environmental studies

Career Advice from Dolly

 

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Every summer my family would take a vacation to a small town in northern Wisconsin on Lake Superior to visit my great aunt.  My great aunt would love to take us to visit the Red Cliff Reservation just outside her town.  It’s not every day you meet someone who is familiar with this area, but Dolly Tong is.  She has even done a dumpster dive there!  I sat down with her to learn more about her position at the EPA.

 

 

What is your position at the EPA?

 

I am the Regional Tribal Solid Waste and Pollution Prevention Coordinator.  I work with the 35 federally-recognized tribes in our Region to manage waste issues.

 

Do you have prior work experiences that lead you to the EPA?

 

No, but I started as an intern at the EPA in what was called the Technology Transfer Program back then.  This eventually evolved into EPA’s Pollution Prevention Program which I have been involved with over many years.

 

What is a typical day like for you?

 

I work with a team to assist tribes in whatever waste management issue comes up, and analyze what kinds of technical assistance we can provide to tribes over the long term. I also communicate as a liaison for other tribal solid waste coordinators in the other EPA Regions with Headquarters to address national tribal waste issues.  I oversee two part-time Senior Environmental Employees’ work and monitor their work status. 

 

Sometimes I get to do field work on tribal reservations as well.  This is the most interesting part of my job.  We have done dumpster dives with tribes and visited their recycling facilities and household hazardous waste collection events.  When you visit tribal reservations, you can better understand what the tribes are doing, what they need, and how you can help.

 

What is the best part of your job?

 

Because EPA has a direct government-to-government working relationship with federally-recognized Indian tribes, I feel like my work directly impacts tribal communities. It is great to see the positive impacts with the work you do and see the immediate results. In addition, at the EPA we are encouraged to be creative and think of solutions on our own.  If you think something is workable, you can try it.  I like the independence and creativity.

 

Did you always have an interest in the environment?

 

Yes.  When I was little, the other kids used to call me “nature freak.”  I just loved animals and nature.  My whole family was actually like that as well.

 

What classes did you take in school that you use on the job today?

 

I majored in Environmental Studies, which was a multidisciplinary program.  I took advantage of a variety of classes, to get a feel for what interested me.  I wish I could have taken classes on Native American Law.

Do you have any advice for kids today who have an interest in protecting our environment?

 

It is important not to use so much stuff or buy a lot of things.  Everything you purchase has an impact on the environment because of all the pollution that comes from the extraction of materials, manufacturing, and transportation to bring you the finished product.  Using less has a direct impact on avoiding the generation of greenhouse gases that lead to climate change.

It is really important to learn about community based social marketing to promote sustainable behaviors in people. It is more than just handing out flyers to get people to change their ways.  We need more people to learn how to apply community-based social marketing techniques to get to the root causes of why people don’t practice certain sustainable behaviors, and come up with effective ways to encourage positive behaviors that are better for the environment.

 

Kelly Siegel is a student volunteer in the EPA’s Air and Radiation Division in Region 5, and is currently obtaining her Master’s degree in Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago.  She has a passion for sustainable development, running, and traveling with friends.

 

 

 

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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An Intern’s Inspiration

EPA photo/Kasia Broussalian

By Kasia Broussalian 

Greening the Apple has come a long way in the nearly two years since its inception. Back then, there were three of us—and me just an intern—crafting ideas for a blog in the public affairs office of Region 2.  Still a new concept for federal government agencies, our blog proposal was answered with a few confused looks. But after its launch in March 2011, our plan to tell the green side of New York City inspired others across the public sector, including myself. I took much of what I learned while at the EPA with me; guiding my current project as the host of Research Radio, a podcast series from The New School in New York.

My interest in the environment started in college. As a photojournalism student at the University of Colorado, I focused most of my school projects and freelance work on water issues in the western United States. I spent a few months traveling the Colorado River, hopping over divots in a potato field in the Teton Valley of Idaho, and on a horse-drawn sleigh feeding cattle with a rancher on the Yampa River in Colorado. All of which prompted me to intern at EPA while finishing my Master’s degree. Now as a writer at The New School—where a great environmental studies program offers many exciting ventures that engage with the world around us—I’m still trying to find new ways to tell stories about the green side of the city. This time, it’s through a radio podcast with one of the university’s professors. (Read below for an episode summary, as well as a link to the podcast).

Million Trees NYC (EPA photo/Kasia Broussalian)

When it comes to the competition for real estate between nature and New York, many assume that nature lost years ago, when the boroughs’ green forest was steadily edged out by concrete.  However, those dubbing the city as a concrete jungle need a reality check; New York has a wild side—an amazing array of diverse plants and creatures often overlooked in this metropolis—and it’s not entirely by accident. Initiatives like PLANYC’s Million Trees NYC project actively work to promote and maintain the city as an ecological hot spot.

This effort is the topic of Research Radio’s latest podcast, “The City’s Jungles; Not Quite Concrete.” Research Radio recently met with Timon McPhearson, assistant professor of ecology at The New School for Public Engagement.  McPhearson, whose research focuses on urban ecosystems, has been spending his summers and falls in the city’s parks. People may connect the Big Apple with iconic landmarks like the Empire State building and Rockefeller Center, but its heart is still green.

For the past three years, McPhearson and his students have been measuring tree growth and management practices in collaboration with the city’s Million Trees NYC initiative. Though the project’s main goal is to plant a million trees by 2017, another is to create a more sustainable and diverse urban forest. McPhearson’s lab documents the initiative’s progress not only on the health of the newly planted trees, but also on whether levels of biodiversity are increasing.

Click here to listen to the podcast.

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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Gone with the Wind (and Waves)

By Kelly Mercer

For weeks before I selected my major, I struggled with the decision. At the time, it seemed like nothing would ever be more important. My major did not just dictate my class schedule for the next three years, it shaped my entire life.  As an avid sailor, I took to the water to clear my head. Out on the Charles River, with the wind whipping through my sail and the waves spraying my boat, my future seemed clear. I knew in those moments, as the boat leaned with the wind, that I wanted to dedicate my life to studying water policy so that my children would be able to sail without fear of polluted waters. The next day, I declared my major in Environmental Studies.

Now, nearly three years later, I find myself sitting in a cubical in Washington DC typing a blog entry for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Water. It almost seems surreal! I am so grateful for the path that has led me to this internship. I have been able to meet countless interesting people and enjoy so many amazing experiences – like spending a summer as a deckhand on an 80-foot environmental education vessel. My time at Wellesley College has allowed me to immerse myself in my intellectual passion and undertake meaningful research. All of these experiences – as a student, intern, and water-sport aficionado – are with me while I work in our capitol.

As I begin my summer with the Office of Water, I find myself eager to wake up at 7:30am, navigate the metro, flash my U.S. EPA badge, and get to work. For the next eight weeks, I will be interning with the Office of Water, Communications. Here, I have the amazing opportunity to read reports and articles on a variety of water-related issues and learn how this information is communicated with the public. I am able to attend meetings and webinars on fascinating subjects and engage in the U.S. EPA in ways that I never expected. It is the perfect summer experience. At the end of each day, I go for a run through the National Mall and along the Potomac. As I glance at the children sailing and rowing, I hope that a few of them will find their passion in environmentalism.

For the latest news from the Office of Water (and perhaps to see some of my posts), visit www.facebook.com/EPAWaterisworthit and www.twitter.com/EPAWater.

About the Author: Kelly Mercer is a senior at Wellesley College. She is excited to be spending her summer interning with the EPA in the Office of Water, Communications as part of the Wellesley-in-Washington Internship Program.

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.