From Student to Steward

by Danielle Seeley ’13

My studies at Bard have given me a solid foundation of knowledge that was beneficial for my internship with the Maryland Sierra Club. It provided me with an interdisciplinary view of complex environmental issues which fully prepared me to offer solutions with confidence at my internship.

The majority of my time at the Sierra Club was spent planning environmental advocacy events, called conservation outings. At these events, I would: take participants out on kayak trips, hikes, bike rides, and walks to enjoy nature; talk about the current threats to pristine natural resources in the community; and provide ways to get involved with protecting these areas that the participants care about. To have a successful trip, I was required to: have a comprehensive knowledge of these natural areas, know what the current threats are, learn who important stakeholders are, invite key players to join and offer knowledge, and plan these events well in advance to ensure good turnout. As you can imagine, it was extremely beneficial for me to have strong research abilities to provide thorough, interesting, and approachable information to participants; a thorough understanding of scientific literature format and language to understand complex environmental issues; communication skills for confidently presenting at these events; and strong writing skills to provide scripts and reports for future conservation outing leaders to use. This internship further also refined both my written and verbal communication skills because of the numerous collaborative efforts that went into planning these Sierra Club conservation outings.

Dominion LNG Cove Point Hike at Calvert Cliffs State Park

On our Charles County Water Campaign Outings, members enjoyed kayak trips along the Mattawoman Creek in Indian Head, MD. These trips displayed the pristine but sensitive ecosystem that the County Commissioners are currently threatening to develop through adopting an outdated and ineffective Land Use Plan. It was important for me to be able to draw on knowledge from my first year at BCEP to understand the connections between the specific land use policies and the implications that it would have on the aesthetic value, recreational value, and local economic value of the County. Valuation of land through internalization of monetary benefits to property owners was an important theory that I pulled on from Environmental Economics to produce talks for these outings and for county advocacy meetings.

Mattawoman Creek Kayak Trip in Indian Head, MD

For more information about the Mattawoman Kayak Outing, check out this MD Sierra Club Chesapeake article:

For a Beyond Coal Outing, we led members on kayak trips along Dundee Creek near Baltimore. On the water, we looked at the old, outdated CP Crane coal plant and talked about the impacts of air pollution on the surrounding communities. When preparing materials for this outing, I thought back to the case studies covered in our environmental policy class about environmental justice and incorporated this into the outing. As we covered in our case studies of Baltimore, Maryland, environmental justice plagued this area for generations and unfortunately still does today. In addition, we invited an environmental justice advocate from the Chesapeake Bay area into our office for one day of our brown bags lunch series during this summer. Because of my past coursework and access this representative’s environmental justices experiences, we were able to knowledgably inspire the materials for these Beyond Coal Outings.

Beyond Coal Kayak Trip in Baltimore, MD

For more on the Beyond Coal Kayak Outing, check out this Baltimore Sun article:

In addition, we led a Prince George’s County Bike trip to discuss the County MS4 Plan with members in the community. Using the script and maps, we biked round trip from Bladensburg Waterfront Park to Lake Artemesia and provided participants with opportunities to send postcards urging PG County officials to adopt stronger stormwater management (MS4) policies. For producing materials before this outing, I referenced Environmental Law lessons and Environmental Science classes that covered the Clean Water Act’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit programs. Specifically, I referenced the lessons that covered the necessary laws behind Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s) and the science behind why they are so important for counties with high population densities and storm sewer systems.

MS4 Hike at Gunpowder Falls State Park near Baltimore, MD

Although the majority of my internship duties included advocacy work, this work would not have been nearly as successful if I was not able to quickly produce work with the confidence and research knowledge that Bard has equipped me with. Successfully researching, planning, facilitating, and delegating responsibilities for these outings would not be possible without the hard work of other interns and staff, dedicated members, and collaborating organizations. The passion that they have for the environment endlessly fuels their accomplishments with the Sierra Club and it is so inspiring! I intend on staying involved with the Sierra Club and cannot wait to see what we can accomplish in the coming years!

Maryland Sierra Club Summer 2012 Interns at Mattawoman Creek Kayak Outing


About Danielle Seeley