David Gullerat grew up doing what young country kids do: roaming the fields and meadows around his home looking at bugs and crayfish, canoeing and fishing on a local lake, and generally just exploring what nature had to offer. Now, as an adult, he’d like to do that same thing for work, and this summer he’ll get a little taste of what that’s like.
“I’m really excited about actually doing some work in this field and hopefully it can end up turning into a good career,” said Gullerat, a 40 year old CCV Winooski student and Navy veteran. “I’m excited, it should be a really good thing for putting on a résumé and as far as the educational part goes, a little feather in my hat.”
Gullerat, along with three other CCV students, has been selected by Vermont EPSCoR to work as an intern this summer in the organization’s Research on Adaptation to Climate Change (RACC) program. According to Vermont EPSCoR’s Center for Workforce Development and Diversity Director Miranda Lescaze, the four students will be working in watershed areas around the state collecting water samples, analyzing data, answering research questions, and creating final presentations that in the end will give them, and the state, a better grasp on the challenges climate change poses for the region.
“With climate change we expect to see more frequent and more severe storms,” Lescaze said. “The goal is to better understand the effects of climate change on the Lake Champlain watershed basin.”
Lescaze said the RACC internships are multidisciplinary and draw students in from all across the state. The internship process is facilitated through Vermont EPSCor’s Center for Workforce Development and Diversity, which Lescaze said works to expose students to active university research and to encourage those from all walks of life—veterans, first generation students, and others—to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).
Stephanie Cooke fits that bill. The twenty-year-old Northfield native is a first generation TRIO student who’s gearing up for commencement next month, when she’ll be receiving an associate degree in liberal studies. After that, she’ll be heading on to Vermont Tech to study dental hygiene. But that’s after she spends a summer on the Lamoille River with her research team.
“I’ll be working in the program based out of Johnson State College called Land Use, Stream Water Quality and Sources of E. coli in the Lamoille River Basin,” Cooke said. “That wasn’t the one that I applied for, but when I got accepted and saw that they put me in the Johnson program, I read the description again and it definitely sounds like it fits my background perfectly.”
That’s because while she’s earning a degree in liberal studies, Cooke’s passion is for science.
“Research in any aspect is interesting to me and it’s something that I’ve wanted to continue with ever since I started taking laboratory classes here at CCV,” Cooke said. “I think it will be good for me to learn about different types of research methods that I can use in the future, because I definitely don’t plan to stop with a career in dental hygiene, I’d like to become a doctor or a dentist one day.”
Back on the western side of the state Gullerat will be working on a project based out of Saint Michael’s College titled Effects of Storms on Suspended Sediments in Streams. Gullerat, who’s worked as a hired-hand on dairy farms in the past, says he’d like to eventually go on to work with farmers on implementing environmentally conscious solutions to common agricultural situations that can result in harmful runoff entering lakes and streams.
“I think farmers take a lot of blame for the environmental problems, because everyone knows they put fertilizer on the fields, and they’re like the easiest people to blame,” Gullerat said. “So I’d really like to help minimize the flak that farmers get and help them implement some of these simple solutions.”
Lescaze said that by the time Cooke, Gullerat, CCV students Lucas Jackson and Patrick Murphy, and the 38 other interns working with Vermont EPSCoR are done this summer, they’ll have spent ten weeks fully integrated into research teams working around the state on climate change-related projects. During that time, she said, they’ll be in the field collecting samples, they’ll be in labs analyzing those samples, and they’ll be in classrooms researching questions such as: What are the historical trends in hydrographs of streams in the Missisquoi and Winooski watersheds?
“It’s an intense experience, full-time research,” Lescaze said. “But we’ve had great feedback from past interns, and they’ll leave with real research skills.”
Which sounds exactly like what Cooke and Gullerat are after.
“I am really interested in the new, emerging techniques used in science these days and all of the scientific and medical advances our society is making,” Cooke said. “I’d love to be a part of that, and I’d love to eventually use my education to do research in a medical field.”
“I’m a physical guy,” Gullerat says, “and this is a hands-on project out in the field, so that’s exciting.”
And for both Gullerat and Cooke, the internship, and their CCV educations, are a means to an end, that end being a career in a STEM field.
“If I could get paid for going out and walking around in nature,” Gullerat says, “exploring and taking samples from streams and rivers, if I can get paid for that, yeah, that’s like a dream job.”