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Student Spotlight: Stephens' Summer of Bugs

Posted: September 16, 2015

This summer Christine Stephens had an incredible internship opportunity to work with water ... and with what lives in the water.
Christine Stephens, junior ERM major.

Christine Stephens, junior ERM major.

At Penn State, Christine Stephens, a junior Environment Resource Management major from Havertown, PA, was able to turn her childhood passion into a reality. Stephens had always been interested in being outdoors from family vacations to National Parks to hiking around the woods with her girl scout troup. As an ERM major, she feels she has the opportunity to do something extremely important for future generations. She knows that choosing this career path will result in making a big impact on the world.

This summer, Stephens got a leg up on making this impact. Stroud Water Research Center, located in Avondale, PA, is a world renowned research institution focused on the study of freshwater systems, the preservation and restoration of which are among the world's highest priority environmental problems. globally. high priority globally. Stephens worked in the entomology department studying aquatic macroinvertebrates-- insects that live in streams and serve as indicators of stream health.

Her tasks, such as sorting through sediment, leaves and algae that were collected by the entomology department in March and April, played a key role in an important project. Through a grant funded by the William Penn Foundation, they studied streams in the Brandywine/Cristina, Middle Schuylkill and Schuylkill Highlands regions. Stephens would spend time in the lab sorting the macroinvertebrates into families. Depending on numbers such as density and abundance, the results would yield a number in between one and fifteen which provides a rating of poor, fair, or good.

“Entomology plays a huge part in understanding the ecology of the stream,” Stephens said.

Every Friday, Stephens had the opportunity to participate in a lecture from a Stroud staff member about different areas of research, including agriculture, tree plantings and riparian buffers.

Prior to starting the ERM program, Stephens had little experience in agriculture. The program and her internship gave her exposure to what an important role the environmental sciences play in agriculture, and how agriculture can play a role in solving water quality concerns. “This major has given me a lot of perspective on the issues our area is facing,” she said. She hopes to have a career in outreach so she can share her passion with others.

Learn more about the ERM program.