Posted in Blog Posts, Illinois, Memories of Blue

Openlands Lakeshore Preserve

In 2014, I spent six months volunteering with the development team at Openlands, a land conservation nonprofit. It was a fantastic experience; Kaye and Sasha showed me how to run a mail campaign with volunteers, how to use DonorPerfect software, and how to plan a successful luncheon event.

While I was there, I made it a point to visit the organization’s most recent project, the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve on Lake Michigan. Located north of Chicago in Fort Sheridan, the Preserve reminded me of Presque Isle State Park in Erie, Pennsylvania, with its lush tree canopy and meandering walkways. I learned about invasive weed species and how removing them and planting native species instead could prevent the erosion of soil on steep sloping landscapes.

While I’ve looked everywhere for photos I took that day, I can’t find them anywhere! However, I’m not sure my iPhone photos would have done it justice. It’s the kind of place you need to visit in-person, so you can feel the coolness of the air under the trees, hear the busy sounds of birds and insects, and see the stunning lake-view vistas wrap around your periphery. My only regret was not visiting more often! Image: Openlands.org

Posted in Blog Posts, Memories of Blue, Pennsylvania

Summer School of Excellence

The summer after my junior year of high school, I participated in a regional learning program focused on biology in Erie, Pennsylvania. It included a substantial component of understanding and appreciating the ecosystem of Lake Erie.

In this life-changing two-week experience at Gannon University, we discovered the effects of pollution in our community generated by big international corporations who used our lakes and streams as toxic waste dumps. After a state of initial shock, we were left with residual sadness and a sense of responsibility to do something about it. Even though I didn’t pursue a career in environmental science, I remained curious about the health of the environment.

Today, I have more time, energy, and freedom to advocate for water conservation and preservation in a concerted way.

Pictured: Kyra Gray, Esther Chase, and Jeff Malek in 1996 at Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania. Full Article