Monthly Archives: March 2011

Camp Schmidt, un rito de pasaje en el condado de Prince George’s

Por Lina Younes

Mientras leía el periódico este pasado sábado, descubrí un artículo que me llenó de tristeza. El centro de educación ambiental en el Condado de Prince George’s conocido como Camp Schmidt probablemente cerraría este verano. Este año escolar sería la última vez que los estudiantes de quinto grado de todo el condado participarían en las actividades de educación ambiental de Camp Schmidt.

Para muchos en el condado, la visita de dos días a Camp Schmidt se considera casi como una tradición. Como parte del currículo de Maryland, se les requiere a los estudiantes del condado a pasar dos días en el campamento. La escuela elemental de mis hijas solía planificar la visita a Camp Schmidt para la primavera. A fines de los años noventa tuve la oportunidad de acompañarlas en la excursión al campamento por tres años consecutivos. Me acuerdo de los paseos en el bosque, cuando recogíamos muestras en el arroyo y participábamos de otras actividades al aire libre. Mis hijas y yo realmente disfrutamos de las experiencias en Camp Schmidt. Espero que otros podrán continuar disfrutando experiencias similares en el futuro.

En general, en Maryland hemos sido afortunados de tener varios centros dedicados a la naturaleza y a las ciencias donde niños y adultos pueden aprender acerca del medio ambiente. Durante los años he tenido la oportunidad de ir con mis hijas al Centro de Ciencias de Howard B. Owens para aprender acerca del compostaje y otras actividades ambientales. Aún cuando estas excursiones al aire libre no hayan conducido a una carrera en las ciencias, estoy segura que la experiencia ayuda a concienciar a los niños a ser mejores protectores del planeta hoy y en años venideros.

Acerca de la autora: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y se desempeña, en la actualidad, como directora asociada interina para educación ambiental. Como periodista, dirigió la oficina en Washington de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Women in Science: Kelly Leovic, Principal for a Day

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Kelly Leovic

EPA employees in Research Triangle Park, NC love sharing their expertise and enthusiasm for the environment and STEM (science, technology, engineering, & math). Last year, nearly 200 of EPA-RTP’s 1,400 employees spent nearly 3,000 hours reaching over 38,000 participants at 203 events, including K-12 classroom presentations, career days, festivals, student mentoring and campus tours.

As part of our community outreach, we participate on the Durham Public Schools Business Advisory Council (BAC), which builds long-term partnerships between businesses and schools. On February 8, the BAC launched its Principal for a Day Program — sending business leaders and elected officials into the schools.

I was excited, yet a bit nervous. Shaneeka Moore-Lawrence, the energetic Principal at Bethesda Elementary handed me her walkie-talkie as we dashed from the car line to our shift at bus arrival. I sensed this was not going to be a shadowing experience, as my gracious host stepped back and left me in charge.

Next were the Pledge and Morning Announcements. If you look at this link, you see me in the pink shirt getting ready – note how much calmer the Principal appears.  After announcements, we visited most of the 31 classrooms at Bethesda. I tried to emulate Shaneeka’s positive behavior and classroom engagement, and my experience grew more rewarding the more involved I became.

Reading The Lorax to a 1st grade class was a highlight because it is my favorite children’s book and, now that my kids are older, I welcome the opportunity to share the sad, yet hopeful story with any audience. My most embarrassing moment was in music when I realized that the kids were going to notice if I lip-synced, so I sang along with the class. I was relieved that this was not included on the video!

I was truly humbled by being Principal for a Day and think that everyone should try it in order to experience the great things happening in our schools and understand the challenges that Principals are faced with, and all of the roles they play in running a successful school with a diverse population. I look forward to returning soon to do science activities and read EPA’s new air quality book, Why is Coco Orange?

I learned some valuable lessons in school on February 8, and encourage all EPA employees to take the initiative to become involved in our schools and inspire the next generation to protect human health and the environment.

About the author: Kelly Leovic manages EPA’s STEM & Environmental Outreach Program in Research Triangle Park and has worked for the EPA as an environmental engineer since 1987. She has three children, two in middle and one in high school, who were all very relieved that she was not assigned to their school.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.


Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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World Wetlands Day….The Students’ Way!

By Wendy Dew

The students at Hurst Middle School think protecting their wetlands is a yearlong job! The LaBranche Wetland Watchers is a school-based service-learning project primarily funded through a grant from the Louisiana Lieutenant Governor’s Learn and Serve America Commission. Over 35 separate partnerships with local, regional, state, and federal agencies, universities, non-profit foundations, local businesses and international corporations also play an integral role in the success of this project.

Each year, over 1100 fifth, sixth, and seventh grade students attend service trips to the adopted site in the Bonnet Carre Spillway. Throughout the school year, students plan and participate in activities such as water quality monitoring, macro-invertebrate collection and identification, litter clean-ups, soil and plant identification, and tree planting. This year students have focused on creating what will one day be the first public nature trail in the region. All service activities are tied to required academic standards in each of their core subject areas.

Students who participate then use what they have learned to guide other fifth and sixth graders on wetland trips each year. Over the last six years, students have spoken to over 45,000 adults and students about wetland conservation during outreach events. Through education, service, and awareness, students are leading a community effort for wetland conservation.

Wetlands are areas where water covers the soil, or is present either at or near the surface of the soil all year or for varying periods of time during the year.

February 2 is World Wetlands Day and May is American Wetlands Month.

For more information about wetlands

About the author: Wendy Dew is the Environmental Education and Outreach Coordinator for Region 8 in Denver, Colorado.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Women in Science: Montira Pongsiri

By Marguerite Huber

As part of Women’s History Month, I recently spoke with EPA scientist (and occasional Greenversations blogger) Montira Pongsiri, who studies the connections between environmental change and human health.

Dr. Pongsiri focuses on the benefits that healthy ecosystems provide, and how changes we make to the environment affect our health. Things that we do to change the environment, such as climate change and deforestation, can lead to changes in biodiversity, which in turn can affect the transmission of human disease. She is studying these relationships, and from that understanding, working with colleagues to identify tools and strategies to better manage and protect ecosystems and reduce risks to public health.

After studying neuroscience, Pongsiri went on to complete graduate work in environmental sciences and infectious diseases epidemiology at Yale. She was attracted to the discipline of science in approaching and solving problems, but I was amazed to learn that Dr. Pongsiri had not envisioned a career in environmental science until her later graduate school years. It was at that time that she met an environmental risk and policy professor who influenced her to change direction and bridge the connections between environment and human health. It didn’t help that the environment and public health programs were on opposite ends of campus.

In her dissertation work, she studied the tradeoffs between the use of pesticides and malaria. Coming to EPA out of graduate school, Dr. Pongsiri found that EPA challenged her to think about how science can be applied to solve real world problems. She enjoys working with a committed team to address issues at the intersection of ecosystems and human health through the Biodiversity and Human Health initiative, which is the first of its kind at EPA.

“People value good ideas, especially innovative ideas that come from a diverse set of perspectives that can help solve longstanding problems,” Pongsiri said. She believes that it is up to scientists to play a primary role in getting more girls involved with science. They need to be able to show how their work benefits society, from the individual to the community. Additionally, teachers have a responsibility to peak their interest, as her professor did for her. Had it not been for him, she would be working in a different field. Good thing, because we need scientists out there working on environmental health issues, especially because this is something that affects us all.

About the author: Marguerite Huber is an intern from Indiana University currently working with the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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The Sights and Scents of Spring – – The 2011 Philadelphia International Flower Show

By Bonnie Turner-Lomax

During these last weeks of winter, many of us in the Mid-Atlantic region are starting to think about warmer weather, spring and gardening. In an area recuperating from record snowstorms, cold temperatures, and icy highways, the Philadelphia International Flower Show is a much-anticipated reminder that Spring is just a few weeks away.

Each year in early March, garden exhibitors from all over the world gather in Philadelphia for the Flower Show, transforming the floor of the Pennsylvania Convention Center into a wonderland of gardens, plants, and floral designs. The spectacular display annually attracts more than 250,000 visitors from all over the world, making the Philadelphia International Flower Show the largest indoor flower exhibit in the world. With its international appeal and audience, it is very fitting that the theme of the 2011 show is “Springtime in Paris.”

Since 1993, EPA has used this wonderful venue, which is only a few blocks from our Mid-Atlantic regional office, to educate gardeners on techniques that protect the environment and at the same time create beautiful gardens. Using native plants and recycled materials, our flower show team of volunteers designs, constructs, and creates an exhibit that vividly demonstrates the beauty and practicality of native plants, sustainable water usage, and beneficial landscaping techniques. While our exhibits always carry messages of sustainability, it is amazing to see a new and unique display each year conveying environmental messages in a special and beautiful way. And judging by the thousands of people who view our exhibit and speak with our volunteers, the environmental values and practices we display are growing in popularity.

In keeping with the show’s Parisian theme, the 2011 EPA exhibit is titled “Botanique Naturale,” which loosely translates to “Natural Garden” and focuses on the importance of native plants, wetlands, and watersheds. Visitors will see an exhibit which showcases the rich diversity of the native flora of wetlands and woodlands and depicts how people can use these plants to create a sustainable home garden. Here’s a sneak preview of the plants we’ll be using in our exhibition!

If you’re in the area, stop by and see for yourself the beauty and environmental benefits of sustainable gardening. The 2011 Philadelphia International Flower Show runs from Sunday, March 6th through March 13th at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in downtown Philadelphia. Whether you are an experienced gardener, an aspiring gardener, or just starting to get your hands dirty, there will be plenty to see, learn, and enjoy. See you at the Flower Show!

About the Author – – -Bonnie Turner-Lomax came to EPA Region’s mid-Atlantic Region in 1987 and has held several positions throughout the Region. She is currently the Communications Coordinator for the Environmental Assessment & Innovation Division.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

Women in Science: Clean Air and Women’s Health

By Gina McCarthy

For Women’s History Month, I wouldn’t be doing my part if I didn’t get you to think a little about clean air and how important it is to women in the U.S. and all over the world.

We’ve made great progress in cleaning the air in this country over the past 40 years. In 2010 alone, the Clean Air Act prevented 160,000 premature deaths, 1.7 million cases of aggravated asthma and 16.2 million missed school and work days. But we have a long way to go before we can claim success – the stakes are just too high. Breathing dirty air means spending time at home caring for a sick child, spending too much money on medical bills, and spending too much time indoors when the ozone threat is high.

But, compared to other countries, we have a lot to celebrate. Did you know that almost half of the world’s population – mostly women – uses open fires or old and inefficient stoves to cook their meals? Many cook with their babies in a sling, on their backs or by their side, where both mother and baby breathe in the billowing smoke, causing pneumonia, chronic respiratory diseases, lung cancer and a range of other health problems – killing nearly 2 million people each year. That’s more than twice the number from malaria. And to make matters worse, too many women and children spend countless hours every day gathering wood or other fuel in conflict areas where they face unspeakable threats.

But this doesn’t need to be the case. Clean cookstoves can be produced at low cost today and EPA is helping to lead an international effort called the Partnership for Clean Indoor Air (PCIA), to get clean cookstoves into the hands of the women who need them. But PCIA does more than promote clean air, it helps grow local economies and empower women all across the world. Now, about 5 million stoves are being replaced every year and more than half are purchased by families from local entrepreneurs – many of whom are women.

Last year I was so proud to be in New York when two women – EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – made history by launching the Global Cookstove Alliance. The Alliance brings $50M in funding from the US government to take this effort to the next level.

Safer, healthier and more efficient stoves don’t just save lives, they unlock the potential of women. And, as Madeline Albright once said, “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help women,” so get busy and lend your voice and support to this effort!

Stay tuned to Greenversations throughout Women’s History Month and check out the White House website.

About the author: Gina McCarthy is the Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation and is a leading advocate for comprehensive strategies to confront climate change and strengthen our green economy.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

What Was Your “Aha Moment?”

By Lina Younes

This past weekend I accompanied my daughter’s team to the Maryland Junior First® Lego League Expo at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.  Teams comprised of 6-9 year olds from across the state participated in the expo. This year, teams had the challenge to build their projects focusing on biomedical engineering. It was interesting to see how the children approached the challenge with those little blocks.

My daughter and her teammates developed their display showing how prostheses are used to replace missing body parts. Not only did they research the origins of prosthetic care, but they also built some prostheses of their own and a mobile hospital as well. I even learned something when I saw their display. I didn’t know that the early prostheses date back to over 2600 years BC!

As part of the expo, a surgeon spoke about the advances of using robots in the operating room. The children seemed fascinated by the use of robotics in medicine. When the surgeon asked if the children were interested in biomedical engineering, many hands shot up! I wonder how many of the children were able to make the connection between their hands on activities and technological innovations. I wonder how many realized then and there that they wanted to pursue a career in the sciences. While I always try to encourage my youngest to participate in those activities where she will learn about sciences or the environment,  I’m curious as to what actually will be her “aha moment?” What lights that spark in people? What gives someone the insight that they want to dedicate their lives to a specific activity or profession? What makes someone want to protect the environment? Sometimes it is a special hiking trip, sometimes it’s a walk in the park, a special teacher, a loving grandparent. What was your aha moment? We would love to hear from you.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as Acting Associate Director for Environmental Education. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

¿Cuál fue su momento revelador?

Por Lina Younes

Este pasado fin de semana acompañé el equipo de mi hija menor a la exposición estatal juvenil de bloques Lego (Maryland Junior First® Lego League Expo) en la Universidad de Maryland, Condado de Baltimore .  Equipos compuestos por niños de 6 a 9 años de todo el estado participaron en la expo. Este año, los equipos juveniles tenían el reto de construir sus proyectos enfocándose en la ingeniería biomédica. Era interesante ver cómo estos niños respondieron al reto con esos pequeños bloques.

Mi hija y sus compañeros desarrollaron su exhibición para demostrar cómo las prótesis son utilizadas para reemplazar piernas y brazos amputados. No tan sólo tuvieron que investigar los orígenes del uso de prótesis, sino que construyeron sus propios modelos y un hospital móvil también. Hasta yo aprendí algo al ver su proyecto. ¡No sabía que las primeras prótesis datan de unos 2600 años AC!

Como parte de la exposición, un cirujano habló sobre los avances al usar robots en la sala de operaciones. Los niños parecían estar fascinados por el uso de los robots en la medicina. Cuando el cirujano les preguntó si estaban interesados en la ingeniería biomédica, muchos levantaron la mano rápidamente. Me pregunto cuántos niños hicieron la conexión entre sus actividades y las innovaciones tecnológicas posibles. Tengo curiosidad en saber si estos niños se interesaron en estudiar carreras en ciencias. Mientras trato de alentar a mi hija menor a participar en estas actividades y enseñarle acerca del valor de las ciencias o el amor por el medio ambiente, me interesa saber cuál será su momento relevador? ¿Qué despertará esa chispa de curiosidad ? ¿Qué motiva a alguien a querer proteger el medio ambiente? A veces es una excursión al aire libre, un paseo por el parque, un maestro especial, un abuelo cariñoso. ¿Cuál ha sido su momento revelador? Quisiéramos escuchar su opinión.

Acerca de la autora: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y se desempeña, en la actualidad, como directora asociada interina para educación ambiental. Como periodista, dirigió la oficina en Washington de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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The Climes They Are a-Changin’

By Brent Heverly

Get more information about how climate change could impact water resources

Managing water resources is a challenging job under any circumstances.  You have to account for the many different uses of the water (drinking, industrial, agricultural, and ecological, just to name a few) and make sure that both the quality and quantity of the water are adequate to make sure all these sectors have enough clean water.  But changing conditions can make water management even more complex.  Climate change is (literally) a hot topic these days, with a lot of discussion of rising global temperatures, carbon emissions, and renewable energy.  But what impact could climate change have on water resources?

Here are just a few of the potential water-related effects of climate change in the U.S:

  • Changes in precipitation: greater variation of precipitation (increased heavy rainfalls as well as intense droughts), changes in the size of vital water bodies and wetlands, water quantity (reductions in ground and surface water), and water quality (increased runoff that causes erosion and sedimentation)
  • Increased water temperature: lower dissolved oxygen levels, increased algal blooms, and altered distribution in aquatic species (since most species are adapted to survive in a certain range of temperatures)
  • Rising Sea Levels: increased coastal erosion, displacement of coastal wetlands, and salt water intrusion in drinking water supplies

Want to learn more?  You can find much more information about the potential impact of climate change on water resources and EPA activities related to water and climate change.  EPA’s Watershed Academy has also done a number of webcasts on water issues related to climate change that are full of information.

So what is EPA doing about it? EPA has developed a national water program strategy for the adaptation to climate change, mitigation of greenhouse gases, as well as further research and education on how climate change relates to water, with 44 key action items.  EPA’s Climate Ready Water Utilities (CRWU) program provides resources for the water sector to develop and implement long-term plans that take climate change impacts into account.  Resources include a climate ready toolbox and a software tool to assess climate-related risk (Climate Resilience Evaluation and Assessment Tool, or CREAT).

There’s also the Climate Ready Estuaries Program, which focuses on the specific impact of climate change to these unique ecosystems.  In the Mid Atlantic region, we are lucky to have the Delaware Estuary as one of these distinctive natural resources.  To assess how vulnerable this estuary is to climate change and explore strategies to mitigate the risks, the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary joined with EPA as one of six national pilots in the Climate Ready Estuaries Program in 2008. Last year a Climate Change and the Delaware Estuary report was published which examined three case studies (tidal wetlands, drinking water, and bivalve shellfish) as examples of natural resources that could be affected and have an impact on habitats, humans, and aquatic life.

What are others doing about it? There are efforts all across the nation. The Source Water Collaborative includes EPA and 22 other national organizations that have an interest in safe drinking water.  As you’ve heard in our previous blogs, the Source Water Collaborative is sponsoring the Delaware River Basin Forum on March 10th.  This basin-wide event will address the issues that affect water resource sustainability that millions in the region rely on every day.  One of the issues to be highlighted is the regional impacts of climate change.  Visit the DRBF website for event locations and more.

And what is the Healthy Waters Blog doing about it? We’re striving to bring you the most current information possible on important issues like climate change that concern your water resources.  We’ll also have a live blog the day of the Delaware River Basin Forum with frequent updates of happenings at the central Philadelphia location and satellites.  Check back here throughout the day on March 10th!

So what are you doing about it? You can start by getting informed.  Tune into the conference, either by attending in person at any one of the locations, or by viewing the live webcast of the forum online from wherever you are!   Here’s even more you can do.

About the Author: Brent Heverly is a fourth year student at Drexel University studying environmental engineering. He is working at Region 3 under EPA’s Student Career Experience Program and hopes to convert to a permanent employee after graduation. He grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs near Perkasie, Pa. Someday Brent plans to thru-hike the entire Appalachian Trail.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Science Wednesday: A Family’s Support Goes Far for a Passionate Woman Scientist

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Sarah Blau

As part of Women’s History Month, I’ve been talking to EPA women scientists about their work. Recently, I spoke with Mary Kentula, a wetland ecologist from Corvallis, Oregon.

First, I curiously asked what she wanted to be when she was young.

“Well, I wanted to either be a hair dresser, work in a clothing department store, or be a secretary,” Kentula recalled, laughing.

To my astonishment, she explained that she grew up as a coal miner’s daughter in a small town in Pennsylvania. Most women in this town were stay-at-home mothers. Those who worked were hairdressers, store clerks, or secretaries.

Kentula’s interest in science originally came from her family. Her mother and maternal grandfather had a passion for the natural world, and Kentula shared this passion from an early age. In fact, when Kentula started biology in college, she realized she was already familiar with the topics because whenever something in nature had sparked her interest, she would ask her grandfather or look it up in his books.

When I switched the subject from her childhood to her current work at EPA, I could tell right away that Kentula is passionate about her work. While her job requires a fair amount of administrative tasks, Kentula loves hands-on science and often ventures to the field to experience first-hand what her fellow researchers are doing. She loves the cooperative efforts that EPA encourages and her ability to bring together multi-disciplinary teams with a variety of people.

With pride, Kentula explained how her wetlands research has helped inform national policy. Also, in 2007 she received an award from the Society of Wetland Scientists.

Now, as EPA prepares for a massive wetlands survey to be completed in 2011, Kentula can see that there is growing expertise across the nation regarding wetlands monitoring and assessment. She feels that her research has helped to encourage this movement.

Kentula continues to gain support from her family. Often when she works, she thinks to herself, “What would my parents think about this? Would they think it’s important?” She often uses her parents as a yardstick to measure the importance of her research and to bring her encouragement in her daily work.

It is clear from the tone of her voice and the excitement I hear when she speaks of wetlands research that Kentula has grown beyond her early notions of what careers were open to her and is now doing what she loves.

About the author: Writer Sarah Blau is a student services contractor working with EPA’s science communication team.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.