Student Spotlight: Jake Henry

This summer, one of our Environmental Science and Resource Management (ESRM) majors, Jake Henry, landed a great paid internship as part of Waste Management’s (WM) Recycle Corps. The award-winning program puts college students through intensive, hands-on job training involving the latest strategies in engaging people and organizations to change behavior around waste reduction and recycling.

Jake, left, conducting commercial outreach earlier this week.

Over the course of 10 weeks, WM Recycle Corps interns work with businesses, multifamily properties and residents in 26 cities across two counties to improve recycling habits and reduce waste. “We have a group of 14 of us, all college students about the same age,” says Jake, whose fellow interns attend the University of Washington, Western Washington and other colleges in the area. “We do a lot of education and outreach in Seattle and surrounding cities, like Mukilteo, Auburn and Tukwila. We answer questions and share information about recycling and composting.”

This outreach process often involves meetings with city council members and other community leaders to determine local priorities, and interns then fan out in pairs to talk with businesses and residential customers throughout the week (in the past three years, WM Recycle Corps interns have conducted more than 48,000 customer conversations). “We also work events, like farmer’s markets and SeaFair, where have a booth set up with information for people,” says Jake.

Face-to-face conversations are a huge component of the internship, and Jake says he’s gotten tremendous experience speaking with all sorts of people—some who are interested in recycling and composting, and plenty who aren’t, especially in communities outside of Seattle. “Talking to a lot of people who don’t really care can be frustrating,” he says, “but it’s really nice when you do talk to someone who cares.”

Jake has about one week left in the internship, and then he’ll begin his senior year at SEFS. Good luck with the rest of the summer, and we’ll see you in the fall!

***

Though Waste Management provides comprehensive waste and environmental services across North America, the Recycle Corps program is only held in the Seattle area. So if you’re looking for a great internship in sustainability and environmental outreach next summer, keep your eye out next spring for the application deadline (this year it was April 1)!

Jake and his fellow interns touring the Cascade Recycling Center.

A Bird’s-Eye View of Air Pollution

Olivia Sanderfoot, an NSF Graduate Research Fellow and incoming SEFS doctoral student with Professor Beth Gardner’s research group, is the lead author on a paper just published today in Environmental Research Letters, “Air pollution impacts on avian species via inhalation exposure and associated outcomes.” Reviewing nearly 70 years of the scientific literature, the study explores how much we know about the direct and indirect effects of air pollution on the health, well-being, reproductive success and diversity of birds.

Olivia with a stuffed great gray owl (named Wilson) that she uses in her All About Owls lesson at the Madison Audubon Society.

According to Olivia and the paper’s co-author, Professor Tracey Holloway the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin, few studies have examined the health and ecological well-being of wild bird populations in the United States—only two since 1950, in fact. In their paper, they identify gaps in research to date on the impacts of air pollution on birds, including air pollution’s effects on the avian respiratory system, reproductive success, population density and species diversity.

“There is a lot of work to be done in this area,” says Olivia, who has been transitioning this summer from her projects at the University of Wisconsin. “Air quality is an ever-changing problem across the globe. There’s a need to look at different types of air pollution and different species all over the world. We have a huge lack of understanding of the levels of pollution birds are even exposed to.”

Learn more about the paper in the official release from the University of Wisconsin, as well as a video abstract Olivia put together for the research. You’ll get to talk to her in person when she arrives in Seattle this coming Thursday, August 18, after wrapping up her summer job as an educator with the Madison Audubon Society. We look forward to welcoming her to our school and community and learning more about her research!

Photo © Olivia Sanderfoot.

Undergrad Spotlight: Linnea Kessler

by Karl Wirsing/SEFS

Last winter and spring, SEFS undergrad Linnea Kessler spent two quarters in Tanzania with the School for Field Studies, a study-abroad program that offers students immersive experiences through field-based learning and research. In addition to taking a range of courses, from Swahili to environmental policy and wildlife management, Linnea got to carry out a research study on the chestnut-banded plover, a near-threatened species that’s endemic to the area.

Linnea, back left, and her classmates conducting transects and counting mammals at the Manyara Ranch Conservancy.

Linnea, back left, and her classmates running transects and counting mammals at the Manyara Ranch Conservancy.

Linnea, who grew up in Cheney, Wash., is an ESRM major in the wildlife option, and she says she had always wanted to study abroad in Africa. The field-heavy nature of this program is what especially attracted her, and the students were based in a village near Lake Manyara National Park in central Tanzania. They lived in an enclosed camp that included a dining hall, classroom and six cabins. She had three roommates, slept in a bunk bed, had spotty electricity and took a lot of cold showers. “It was basically like summer camp,” she says, except you were across the world in a totally unfamiliar environment.

The other highlight, of course, was the hands-on research experience. Linnea’s plover project involved looking at the birds’ distribution around Lake Manyara, part of which extends out of the park. Working with Bridget Amulike, a Tanzanian doctoral student at the University of Massachusetts who is working with grey crowned cranes, they discovered a positive correlation between pH levels in the water and abundance of the plovers. Levels in the lake can vary pretty widely, says Linnea, and they found more plovers in areas with an elevated pH (but none within the park). They also found the plovers were more abundant in mudflat habitats, potentially because the tiny birds have short legs and don’t thrive in marshy areas or deeper water. With more time and a bigger team, Linnea says they would be able to test these other variables to determine the drivers of plover distribution, and also compare their findings against data from another lake in northern Tanzania where the plovers have greater numbers.

Linnea’s study area in Lake Manyara National Park, where we took water samples for her plover research.

Linnea’s study area in Lake Manyara National Park, where she took water samples for her plover research.

When they weren’t in the field or in the classroom, the students also got to take a few memorable side excursions, including a camping trip to Tarangire National Park, as well as visits to Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti, where Linnea had the incredible fortune of seeing an elusive serval cat.

The program is fairly expensive, she says, but she highly recommends it, from the great people involved to the unforgettable experiences in Africa. “I was worried about not knowing anyone,” she says, “but the other students were awesome and I made some really close friends.”

Now back on campus for her senior year, she’s wrapping up her final courses this fall and might have one or two more classes in the winter—including, if it works out, the weeklong Yellowstone field course during spring break. After that, she’s considering pursuing a master’s or doctoral degree, and her long-term goal is to return to Africa to study one of the big cats (leopards are her favorite).

Whatever path she takes, Linnea has accumulated tremendous field experiences here and abroad, and we are excited to see where she goes!

Photo in safari vehicle © Isaac Merson; photo of Lake Manyara study area © Linnea Kessler; photo below of scat identification exercise © Eva Geisse.

Conducting a scat identification field exercise in a ranch area of Lake Manyara, where wildlife is protected but livestock and grazing are also allowed.

Linnea, second from right, conducting a scat identification field exercise in a ranch area of Lake Manyara, where wildlife is protected but livestock and grazing are also allowed.