• Kelli Park and Elizabeth Medlock Kakaley (ed.)

Kelli Park shares her enthusiasm for freshwater ecology

CSETAC would like to recognize some of the student presentation winners from our 2018 Annual Meeting in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. Kelli Park is a former student at Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina and the 3rd place student platform presentation winner; below she shares her enthusiasm for for freshwater ecology and communicating science through outreach.

I have had multiple inspirational science teachers growing up, and I am very thankful for all of them. Without their encouragement I would not be where I am today. My interest in science started as a 5th grade student in Warrenton, Virginia. I was thrown into an advanced science class a few weeks after school had started, and can distinctly remember being confused with terminology including "variables" and "controls." Eventually I caught up and biology quickly became my favorite subject, which made it easy to decide on being a Biology major going into James Madison University. One of my first elective classes that I took was a field Freshwater Ecology course-and and I was hooked! From there, I worked on a semester project using macroinvertebrates and found that I loved aquatic insects. This new passion helped me shape my Graduate School thesis project at Appalachian State University under the advisement of Dr. Shea Tuberty. I was interested in how wastewater treatment plants in the headwaters of the southern Appalachian Mountains impacted macroinvertebrate assemblage and productivity. Understanding the effects of wastewater effluent on these water bodies is important since most wastewater studies have only been done in higher order streams.

My passion for protecting the integrity of our stream systems motivates me to get involved with the efforts to preserve streams as a citizen, and to promote understanding as well as provide reliable data as a scientist. I have volunteered with stream clean ups, stream preservation organizations, and educational outreach activities. Spreading awareness is the best way to instill a passion onto others for protecting our environment!

Life is all about balance. When I am not at work I can be found riding my horse of 13 years, playing with my dogs, hanging out with friends, hiking, or of course; in the rivers. My parents and friends are also a major source of motivation as their unconditional support reminds me that even when I feel like I have hit a brick wall, I can figure out a way around it.

Note: Kelli has since successfully defended her Master’s Thesis and graduated from Appalachian State. She currently is employed by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality.

#studentaward #sciencecommunication