This summer, I worked as a Metcalf intern for the Delta Institute. The Delta Institute is a Chicago-based nonprofit that creates economically and environmentally sustainable tools to build healthy, resilient communities in the Great Lakes region. It has an extensive portfolio of projects, ranging from implementing green infrastructure and developing urban workforces to building markets for less common grains that better prevent erosion and restore nutrients in the soil. While I was there, I spent most of my time working on projects focused on the urban environment, doing research on green infrastructure and social enterprises. I also had the chance to explore other research areas like Midwestern agricultural practices. This experience really highlighted for me the importance of communication and collaboration within environmental work. One of the projects I worked on involved writing short explanations of different types of green infrastructure for an audience unfamiliar with these technologies. Doing so required presenting complex information in a way that is accessible and clear, without losing this complexity, to create something that can engage more individuals in environmental projects. In terms of collaboration, so often the ultimate goals of these projects seemed overwhelming, but when tackled by a diverse group working together, this no longer was the case and meaningful strides forward were taken. I had a fantastic time working at the Delta Institute and can’t wait to follow their work in the future.
After finishing work, I spent a few days in Denver visiting one of my best friends. Denver was a really cool city with plenty of opportunities to be active – running, hiking, wandering the airport after a three hour flight delay – even though the elevation kicked my butt. My last day there, we hiked a trail called Dinosaur Ridge. It was a few miles long with views of the city and the Rocky Mountains (something this Midwesterner will never get used to), with fossilized dinosaur tracks and bones marked along it. Walking in the footprints of dinosaurs put into perspective the lasting effect that life has on the planet. The dinosaurs’ presence can still be seen tens of million years later, and in the same way, records of human activity and its consequences will be preserved well into the future. I hope that the work we do today to build a more sustainable society will leave subsequent generations as excited about our legacy and impact as I was running up and down the trail pointing to every footprint.
I’m back in Chicago now, preparing for my last cross country season. UChicago generously supports a preseason for fall athletes, which allows us to train and compete before classes start – my favorite thing about UChicago’s quarter system. We can only spend so much time during the day at Ratner, so it’s a great time to explore the city, catch up on reading at Promontory Point, and go to the beach (though this year I’m usually doing scary adult things like applying for jobs). The UChicago women’s cross country team is ranked in the top 15 nationally, and I’m excited to see how the season progresses. Outside of running, I’m looking forward to being a member of EAF, writing my BA thesis, and (hopefully) figuring out my post-UChicago plans. It’s going to be an exciting, whirlwind senior year!
Claire’s post is the fourth of EAF’s summer blog series introducing the 2017-18 EAF members.