Learning service to save the planet

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Mark Zloba, manager of lands at the edge of the Appalachians in Adams County, leads UC Clermont students (left to right) Brandon Hammersley, Cailey Fritz and Isabella Naylor through the reserve in April as part of an environmental studies service learning project.

Press release

For Emily Cochell, a biology graduate from the University of Cincinnati Clermont College, finding full-time employment with a company committed to sustainable practices was high on her wish list.

“The human impact on the planet affects everything: sea level rise, ocean acidification, urban heat islands, invasion of freshwater by salt water, pollution of the air and water and ecosystems moving northward due to global warming, ”Cochell said. “It is important that we, as a species, have the time, energy and health to focus our thoughts on changing for the better rather than just getting out of it.”

Cochell’s passion for environmentalism was reinforced by one particular college experience – the environmental studies courses of Assistant Professor Danielle Winget. Both classes focus on different ecosystems, geology and climates, as well as the effects of human activity on nature. But Winget does not contain his classroom teaching; its students engage in service learning projects throughout Southwest Ohio, bringing these great lessons to life.

Last April, Winget students ventured to the edge of the Appalachians, a 20,000-acre wildlife preserve in West Union, Ohio, managed by the Cincinnati Museum Center and the Nature Conservancy. There, students learned first-hand about land management from park biologists, cleared woody brush from a prairie habitat, and most importantly, participated in a project to identify and count rare green salamanders. In Ohio, the reptile only lives in a particular type of rocky habitat that is found in the reserve and is notoriously elusive.

“We have found a number of juvenile and adult salamanders, which is important because it means the population is diverse enough to breed,” Winget said. “Once we know what’s out there, we can decide which wildlife we ​​want to encourage. These projects also help us discover what was in Ohio before colonization, as the area was largely untouched by agriculture. “

Past projects have included managing land at the Cincinnati Nature Center, planting flowers with the Ohio Veterans Home in Georgetown, Ohio, and working with the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden to tag monarch butterflies and restore native grasslands. of the Zoo’s Bowyer Farm property in County Warren.

For Winget, microbiologist and former scientific researcher, sharing her passion and knowledge for the environment with students is a dream job. She said experiences like Cochell’s are common, and students get service learning credits as well.

“Students become very motivated once they take this course,” Winget said. “The materials help students learn how they can make a difference in their community. They learn where to go and meet the people doing the work so they can cooperate, volunteer or work with them in the future.

Cochell is now a project engineer-in-training at Airgas in Cleveland, creating and installing bulk systems for atmospheric gases, and said the company’s commitment to sustainability played a crucial role in its decision to work there. And at home, Cochell has incorporated more sustainable practices into his daily routine, including driving less, taking shorter showers, recycling more often, and cooking at home rather than ordering take-out.

Winget said these types of changes – at the personal and business levels – are driven by education and are essential to making real progress on climate change.

“It is a recognition that understanding the environment is not limited to biology or ecology – there are also many economic and political components,” Winget said. “It’s more than science; it is the implementation of science that is important if we are to make real change.

For more information on environmental studies or service learning available to UC Clermont students, contact Danielle Winget at [email protected] or Krista Clark at [email protected]

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