NRES 280: HAZWOPER Certification

This semester, I am taking NRES 280: Hazardous waste management.  Through this course, I will receive a certification for the 40 Hour HAZWOPER.  This class is a combination of lectures and hands on activities.  Some weeks, we get to put on protective level A suits to get the full experience (pictured below) and other weeks we get to learn about how to handle a hazardous situation.  The hands on experience is very fun; some weeks we get to put a puzzle together and play Operation to get used to how the suit feels and how hard it is to do simple tasks in them.  Through this course, I have learned a lot of useful information.  When applying for jobs, many of them want you to have this certification.  It is free to take this course! I highly recommend getting this experience.


PPE suit



New Zealand

Kia Ora! I have just finished up my fourth week of my semester abroad in Christchurch, New Zealand at Lincoln University, and it has been the most magical month of my life. The move over here was pretty seamless, and the introduction to the Kiwi way of life has been nothing short of amazing. I have already been on multiple adventures, from swimming with dolphins to sea kayaking to visiting Fiordland National Park, and I have found that New Zealand feels like something out of a fairy tale.


I would absolutely recommend both New Zealand and Lincoln University as a place to study abroad for the semester, especially for NRES students. There are so many courses that would easily transfer, as Lincoln’s primary academic disciplines include agricultural and environmental sciences. I am currently taking Applied Agroforestry, Engineering Precision Agriculture, and New Zealand Biodiversity. All of the classes offer field trips throughout the semester, allowing me to get a really insightful look at the different approaches and outlooks on environmental sciences. Not only are the academics great, but New Zealand’s perceptions on ecological health far exceeds that of America’s. There are only two feedlots in the entire country, and almost all of their meat is grass-fed and free range, making for a VERY pleasant culinary experience. Not only that, but recycling is a norm, you are required to bring your own bags to the supermarket, and energy usage is much lower than that of the traditional American consumer.


If you are thinking about studying abroad for a semester, I HIGHLY recommend it. My outlook on life has changed dramatically and I am so appreciative of the opportunities that Purdue Ag Study Abroad has given me. Also, because NZ is fairly similar to American culture, it is pretty easy to assimilate and it was a pretty easy adjustment to everything, other than driving on the left side of the road and using Celsius!


The EEE Combined Degree

Today I wanted to write about Purdue’s Environmental and Ecological Engineering Combined Degree (MSEEE) program. This is a new opportunity for students at Purdue to earn a non-thesis master’s degree a year after completing their undergraduate work – this is why you’ll often hear it called a 4+1 program. As an NRES student, you’ll be eligible to take part in MSEEE.

Here’s a breakdown of the logistics:

  1. Apply during your 6th semester as an undergrad student
  2. Have a 3.25 GPA
  3. After being accepted, take 9 credits of graduate (500+) level courses as a senior before you graduate
  4. Take your remaining 21 credits of courses and seminars during a 5th year at Purdue

I graduated from NRES last year and am currently in my final two months of the MSEEE program. NRES prepared me incredibly well for a career in environmental science. I look forward to returning to my job with the US Dept. of Transportation (check out one of my earlier blogposts if you want to know more about it!) and my position requires me to work closely with both scientists and engineers. This encouraged me to work toward a graduate degree in engineering and I’ve found the program to fit very well with my personal interests and career goals. Like NRES, EEE is an interdisciplinary program, so there is plenty of opportunity to specifically study in your environmental area of focus. In addition to your typical 3-credit courses, all graduate students in EEE take six 1-credit modules that each last five weeks and cover a wide range of topics each year. This year’s modules included courses in modeling complex industrial systems, photochemical reactor theory, membranes for water filtration, engineering ethics, and environmental compliance regulation. You will also take seminars that meet each week for presentations from industry professionals, faculty from Purdue and other universities, as well as graduate students conducting their own research. As a grad student, I also had the opportunity to conduct my own research with a lab in the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources.


In addition to a great lineup of courses, MSEEE introduces you to an incredible group of faculty and graduate students who want you to succeed. Being used to the friendly nature of the NRES program where everyone knows everyone’s name, I was excited to find a similarly welcoming feel in the EEE graduate program. There are plenty of opportunities to connect with faculty and other students in and outside of the classroom. The EEE Graduate Student Organization even offers monthly events for students and professors such as intramural sports, ice skating, happy hours, and apple picking – I included a picture from a trip to the corn maze below!


If you might be interested in the program, here are a few suggestions:

  • Check out the program’s website on the EEE page
  • Consider the EEE minor. As an NRES student this will introduce you to EEE students, faculty, and courses
  • If you want to try out EEE classes but not do a minor, there are some EEE classes that can count towards your NRES degree
  • Take higher level calculus and chemistry courses. This will better prepare you for graduate engineering classes
  • Talk to a student who is in the program. You can always send me an email too!

While the combined degree isn’t for everyone, I was excited to find a program that fit so well into my own education and career goals. If you feel the same way, I highly encourage you look into the program more. Let’s finish out the semester strong!


Dealing with Difficulty

At some point in your college career, you will be faced with difficulty of some sort. It may be family or friend problems, a death in the family, struggling to pass a class, or if you’re me, you’ll find yourself unexpectedly diagnosed with a serious, severe chronic illness. It knocked me off my feet and I found myself unable to focus in class and missing class constantly due to doctors visits and hospital stays. But, I still managed to keep up with my classes and make it through the next two semesters! Here are some tips I’ve found helpful for when you hit rough patches during college:

  1. Communicate with your professors! Tell them what is going on and let them know how it is affecting you. Professors are people too and they understand that life happens, so most are very understanding and willing to work with you.
  2. Be flexible. Not everything is going to go according to plan and you make have to make academic and personal adjustments. That’s ok, you’ll have to find your new normal, but be willing to work with others to accomplish what you want.
  3. Know what is going on in your classes and continue to do all the work, if possible. Read the syllabus and keep up with the homework and assignments that you can. When you work with professors and show that you care about their class and are still putting work into it, they are much more willing to work with you around your difficulties.
  4. Seek help. Difficulties are traumatizing, perhaps both physically and mentally. There are many resources on campus to help get you through these times, such as the Disability Resource Center, CAPS therapists, support groups, and CARE services.
  5. Don’t try to deal with it alone. Difficulties often feel isolating and like you are the only person experiencing your problem. But talking to friends and family can help alleviate stress and frustration, and you may find that people have gone through similar experiences.
  6. Don’t feel guilty about missing out. I’m a 21-year-old college senior, and instead of finding myself at the bar with friends, catching a basketball game, or attending an Environmental Science Club meeting, I found myself hooked up to machines in hospital rooms. For a long time I felt guilty and sad about missing events, and oftentimes still do. But your physical and mental health is more important than college experiences and should be treated as such.

If you have any more suggestions, feel free to comment below!


Becoming Involved in a Service Fraternity

Even before starting college, I was pretty sure that Greek-life, while a great opportunity for some, was not for me. However, I still really liked the idea of becoming involved in something that provided a more tight-knit community of people. I am a fairly shy person, and during my freshman year, I had a hard time forming close friendships. When I learned about the service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega during my sophomore year, I figured that I would give it a try. This has proven to be one of the best decisions that I’ve made during my time at Purdue!

Alpha Phi Omega is based around the three major principles of leadership, friendship, and service. While it is technically a Greek organization, it is a lot more laid-back (and less expensive!) than many of the other social fraternities and sororities at Purdue. At its basic level, APO provides an opportunity to participate in a wide variety of service projects at Purdue and in the Greater Lafayette Area, including volunteering at animal shelters, forest preserves, the local food pantry, and even Columbia Park Zoo! It also provides professional development workshops and fun membership events, including a weekend-long retreat that occurs every semester. I have made a lot of friends through APO, and would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in becoming more involved in community service while meeting like-minded people.



How to Succeed at Purdue University

1) Take advantage of the academic resources provided to you
       At Purdue there are several ways to get academic help if you need it. There are Supplemental Instructions (SI) sessions which are student run help sessions that go slower and are more one on one to help you understand the lecture material. There are help rooms specific to departments where both students and graduate students will be to help you. They may not be versed in your specific class, but they know information about the overall subject area. Professors and TAs will hold office hours where you can get one on one help. Take advantage of these!! They show your professor how dedicated you are to succeeding, plus you get to know your professor on a personal level. If you need help don’t be afraid to get it!!
2) Get involved with clubs
     Purdue offers over a thousand clubs on campus both academic focused and just fun clubs. Get involved in clubs! They help you meet new friends with the same interests as you. Clubs also provide you with a nice break away from studying. There are also athletic clubs, so if you didn’t quite want to commit to college athletics, but still want to play a sport there are clubs for that! Get involved!!
3) Get involved with your major
     Meet with your advisers, meet the directors of your program, meet the administrative staff, and meet the other students in your major. Creating relationships within your department help make it feel more like a family. It also comes in handy when it comes time to get letters of recommendations. Go to the events your department holds! You’ll meet people within your major and then you’ll start to see some familiar faces in your classes. 
4) Study Smart not Dumb
     College can be hard, but just because it is doesn’t mean you need to put your mental health at risk. Study, but give yourself breaks and allow yourself to have fun. School is important, but so is being happy. Allow yourself to have the college experience. Remember that if you do need help, there are so many resources for it whether it be academically, physically, or mentally. 
5) Take Part in the Boilermaker Traditions
     Four years at the same school seems like a long time, but in reality its not. Taking part in Purdue traditions gives you a sense of pride for your school and a sense of belonging. Do the fountain run, even if it seems silly. Jump over the train tracks, get a den pop, DO NOT WALK UNDER THE BELL TOWER, go to the sports events even if you aren’t a big sports fan (trust me you’ll regret it if you don’t), and last wear your black and gold with pride. Purdue is a great school so be proud that you go here!
Boiler Up and Hammer Down!

A Year in Canada

This year I am in Canada studying sustainability at Dalhousie University. While my study abroad didn’t send me very “abroad”, I have been given an opportunity to learn about my country, climate change, and other environmental issues from a different perspective.

Sustainability practices are implemented not only all over campus but the city as well. Buying local is heavily encouraged with daily farmer’s markets, locally sourced restaurants, and Nova Scotia-born businesses. The walkability of the city means fewer cars and lower emissions. Mandated recycling and composting programs allow the city to divert two-thirds of its waste away from landfills. The city is a model for environmentally-friendly practices that I have learned a lot from.

Aside from my time in the classroom, I have been able to explore the sites of Nova Scotia. I have visited the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, Citadel Hill National Historic Site, Peggy’s Cove, and other local treasures. The waterfront is always bustling with people taking in the views of the ocean and fishing off the pier. Point Pleasant Park is a haven for walking along the shore or jogging through the forest. There are always events going on and I haven’t been bored yet.

While Canada may not seem so different from “the states” (as they call it here), it has a completely unique culture. I’ve learned about the variances in our strategies involving the environment, how other places handle resource management, and how other countries perceive the United States. I have already broadened my education so much thus far and I am excited to continue to do so.



Keiki O Ka ‘Aina

This summer, I was so fortunate to be a part of an extraordinary experience where I learned a great deal about the land, myself, and Hawaiian culture. I spent my summer (10 weeks) as an Organic Agriculture intern for Big Island Farms, an organic farm focused on education on the Hamakua Coast of the Big Island in Hawaii. The craziest part about this internship was that we worked where we lived, which was on a beautiful 50-acre farm 5 miles from the Pacific Ocean, where the 29 interns and 5 directors lived in a community where sustainability was on the forefront. The program consisted of four programs with 6-9 interns each: Organic Agriculture, Farm to Table, Outdoor Recreation, and Biology. While the internship was not exactly what I expected, I wouldn’t trade my experience for the world. 
On a regular day (which were pretty rare on the farm), I woke up in my 4-bed 8′ x 8′ wooden cabana and looked out the window the see the ocean, usually awoken by the sound of our head chef blowing into a conch shell signalling breakfast. We ate a vegan diet with courses that integrated fresh fruits and vegetables straight out of the farm’s vegetable gardens. After breakfast and getting ready for the day, I would sit down with my Organic Ag (O.A.) team and plan out our day with my director, Jon Trimarco. This usually entailed mapping out and designing a new section of the agroforestry system that we work on implementing all summer. After about a half hour of planning, the 9 O.A. team members would get our work gloves and boots out and be farmers for the morning. It was tough; the UV index was “extreme” on most days and temperatures were usually well above 80 degrees. It was hard work, digging holes and planting trees and hauling soil, but one of the most important skills I learned was simply how to work hard. 
At noon, chef Simmy blew the conch again, which signaled both lunch and that the hard work was over for the day. After our delicious farm-to-table lunches, the O.A. team had a 30-minute siesta and then our classwork started. This usually consisted of an hour-long lecture about either farming or environmental issues, and then we followed the lectures up with a corresponding activity until our workday ended at 4 PM. After the day was over, we would shower and have the opportunity to have a relaxing evening at the farm. We would spend our nights playing ukulele and singing, watching movies on our outdoor projector, playing copious amounts of card games, or sitting around a bonfire talking about life. Some days were “field trip” days, and these days sometimes included backpacking trips, visiting the very-active Kilauea volcano, beach trips, and cultural excursions. These days were the days I will never forget. 
There were definitely some hiccups throughout my time at the farm. Life wasn’t always harmonious, as you would expect when you put 35 people in a close-living situation. However, my fellow interns and I became a family. We were brought to the island for so many reasons and coming from all different walks of life. The most important things that I gained were the lifelong friendships that I will always cherish and my love for the land that grew exponentially. Yes, the summer was crazy. But yet, I don’t regret a moment of it. 

Studying Abroad in Colombia

Last May, I had the unforgettable experience of studying abroad in Colombia for two weeks as a part of a course on Food Security and Sustainable Development. This program was run as a joint partnership between Purdue and two Colombian Universities, Universidad Technológica de Pereira and Universidad de Caldas, and what ultimately made me decide to choose this program was that students from all three schools participated in it together. It was a lot of fun getting to know the Colombian students, and although a language barrier did exist between us sometimes, it proved to be a really great opportunity to brush up on some of my very rusty Spanish skills and get to know more about Colombian culture from a more direct perspective. The first week of the course took place in the city of Pereira, the second week in the city of Manizales, and then a third week was spent back in the United States on Purdue’s campus. The curriculum of this course was focused around how we can find balance between supplying the needs of our ever-growing global population while ensuring the vitality of our planet’s natural resources and biodiversity. While in Colombia, we visited several agricultural operations, including a coffee plantation, a cacao farm, and a family farm used for subsidence, and then later we compared their productivity and their effects on the environment to large-scale monocultures commonly found in the United States. My favorite part of the trip was exploring Colombia’s beautiful natural landscapes and seeing some amazing wildlife. Colombia has the second highest level of biodiversity and the most species of birds out of any country on Earth. Both Pereira and Manizales are located in the Andes Mountains with an ecological region that intersects tropical rainforest and the mountain highlands, which gave us the opportunity to visit several incredible national parks such as Otún Quimbaya and Parque de Los Nevados. We also had a lot of fun sight-seeing in our host cities and their neighboring villages, relaxing in mountain hot springs, trying Colombian cuisine, and playing soccer!

This was hands-down the coolest trip I’ve ever gone on and I personally hope to study abroad again this summer through another program as well!



Wild America

This past summer I worked for the Roger Tory Peterson Institute as a Project Wild
America Crew Leader. This took place in Jamestown, New York, the birthplace of Roger Tory Peterson, an American Naturalist. I was one of two crew leaders that were responsible for managing and leading six high school students through various research projects. Our goal was to continue Roger’s legacy of studying the flora and fauna all around us. The projects we worked on included bird banding, invasive species mapping and management, macroinvertebrate surveys, vegetation surveys, a wetland delineation, and water quality surveys. We spent everyday, all day, outside, which led to some pretty wicked tan lines. It was hands-on experience; from taking the data ourselves to recording our findings, we were responsible for all the steps. We also participated in many public outreach events, ranging from radio shows to a whole festival dedicated to Project Wild America. I have learned many different research techniques and made numerous professional connections, both of which have helped me in my academic
career. Being immersed in what you are studying is the best way to learn and truly understand what you are doing and that ideal was the epitome of this internship.