8/19/14

Interns Erika and Mark explored the social side of environmental science

Our summer internship program has wrapped up for another year. This year, seven students and recent graduates worked with our specialists on a broad range of issues, including AIS prevention, sediment remediation, and water supply planning. Erika Lower and Mark Krupa spent their internship working with Caitie McCoy, IISG’s social scientist.

“We did a little bit of everything this summer—from compiling reports on public perceptions of river cleanups in Detroit and Milwaukee to conducting interviews with community members to covering a day of outreach at Indiana’s Roxana Marsh” said Erika, a graduate from Virginia Tech who also interned last year with Virginia Sea Grant. “Working on so many diverse projects mean there was rarely a slow day at the office.”

Their favorite experiences came while onsite at Great Lakes Legacy Act sediment remediation projects. One such trip took them to the Upper Trenton Channel near Detroit to conduct a needs assessment that will help the project team tailor outreach products and messaging to those who use and visit the river. 

 “Our Detroit trip was definitely my favorite part,” said Mark, a University of Illinois alum. “We talked to over 30 different community members. It was great to see the site we had researched and really get to know the community, their concerns, and how they value the waterway.”

“How often do you get a chance to tour the site of a former oil refinery or conduct an interview from a powerboat in the middle of the Detroit River while watching the sun rise?” Erika added.  

These experiences further boosted their interest in the social science and highlighted its importance in environmental conservation.

“I've always been interested in the human dimensions of environmental science, but actually getting out into the field and talking with community members about their hopes and concerns illustrated just how complex finding the best solution to environmental issues can be,” said Erika.

“Before this internship, I didn't realize how important it is to address local perceptions and concerns surrounding environmental cleanup projects,” said Mark. “Also, I hadn't realized how much thought goes into designing outreach materials in order to ensure they attract an audience and effectively communicate the message.”

With their internship complete, Erika and Mark are turning their attention to graduate school. Mark will begin a Master’s in public health at Saint Louis University later this month. And Erika plans to complete graduate work in science communication or environmental social science. 

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