IISG’s Caitie McCoy attended the Seventh International Conference on Remediation of Contaminated Sediments last week to present her community outreach work with the Great Lakes Legacy Act (GLLA). The conference traditionally features environmental scientists and engineers, but that is changing. “We are starting to see more attention paid to community engagement at these types of conferences,” Caitie tells us. “Technical project managers realize that projects are easier to implement when the community understands and supports the work, and so they’re eager to learn from professionals who specialize in community engagement and stakeholder involvement.” 

Caitie presented a poster on her educational program in northwest Indiana, which taught students about the GLLA sediment cleanup at Roxana Marsh on the Grand Calumet River. Instead of presenting a typical scientific poster full of text and graphs, Caitie displayed a mural that her fourth grade students made to represent the Roxana Marsh ecosystem.

“Some of my colleagues were a bit skeptical about me presenting a fourth grade mural to a bunch of technical folks, but I’m not afraid to shake things up,” Caitie said. “I wanted to use something eye-catching that would draw people’s attention toward my poster.” And it worked. Caitie was visited non-stop during the session and talked to more than 100 conference attendees about her program. When asked if she thought her poster made an impact, Caitie replied, “I would never have dreamed that someday engineers would be asking me how to replicate my educational program at their sites, so I take that as a big success.” 

Caitie will expand her programming throughout the Grand Calumet River community in 2013, as the Legacy program begins another phase of dredging this summer.