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Environmental Studies

Australian internship and Adventures: Alex Gilbert ‘12

During the summer I interned at the environmental consulting corporation ENVIRON in Sydney, Australia. While I was there, I researched air quality management best practices for coal mines and conducted a survey of air quality management practices across nine coal mine complexes from two continents. 

I also assisted ENVIRON’s energy auditors in conducting energy audits of several commercial buildings. These audits, combined with a sub meter tool that I developed, allowed us to identify and price energy efficiency opportunities.I worked on every stage of a project, including meeting with and presenting to clients. One project I worked on involved the external benchmarking of over 1100 retail branches to assist a major Australian bank achieve their carbon reduction goal. I classified each branch in terms of how good their energy consumption and lighting density was compared to expectations, accounting for local climactic variables. In addition to the work, my international internship allowed me to experience a different regulatory environment than the US. Different laws and approaches to climate change and environmental protection significantly enhanced my view of policy as an effective driver of change while also giving me ideas on how to increase international cooperation.

My classwork and additional research with environmental studies prepared me tremendously for this internship. This was especially true of statistics. When I took statistics I did not understand how that related to environmental studies. This summer I used statistics on a weekly basis to help me analyze data. Using regression analysis I was able to identify heating as a major energy consumer at a client’s facility and identify solutions. Environmental chemistry gave me the foundations needed to understand chemicals and their behavior in respect to air quality management. My other classes helped significantly as well. Understanding how to analyze and present data was a skill that I learned and exercised in a variety of classes. Even though I was not a subject matter expert on what I was working on, the skills I learned at Lake Forest allowed me to realize data requirements for projects, limitations of analysis, and how to present findings.

I also backpacked through Queensland for a month. While in Queensland I conducted research for my environmental studies thesis and explored places of ecological significance. My research enabled me to meet with conservation leaders, stakeholders, and government officials. I met with the head of an organization that has led the drive to protect Cassowaries, government officials charged with environmental management, and local environmentalists. The research included a trip to a pest management conference for North Queensland. The conference brought together stakeholders and officials to discuss current management practices, invasive species, and opportunities for collaboration. I had a number of adventures in environmentally significant areas including scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef and visiting World Heritage listed tropical rainforest.