After dri­ving nine hours into the Ecuado­rian Amazon to study oil spills and other pol­lu­tion sites, inter­na­tional affairs major Michaela D’Amico knew she was seeing her future as she peered into the murky, sticky depths of an oil slick.

Leading a group of con­cerned cit­i­zens and attor­neys to an envi­ron­mental clean-​​up site as part of her co-​​op posi­tion with Amazon Watch last winter and spring, the North­eastern Uni­ver­sity senior felt a rising pas­sion for the work of the inter­na­tional human rights organization.

When we were in the jungle with the lawyers taking pic­tures … I felt such a strong sense that we were helping the rights to the land for indige­nous people who could not oth­er­wise stand up for them­selves,” she says.

The East Green­wich, Rhode Island, native’s enthu­siasm for her work ran deep.

Every day, she jug­gled a mul­ti­tude of tasks to assist Amazon Watch in its efforts to redress the pol­lu­tion issues affecting the eco­log­i­cally impor­tant area. Her pri­mary duties included trans­lating for the com­mu­ni­ca­tions team, putting her minor in Spanish to good use. She also did pub­licity plan­ning for doc­u­men­tary film “Crude,” which pre­miered at the Sun­dance Film Fes­tival last year, and events plan­ning for an inter­na­tional film fes­tival in Ecuador.

Out in the rain forest, she led “Toxic Tours,” bringing groups of inter­ested people to pol­luted areas, and filmed what she found, uploading one of her videos to You Tube and other alter­na­tive media.

Deeply sat­is­fied with her efforts, the big payoff for her came when Amazon Watch suc­cess­fully used a video she helped pro­duce and photos to draw inspec­tors and media to some of the oil spills. She and her col­leagues also issued 1,000 press releases, in Eng­lish and Spanish.

The work has made me want to do more on human rights and envi­ron­mental causes that affect cul­tures and groups who lose their land,” she says. “Grass­roots is where it all begins, and it makes me feel I’m working on a bigger, more impor­tant cause.”

To learn more about Inter­na­tional Affairs at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity, visit: http://​www​.north​eastern​.edu/​i​n​t​e​r​n​a​t​i​o​n​a​l​a​f​f​a​i​rs/