Erika Koontz ’17
After graduating from WAC in May of 2017 and from Chesapeake Semester in the fall of 2014, I’ve been busy searching for a job that supports my passion for the Chesapeake Bay watershed, would allow me to work outside, and grow my skills in geographic information systems (GIS). I was exposed to all of these through various internships with the Chester River Field Research Station on Chino Farms, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Beaufort, North Carolina, and with the Toll Fellows program, where I worked with Dr. Aaron Krochmal on his turtle research to study adaptive learning behaviors in eastern painted turtles. My most recent internship, with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, expanded upon my pre-existing passion to Save the Bay, and all of my experiences culminated into a need to create a real impact in the watershed. I first explored this in my Senior Capstone Experience (SCE), where I used a GIS model to predict water flow on Chino Farms and identify areas of high overland runoff. The purpose in identifying those areas would be to provide the farm managers with specific locations where they could install a best management practice and reduce the flow of water, which carries nutrients and sediment, and retain it on the farm property.
Less than two months after graduating, I found a job that channeled all of my interests and closely tied into my SCE research. In August (2017), I will begin my new position as a faculty research assistant at the University of Maryland’s Horn Point Laboratory in Cambridge, MD. I am joining a diverse team of research scientists, which includes WAC’s very own Dr. Rebecca Fox! All of us on the team are fascinated by agriculture and seek to understand how best management practices (BMPs) can better work to retain nutrients, nitrogen and phosphorus, and sediment on farm fields. My role on the team is to conduct hydrology measurements, including baseflow, storm sampling (in situ chemical oxidation, ISCO), surface and groundwater sampling across the participant farms in the Choptank Watershed and analyze them for nutrients, sediment, and other particulates. In addition to my work in the field, I will be managing the GIS data collected thus far for the project and working to organize it while also creating maps to better communicate our results.
I’m very excited to work there, pursue a career as a water quality scientist, and of course, stay on the shore!