About Miho

What I deeply care about the most in this world is environment, education, equity and empowerment. Since 2000 when I started my career as an environmental educator and outdoor athlete, my life has been dedicated to increasing the visibility and access of people who had little, if any, voice and access to our public lands, environmental education & careers and outdoor adventures.

I was born and raised in Tokyo, one of the largest cities in the world. Although I grew up in an urban environment with limited access to the natural world, I always loved nature. When I was 17, I watched a BBC TV show about the National Parks system in the United States and was inspired by the idea of protecting land for future generations. I began dreaming about studying environmental conservation someday in the U.S.

In the meantime, I focused my studies in Japan on environmental science and was able to travel extensively to conduct field research. As a PhD candidate at Hokkaido University in Sapporo, I obtained my Master’s degree studying the effect of climate change on alpine plants. It was during this period that I started to question my role in academia, feeling that my skills might be put to better use educating younger generations about climate change and environmental conservation.

In 1999, I left both school and Japan to start a second Master’s in environmental education and natural sciences at the Teton Science School in Wyoming.

Since then, I have been educating young people, especially urban youth and those with limited access to nature, about the natural world. I currently work at the NatureBridge, which is the largest nonprofit environmental science education partner of the National Park Service. My role as the Equity and Inclusion Coordinator enables me to lead NatureBridge’s commitment to improve the organization’s cultural relevancy to serve a diverse range of program participants and employees. I continue teaching in the outdoor classroom, helping youth make connections with each other and the natural world. My hope is that they are inspired to actions to take care for each other regardless of our differences and our planet.

Simultaneously, I became a certified Wilderness First Responder and joined the staff of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) as a backpacking and rock climbing instructor. During month-long adventures in wilderness settings, I have taught leadership skills with the hope that my students will choose to simplify their lives and teach others how to tread lightly on our planet. I took my professional guiding skills and experience from NOLS, and continue to work as a guide at Balanced Rock in Yosemite during the summer. At Balanced Rock, I lead Women of Color Wilderness Retreat, the nation’s only wilderness retreat dedicated to women of color.

Along this journey, I have become aware of the lack of support for women, especially women of color, to pursue careers in environmental education, science, conservation and outdoor adventure. I received the Matt Baxter Award (2008) and Bishop Marcus Award (2013) from NatureBridge to launch”If She Can Do It, You Can Too.” These awards enabled me to travel to different countries around the world as well as four Native American communities in the US to document the stories of remarkable and dynamic outdoor women of color.

One of the highlights of the project is that I had privilege to work with the Gwich’in nation in Alaska and Canada. In solidarity to protect their sacred land in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil development, I directed and produced my first film: The Sacred Place Where Life Begins – Gwich’in Women Speak. The film received First Place in Documentary Film at the 2015 Central Illinois Feminist Film Festival, Audience Choice Award at the 2014 Earth Port Film Festival and was nominated for Best Documentary Short at the 2013 American Indian Film Festival.

I embarked on a bicycle film PR tour in 2014, riding over 2,000 miles, reaching over 3,000 people including some of the most powerful and influential political leaders to protect the Arctic. On this journey, I advocated outdoor adventures that not only benefit the athletes but also some of the most marginalized communities and vulnerable places. This effort was recognized and I became one of the 25 authors of a book: We Are The Arctic. Most recently, I received the 2017 SHIFT Adventure Athlete Award which recognizes the adventure athlete of the year who best promotes public lands conservation leadership in the United States.

The recognition as an adventure athlete gives me an opportunity to leverage my power to influence outdoor retails. In coming years, I hope to gain support from companies which traditionally sponsor individuals who come from sports background. My goal is to work with these businesses to create a sponsorship program that supports activists who come from marginalized communities and who use adventure sports to promote environmentalism rooted in social justice. By doing so, I hope to shift the industry culture to empower athletes to engage with outdoor adventures that not only satisfy individual interest and professional development but also benefit vulnerable people and places in our world.

 

Comments are closed.