Brooke Andrew has been fascinated by water resources her entire life. Describing the experiences that led her toward a successful career in that field, Andrew reflects on a lifetime of love and curiosity for the bodies of water surrounding her.
“I love the ocean,” said Andrew.
“I love streams and rivers so it’s kind of been dictating where I like to work and what I like to do even today.”
With clear focus and drive, Andrew wasted no time in realizing her ambitions. Her internship with the Sturbridge Conservation Department in high school set Andrew down the path towards the Massachusetts Water Resources Research Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where her interest in water conservation flourished into a lifelong passion.
“Definitely an amazing résumé builder,” says Andrew when asked about her four-year undergraduate employment with the WRRC.
“Working in the field that I love is … it just makes you more passionate as you go…I probably wouldn’t have the position I’m in now if I didn’t have [the WRRC] position.”
During her time with the WRRC, Andrew participated in a wide range of water resources projects. A particular amount of work was focused on water testing at the Blackstone River, a project funded by the Upper Blackstone Pollution Abatement District. Andrew was involved in every aspect of the process, from prepping the lab to receiving samples to working on the project full time over the summer to assist the lab coordinator with chlorophyll sample analysis. Andrew’s other ongoing project involved making preparations for the annual National Institutes for Water Resources meeting. Each year at the NIWR meeting, congressmen and women are updated on the status of current water legislation as well as the recent projects funded by the WRRC. Andrew would annually prepare material for this meeting beginning in late December, eventually attending the meeting herself in her Senior year and speaking with congressional aides about issues and projects impacting water resources.
Though Andrew looks back on each WRRC project with fondness, her contribution to the work done in honor of the 30th Anniversary of the Massachusetts Acid Rain Monitoring Project is an experience that she recalls with particular reverence.
“Being part of that and that historicalness of people gathering scientific data in the whole state is… it was definitely a humbling and awesome experience.”
The Massachusetts Acid Rain Monitoring Project is a statewide coordination effort between employees and researchers at the WRRC and citizen volunteers to monitor the trends in surface water sensitivity to the negative impacts of acid rain – work that, according to Andrew, was “characterized by music and staring at a pH meter all day long.” Andrew participated in ARM every year with the WRRC. She spent her time prepping bottles for volunteers, ensuring that the necessary machinery was operating correctly, and generally smoothing the way for the vast amounts of data that would be pouring in annually throughout the month of April.
With a degree in Natural Resource Conservation and Political Science as well as four years of practical, hands-on experience with the WRRC on her résumé, Andrew left her undergraduate life ready to take the next step towards her future. This step came in the form of the Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge, a conservation reservation in Indiana under the supervision of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, where she became a Biological Science Technician. During her time at the refuge, Andrew led a group of equally enthusiastic high school students on various enhancement projects, creating and maintaining a clean environment while educating a future generation of scientists and conservationists.
Her work with community outreach and involvement in water resources continues today as Andrew begins her AmeriCorps career with the West Virginia office of the national fishery and watershed conservation organization Trout Unlimited. Andrew is currently working with the West Virginia Division of Forestry as well as partners in the USDA-Natural Resource Conservation Service to facilitate riparian tree planting, a project in which trees are planted along streambanks, in mid- to late- October of 2016. The project is designed to engage her fellow AmeriCorps workers as well as community volunteers in the conservation process. Much of Andrew’s work involves this kind of “hug[ging] that line” between volunteer and employee and inciting an urgency in her coworkers and the community to actively participate in the protection of water resources.
Though she is now several states and a world of experience removed from her time with the WRRC, Andrew still remembers the place that gave her a push towards her goals.
“Being a part of something bigger and working to improve the resources, that was definitely a major takeaway. Getting to work with those people [at WRRC], it’s just been great and I’ve learned so much from each of them.”