27 October 2020 Redmond '22 Applies Nitrate to Onondaga Lake

Emma Redmond ‘22 landed an environmental science internship with the Onondaga Lake Cleanup project through Parsons Corporation this past summer. A geoscience and environmental studies double major, Redmond worked to restore the environmental quality of Onondaga Lake and has since solidified a career interest in environmental science and restoration.

As an environmental science intern, Redmond spent the majority of her time on a barge, tasked with applying nitrate to the bottom of Onondaga Lake three times a week and testing the water every hour. Onondaga Lake is contaminated by mercury; the addition of nitrate helps to maintain safe levels of mercury so that the metal doesn’t get into the lake’s food chain. Because mercury is a neurotoxin, its presence in fish can lead to severe health problems if consumed by wildlife and humans.

Along with these duties, Redmond assisted with land rehabilitation around the lake, planting and tending to swamp areas around Onondaga.

“I didn’t know exactly what kind of career I wanted before this internship, but now that I had this awesome experience, I’m really confident that I can find a meaningful job that benefits the environment…. It was nice to wake up in the morning and do something productive during the pandemic,” says Redmond who was one of only a few interns on the project, all of whom wore masks and socially distanced throughout their time together.

Heather Philip ’07, who is in charge of the internship program for the Onondaga Lake Cleanup Project, helped Redmond secure the internship.

Though her internship has ended, Redmond’s work hasn’t stopped. She’s working toward an environmental studies internship credit with the guidance of Associate Professor of Geoscience David Kendrick. This additional research involves looking at lakes with similar pollution problems as Onondaga and analyzing the cleanup methods that they are using.

Kendrick was impressed with Redmond’s self-driven motivation and enthusiasm about the project. “Emma certainly is excited by the work. She really seemed to enjoy her internship and was excited by the prospects of helping to move Onondaga back towards a situation in which people could fully enjoy the lake in its various ways,” he says.

This semester, Redmond’s internship is benefitting her in the classroom as she takes “Introduction to Hydrogeology,” “Hydrometeorology,” “Environmental Law” and “Introduction to Chemistry.” “I can now connect my classes to real-world examples,” she says. “Having this experience as an undergraduate is so valuable, because I feel more engaged in what I’m learning.”

A member of Jazz Band and Chorale, Redmond is also part of the campus sustainability club EcoReps.