Getting Involved in Sustainability at Purdue

By: Anna Hampton

One of my favorite things about Purdue is that there is a club or organization for almost everything! There are so many ways to get involved meet new people, learn new skills, serve the Purdue community, and overall have some fun. That includes a variety of environmental organizations, as one of the directors of Sustainability for Purdue Student Government I recently organized a Sustainability Summit where I was able to hear from and learn more about Purdue’s environmental organizations. Each organization is unique and offers different opportunities and ways to get involved. Here are a few you might consider:

  • Environmental Science Club:
  • The Environmental Science Club aims to increase the education, awareness, and community involvement of its members relating to the field of environmental science.
  • More information can be found on their Instagram @escpurdue or on Boilerlink.
  • Boiler Green Initiative:
  • To be the voice for students interested and concerned about sustainability.
  • To work with administration and outside organizations to implement feasible changes on and off campus relating to environmental sustainability
  • To plan events and interactive opportunities to educate the Purdue community on how sustainable changes can be implemented into their daily lives.
  • More information can be found on their Instagram @bgi_purdue, on their website https://www.boilergreen.com/, or on Boilerlink.
  • Purdue Student Sustainability Council:
  • To raise awareness and enact meaningful change related to environmental sustainability for the students of Purdue University and the surrounding community.
  • With committees dedicated to: Climate, Erase the Waste, Friday Night Lights, Outreach, Precious Plastics, Textile Waste, and Blog
  • More information can be found on their Instagram @psscouncil, on their website purduessc.weebly.com, and on Boilerlink.
  • Citizens’ Climate Lobby:
  • Primary goal is to promote the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act through lobbying and grassroots mobilization. Primarily focus on carbon fee, carbon dividend, and border carbon adjustment.
  • They can be found on Instagram @cclpurdue.
  • West Lafayette Students for Climate Action:
  • Mission of bringing students and administration together to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030
  • They can be found on Instagram @wl4climateaction and on Twitter @wlclimateaction

Additionally, while not a student club or organization the Center for the Environment is a wonderful resource and worth checking out if you are interested in research.

Internships and Patience

By: Pavithra Chidambaram

         As a sophomore last year, I knew I absolutely had to get a summer internship. I found myself comparing my work experience to those around me, who had different majors and interests. I hadn’t managed to get an internship after my freshman year (no thanks to the pandemic) and felt like I was behind compared to my peers. Regardless of if it was interesting to me or not, I was desperate to get any internship. Looking through the College of Agriculture career fair employers, I couldn’t really find a company that I thought I would like to work at, but I applied to as many as I could anyways. I got a couple interviews and felt grateful that I was being considered for those positions at all, even if they weren’t exactly places I’d enjoy working at. By Thanksgiving time, I had already accepted an internship as a research intern at an agricultural seed producing company. I was so blinded by the fact that I had actually gotten an internship, that I didn’t realize that the company and work that I’d be doing was not aligned with my career goals. As the summer got closer and closer, I realized that I was dreading the internship more and more.

         Throughout the internship, I tried my best to be optimistic and learn as much as I could. I enjoyed the experience of working as a team with my coworkers and learning about the private industry environment for the first time. Although the internship was a valuable work experience for me, it also helped me self-reflect and learn about who I was as a person. I realized that I couldn’t just work at any company because they offered me a position, and that the agricultural research field may not be the one for me. Thinking back on the internship, I have mixed feelings. I counted down the days until the end of my internship and spent a lot of time looking at the clock waiting for the days to end. At the same time, I made great connections with my supervisors and coworkers who helped me get through the long days and supported my interests. Entering junior year, I knew I had to take a different approach to finding an internship if I wanted to get better outcomes at the end of the summer.  This time, I’m hoping to be more patient. I’m speaking with classmates to learn about their internship experiences and exploring areas in environmental science that I wouldn’t have thought of before. I may not have an internship lined up by Thanksgiving this year, but I now know that a lot of NRES internships aren’t even posted until after January. Instead of comparing myself to my peers and feeling left behind now, I feel a larger sense of togetherness. I’m looking forward to finding a better work opportunity this summer.


Internship with the New York Marine Rescue Center

By: Cody Dateno

I could make this a “How – To” blog post and talk about the millions of fears that incoming freshman may have such as, “How to manage my time effectively”, “How to make friends in college”, or “How to do well academically”, however I feel that sharing my motivations, and passions towards my academics, and my career will be of more significance and hopefully spark the fire within you as well! In the end, “if you have a job that you love, you never have to work a day in your life”.

            My love for the environment came from the oceans. Ever since I was a little girl, I was fascinated by the smelly, slimy, and sometimes sticky creatures that I wound find (or hunt for) on the beach. As I grew older, I had the opportunity of experiencing amazing, underwater phenomena’s such as bioluminescent bays, as well as hands-on experiences like fishing, snorkeling, and various marine mammal sightings, which only enhanced my love and curiosity for the oceans and the environment. A short couple years later, I found myself swimming side-by-side to candy wrappers, plastic bottles, and other plastic items… and I knew I wanted to make a change, and dedicate my life to creating a safer, healthier, and cleaner environment for everyone.

            I am concentrating in Environmental Quality & Restoration because I want the hands-on experience of physically, biologically, and chemically, restoring earth’s natural landscapes back to their most optimal and efficient forms.  In order to aid in my career development, and interests within the oceans, I interned with the New York Marine Rescue Center this past summer. To say the least, this opportunity was so awesome and a great way to start my path from Purdue. Please find my internship poster below, and always feel free to reach out if you have any questions about NRES, life at Purdue, or just want to chat about the environment 😊 Boiler Up, and Hammer Down.


What Is Under Our Control?

By: Serae Neidigh

As I sat down to write this piece, my mind flipped through all of the normal topics of reflection on study abroad experiences. I could write about the unlikely friendships I had, and how I connected with people from different countries and backgrounds. I could write about the beautiful places I saw and the New Zealand culture that I grew to love. But all of those topics seem like a facade for the true experience I had studying abroad this semester.

Truthfully, my growth this semester mostly came from a global crisis, rather than my beautiful experiences in New Zealand. Like everyone else, life as I knew it came to a sudden halt in March when the coronavirus became a pandemic. Unlike everyone else, my friends and I were in New Zealand, about as far geographically from the U.S. as you can get, feeling the pull of home strongly but also feeling that we were safer where we were. Staying in NZ as travel bans went into effect meant risking being separated from our families for months and hunkering down in our apartments alone. But leaving meant giving up on a country we were coming to love fiercely, paying thousands of dollars to get on rapidly disappearing flights (that could leave us stranded in northern New Zealand or the western US), and risking exposure to COVID as we moved through multiple international airports. Ultimately, the decision was made for us as Purdue recalled the last study abroad programs in New Zealand and Australia. Feeling simultaneously heartbroken and relieved, we started preparations to return after 6 weeks instead of 16 weeks.

When life involves only emotional mountaintops, the knowledge that things might change is always there. But having an actual end date made every moment so much sweeter. Though our last weeks in New Zealand were our most stressful, they were also the happiest– we made new friends, planned trips we had been hesitant to go on, and generally felt that if we had to go out, we were going to go out on a high note. My friends and I supported each other so well, a ragtag group of Kiwis and Americans and Canadians and Swedes, all bonded by our love for New Zealand and our worries for each other. And we each bore the emotional weight of our situation with grace; everyone was allowed to mourn when they needed it, but we were able to put our sadness aside for plenty of happy moments. It is hard for college students to learn to accept that which we cannot control, because we are young enough to believe we can change anything and old enough to change a lot. But learn we did, and we put aside our frustration in favor of humanity, compassion and focusing on the things we could do.

The beautiful thing about time is that everything is sweeter in memory. Over the coming months and years, I know that my sadness about leaving will slowly be forgotten. What I will remember is the exquisite turquoise of New Zealand lakes and rivers, the feeling of driving on a winding mountain road and feeling lucky to be alive, and how the sky was so open and wide that it almost touched the earth. And when I remember the current crisis, I will remember how bonded I felt to everyone around me, how people often asked “how are you doing?” and really wanted to know. At a time when the world was at its worst, our humanity was at its best.


A Summer with Snakes

I spent this past summer in Grayling, Michigan working on a wildlife study through Purdue University Fort Wayne. This study was looking for the presence of snake fungal disease on lands owned by the state of Michigan. This is a widespread disease throughout the eastern United States, and we were there to determine where the disease was present in order to allow the environmental team to create a mitigation plan.

 This area was specifically chosen because it is home to a large concentration of the endangered snake species called massasauga. Though tracking the snakes themselves was not the primary objective, we did find several and recorded their presence for others on the environmental team to study. They are a species of rattlesnakes, but they are very timid. Their camouflage makes them hard to see, but once we still managed to find several over the course of the study. I enjoyed seeing them, and I thought it was interesting to learn about them. The graduate student told me their rattle does sound intimidating, but they only do so in order to alert other species of their presence because they do not want to be bothered. These snakes will always attempt to flee when they feel threatened and will only bite as a last resort if they feel cornered. My phone broke towards the end of my time there, so I don’t have any pictures, but this is an example of what they look like.

 I worked one-on-one with a graduate student who needed assistance doing field work for this study. Each workday, we would go into the field and collect soil samples, as well as measure pH, soil texture, and soil temperature. The soil samples that were taken were then analyzed for Snake Fungal Disease DNA. I thought it was interesting to apply the concepts I had learned in Soil Science to the field work I did in Michigan. In my free time there, I would go mountain biking at Boyne Highlands, and I also got to spend time kayaking. This was my second summer working with Purdue Fort Wayne to conduct wildlife studies. I had a great experience, and I would strongly recommend working with Purdue Fort Wayne’s biology department to any undergraduates who are interested in wildlife research.



Being a Part of Research at Purdue

There are many of us in NRES that want to make a positive impact when it comes to the environmental challenges we face as a global society. NRES students and staff have inspired me with the variety of options available and have shown what they look like. I have taken a keen interest in research in particular and finding ways to use it to generate insightful information that can be of important use in future decision making.

I recently finished some trials for a study on atmospheric CO2 level impacts on tomato plant immunity to a foliar pathogen (Botrytis cinerea) with an endophyte (Trichoderma harzianum) as its mutualistic partner aiding in said immunity. These trials were conducted in environmentally controlled CO2 chambers with help from staff at the Horticulture greenhouse and my PI (principal investigator) in the Soil Microbiology lab. The study can aid in better understanding how CO2 plays a role in plant immunity and if it worsens or improves plant health. Three different tomato plant species were also used to make comparisons of the species. These insights will allow decision makers to make decisions on the types of species that may be more efficient to use to grow tomatoes if one has better immunity than the others as CO2 levels continue to increase.

My project is just one of countless projects that can be done to gain knowledge for society to be better prepared with the coming changes that climate change will and is currently bringing about. My suggestion for those starting out in research fields of interest is to ask the professors who’s classes you enjoyed if they have positions available for an undergraduate research assistant. You can also do research for credit if there are not many options you find. Additionally, looking up or asking around about professors with your environmental interest, be it climate change, social sciences tied into environmental sciences, water quality, etc, goes a long way. Check out the papers the professor published and then send out an email expressing your interest in their research as well as a brief mention of who you are and why you are interested in working with them. 

I have found that working in a lab and getting to know my coworkers, graduate students, and postdocs have all helped shape and narrow down my interests in research. I have also gained key skills throughout the years in four different labs that have aided me in my current and future work as well. Typically an undergraduate researcher is doing the research formed and constructed by other people. However, once confidence and more understanding of the research process builds, there may be opportunities to create your own project and apply for funding as well. The Martin Agriculture Research scholarship is a fantastic resource for NRES upperclassmen to take advantage of and apply to conduct their research of interest and present at the Undergraduate research Conference at Purdue. I would also lastly recommend to not be afraid to use your imagination to create projects that can create meaningful impact. It is young scientists like us that are needed to find solutions and create a better understanding of the challenges we face and how they will impact human society and non-human beings at large. 

If you would love some guidance or ask more questions about this topic, I would happily oblige via my email sesquive@purdue.edu.



Education Beyond the Classroom

One of my favorite aspects of the NRES program is that the curriculum is designed to supplement book-work with hands-on experience. I’ve found that labs and other interactive activities in my courses have greatly enhanced my learning experience. I will give you a preview of some of my most engaging courses from the Fall 2020 semester and explain how they have been beneficial to my professional development.

In my “Soils and Landscapes” class (AGRY 565), we had weekly field trips to Purdue agricultural sites to practice soil classification. We learned how to identify various soil characteristics such as texture, color, and structure, which are valuable skills for students planning to pursue internships/careers with agencies such as the Natural Resources Conservation Service or environmental consulting firms.

In “Soil Biogeochemistry” (EAPS 518), we hand-collected soil samples and then performed biogeochemical field-tests to assess soil health. This class provided a unique opportunity for students to experience the entire research process, from sample collection to data analysis, and I found it was particularly helpful in my preparation for graduate school.

I was also enrolled in “Seminar in Environmental Education” (EDCI 516), which was different from my typical STEM-focused courses. We learned pedagogical techniques for teaching environmental science material (focused on K-12 students), and upon completion of the course, we earned certification in Project Learning Tree (PLT) Secondary Environmental Education Modules. My favorite part about this course is that it included a variety of excursions to practice the material, including a trip to Celery Bog for a tree-identification activity.

So, if you’re interested in a major that provides meaningful, practical experience (with the added bonus of getting outside during some classes) NRES may be for you!



Internship with NICHES

This summer I interned with NICHES Land Trust which was an amazing opportunity that taught me so much and allowed me numerous, unique experiences. NICHES protects land in west-central Indiana from development and restores woodlands and prairies for the public’s enjoyment. I have been volunteering with NICHES since fall of my freshman year and heard early-on about the potential to intern over the summer; I knew right-away it was something I wanted to do. A large part of my internship was spent learning about stewardship and working hands-on chemically and mechanically eradicating invasives, collecting and spreading native seeds, and transplanting plants such as trees and sedges to guide properties in the right direction. I was even able to be a part of great opportunities like hand pollinating orange fringed orchids, floating nearby creeks, co-leading an orchid hike, and helping at volunteer workdays. For three weeks, I helped run the NICHES kids summer camp where we explored properties, found neat animals, identified plants, and enjoyed the great outdoors. One of the most valuable things I learned while interning this summer was the immense amount of plant identification which would be hard to get anywhere else. My time with NICHES has shaped my future and affected my outlook on conservation by reinvigorating my passion for nature and solidifying my future plans to pursue a career in land conservation and ecological restoration. I strongly suggest taking advantage of internships early in your college career to better learn what field you want to enter and to gain work experience.  



Looking for Summer Internships

Second semester generally marks the time that we all start looking for summer internships. It may be stressful, so here are a list of tips for how to prep so it isn’t as overwhelming when you find an internship you want to apply for:

1. Look on job boards to see what kind of internships are available and where you would potentially like to apply. Checking the NRES internships and newsletter email can be a great place to start!

2. Update and look over your resume. Even if there isn’t anything new to add, looking over your resume to update formatting, punctuation, and small changes that make you feel prepared. You can find more information about resumes on Purdue’s CCO website.

3. Go to the FNR career fair. Even if you don’t see a specific internship you want to apply for, learning how to talk to different companies and organizations will make you feel more confident when talking to the place you want to apply. The next FNR career fair is February 10th, 2021 and is virtual!

Waterfall at Clifty Falls State Park, where I worked as a seasonal naturalist in the summer of 2019



Coming to Purdue from Out-of-State

One of the most asked questions asked amongst college students: Why did you chose the school you attend? In my opinion, I tend to answer that question more often than others. I am originally from New Orleans, which is roughly 900 miles south of Purdue University. The distance does not seem so far on paper, but I define both places as two different worlds. Currently, the Coronavirus pandemic only further amplifies the distance between my school and my home. I wanted to share why I chose to go out of state to hopefully ease some people who are also contemplating the decision of moving a couple hundred miles from home (or even thousands – Purdue has a lot of international student). I also expect everyone has some form of distance occurring in this time and may want some tips to learn more about how to handle the adaption. Below is a list a tips I found helpful.

  1. Look up extracurriculars to join that you find interesting. Boilerlink is a great way to look up clubs and groups that have similar interests. I also suggest going to about any club call-outs that are happening. The club may surprise you and you might even notice some people in the clubs you are checking out. Most majors also usually have clubs connected.
  2. Join study groups. Study groups will not only help you understand class materials, but they are a great resource in finding people who will be in the same classes as you at your time here at Purdue.
  3. Go to Purdue events. Events like career fairs, club fairs, sport events help you meet others with the same interests as you.
  4. Walk around campus. Simple walking (or running) across campus helps you learn Purdue’s campus and building locations. This just helps you around campus, especially when classes start up.
  5. Try new activities. (Related to the first tip) you could find some new hobbies and activities that introduce to people and help you around campus.
  6. Find a job. A job on or near campus automatically connects you to other students on campus. The job will also help you with time management and stability.

Hope everyone had happy holidays and a happy new year! Please feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions about Purdue. I am happy to talk to any perspective students, new students, or currents students that would like to learn more about the NRES community!