December 1, 2000 - GM Today: Jay Blankenship joined the Peace Corps in 1978 and worked on the island of Montserrat studying the islandís wildlife

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Montserrat: The Peace Corps in Montserrat: December 1, 2000 - GM Today: Jay Blankenship joined the Peace Corps in 1978 and worked on the island of Montserrat studying the islandís wildlife

By Admin1 (admin) on Sunday, July 20, 2003 - 9:58 am: Edit Post

Jay Blankenship joined the Peace Corps in 1978 and worked on the island of Montserrat studying the islandís wildlife

Jay Blankenship joined the Peace Corps in 1978 and worked on the island of Montserrat studying the islandís wildlife

Impacted by environment

December 2002

Jay Blankenship enjoys reading
a variety of topics, but animals and the environment are at the top of his list.

Leaning back in his chair, hands clasped behind his head, former Delafield resident Jay Blankenship (who currently resides in Shorewood) ponders the question of what types of books have most influenced his life. Having led a life of rich experiences thus far, the executive director of Waukeshaís Humane Animal Welfare Society (HAWS) admits heís always been a sponge for works related to animals and the environment.

"I guess Iíd have to say that the books Iíve been most inspired by, I donít remember anymore, because there have been so many," he says smiling. "ĎCall of the Wildí by Jack London and the works of Gerald Durrell definitely had a big influence on me when I was young. ĎThe Sand County Almanací by Aldo Leopold also had a huge impact and that book led me to seek my degree in wildlife."

Upon earning degrees in biology, wildlife and environmental education, Blankenship joined the Peace Corps in 1978 and struck out to find his own noteworthy experiences. Settling on the island of Montserrat nestled in the Caribbean, he began studying the islandís wildlife, which consisted mainly of reptiles, birds and amphibians. As a result of those studies, he wrote his own book titled ĎThe Wildlife of Montserratí."

"It was basically a textbook for the people who lived on the island to help them learn about the animals around them," he explains. "Because they only knew about their environment through legends, I wanted to show them what their surroundings were really about."

Blankenship says it was his experiences in the Peace Corps which later led him to social work. Prior to his position at HAWS, Blankenship spent 20 years with the COA Youth Family Center in Milwaukee. Working for the COA (Childrenís Outing Association) gave him the ability to work with urban youth and open their eyes to the great outdoors. But after time, he realized he still had a passion for working with animals, which led him to his current job.

Beyond animals and the environment, Blankenship says he also enjoys reading about religion, history and anthropology. In addition, he also likes reading fictional works by Stephen King and Ann Rice. He prefers Kingís earlier works and admits heís gotten a little burnt out on Rice, but finds her vampire chronicles truly entertaining. Clive Barkerís "Great and Secret Show" is also a favorite because it mixes the unimaginable with reality. Recently, heís enjoyed reading John Krakauerís haunting tale of Mount Everest, "Into Thin Air" as well as "Into the Wild".

"I often drift back and forth from fiction to non-fiction going from something really heavy then back to something more fun depending on what strikes my interest at the time," he says.

A work that has had a very profound impact on Blankenshipís life is Max Dimontís "Jews, Gods and History". With a non-religious background, Blankenship admits he has often struggled with the idea of religion. Dimontís work views religion from a historical perspective and helped him understand his place in the world.

"Because I wasnít raised with religion I always had an interest in it," he explains. "I always understood the concept of religion, but this book brought it all into light as to why people need religion ó it was a real eye opener."

"Ishmael" by Daniel Quinn is another recent read in which Blankenship found himself engulfed. "This book was interesting because it was a fictional work viewed through the eyes of a gorilla. It discussed an environmental theory of how the world became what it is and divides humans into two distinct groups ó leavers and takers.

The leavers are the agrarians who live off the earth and respect it, such as Native Americans, tribes in Africa, etc. Takers are products of modern civilization who take and excessively use the earthís resources and leave nothing behind," says Blankenship. "The idea is the struggle between the two groups and how we need to look at our lives and what we consume. It really makes you think about what you do to the environment and itís almost shocking."

Along with his personal interests in reading, Blankenship admits that he reads heavily to help him stay in tune with his work. By reading

"Sheltering" magazine and other periodicals, including one published by the American Humane Society, he gets many ideas for the shelter and also stays abreast of fund raising and management issues.

"Iím really reading all the time and I watch very little TV," he says.

Other works that have influenced Blankenship include, "What Went Wrong," by Bernard Lewis, which explores the growing rift between the United States and the Middle East. He also finds himself moved by "Roots" and "Malcomn X."

"Racism is a big issue and these works had a big impact in bringing those issues to light," he explains. "The fight against oppression and racism has always hit home with me."

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Story Source: GM Today

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Montserrat; Wildlife



By patricia davis ( - on Friday, April 02, 2004 - 10:11 am: Edit Post

Jay, you sound like a very interesting man. Were you from NC and ever in the Navy? I think I may be related to you, hope so. My name is Patricia Davis born 6-16-53 Newton, Ma would love to hear from you. thankyou for your time.

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