SFBJV People: Caitlin Sweeney
Name: Caitlin Sweeney
Agency: San Francisco Estuary Partnership (SFEP)
Caitlin Sweeney started with the San Francisco Estuary Partnership in 2011 as a Senior Planner and became Director in 2015. Prior to SFEP, she worked for 12 years at the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), as a planner and ultimately as Chief Deputy Director.
As SFEP’s Director, Caitlin’s typical day is spent running from meeting to meeting, putting out fires and engaging in a variety of tasks, both small and large, all to keep SFEP running. “And” she says, “she loves it all!”
Caitlin is pleased to have recently released the Estuary Blueprint, a forward-looking comprehensive, collective vision for the Estuary. This collaborative effort of more than 100 scientists, regulators, businesses, municipalities, non-governmental organizations, and citizens includes four long-term goals and 32 actions to be taken over the next five years to protect, restore, and sustain the San Francisco Estuary. The SFBJV was an integral part of developing the Blueprint and is the identified “owner” of several actions.
Caitlin considers herself lucky to have kept a seat warm on the Joint Venture Management Board almost continuously since 2005, representing two different agencies - SFEP and BCDC. She continually relies on the JV as her most direct link to what is happening on the ground with regard to wetland restoration, all over the region. “Through the Joint Venture, I keep informed about what projects are planned, underway, and completed, the lessons learned and emerging scientific and policy issues” through the variety of conservation delivery work undertaken by our partners. “The Joint Venture is also a great link to my favorite aspect of my job - the people!” She is inspired every day by the incredible SFEP staff and by the diverse suite of partners they get to work with. “Our Estuary partners are an amazing group of committed, interesting, enthusiastic, and smart people, each contributing something unique to our common objective of a healthy and sustainable Estuary.”
Caitlin grew up in Berkeley with the smell of San Francisco Bay in the air, the sound of the foghorns in her dreams, and the pleasure of eating sandwiches at the Berkeley Pier while watching the birds and boats share the waters. Like many lower income urban kids, her interaction with the Bay stopped at the sandwiches and she had no idea there was a large community of scientists, policy makers and activists working to protect and restore it.
“I fell in love with science at an early age” she says while recounting fond memories of weekends spent at the Lawrence Hall of Science, dissecting cow’s eyes and conducting test tube explosions. Initially she discounted science as a life direction that was too isolating, too academic, and too removed from people and culture. She thought maybe she would be a dancer, perhaps choreographing “biological ballets.”
It wasn’t until college that she grasped the potential power of science to inform the choices we make as a community and, conversely, the potency of the power of societal issues to drive science. Luckily she stumbled upon the perfect combination as a graduate student at the University of Washington’s School of Marine Affairs which allowed her to merge her passion for the intersection between science and policy with her love of water, “thus also saving the world from a lot of terrible choreography” she adds with a smile.
When Caitlin isn’t at work, she is usually driving her 14-year old daughter to various classes, rehearsals and performances, attending local theater and dance productions, or onstage herself doing the twist and the watusi with her synchronized go-go dance troupe. “But, she adds, don’t worry, I’m not the choreographer so no ‘harvest mouse hully gully”. In between all that, she likes to enjoy the beautiful Bay Area with her family, whether in the hills, on the shore, or in her own backyard oasis.