Great Lakes "Healing Our Waters" Conference Features GLISTEN Undergraduate Stewardship Liaison Panel
Glenn Odenbrett, GLISTEN Project Director and Panel Moderator
The Healing Our Waters conference in Cleveland, Ohio from September 11–13 brought together representatives of US and Canadian state, provincial, and local governments, for-profit and non-profit organizations, and colleges and universities engaged in restoration and stewardship of the Great Lakes. Focal points of the conference included a review of the newly-signed bi-lateral Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and an opportunity for representatives of the US presidential candidates to lay out their views on future restoration efforts and the federal funding needed to support them.
A highlight of the conference was a panel presentation by undergraduate stewardship liaisons of NCSCE's project GLISTEN, the Great Lake Innovative Stewardship Through Education Network. Presenting restoration and stewardship activities integrated with STEM undergraduate coursework and benefiting the ecosystems of all five Great Lakes were undergraduates Lisa Kratzer from the Rochester Institute of Technology (Lake Ontario), Alayna Dorobek from Case Western University and Sarah Kitson from Kent State University (Lake Erie), Hannah Voss from Saginaw Valley State University (Lake Huron), Jana Cram from Ivy Tech Community College (Lake Michigan), and Angelena Koosmann from Northland College (Lake Superior).
During the panel, each of the liaisons described the course-linked environmental service-learning projects that they had coordinated in collaboration with community-based organizations and faculty in the departments of biology, chemistry, geosciences, and environmental studies on their campuses. Lisa explained the role of undergraduates from RIT in helping to employ and assess the success of invasive species control measures at the local wetland created by a waste management contractor as a community resource. Alayna and Sarah outlined the ways in which data collected and analyzed by students helped to inform aquatic habitat management planning at parks in Northeast Ohio. Hannah discussed the role of students in helping to determine the origin of algal blooms and low oxygen levels in a tributary of Lake Huron. Inter-campus, interdisciplinary collaboration involving water quality assessment in the Indiana Dunes was the focus of Jana's presentation. Angelena highlighted the ways that chemistry students on her campus were helping to assess current and potential threats to water quality in a key tributary of Lake Superior in northwestern Wisconsin. All of the liaisons emphasized the power of such real-world experiences in motivating and equipping their peers to better understand and apply the science that they were learning on campus.
The liaisons also elaborated on the skills needed to perform their responsibilities successfully and how these related to their future career goals. They commented on the critical role that effective communication skills played in ensuring that faculty, community partners, and students were able to collaborate successfully. Being able to channel one's passion for environmental issues in an organized and well-coordinated way was also a common theme. A number of the liaisons commented on the life-changing impact of their roles: both Alayna and Jana reconsidered their career choices as a result, redirecting them from healthcare to the environment. As a result of enrolling in a GLISTEN-affiliated chemistry class, said Jana, "I began looking forward to going to class and to lab because I'd been given a way to connect with the science and connect with the community." Recently hired by the National Park Service, Jana claimed, "Being a part of GLISTEN has completely changed my life and my career path."
More information about GLISTEN and its unique undergraduate stewardship liaison program is available at www.greatlakesed.net or by contacting Glenn Odenbrett at email@example.com.
Photograph by GLISTEN USL Dakota Benjamin