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Student goes from Land of Kiwis to Yellowstone Bear World, learning along the way

May 21, 2009

Among Sahaja Templin-Hladky's most prized possessions are thank-you letters from elementary school students in New Zealand, with whom Templin-Hladky shared a message of sustainability and environmental responsibility during a study-abroad program at Lincoln University last spring. The notes are just a small, albeit colorful, reminder of experiences that are helping to shape her academic and professional career choices.

Graduated high school at age 16

After graduating at age 16 from high school in Colorado Springs, Templin-Hladky came to Colorado State University and, while participating in a pre-vet tour, learned about the undergraduate major in environmental health. It appealed to her interests right away, and she entered the program as a starting freshman.

“Since I was little, I’ve had an environmental sensibility,” said Templin-Hladky. “We lived in California and I would get so sad to see the piles of trash in the streets of San Francisco. I’d pick up as much as I could while my parents would patiently wait, and I’d tell my mom that Mother Earth was crying.”

International conservation

For as long as she can remember, Templin-Hladky wanted to own a horse and be a veterinarian. When her family moved to Colorado, she took her first riding lessons and when she came to Fort Collins, she purchased her first horse, Strider.

Studying environmental health fits in well with her career goals of veterinary school and eventual plans to practice wildlife medicine in the field of international conservation. Her semester in New Zealand expanded her knowledge of global environmental concerns, particularly with regard to native species and more basic concerns of water quality and sustainability.

“I worked with a local elementary school to develop a series of classes on the water cycle as well as the waste cycle, based in large part on the Environmental Home Program developed in the Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences,” said Templin-Hladky. “Dr. Dave Gilkey provided me with materials and I also developed new study aids for the kids, along with different experiments. It was a lot of fun to get off the college campus and into the local school, to really see that an international community New Zealand is.”

Lab tech, volunteer, summer internship

Back at Colorado State University, Templin-Hladky continues her environmental health education along with taking many elective courses in genetics and other biological sciences. In addition to her studies, she works as a lab technician at Global AECOM in the aquatic toxicology laboratory; has an independent study program with the Animal Reproduction and Biotechnology Laboratory, working in the crypreservation of embryos and PCR reactions; volunteers with the Fort Collins Spay/Neuter Clinic; and previously worked as a barn assistant at the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

She’ll spend this summer as an intern at Yellowstone Bear World, returning to Colorado State in the fall to complete her studies and apply to veterinary school.

“Studying environmental health has really opened my eyes to all the possibilities available in this field, from toxicology to public health to environmental medicine,” said Templin-Hladky. “The experiences I’ve had outside of the classroom have played a large part in helping me determine what I want to do in the future. Bear World will be a long way from New Zealand, but I’m looking forward to learning what I can in that venue as well.”


Originally published in the Department of Environmental & Radiological Health Sciences Emitter newsletter, Spring 2009.