morehead-Cain Scholar Media Team is an extracurricular program and internship run by the Foundation’s communications team. Scholars of all backgrounds and class years collaborate to produce multimedia content on the topics and issues they’re passionate about, as well as support Morehead-Cain’s institutional communications.
Members cover the following beats tied to Morehead-Cain’s departments: selections and recruitment, the scholar experience, development, and alumni engagement. Scholar-generated content is distributed across all of Morehead-Cain’s channels, including social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube), the Catalyze podcast, email newsletters, and the website (moreheadcain.org). The team’s audience comprises more than 3,300 scholars and alumni.
The team is led by Content Manager Sarah O’Carroll of the Morehead-Cain Foundation. If you’re interested in learning more about the Scholar Media Team, contact the communications team. Participation is a semester-long commitment.