Policy and Health
I value working on projects that allow me to use my earth science and engineering training to contribute to my community. I am especially passionate about improving public health and contributing to environmental justice. These interests have taken me to many different places, from an East St. Louis landfill to rainwater harvesting ponds in south India, and from an organic farm run by Catholic religious sisters in Pennsylvania to small family organic farms in Ecuador.
Legislation on Iowa well water arsenic
January 2014 - Present
A 2009 study revealed that 8% of private wells surveyed in Iowa were contaminated with arsenic above the EPA and WHO drinking water guidelines. In the summer of 2014, I approached State Representative Dan Kelley about introducing legislation to help protect private well owners from this threat. I am currently working with Rep. Kelley to revise the draft legislation and with stakeholders from around the state to build up support for the bill.
American Geosciences Institute
May 2013 - August 2013
Between my master's and PhD programs, I spent a summer as a geoscience policy intern, tracking the development of legislation in Congress related to hardrock mining, natural hazards, and nuclear waste. I enjoyed the opportunity to communicate with a variety of audiences. I wrote summaries of Congressional hearings, agency publications, and policy conferences for our member organizations, and I prepared fact sheets and held conversations with senators and representatives about the importance of using science to inform decision-making.
Villa Maria Education and Spirituality Center
July 2010 - April 2011
I spent a year as an AmeriCorps volunteer working in the greenhouse and gardens of an organic farm that donates half of its produce to families lacking access to fresh fruits and vegetables. I also assisted the center’s environmental educator in teaching grade school students about nutrition, gardening, soils, and environmental sustainability.
Washington University's Environmental Law Clinic
January 2010 - May 2010
As a consultant on a legal case, I collaborated with other scientists, lawyers, and local citizens to oppose the construction of a landfill in the impoverished community of East St. Louis. I soon became aware of the entrenched environmental discrimination faced by this community, which is the site of several highly contaminated Superfund sites and heavily polluting industries. I was able to show that the proposed landfill would likely discharge pollutants into impaired waters in excess of the legal limits, and this research formed the base for a series of letters that I and my colleagues wrote to state officials outlining the potential risks of the landfill. I am hopeful that work such as this will lead to improved quality of life for the East St. Louis community.
Missouri Coalition for the Environment
January 2007 - May 2010
I volunteered with the Coalition throughout my time as an undergrad, and I had the chance to contribute to a range of interesting projects. I researched the economic benefits of clean waters to prepare for legal action that would compel the Missouri Department of Natural Resources to better enforce the Clean Water Act for Missouri's streams. I also helped to collect and organize information on contaminated sites to prepare for their cleanup, and I helped to edit a quarterly newsletter which contained information on current environmental issues, court cases, pending legislation, and upcoming events, and highlighted beautiful natural areas in the state of Missouri.
Arsenic in Groundwater - Bangladesh
August 2013 - Present
Exposure to arsenic in well water affects more than 140 million people in 70 countries and increases the likelihood of cancer, heart disease, neurological disease, and diabetes. Additionally, the use of arsenic-contaminated water in agriculture can decrease rice yields and lead to arsenic uptake by rice, resulting in human exposure when the rice is consumed. Rural residents of Bangladesh are one of the populations most impacted by this problem.
Through my research, I aim to better understand the impacts of arsenic-contaminated irrigation water on rice agriculture and determine what farmers can do to minimize the effects of arsenic on their rice yields. As part of this research, I conduct fieldwork in Bangladesh for a few weeks each year. This video highlights some of the research questions my colleagues and I are pursuing. My field research has also been featured as part of the American Geophysical Union's Stories from the Field and Postcards from the Field. Finally, I describe my early work on arsenic in a video by the Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research.
Water Resources - India
August 2012 - January 2013
I contributed to an NSF-funded study to develop an understanding of the dynamics of water storage in rainwater harvesting reservoirs in southern India and of the role these systems play in enhancing social, economic, and environmental sustainability of village communities. As part of this study, I researched water quality concerns associated with rainwater harvesting ponds and collected and analyzed GIS data on the distribution of rainwater harvesting ponds in relation to population densities and agricultural practices. I also traveled to India for three weeks in January 2013 to visit rainwater harvesting ponds and gather information from residents on pond management and uses of the water.
Organic Agriculture - Ecuador
May 2011 - July 2011
In the months before starting my master's program, I traveled independently to live and volunteer with an organic farming cooperative in the Ecuadorian Sierra. It was a valuable opportunity for me to learn from citizens decreasing their economic dependence on outside inputs of fertilizers and pesticides and reclaiming traditional methods of agriculture. Working with this community increased my awareness of the need for locally adapted solutions to environmental problems and provided me with insight into the workings of smallholder agricultural systems in a developing economy.