College of the Atlantic student Alba Mar Rodriguez Padilla ’18 enjoys a breathtaking vista in California's Sierra Nevada mountain range while taking part in the Environmental Geoscience Field Methods course. College of the Atlantic student Alba Mar Rodriguez Padilla ’18 enjoys a breathtaking vista in California's Sierra Nevada mountain range while taking part in the Environmental Geoscience Field Methods course. Credit: Alba Rodríguez Padilla ’18Environmental Geoscience Field Methods: Eastern CA, a spring-summer 2017 course, brought students to Yosemite National Park, the Sierra Nevada Critical Zone Observatory, and the Mammoth County Water District in order to practice key environmental science skills like map-making, stream gaging, and hazards assessments while hearing from multiple professionals about aspects of career pathways in the environmental sciences.

“It was such a special time to be in the Sierras,” said Patricio Gallardo Garcia Freire ’18. Gemma Venuti ’18, left, Dr. Sarah Hall, Alba Mar Rodriguez Padilla ’18, and Patricio Gallardo Garcia Freire ’18 joined students and faculty from University of San Francisco and Mt. San Antonio College on the E-STEM intensive.Gemma Venuti ’18, left, Dr. Sarah Hall, Alba Mar Rodriguez Padilla ’18, and Patricio Gallardo Garcia Freire ’18 joined students and faculty from University of San Francisco and Mt. San Antonio College on the E-STEM intensive. Credit: Alba Rodríguez Padilla ’18“Record snowfall, raging rivers. Everything was pretty special.”

Led by COA Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Chair in the Earth Systems and Geosciences Dr. Sarah Hall, Patricio Gallardo Garcia Freire, Gemma Venuti ’18, and Alba Mar Rodriguez Padilla ’18 joined students and faculty from University of San Francisco and Mt. San Antonio College on the Environmental Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (E-STEM) intensive.

The collaborative program, sponsored by a $340,733 grant from the National Science Foundation, takes place for a second during summer 2018.

Access to field and professional experiences has been recognized by E-STEM workers as critical to helping students identify as scientists and professionals, form networks, and gain important skills for employment in a variety of public and private sector positions, Hall said.

Skills practiced during the intensive included map-making, stream gaging, and hazards assessments.Skills practiced during the intensive included map-making, stream gaging, and hazards assessments. Credit: John Joe Bacino“The focus of the course is on building real-world E-STEM field and professional skills for environmentally-focused students that can translate directly into work experiences,” she said.

As students work through the curriculum, which reimagines the traditional capstone field course, they earn digital badges for each skill set that they master. These provide documentation of the work that they can share with potential employers down the road.

Students worked with environmental sector stakeholders such as researchers, educators, resource managers, government workers, geohazards assessors, and recreation managers.

“It’s not just geology,” Venuti said. “We practiced skills in geology, botany and hydrology, so it was a great mix.”

Experiences like mapping the folds of the Poleta hills in the Deep Springs Valley really brought home the scope and scale of the areas where the group was working, she said.  

“It is almost like a right of passage, and certainly a long standing tradition of geologists to train in that area, and it was really cool to be an active participant in that tradition,” she said. “I also loved when we did our homework outside by light of lantern.”

 Alba Mar Rodriguez Padilla ’18,left, Gemma Venuti ’18, and Patricio Gallardo Garcia Freire ’18 share a laugh during a break from fieldwork. Alba Mar Rodriguez Padilla ’18,left, Gemma Venuti ’18, and Patricio Gallardo Garcia Freire ’18 share a laugh during a break from fieldwork. Credit: Alba Rodríguez Padilla ’18The group encountered numerous geohazards (from a safe distance) such as the 4,000 ton rock slide on Highway 140 which closed the initial planned entrance to Yosemite, closed mountain passes and raging streams due to record snowmelt, and even an small earthquake near Bloody Canyon, CA! While camping above an active caldron of magma associated with the Long Valley Caldera, one of the world’s active (yet resting) super volcanoes, they managed to avoid danger and appreciate the wonder and awe of such a diverse and active landscape.

“It was definitely spooky,” Venuti said.

Beyond being an enriching experience for the students involved, multi-institutional programs such as this one also help to foster collaborations, broaden communication styles and pathways, and provide professional peer support to faculty, Hall said.

“While working closely with three other Environmental Science faculty members during the field course I learned new strategies for engaging students in the field,” said Hall. “Another highlight for me was observing the students from three different institutions working together and discussing the challenges and opportunities they encounter at their respective institutions.”

The E-STEM intensive included students and faculty from College of the Atlantic, University of San Francisco, and Mt. San Antonio College. The program continues for a second season in 2018.The E-STEM intensive included students and faculty from College of the Atlantic, University of San Francisco, and Mt. San Antonio College. The program continues for a second season in 2018. Credit: John R. PaulThe summer intensive was followed with professional development seminars at each of the three schools, which also included local scientists, researchers and others in the environmental field. The seminar held during Fall 2017 featured local stakeholders from: Acadia National Park, Friends of Acadia, Schoodic Institute, Mt Desert Island Biological Laboratory, Mt Desert Island High School, Mitchell Center for Sustainable Solutions, University of Maine, Maine Geological Survey, Bar Harbor Conservation Commission, and the Maine Center for Disease Control.