Elena Keamy ’12 (Environmental Studies, English) received a Psi Upsilon Environmental Justice Fellowship during the summer of 2011 that gave her the opportunity to work with WiLDCOAST, a nonprofit based out of San Diego, CA and Ensenada, Mexico. WiLDCOAST is an international conservation team that conserves coastal and marine ecosystems and wildlife. Elena’s most poignant experiences with WiLDCOAST were her trips into Tijuana. In Tijuana, she toured its wastewater treatment plants with local stakeholders and delivered a workshop on the Tijuana Watershed and pollution to 80 of Tijuana’s underserved youth. Elena researched the harmful human and environmental health effects caused by the bacteria in the Tijuana River Valley.
Elena learned that during heavy rainfall, the Tijuana River becomes overwhelmed by sediment and waste tires carried by the river, making it challenging to continuously treat the wastewater. Although there is an International Wastewater Treatment Plant at the borderline to collect cross-border river flow and treat it, the Tijuana River can swell up to a billion gallons of water per day making it impossible to prevent wastewater from flowing out to sea. Thousands of tons of raw sewage, trash, and tires are washed into the Tijuana River Valley on the U.S. side, including the Tijuana Estuary and the coastal waters of Southern California, threatening at least nine endangered wildlife species and causing a public health threat to the people who live in the surrounding areas.
She also studied legislation surrounding tire waste management in California. This led her to organize a petition to raise public awareness about the root causes of bi-national water pollution and to mobilize California stakeholders to advocate for cleaner coastal waters by ending the harmful and irresponsible management of waste tires. In addition, Elena delivered workshops about U.S.-Mexico water pollution to youth in San Diego, helped give stakeholders tours of the Tijuana River Valley (U.S.-Mexico border coastal region), and helped garner community activism for Tijuana River Action Month.
"My experience with WilDCOAST in San Diego and Tijuana introduced me to the complexity of water pollution. In the case of the Tijuana River, the water pollution problems are exacerbated by the river’s presence in bordering countries that are culturally and politically different. San Diego and Tijuana face a daunting task working to prioritize funding and political attention to the Tijuana River, which requires fluidity and building lasting partnerships on both sides of the border. I found myself working with seemingly different entities striving towards a shared goal. WiLDCOAST and others on both sides of the border are fighting for clean water and an end to harmful human and environmental health impacts that threaten the quality of life in both Tijuana and San Diego."
As a Psi Upsilon Sustainability Fellow, Curtis contributed to CLF’s work on a wide range of sustainability issues in Maine. For example, he constructed a point-by-point response to an anti-wind group’s critique of wind power development in Maine, balancing CLF’s support for sustainable energy with its desire to preserve Maine’s scenic spaces. He also contributed to CLF’s efforts to preserve Maine’s Land Use Regulation Commission by interviewing county administrators and preparing a report based on Maine’s historical annual reports. Finally, Curtis researched sustainable energy practices from counties throughout Maine and the nation to help inform Cumberland County’s new comprehensive energy plan.
"Working at CLF gave me close-up look at how stakeholders throughout Maine and New England interact to create environmental policy. I worked on sustainability issues ranging from offshore wind to land use permitting to regional energy plans, and learned how carefully-applied legal action can help create political outcomes which balance environmental and industrial interests. CLF’s approach to environmental issues— combining legal and economic analyses to inform its positions—is one which I hope to emulate in my own projects at Bowdoin this coming year."
The Nature Conservancy is a non-profit organization that works globally to protect ecosystems for continued use and enjoyment. Under the direction of three different supervisors, the Bowdoin intern was taught the intricacies of running a non-profit environmental group while conducting a series of projects. With External Affairs, the intern compiled a history of environmental spending in Maine and examined past large-scale projects to extract strategies relevant to current issues. The Stewardship branch sent the intern to spent days in the field constructing long-term ecological plots and monitoring easement properties. Finally, the intern composed a slew of grant proposals, donor-relation letters, and appeal pledges with the Fundraising department.
"I’m normally distraught when my job cuts into summer recreation time, but I never regretted a single hour working with the Maine chapter of the Nature Conservancy. As I forged grant proposals and rambled up mountains, the capable staff graciously quenched my furious curiosity while further stoking my passion and commitment to our natural areas. This internship has primed me for a future career with environmental organizations or other non-profits, and I am grateful for the experience."
During his summer with the Town of Topsham Planning Office, Charlie Cubeta ’13 (Environmental Studies and Government & Legal Studies) worked on land use projects both in and out of the office. His primary focus was creating a trail conditions form, conducting a town-wide GPS trail conditions survey, and then using this information to set up a digital trail maintenance database. Other projects included uploading an architectural survey of the town’s historic buildings into an online database, developing Topsham’s Climate Action Plan, shadowing the Natural Resource Planner, and creating a user-friendly map that depicts public open space in Topsham.
“Working with the Town of Topsham has made me appreciate how municipal government fits into a network of community actors. My experience with the planning department has offered me a new perspective on land management policies and their relation to existing development practices. Interacting with private businesses, non-profit organizations, and other government agencies has given me a taste of possible environmental careers, while working on local projects has given me inspiration for further study at Bowdoin.”
Dan Peckham ’12 (Environmental Studies & Economics) worked with the Kennebec Estuary Land Trust, whose mission is preserving the natural, scenic, historic, cultural, and agricultural resources of the Kennebec Estuary. In the field, he played a part in continued fish barrier research, and helped with KELT’s vital stewardship efforts. He also assisted KELT’s outreach efforts through getting in contact with local town conservation committees, and designing and conducting a public survey at KELT’s Thorne Head Preserve. His chief project was designing a Strategic Conservation Plan for the land trust, a task that brought together aspects of research, outreach, and GIS analysis.
"I now have a much greater appreciation for the intricacies of land trusts thanks to my time at KELT, and I am proud of my work and of the GIS, grant writing, and conservation planning skills I developed this summer. I am grateful to everyone I worked with for helping me understand the significance of Bath and Merrymeeting Bay as part of a charming region that I never truly appreciated during my first three years at Bowdoin."
Michael Lachance ’13 (Environmental Studies and Economics, minor in French) worked with the town of Brunswick to develop an Open Space Management Plan for an 800 acre parcel on the southern portion of the former Brunswick Naval Air Base. Michael was responsible for surveying the conditions of the parcel, with a focus on locating existing roads and trails. He used GPS and GIS to make a map of his findings, which he then analyzed for issues of environmental protection and public access. Finally, Michael presented his work to the town of Brunswick and made recommendations on the future development of the property. He also participated in a collaborative trail mapping effort with four other Bowdoin fellows and at least sixteen organizations aimed at creating a map of the region’s trail systems.
"My fellowship with the Town of Brunswick gave me an exciting opportunity to combine my interests in economics and the environment. I was able to work independently on the redevelopment of the Brunswick Naval Air Base, a significant and meaningful project that will be a tremendous asset to the community in the future. By working in collaboration with town employees and local organizations, I gained an entirely new perspective of local government that has changed the way I view Brunswick."
The Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust currently has a staff of one part-time employee. Thus Tyler, the Psi-Upsilon fellow paired with the land trust, took part in a wide variety of tasks. From mapping trails to making a brochure for a farmers’ market to researching fundraising opportunities, Tyler had the opportunity to see how conservation principles and ethics are translated into nonprofit work. This year the land trust applied for national accreditation, so Tyler got to assist in that process which will hopefully allow the land trust to continue to increase its capacity in the future.
"Every day was different during my fellowship with the Brunswick-Topsham Land Trust. On any given day, I could have been out working on a trail in Topsham in the morning and then back in the office drafting part of a Strategic Conservation Plan in the afternoon. As a result, this fellowship was always an adventure and it gave me an opportunity to learn about all of the facets of the Land Trust’s work."
Sheela Turbek ’13 (Biology & Spanish) worked with Cultivating Community this summer, providing market support for refugee farmers, teaching youth about sustainable agriculture, and connecting members of the community with the local food system. She helped grow and harvest produce for senior citizens, maintain school gardens, and lead the Youth Growers in promoting and running the Boyd Street Urban Farm Stand, one of the few markets in Portland that supplies double voucher coupons for food stamp purchases.
“The multitude of ways in which Cultivating Community enhances the relationship of community members with the food they consume is truly astounding. Through its school gardens and Youth Grower program, the organization offers youth an opportunity to participate in all aspects of the growing cycle while simultaneously making sustainably grown, local produce accessible to people of all ages, ethnicities and socioeconomic statuses. It has been extremely rewarding to see the hard work of the youth and immigrant farmers pay off as appreciative low-income customers depart from the farm stands with fresh fruits and vegetables.”
Woody Mawhinney ’12 (Environmental Studies & Government and Legal Studies) worked with Maine Conservation Voters in Augusta to develop its annual environmental scorecard for the first session of Maine’s 125th Legislature. The aim of the scorecard is to hold legislators accountable for their votes and actions with the hope that they will work harder to protect Maine’s natural legacy, create healthy and livable communities, and create clean energy resources. Woody also helped launch MCV’s new website and mobile application, blogged about environmental and political issues in the state, and worked on strategic political targeting for the 2012 election.
“Working with MCV has given me an in-depth look into policy-making and environmental issues in Maine. Witnessing the fight against environmental rollbacks and for proactive environmental change has given me a tremendous appreciation for the work of environmental organizations and non-profits in the State. I look forward to bringing my knowledge of environmental bills and the legislative process, as well as my new connections to environmental and political leaders, with me to the classroom and other fields of work.”