Gustavus Adolphus College junior Emily Seelen is the recipient of a 2011 Greater Research Opportunities Fellowship from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Fellowship provides up to $19,700 per year for the recipient’s junior and senior years and up to $9,500 of support for a three-month summer internship at an EPA facility.
Seelen, a St. Cloud native with a double major in Environmental Studies and Biology, is the second Gustavus student in as many years to receive the fellowship after senior Ethan Degner received the same award in 2010.
“I’m really excited to see this opportunity through,” Seelen said. “I’m also excited to see what opportunities might come out of this experience in the future.”
The Greater Research Opportunities Fellowship enhances and supports quality environmental education for undergraduates, and thereby encourages them to continue their education beyond the baccalaureate level, and pursue careers in environmentally-related fields, such as physics, biology, health, the social sciences, and engineering.
Seelen said she was first told about the fellowship by Assistant Professor of Geology Laura Triplett. Triplett suggested that Seelen talk to Associate Professor of Political Science Alisa Rosenthal, who also serves as Fellowships Coordinator for the College.
“Alisa was really supportive and guided me through the application process,” Seelen said. “It was a labor intensive project, especially during the last two weeks when I was finalizing my application.”
Seelen will find out later this winter where she will carry out her EPA internship during the summer of the 2012. Before she embarks on that experience, she has plans to study abroad during the spring semester in Namibia.
Through the Round River Conservation Studies Program, Seelen and others will be learning about environmental conservation and wildlife management in the Kunene Region of Namibia. As part of the program, Seelen will assist game guards in monthly game counts and long-term monitoring for endemic, endangered, and reintroduced species; assist five conservancies with wildlife inventories and habitat studies as part of a long-term monitoring study; and record observations of flora and fauna at both the Etosha National Park and the Skeleton Coast National Park.
In Namibia, Seelen will be able to draw on her experience conducting research in the field. Like many Gustavus students majoring in the sciences, Seelen has remained in St. Peter during the summer months to work with a faculty member and gain valuable research experience. Seelen spent this past summer conducting research with Associate Professor of Chemistry and Environmental Studies Jeff Jeremiason. Seelen traveled north to the Marcell Experimental Forest near Grand Rapids, Minn., to collect water samples that were then analyzed for trace metals and mercury using the College’s Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer.
“Emily’s experience in geology, chemistry, and biology all helped her to have a successful summer research experience, which will hopefully result in a couple scientific publications for her,” Jeremiason said.
Jeremiason presented a collaboration of research that Seelen was a part of at the 10th International Conference on Mercury as a Global Pollutant in Halifax, Nova Scotia in July. Seelen then presented her research at the Midstates Consortium for Math and Science at the University of Chicago this fall.
“Emily has a unique combination of enthusiasm, intellectual curiosity, and intelligence for learning,” Jeremiason said. “Learning is not work to her, but an extension of her curiosity, which makes her an ideal student in an interdisciplinary field like environmental studies.”
Seelen says that after she graduates from Gustavus in the spring of 2013 she would like to attend graduate school and eventually pursue a career in watershed science, environmental engineering, or wetland restoration operations.
“I’d really like to thank the faculty here at Gustavus. Laura, Jeff, and Alisa did so much to push me out of my comfort zone and help guide me,” Seelen said. “In my two and a half years at Gustavus I’ve learned a lot about myself, my future career, and how to take my education beyond writing essays and taking exams.”
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