“As an indecisive, undeclared sophomore I enrolled in a course titled Environmental Sustainability. Though I registered with low expectations, I found myself completely captivated by the readings and discussions we had in class. By the end of the semester I knew environmental sustainability was a passion I wanted to pursue, and I declared a major in Earth, Society, and the Environment. I also added a Geography and GIS Major and Business Minor along the way. Studying and working in these fields has afforded me the opportunity to engage in a wide range of academic and extracurricular experiences that have truly shaped my outlook on the world and secured my commitment to responsibly addressing environmental issues.
My internship with the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant this summer has been the most rewarding experience of my collegiate career thus far. As the Great Lakes Education Intern I worked under the leadership of my mentor Kristin TePas to develop a website for the U.S. EPA research vessel Lake Guardian that effectively communicates the ship’s research and educational activities to the general public. The Lake Guardian is a unique and extremely valuable resource that has facilitated Great Lakes research for over 25 years, which in turn promotes better understanding and awareness of environmental issues affecting the lakes.Kristin and I, through the creation of a user friendly Lake Guardian website, hope to expose teachers, students, and the general public to current Great Lakes research projects and inspire communication between scientists and their communities. By interviewing our target audience we determined what people wanted to see on the website and then developed some of the items they requested, including a ship specifications chart, science equipment videos, an ‘Ask a Scientist’ form, FAQ page, Science and Marine Career videos, as well as a YouTube channel and Flickr gallery to give a sense of life and work on the ship. The overarching goal is for the Lake Guardian site to be a fun and engaging way to compel people to be invested in the health and vitality of the Great Lakes.
My experiences this summer have opened my eyes to the importance of protecting the Great Lakes, which had not previously been in the forefront of my environmental concerns. Even growing up in Chicago I took Lake Michigan for granted because I did not understand how fragile the Great Lakes ecosystem truly is, or how critical the Lakes are to people’s livelihoods. Increasing awareness is vital to conserving the Great Lakes, and my position with Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant this summer gave me great exposure to environmental outreach. I have thoroughly enjoyed my work, especially all the valuable input I received from an assortment of teachers, scientists, Lake Guardian crew, and Sea Grant staff. This internship has been an excellent growing experience for me. I have vastly improved my communication, planning, and organizing skills as well as enhanced my understanding of the Great Lakes.”