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Students

Journey to Ecuador brings lessons in environmental health to life

May 18, 2009

Trekking through the rainforest in Ecuador, Madeline Anna developed an appreciation for the importance of natural places in the lives of native people as well as the impacts of resource development - both good and bad.

Impacts of oil drilling and mining

During an alternative spring break in March, Anna was part of a group of students and faculty members from Colorado State University who embarked on a 10-day journey to see firsthand the impacts of oil drilling and mining on local populations, as well as the possibilities of ecotourism and sustainability in helping to rebuild Ecuadorean communities.

(Photo: Madeline Anna in Ecuador last March)

Rainforest shapes diets, lifestyles

“In Ecuador, you get a true appreciation for how the rainforest is the grocery store for people in the region,” said Anna. “Diets and lifestyles are shaped by the rainforest, and activities that interrupt the natural connection between people and the land tend to be very detrimental to both.”

Seeing the ecological damage caused by oil drilling, and hearing accounts from local residents about the battles with oil companies to restore their lands, brought a human face to some of the subjects Anna had been studying in the classroom. Her trip to Ecuador reflects her interests and area of study in the Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences, where she is an undergraduate in the environmental health program. She eventually hopes to attend veterinary school, and focus on her interests in epidemiology and public health.

“When I first learned about environmental health, the variability offered in the degree appealed to me,” said Anna, who is a junior this year. “Water quality, food safety, industrial hygiene, toxicology – there are so many different fields within the EH program. As I’ve learned more, I’ve decided to focus on epidemiology and public health, with the eventual goal of receiving a combined DVM/MPH degree. Working as a port veterinarian is something that holds particular appeal for me.”

Paid internship this summer serving in Indian Health Services

Last spring, Anna explored other aspects of environmental health while participating in a study abroad program with Lincoln University in New Zealand. This summer, Anna will extend her field experience through an internship with the U.S. Public Health Service’s Junior Commissioned Officer Student Training and Extern Program. She’ll be serving in the Indian Health Services, Division of Environmental Health, in Shawnee, Okla. Anna, who also is Native American, is looking forward to her first paid internship, especially with the title of junior commissioned officer.

Anna is a participant in the University Honors Program and was a Hughes Undergraduate Research Scholar. She also is an active volunteer with the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program where she has achieved an E1 certification and volunteers as a care provider and handler, bringing the RMRP’s educational “ambassadors” (rescued birds unable to survive in the wild) to special events to help educate the public about the environment and the importance of raptors in ecosystems.

Originally published in ERHS Emitter, Spring 2009.