Sustainability Education University of Minnesota Tue, 30 Jun 2015 16:52:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Students: Attend the AASHE Conference this Year Tue, 30 Jun 2015 16:52:51 +0000 UMD Sustainability AASHE


Why should a student go to AASHE?

  • Share strategies with other sustainability activists and professionals from around the world
  • Learn about career options in sustainability
  • Develop valuable networking skills
  • Make professional connections that can lead to career opportunities
  • Meet sustainability celebrities
  • Widen your understanding of environmental and sustainability issues, challenges, and solutions

AASHE (Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education) draws attendees from several countries with diverse roles at their home institutions. Many are enthusiastic undergraduates employed by their colleges’ sustainability offices or departments, while others are passionate student volunteers and activists for their campuses and communities.

My story

As an undergraduate student at the University of Minnesota, few experiences were more valuable to my career development than attending the AASHE Conferences in 2013 and 2014. Some professional skills are better taught in a gathering of a thousand potential colleagues rather than a classroom. As a student attendee, I was able to practice networking and presenting research while absorbing knowledge through everything from formal seminars to casual conversations during lunch.

The AASHE conference provided a wonderful opportunity to converse with students of surprisingly different backgrounds from my own. One morning I found myself in a roundtable discussion with several residents of southern California. No matter what sustainability issues were brought up, our conversation constantly gravitated toward water conservation. As an environmental management student, I certainly understood the importance of water conservation, but as a Minnesotan, I had never spoken with a group who discussed it at such length and with such alarm. It was an excellent reminder that sustainability issues vary substantially with geography, and some of the most pressing national or global issues may be unappreciated where they are not in plain sight. This was just one of many eye-opening conversations I had at AASHE, from hidden aspects of Kentucky’s coal industry to live-saving agricultural innovations in the Global South.

This October, even more Minnesota students can be as fortunate as I was. The conference is coming to the Minneapolis Convention Center, substantially cutting the cost of attendance for Minnesota students. Sustainability Education is looking for enthusiastic students to represent the University of Minnesota for this year’s conference, and I would urge any aspiring sustainability professional to seize the opportunity.

Apply Here

Incoming freshmen are encouraged to apply!


Photo Credit: University of Minnesota Duluth Office of Sustainability (Twitter)

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Podcast: Food Freedom and the Indigenous Perspective Tue, 16 Jun 2015 13:39:24 +0000 UMN Native American Medicine Gardens (1)

Our good friend Francis Bettelyoun, director of the U of M Native American Medicine Gardens, was a featured guest on AM 950. Join the discussion on the need to recognize our impacts and consciously respect our surroundings.


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Attend the Paris Climate Talks Mon, 15 Jun 2015 12:44:38 +0000 Paris

Do you want to be in Paris this fall, at the exact moment when world leaders are negotiating the terms of a global climate change agreement?  If you say yes, then please fill out a VERY SHORT (200 words plus your resume or CV or just your list of qualifications) application for this once-in-a-lifetime study abroad opportunity.


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Job in Policy Research (Freshwater Society) Tue, 09 Jun 2015 14:27:16 +0000 Freshwater Society is looking for a student or recent graduate to assist with research and writing related to Minnesota water issues. This intern will work closely with a team who is working on current issues related to groundwater availability and non-point source pollution related to agriculture. (

For more information and to apply, see the job announcement below:

Policy Research Position (pdf)

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Summer Credits at WEI’s Organic Farm Wed, 27 May 2015 14:37:59 +0000 GWSS 3920 banner


Experiential learning course teaches methods of organic farming in a feminist environmentalist framework. Learn, farm, and eat together!


Open to All Students

U of M Students Register through GWSS

(All other college students contact Tracy Deutsch (see below))


Course Description

GWSS 3290 is a 3-week special summer session course coordinated and taught by Jacquelyn Zita, Farm Manager and Director of Education at the Women’s Environmental Institute and Emeritus Professor in Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies at the University of Minnesota.  This study will include practical hands-on learning of farm skills for organically certified farming and also experience working on the Amador Hill farm crew. The experience will be framed by readings on the global food system, history of agriculture in the U.S., and biology and science of organic farming, and literature drawn from food studies, agriculture studies and critical race and gender studies.The farm-based educational components of this class will include the specifics of greenhouse care, soil care, field management, pest and weed identification, forest foraging, aquaponic fish and vermiculture care , and intensive microgreen and mushroom production.  In addition students will learn how to cook and prepare meals with fresh farm produce, how to save seed, how to grow soil from compost, how to preserve food for winter, and how to live-with-the-farm during the challenges of seasonal and climate change. All students will have an opportunity to participate in WEI’s booth at the Mill City Farmer’s Market or the North Branch Farmer’s Market and in one of WEI’s urban farm projects.

Students will register for three credits through the Department of Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies at the University of Minnesota. Students from other colleges and universities may also register for the class; contact Tracey Deutsch at for more information on this option.

Student may elect to extend their credits through a directed studies contract with the instructor, particularly if that enables them to access financial aid.  These projects must be related to WEI’s work and mission as an organically certified training farm and would be due before the end of summer, August 28.  Approval of directed studies contracts from the instructor is required.

Professor/farmer Jacquelyn Zita will serve as site supervisor and academic supervisor for enrolled students.

Residency at the WEI Eco-Retreat Center will run from Monday evening to mid-afternoon Friday.  Each day will include morning and early afternoon farming, study and readings (all readings on reserve in the WEI library), class discussions and technical workshops, journal writing and research for a special project, and the experience of cooking and living together. Students will be expected to complete all assigned readings and writing assignments, complete a special group project of their own design relevant to the on-going activities at the Amador Hill Farm, and work with the farm crew 26 hours per week. A typical week in GWSS 3290 will include a meeting in the Twin Cities Monday late afternoon (prior to the WEI’s Organic Farm School class at the Birchwood Café in South Minneapolis 6:00-8:30 p.m.)  Residency at the WEI Eco-Retreat Center will run from late Monday evening to mid-afternoon Friday.  Students are not allowed to stay at WEI over the weekends.  Course fee of $1400 covers meals, living expenses, and instructional materials while in residence.

Course Objectives

  • To develop an understanding of the biological and ecological knowledge for running a four-season agro-ecological organically certified farm
  • To learn the skills, team building and the knowledge needed to meet the challenge of working on a rigorous and high-functioning farm crew.
  • To understand the larger social context of food politics, organic farming, the history of agriculture and the food system.
  • To develop food and farming literacy and a lifelong set of skills for sustainable living, including cooking, storing, preserving, and enjoying fresh, organic sustenance.
  • To make connections between farming, food and environmental justice in a feminist gender studies framework


  • Early morning to early afternoon work on the farm with training sessions and participation on regular farm crew; hands-on farmer training.  30%
  • Participation in class discussions and sharing from journal 10%
  • Short papers on reading guided questions.  30%
  • Work on student group project. 20%
  • One day at the farmer’s markets. 5%
  • Participation in household, menu planning, cooking and clean up duties. 5%

Students will be expected to keep a journal on their experience and learning goals to be shared with the class


Photo Source

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Summer Jobs with Urban Research & Outreach-Engagement Center Fri, 08 May 2015 19:36:17 +0000 491318922_f1df2d553d_b

Juniors, Seniors and Grad Students

The Robert J. Jones Urban Research and Outreach-Engagement Center (UROC) is hiring for multiple positions this summer, with several positions presenting an opportunity to continue into the fall semester.  They are particularly looking for juniors, seniors and grad students that may have interest in the following opportunities. Apply here.

Northside Achievement Zone Community Survey

  • Part-Time Data Collector
    • Open to all students and community members
    • 20 hours/week this summer
    • Up to $14/hour

Mapping the Demand for Sex with Trafficking People in Minnesota

  • .5 GRA’s
    • Summer and fall/spring 2015-2016
    • $18+tuition benefits during the fall/spring semesters
  • Project Research Assistant
    • 10-20 hours/week this summer
    • Up to $18/hour

Nice Ride Neighborhood, Wheel Being, and Equity and Bike Sharing Evaluation

  • .5 GRA’s
    • Summer and fall 2015
    • $18+tuition benefits during the fall semester
  • Part-Time Data Collector
    • 10-20 hours/week this summer and fall
    • Up to $18/hour

Northside Achievement Zone NAZ – Family Academy Curriculum and Model Development

  • .5 GRA’s
    • Summer and fall/spring 2015-2016
    • $18+tuition benefits during the fall/spring semesters

Capacity-building for YPAR on Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Youth

  • Part-Time Data Collector
    • 10-20 hours/week this summer and fall
    • Up to $18/hour

UROC GRA’s – Writing/Documentation/Research

  • .5 GRA’s and .25 GRA’s
    • Summer and fall/spring 2015-2016
    • $18+tuition benefits during the fall/spring semesters


Photo Credit: Steve Lyon

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Internships with Urban Oasis: Summer and Fall 2015 Fri, 08 May 2015 18:32:44 +0000 Urban Oasis cropped

Urban Oasis is an up-and-coming food justice organization in St. Paul. Since its inception in 2013, it has worked to establish community and cross-cultural education through food-based learning events. Moving forward it hopes to become a year-round source of fresh foods and provide affordable cooking classes.

For more info and to apply contact:

Urban Oasis Marketing and Communications Intern

Help shape the narrative at the forefront of the local food movement. We are seeking an experienced individual with exceptional organization and communication skills to serve as a marketing intern on the Marketing and Communications team. This person will conduct research projects to help the team launch marketing, communications, and public relations campaigns. You’ll develop writing clips for your portfolio as you work with our experienced marketing director, who has executed campaigns for clients and advertising agencies in a wide variety of industries. And you’ll get a chance to work with our energetic staff who are passionate about changing the local food system.

Urban Oasis Food Systems Intern

The Administrative team will coordinate an internship to advance research and program support to make our entire team more effective. Our Food Systems interns help coordinate our exciting summer Railgating opportunity during St. Paul Saints games at their CHS Field in Lowertown. Interns may also provides additional support to our Healthy Meal­Making program, a 10­week cooking class for adults.

Children’s Lead intern for Healthy Meals in a SNAP!

Make an impact on children through our healthy food curriculum this summer! During our Healthy Meals in a SNAP! (HSNAP) program for SNAP participants we offer a separate children’s curriculum while parents are learning new healthy meal­making skills. We need experienced volunteers to lead the 10­week children’s class and support the teachers. Our lead intern will coordinate and run the HSNAP children’s program from June 18th ­ Aug 20th, managing the support volunteers and the curriculum for students ages 5 ­ 18. Public Health Field Placement​­ Fall 2015 Join Urban Oasis staff as we nourish consumers in our cooking classes! Our Healthy Meal Making Program (HMMP) is looking for a Public Health student to do follow­up interviews and evaluation with HMMP pilot participants. This professional placement can be coordinated for credit through the School of Public Health. As we support healthy eaters who are building on their kitchen strengths, this field placement will help provide critical data to help shape our ongoing programming.

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Tonight Only! Food Chains Screening Thu, 07 May 2015 17:30:04 +0000

As spring semester winds down, we finally have time to watch Netflix, bike around our beautiful city, and get going on all of those cool projects we meant to do last summer. If only there was something to do tonight…

Oh, yeah! The final installment of the 5th Annual Sustainability Film Series is tonight! Don’t worry; we wouldn’t let you forget.

Come on down to the Bell Museum tonight for a 6:30 showing of Food Chains, a film documenting the hunger strike farmworkers launched against the Publix supermarket corporate machine in Florida a few years ago. Get educated on the exploitation that brings you your bananas and the wage theft that makes your coffee so cheap.

Sustainability angles spend plenty of time talking about the soil, chemicals, and preservatives that touch our food. It’s time we start thinking about and caring for the hands that pick it as well.

RSVP here: Food Chains Facebook Event!

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New Internship Opportunities Fri, 17 Apr 2015 19:04:54 +0000 3659350433_3bccc07033_b

The USDA FOREST SERVICE HAS ANNOUNCED TWO INTERNSHIPS in natural resource management. The internships are being offered through the Student Conservation Association (SCA) in partnership with the Alaska Region of the Forest Service Regional Partnership Office and the Juneau Forestry Sciences Lab. Both positions are for 12 weeks, beginning June 1, 2015 and are eligible for: $100/week stipend and $25/week commuting allowance. Government housing and/or housing allowance may be available.


U.S. FOREST SERVICE PARTNERSHIP & COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT INTERNSHIP will have the opportunity to work with dozens of organizations across Alaska, helping expand the Forest Service’s capacity to work with partners. This position will be eligible for an AmeriCorps education award of $1,493 upon certification of successful completion. The partnership position may include coordinating training events; conducting surveys of current and potential Forest Service partners in Alaska; collaborating with Forest Service Public Affairs staff on a range of digital media products, including video shorts profiling successful partnerships in the Alaska Region, blogs, and social media campaigns. Specific responsibilities will reflect the incumbent’s specific experience, training, and interests. For more information on this position, contact George Schaaf at 907-957-0904. To apply, send a resume and cover letter to with “SCA Application” in the email subject.


The JUNEAU FORESTRY SCIENCES LAB RESEARCH INTERNSHIP is a rare opportunity to work with social and biophysical scientists on studies that combine natural, social and cultural sciences to explore the human effects of climate change. The research position may include coordinating and assisting with summarizing research reports, conducting internet searches, reading journal articles and research reports and organizing and reporting findings. There may also be an opportunity to assist a graduate student in collecting data by interviewing visitors to various sites around Juneau. For more information on this position, contact Linda Kruger at (907) 586-7814. To apply, send a resume and cover letter to lkruger@fs.fed.uswith “SCA Application” in the email subject.


WRANGELL MOUNTAIN CENTER is hiring for the following internship or work-trade opportunities:
GENERAL INTERNSHIP – Help out with all aspects of operations. Intern will be responsible for cooking for large groups of people; helping to maintain organic garden; assisting with manual labor including cleaning, composting, and water pumping; ensuring a warm and well-organized environment for staff and program participants; providing administrative support including program marketing; orienting participants, guests, and students to the systems and customs of the WMC.
GARDEN INTERNSHIP – The Garden Intern is responsible for managing the food production and harvest from the WMC gardens and greenhouse. He/she will be coordinate planting, growing, harvesting, and preparing food (when applicable). He/she will work under the guidance of local expert gardeners. In exchange the Garden Intern will travel approximately bi-monthly to the mentor’s property to assist them. The season runs from approximately May 10 – September 10. Interns are expected to work approximately 30 hours a week in exchange for room and board. The Wrangell Mountains Center is an equal opportunity employer. For full job descriptions, go to


SPRING CREEK FARM INTERNSHIP OPPORTUNITIES for SUMMER 2015 a project of Alaska Pacific University located in Palmer. The position runs from the beginning of May to the end of September. Flexibility around a university schedule is possible for the right applicant. Interns are required to work 32 hours per week. During this time they will participate in all aspects of small scale sustainable farming, from greenhouse propagation to selling our produce at market and everywhere in between.Compensation: Private 8×10 wall tent, farm veggies, and a $300/ month educational stipend. Accommodations: Interns are housed on the farm, in wall tents, and supplied with a cot or air mattress. Interns will have full access to a shared house with bathrooms, kitchen, computer lab, washing machine/dryer and indoor living space. Everyone is expected to share in the routine clean-up and care of the house. The farm is 3 miles from downtown Palmer. Regular trips to town are made for supplies and socializing.


Requirements: The ideal candidate is passionate about the food movement, can lift 50 pounds, and has a willingness to work hard in the field rain or shine. Some farming or gardening experience is preferred but not required. Preference will be given to Alaskans with a bachelor’s degree.
Application: Please send three references, a resume and cover letter to: Megan Talley For more information, go to


**PART-TIME, TEMPORARY EMPLOYEE for a GIS PROJECT to map a city’s water, sewer, and stormwater systems in ArcGIS at Solstice Alaska Consulting, Inc. (Solstice. The employee would work for no more than 4 hours per day for a period of approximately 2-3 months, depending on the final scope of the project. This position would begin immediately or as determined upon the applicant’s availability to begin. Work would be conducted onsite in Anchorage, and all equipment would be provided. Some training would be provided. This is a paid position. Compensation will be discussed upon application. Requirements: Demonstrated ArcGIS experience and/or coursework. Third year/junior level coursework completed, including ArcGIS 268 or equivalent (preferred). Ability to travel to an Anchorage-based office location. The applicant is expected to provide his/her own transportation to the office location. Availability to work no more than 4 hours per day for 2-3 months. To Apply: Applicants will be evaluated on a rolling basis. Interested applicants should apply by email to Robin Reich at with the following information. An email that details your interest in and availability for this work and a résumé that includes ArcGIS qualifications. Note to Interested Students: Applicants are not required to be current students in order to apply for this position; however, students are encouraged to apply. If the applicant is a student, the employer is open to this position being leveraged as an internship or career-building experience if the student works independently with its associated college or university to seek credit as required by the individual school’s policies or career service center. See for additional information.


**SEASONAL SUMMER CAMP ASSISTANT for the Alaska Zoo Education Department. This seasonal, full-time position involves aiding the Camp Coordinators in the smooth running of Summer Adventure camps. Candidate must possess the ability to work well individually and as a team, and must be comfortable working with and around all age groups, especially children. Excellent communication, organization and time management skills are a must. Candidate must have a clean background and submit to a full background check, in addition to holding a valid Alaska driver’s license. Work hours will vary with some evenings and weekends required based on program schedules. This position will be hired to work through the end of August and the pay is $10/hour. Interested parties should email a cover letter and resume to Stephanie Hartman


MARINE MAMMAL TECHNICIAN – One (1) temporary position is available with the CENTER FOR ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT of MILITARY LANDS (CEMML) at the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER) in Anchorage. The technician will assist with monitoring and management of marine mammals (primarily the endangered Cook Inlet beluga whale) in Knik Arm and Eagle River. Minimum Qualifications: U.S. citizenship. BS/BA degree in marine biology, biology, ecology, natural resources, wildlife, fisheries or related field. Ability to traverse rough terrain and work outdoors in weather extremes. Valid driver’s license. Appointment is contingent on successful completion of a background check. Desirable Qualifications
Flexibility in work hours, including weekends. Experience working with endangered species. Experience monitoring marine mammals, especially land-based visual monitoring. Experience conducting behavioral observations of cetaceans. Experience operating a small boat in coastal Alaskan waters (or similar cold water, extreme tide environment). Experience working with passive acoustic monitoring equipment (dipping hydrophones, C-POD, Decimus, etc). Experience working with active sonar (DIDSON). Ability to work extended hours alone in bear country. Experience performing data entry and management. Experience working on a military installation. Duration: Temporary positions with Colorado State University – CEMML are limited in duration and the availability of funding. Seasonal positions will last approximately 5.5 months, starting early June 2015(dates are somewhat flexible and coordinated with JBER marine mammal lead). Pay Rate: Pay rate is commensurate with experience and qualifications. Range: $17 – $20.71/hr and commensurate with experience and qualifications. Continuation of the position is dependent on the receipt of funding from the sponsor for marine mammal efforts at JBER. To Apply: Email a resume, contact information for three (3) references, college transcripts (unofficial OK), and a brief cover letter describing your qualifications for this position to ATTN: Ms. Cassandra Schoofs,


Research Associate, at For more information concerning the position, contact Christopher Garner at closes on May 1.


PLEASE NOTE: Travel expenses to Alaska will NOT be paid. NO housing will be provided. Duration of position is dependent on continuation of funding for marine mammal projects. Qualified applicants will be contacted to schedule a telephone interview. If selected, applicants will need to undergo and pass a background check online or by mail before they can officially be offered the position.


ALASKA CENTER for the ENVIRONMENT (ACE) is hiring FULL-TIME, SUMMER POSITIONS for a CANVASS TEAM. We will be working on high energy, faced paced conservation campaigns throughout the state alongside volunteers, organizers, and conservation leaders! Must be outgoing and willing to talk to a wide range of Alaskans about controversial issues and have the ability to work evenings. Pay is dependent on experience. Interviews and hiring will occur on a rolling basis. Please email ACE’s Canvass Director, Kati Ward, at with questions. To apply, send your resume and cover letter


COPPER RIVER WATERSHED PROJECT is seeking an AmeriCorps Volunteer or an Operations Manager. Applications are available at


To see the POSITIONS AVAILABLE at CALYPSO FARM AND ECOLOGY CENTER in Ester, near Fairbanks, go to


YOUTH EMPLOYMENT JOBS IN ANCHORAGE PARKS are now hiring for the summer of 2015. Positions include: YEP Program Assistant (1 position); YEP Project Crew Leader (4 positions); YEP Senior Crew Member (5 positions); and YEP Crew Member (21 positions). For more information about the YEP program, positions, and how to apply, go to All jobs are located in Anchorage.


AMERICORPS VISTA for the ALASKA FOOD POLICY COUNCIL to conduct outreach, coalition development, grant writing and fundraising to further the structure and sustainability of the AFPC. This is a one-year position located with the AK Dept. of Health and Social Services in Anchorage. The AFPC VISTA must be passionate about improving the local food system for all Alaskans. This person must be capable and experienced at working independently. This person must demonstrate leadership, relationship building, written communication, and public speaking skills. Experience and skills in grant writing and fundraising is critical. Experience working with a non-profit agency a plus. A comfortable familiarity with Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Google, Facebook, and Twitter is needed. Experience in some aspect of the food system (agriculture, fishing, health, hunger, or food industry) would be beneficial. Alaska offers many exciting adventures for outdoor enthusiasts (or those who just appreciate nature’s beauty!) In Anchorage you’ll find all the typical big city amenities with easy access to the wilderness. Benefits include: Monthly living allowance ($1,222), relocation costs ($0.34/mile up to $1000) and settling in allowance ($550), health benefits, child care assistance, training, and an Education Award ($5,730). For more information and to apply for this position, visit:




EDUCATION PROGRAM ASSISTANT: Salary $10/hr. Position will assist the Executive Director and our participating Partners in conducting outdoor education programs, primarily K-12 age group. Responsibilities include: 1. Assist in planning and implementing a variety of summer activities including day hikes, skills workshops, outdoor art projects, science-themed overnight camps, citizen science projects, and volunteer work parties. 2. Plan and present lessons on topics such as boreal forest ecology, salmon life cycle, map reading, plant identification, skins and skulls, etc. 3. Do community outreach and partnership building with native villages, state and federal agencies, other area non-profits, and schools. 4. Program logistics including taking care of equipment, menu planning and food preparation, participant paperwork, land use permissions, and risk management. 5. Assist with citizen science and community based research, including Salmon Blitz and the Willow Creek Research Project. 6. Plan and complete special projects such as: o Develop new lesson plans, curriculum, or activities; o Assemble collections of resources for specific topics; o Write newsletter or newspaper articles


SUMMER TOUR GUIDE/ NATURALIST -Salary will be $17-$20 per hour depending on experience, and tips. Work will be part time to full time, depending on bookings. Naturalist is responsible for conducting Copper River Country Nature Tours (see for additional details). The tour consists of a van ride and nature walks, including subjects on the natural and cultural history of the Copper River Valley. Duties include: 1. Conduct tours, including group presentations, campsite preparation, and equipment maintenance and inventory. Tour group size will be between 2-12 clients. 2. Prepare and deliver unique presentations on the subjects listed above. 3. Drive the tour van between Princess Lodge and the campsite location. 4. Lead clients on nature walks of up to 1.5 miles round trip. 5. Inform clients about safety issues at appropriate points during the tour, including issues relating to the van ride, stops, campsite activities, and the walk.


WILLOW CREEK RESEARCH ASSISTANT Salary $10/hr. The research assistant will work in the Willow Creek Research Project in an effort to determine factors affecting quality and quantity of water in the Willow Creek watershed. The assistant will help in the placement and operation of research equipment and in the gathering and recording of data. Much of the work will take place outdoors, often in wet settings or while standing in flowing water. This position will provide direct experience and training in biological, hydrological, and ecological field research and may prove beneficial should the assistant decide to pursue these or related careers.
Please submit letter of interest to Robin Mayo, WISE, HC60 Bocx 338A, Copper Center, AK 99573. For further details, contact 907-822-3575or email


Photo credit (cropped): Peter Blanchard

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Clean Water Rules! A Visit from EPA Head Gina McCarthy Thu, 16 Apr 2015 17:13:43 +0000

In case you missed this fall’s social media war, there has been quite a bit of heat surrounding the EPA’s initiative to clarify and close loopholes in the Clean Water Act. Rarely does the tedious process of administrative rulemaking generate this kind of public controversy. When agricultural interests launched the #DitchTheRule hashtag, the EPA responded with its own– #DitchTheMyth, which emphasized the exemption of normal farming activities under the new rule. After more than a year of drafting, hearings, and public comment, the Clean Water Rule is nearly on the books.

Last Tuesday EPA head Gina McCarthy visited the St. Paul Student Center to discuss the motivations behind the new rule and help dispel misconceptions. Her talk was preceded a panel of Minnesota clean water leaders who empahsized the particular importance of the rule to Minnesota. First, Congresswoman Betty McCullum spoke. “I can tell you the gory details of what that river looked like growing up, and it’s amazing what the Clean Water Act has done.” Clean water helps ensure long-term economic health, and is especially key to Minnesota’s $4 billion a year wildlife tourism industry. “Minnesotans know their heritage and their quality is dependent on clean and healthy water.”

Blue heron in Creek Park, Eden Prairie

Blue heron in Purgatory Creek Park, Eden Prairie

Other Congresspeople from Minnesota, including Senator Amy Klobuchar, Representative Keith Ellision, and Representative Rick Nolan, sent letters thanking the panelists and audience for their attention to clean water. Keith Ellison called the event “an important and  timely discussion” that was necessary to provide clean water “not just for those who can afford to live next to clean water.” Ellison particularly appreciates Gina McCarthy’s efforts. “Because of McCarthy’s leadership, over half of our water will be protected by the CWA.”

Senior attorney John Rumpler of Environment America followed the letters with a talk on the rule’s importance in Minnesota. “I can think of few states in this country that have more at stake on the issue of clean water… Clean water is crucial to our ecology, our economy, and our way of life.” He expressed concern over whether Americans will always be able to take safe drinking water for granted and asked the audience to reconsider how safe our waters really are. “People think that industrial point-source pollution is a thing of the past… but industry in Minnesota [emits] 200 million pounds in one year alone.” Over the past year, towns in Ohio and West Virginia have lost their drinking water, and Rumpler expects this to keep happening. “Are we going back to the dark old days in 1972?”

Elk River in West Virginia after the 2014 chemical spill

Elk River in West Virginia after the 2014 chemical spill

Rumpler overviewed a few major interests opposing the rule.The oil and natural gas industry have pipelines running through wetlands; the coal industry puts mining waste into mountain streams, and land developers often want to pave wetlands. But Rumpler argues the biggest opposing force comes from corporate agribusiness, which is associated with huge amounts of crop and manure runoff. “[Corporate agribusiness] is a hugely powerful force in Washington DC, and they’re making their voice heard in opposition to the Clean Water Rule, because let’s face it, they’re an enormous source of pollution.”

The rule is currently under interagency review and is expected to pass very soon. But Congress will then have 60 days to reject it, which may very well happen. Rumpler thus presses for the continued involvement of concerned citizens and groups until the rule passes the legislature. “We have a lot to do this spring and summer… and when it does happen, it will be the most significant step for clean water in more than a decade.”

When Gina McCarthy took the stage, she first applauded Representative McCullum for her strong advocacy of clean water. “You are very well represented in this state.”

McCarthy posed, “We are all driven to do this because we all live downstream of something… What is controversial about having clean drinking water?” Seven percent of Americans are without access to clean drinking water, many of whom are in tribal nations, and about thirty percent of all Americans rely on water that is insufficiently protected.

McCarthy acknowledged the politics behind the issue. “I’ve never heard of someone who purposely wanted to pollute drinking water… The question is when you want to have a national intervention.” Fortunately, scientific literature has clarified issues of significance and connection in water pollution, which helps the EPA make better judgment calls.

16297497043_f137bd938a_z (1)

Gina McCarthy in March 2015

An audience member asked McCarthy, “What do we need to do right now to get the Clean Water Rule over the finish line?” She answered, “I would ask you to continue to do the work you’re doing. Keep talking to people. Share information.” She emphasized the importance of local environmental initiatives to federal work.“While I’m having the time of my life, it’s not as much fun as working at the local level because it’s not as personal.” In a local setting, activists can “point to the kids” who will benefit from environmental protection, and otherwise put a human face on the issue. “We need people at the grassroots level.” “Nothing fun and exciting begins at the federal level… but [federal employees] are wonderfully creative people who take what you give them… I think your voice is just of immeasurable value.”

To support the Clean Water Rule on Twitter, use the new hashtag #CleanWaterRules.

A thorough guide to the new Clean Water Rule is available here.



Photo credit (blue heron): Carl Lacey
Photo credit (Elk River): Eric Chance
Photo credit (Gina McCarthy): Moms Clean Air Force

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