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Andie Graham ’14

MS in Environmental Science and Biology

Brockport Helped Fulfill My Childhood Dreams

As a potential graduate student, Andie Graham received some serious advice: "Make sure you get along well with your graduate advisor." She was accepted to three programs: two large, well-known universities and The College at Brockport. She did her research and began expressing an interest in meeting her potential advisors. One of the school’s advisors was uninterested in meeting her and another was less than cordial. Slightly discouraged, she cautiously approached Professor Doug Wilcox to find out about the program at Brockport. "Doug is a well-respected and highly acclaimed wetlands scientist, but he was willing to meet when it was convenient for me. Within minutes of meeting him, I knew that this was a good fit. His laid-back manner and sense of humor put me at ease almost instantly," Andie said. "Unlike other advisors I had dealt with in my search for a grad school, he wanted to know about me and my background. I knew Brockport was a good fit."

Andie continued, "Since my arrival at Brockport in August 2011, Doug has been everything that I wanted and expected from an advisor. It is obvious that he cares about his students, on both a professional and personal level, and does everything in his power to help us succeed. He offers just the right amount of guidance; he leads you in the right direction, but allows you to figure out things on your own. In addition, Doug has created an atmosphere is his lab that makes learning fun, and his excitement about science (especially wetland science) is contagious."

Andie has stayed busy in the field of wetland science as a member of the Bilger Run Watershed Rehabilitation Group, Bilger’s Rocks Association, The Pennsylvania Chapter of the Wildlife Society, Anderson Creek Watershed Association and the Society of Wetland Scientists. She is currently a teaching assistant for the Department of Environmental Science and Biology at the College and has interned for the Great Lakes Restorative Initiative.

As a graduate student at Brockport, Andie enjoys the small class sizes and the direct contact with her professors. She appreciates the approachability and passion of the faculty and that they encourage questions and discussions. "Their attitude about science is what makes learning interesting," said Andie.

Andie loves getting out in the field to do research. As a kid, she visited the Florida Everglades and was fascinated by everything. Later, as a teenager, she kayaked around the mangrove wetlands in the Florida Keys. "I always knew I would end up working in some type of water environment," she said. At an early age, Andie recognized the importance of protecting the natural world. She understood that, throughout history, man has had a negative view of wetlands and that unfortunately, lead many to be destroyed. Conservation of this precious resource didn’t begin until the mid-to-late 1900s.

Andie began her study of the wetlands as an undergrad at Penn State University, researching the effect of acid mine drainage on wetland ecosystems. "My main interest in wetlands is how to protect them from human activity." Her graduate thesis work at Brockport investigates a gas drilling accident on a wetland. She describes her work as follows: "In 2009, Marcellus Shale gas-drilling company EOG Resources was fined $30,000 by the Pennsylvania DEP after several violations occurred at two well sites located on private land adjacent to Moshannon State Forest in Clearfield County, PA. Of these violations, there were three separate accidents that resulted in the deposition of flowback water and frack fluids into Alex Branch, a small, sandy-bottom stream that flows through Wallace Mine Fen. Contaminated water also infiltrated into the ground, upslope from the fen. Water testing indicated elevated levels of barium, strontium, manganese, chloride, total dissolved solids, and specific conductance, all of which are typical of Marcellus well discharge water. At the time of the accidents, no research was conducted to evaluate the potential impacts to the fen. In 2012, we initiated a study to determine the ecological impacts of the accidents on Wallace Mine Fen. We used a nearby wetland, Crystal Spring Bog (actually a fen), as a control and sampled amphibians, birds, vegetation, and macroinvertebrates at both sites. This is an ongoing study, but preliminary results suggest that accidents resulting from Marcellus Shale gas drilling operations may have decreased amphibian species richness at Wallace Mine Fen."

With the guidance and tutelage of Professor Doug Wilcox, Andie is finding amazing scientific discoveries and doing her part to protect the wetlands that she has treasured since childhood.

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