Major: American Studies, Environmental Studies concentration
Hometown: Chevy Chase, MD
I was raised on a value system that emphasized protecting something as opposed to just consuming it and not giving back. This is mainly because my dad traveled the world after college. He didn’t have a plan, but instead hitchhiked across the United States, lived off what he had, and learned about the importance of the environment by experiencing it. By evaluating what he needed in life and living off the land, he developed a need to protect those places, and eventually became an environmental lawyer, so he could legally protect the places that had once protected him. Growing up, he told me stories about his adventures of sailing around the Caribbean and living off the land in Boulder. He tried to pass this mindset of experiencing life, using what you have, and thinking about what you need onto me.
I’m an environmental studies concentrator and have taken a class in the department every semester since sophomore year. I did a field study class with Professor Heithaus where I worked on a project in species diversity of fish in Kokosing River. We looked at what fish species have been seen there and which ones currently there. For my senior comps, I researched salmon habitat restoration and dam removal in the Pacific Northwest, and the importance of salmon as a keystone species. I’m also in the Outdoors Club, and have gone on a number of trips with them.
I grew up hiking, kayaking, climbing, and fly-fishing. In high school, I completed a project on Southeast Alaska’s environment, culture, and history in a Native American tribal village in Southeastern Alaska called the Kluckwan Traditional Camp of Knowledge. I was able to personally see the effects pollution and overfishing had on this region, and listen to the stories of people living in this camp. This experience gave me a personal perspective to problems many Native American groups are facing. This project solidified my interests in environmental policy. Seeing these issues first hand contributed to my understanding of the environmental issues and sparked my early interests in environmental policy and legal matters, especially those affecting Native American communities.
Then, for study abroad, I did SEA semester and learned about oceanology, nautical studies, and maritime studies. I got to live on a research vessel and sail from Honolulu to San Francisco. This was such a life changing experience for me. I was able to take part in research that is going to be published. My project was on pelagic plastic, the kind that floats, and we looked at the plastic distribution in the north pacific sub-tropical area. I got to go out and collect data; we physically counted every micro-piece of plastic we could find, and some days there’d be thousands. From seeing various specific of wildlife to being sea-sick, my experience at SEA semester was incredible, and I’d most definitely recommend it to anyone and everyone.
I’d say either my field studies course or my environmental seminar. In the seminar, we touched on a slew on international and local issues, and got to choose themes that we were interested in, including fracking and aquaculture. Then we researched the topic and presented them to the rest of the class. It was great because there was an educational component, but we also got to see how to applies to the greater population and better understand why people should care and want to learn more about various environmental issues. And for our final project, we created a website, which includes a new ride share program so students can carpool to and from places.
Students need to become more involved with the local community and do collective sustainable action to move issues forward. Although things happen more effectively when legislation is passed, it doesn’t always, so it’s up to the young, energetic generation to find creative ways to promote what we care about. We need to get each other to care, and when you've gotten people to care they feel personally invested. It’s got to be something they’ve experienced or done because then they can remember how it made them feel, and they’ll want to emulate that feeling in another realm. Basically, we've got to bring back the experience of pushing through discomfort in order to archive an accomplishment. The issues and elements that are most important in life are ones that take a lot of time and personal investment to address. And from what I learned from my experiences with the outdoors is that the things worth doing aren't always the ones where the answers are most clearly laid out for us. We often have to go through quite a bit of pain in doing or learning anything we care about.