Driving to the NEAEB Conference through a Storm at Midnight

By Anju Shrestha, Second Year Graduate Student of ES & P

I had immense pleasure in participating in the 41st New England Association of Environmental Biologist (NEAEB) conference on March 14-16, 2017 in the Hilton Hotel, Hartford, Connecticut. This conference was hosted by the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC). Hundreds of people from the New England region (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont) and beyond gathered to exchange their research projects in this annual forum which provided a temporary formal gathering place to enhance the advancement of environmental protection and management of the region’s aquatic resources. This conference also helped to build professional networks that allow for meaningful collaboration.

To escape the winter storm, Donovan King and I drove down to Connecticut at 2 am on March 14 to attend the conference. The storm began midway, but we drove cautiously and reached the destination at 6:30 am. This journey started at midnight and has given me a fruitful memory.

I also gave a poster presentation of preliminary results from my research on phosphorus analysis. I am working as graduate research assistant under Dr. Mark B. Green, my supervisor. Dr. Green is working as a hydrologist in the Northern station of the US Forest Service and he is an associate professor of hydrology at Plymouth State University (PSU). Dr. Joseph N. Boyer is also helping in our research with his extensive knowledge on phosphorus. We are looking at the temporal variability of the concentration of phosphorus in a stream that feeds into Squam Lake, New Hampshire. I did three storm samplings in summer 2016 by using an ISCO sampler to measure phosphorus concentration in the stream to Squam Lake in an hourly resolution during storm events and tried to see how it changed with the percent of new water and unit discharge in the stream.

At the conference, many people from all around visited my poster heavily and interacted with me about the results of my research and the methods I used. They were interested to use the methods I followed in their region to monitor phosphorus for better management of the streams. I was so glad to explain my work to distinguished persons from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Service (NHDES), United States Geological Service (USGS), Maine Department of Environmental Protection, United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), and many others. The conference gave me the platform to see the work of people from the New England region with similar interests as mine. It helped us to meet, discuss common issues in the region, and exchange ideas. I am so grateful to my supervisor for giving me opportunity to participate in the NEAEB conference.

Presenting poster in 41st NEAEB Conference in Hartford, Connecticut

Presenting my poster at the 41st NEAEB Conference in Hartford, Connecticut

Tales from a First-Year Graduate Student

As a first-year graduate student, the most frequent question I am asked upon meeting people is, “And what do you want to do with that?”. This question, of course, is in response to learning that I am a Master’s candidate in the Environmental Science and Policy field. I used to wholeheartedly humor these people with “maybe this” or “probably that” answers, when I really wanted to say I had no idea. That’s not the case so much anymore. I still don’t have a dream job in mind, but my research project and related thesis have definitely given me more direction.

Along with my advisor, Dr. Shannon Rogers, I am part of an EPA project focused on the valuation of water quality improvements in small streams flowing into the Great Bay Estuary (tributaries), and associated ecosystem services. Simply put, ecosystem services are benefits derived from healthy and functioning ecosystems such as clean drinking water, recreational opportunities, and increased wildlife presence. This assessment is necessary because the state of the Great Bay is at risk due to increased development and human activity throughout the watershed. So who will be judging the value of these improvements and ecosystem services you might ask? Well the answer is stakeholders and citizens throughout the four-targeted tributaries, namely: the Lamprey, Winnicut, Cocheco, and Oyster rivers.

map-of-great-bay Map of the Great Bay Estuary aerial-picture-of-great-bayAerial photo of the Great Bay                                                                                                    Estuary

Branching off this topic, my thesis research concerns which characteristics, if any, will affect people’s decision-making in relation to water quality improvements and associated ecosystem services. The characteristics I will address are distance, community type, time of residence, tributary, and demographic. These characteristics, as well as the valuation, will be determined by way of a questionnaire that respondents will fill out during a series of workshops.

But what does all of this have to do with my future aspirations? Quite a lot actually! Doing research for this aspect of the project, along with many experiences throughout my time at PSU thus far have shown me that I am fascinated by people. More so than this, I am intrigued by thought processing, human interaction, and effective communication. For example, if my research finds that certain characteristics correlate with less value of the Great Bay than others, it could reveal the necessity for more effective education and communication to those groups. This is where my passion comes in. I love talking to new people, learning from them, and sharing my knowledge with them.

Anyways, I am still in shock that it is already my second semester of graduate school. Nonetheless, the pieces to the grand puzzle that is my life slowly fall in place evermore. It definitely helps to be in such a beautiful area surrounded equally beautiful people who are quickly becoming some of my closest friends.

plymouth-2Beautiful area

esp-classBeautiful people