Aw don’t be scared, there’s only the biggest animals with the most teeth and toxins in the sea!
I think you need both, practical experience isn’t just about research experience. It means that when you are a consultant/ work in environmental management, you have a baseline knowledge of what works on the ground. In every industry there is some suit making decisions that might be good on paper but is impractical in reality. This means a lot of time and money wasted proving this to said suit. I’m not saying that you’re going to be the suit, but you need to know how things work in the field to be able to manage them. In my experience it helps me link the dots when it comes to different policies.
Why can’t you do both? Or use the summer to get work experience? Then you can have your cake and eat it too!