If you told Emily Moothart when she was in high school she would have an internship with the Environmental Protection Agency during her college years, she probably wouldn’t have believed you. But now, after excitedly telling her family, friends, professors, graduate schools and even potential future employers about her experience, it seems second nature.
Emily, a native of Owatonna, Minnesota, has always been passionate about the environment. She is truly an outdoors enthusiast, from leading kids on trips in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, to backpacking in Colorado and New Zealand. But it wasn’t until a sustainability course she took while studying abroad in Scotland that Emily knew she wanted to pursue a career in environmentalism.
After returning to UW-Eau Claire during her sophomore year, Emily declared her major in comprehensive geography. Soon after, she got an email from the geography and anthropology department about applying for one of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Greater Research Opportunities (GRO) Undergraduate Fellowships.
Emily’s 30-page application included creating an entire research proposal on a pollution-related issue in the Eau Claire area that she would conduct the following academic year. Emily said she felt supported by UW-Eau Claire throughout the application process as she gathered letters of recommendation from faculty in the geography and anthropology department, and sought help from the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs. Emily also utilized Career Services to further refine her resume and curriculum vitae.
In December 2014 Emily was one of only 32 undergraduates in the nation to receive a GRO Fellowship. The position was accompanied by a $50,000 stipend to cover her summer internship through the EPA, her research in Eau Claire and her tuition for the next two academic years.
Last summer Emily chose to do her research internship in Denver as a hazardous waste site assessor. She examined several abandoned mine sites in high altitude areas for heavy-metal contaminants, and she got to do it alongside experts from the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
When she returned in the fall, Emily was ready to begin analyzing the data for her research in Eau Claire. Her project included evaluating the expansive growth of reed canary grass, an invasive species, in the lower Chippewa River area. Emily and her team of researchers, who collected samples while she was in Denver, believed the grass was growing so rapidly due to nutrient runoff in the groundwater from nearby farmland. Emily presented her findings at the American Water Resources Association of Wisconsin conference and will also present at the National Association of American Geographers conference in San Francisco.
Emily, who also is president of UW-Eau Claire’s Geography and Anthropology Club, credits her achievements to the support she’s received from faculty, staff and fellow students at UW-Eau Claire. Emily said she wouldn’t have been accepted into the GRO Fellowship program if she had gone to college anywhere else. Emily Moothart is an outdoors enthusiast AND an environmentalist, which drives her research and passion to help ensure the future of our world … and that’s pretty powerful!
Photo caption: Emily Moothart