Dave Bruderly wanted to be a Navy officer, like his father. After graduating from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, New York, Dave saw the world from ships. What he learned inspired him to become an environmental consultant who specializes in oceans.
Bruderly grew up in Ohio and Pennsylvania. He greatly admired his father, who had been a submarine commander in World War II. That’s when he came up with a plan that would shape his life.
“I decided I wanted to be a naval officer, and the best way to do that, for me, was to go to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy,” he says.
As with all the service academies, graduates spent several years in active service after graduation. Dave could have either gone into the Navy or served on merchant ship. He chose merchant shipping.
“My first ship went to West Africa, to Dakar, Senegal on the SS African Star,” he says. “You learn leadership, you learn how to manage people you can’t communicate with. Having a big, strong man whose body is covered with tattoos do what you tell him to do—and I’m just a snot-nosed, 17-year-old kid. I went around the world on another ship, the USS Expediter. I remember walking the streets of Karachi, in Pakistan, and people worshiped the United States. They said, ‘We love America, we want to be like you.’”
By the time Bruderly’s three years of merchant marine service were completed, he’d formed some ideas about where he wanted to go next with his life.
“I was starting to get interested in science, and I had an opportunity to become an officer. My first job was on a research vessel operated by Columbia University. We saw what a mess we could make of these otherwise beautiful waters we were sailing in, and it was no better in Houston or New York than it was in Mumbai. When I quit sailing, I went back to graduate school, got a master’s in ocean engineering, and became an environmental consultant,” he says.
Starting in the 1970s, Dave’s work began with cleaning up pollution from ships themselves.
“Ships are like little, tiny cities. You carry everything to sustain the crew on that ship. I began by creating pollution, emptying the bilges into the harbor,” he says.
But in the years since, he’s broadened his focus to pollution on a larger scope.
“After 20 years in the environmental consulting business, I realized that even though we live on a huge planet, it’s a water planet that’s extremely fragile. We choose to make a lot of decisions that serve our short-term needs, and we discount the future,” he says. “We could have changed our economy from petroleum-based fuels a long time ago, had we simply paid attention to the scientists who were telling us that pollution is bad for all things living, and being proactive about reducing pollution to the maximum extent possible.”
He adds, “We are very unique in Jacksonville in that we can take a leadership position in transitioning to an ultra-low-carbon energy future by using the economic power of the Jacksonville Electric Authority and the purchasing power of the community to transition to these clean technologies.”