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Environmental Science Student’s Passion for Water Quality

Kenzie Hagedorn always knew that she wanted to do environmental work and that she wanted to use her career to help people. Kenzie is getting ready to graduate this spring with one major and two minors after three years of undergraduate study. She knows exactly what she wants to do in order to carry out her goals of helping people and the environment through water quality.

Kenzie is studying Environmental Science while minoring in business administration and natural resource law. She started college wanting to be an environmental lawyer but realized her passion for environmental policy. 

Kenzie Hagedorn gathering water samples for the Florida Springs Institute. Photo provided.

Environmental Policy

Environmental policy is the measure by the government, a corporation, or other public organizations that regard the effects of human activities on the environment. After Kenzie graduates this spring, she hopes to go to graduate school to get her master’s in environmental policy. Doing so would lead her into federal or state government. However, her main goal is to work on the local level.

Kenzie believes in the importance of working at home in the state of Florida to secure clean water. “For a long time, I thought I was going to do international work helping developing countries with their environmental concerns,” Kenzie said. “I am of the mindset that you can’t help others until you help yourself.”

One issue that Kenzie is especially passionate about is environmental racism. This is how minority groups experience environmental issues disproportionately more than other people.

“I’ve always known that I wanted to do something trying to help those who are disenfranchised groups,” Kenzie said. “I just never figured out what that meant until recently.”

The water crisis in Flint, Michigan, that began in 2014 is what piqued her interest.  Water quality issues arose when Flint switched its water supply from Detroit’s system to the Flint River, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.

“Learning about the Flint crisis shifted my whole world view,” Kenzie said. “That sparked my desire to work with water quality issues and making sure that doesn’t happen.”

Since then, Kenzie has had several internships related to the issue of water quality and natural springs. She said that she really enjoyed the first-hand look at data collection through her internship.

“It was cool to see how the process actually works,” she said.

Florida Springs

Kenzie’s first internship was during the spring semester of 2020 with the Florida Springs Institute, a non-profit organization centered on documenting Florida’s springs and educating the public. She heard about it through an environmental science lab class that took field trips to different environmental organizations in Gainesville.

“I immediately signed up and was really excited about it. I really like water quality issues and addressing them,” Kenzie said. Unfortunately, COVID-19 cut the internship short, but Kenzie said she really enjoyed her time with them. She helped the Institute by taking water quality samples at the springs and river. She also did work in the office and input the data in organized, readable ways.

In addition, she worked with the Spring Watch groups across the state, where people do their own water quality testing. The Florida Springs Institute takes in the information so it can compile statewide data.

A picture from Kenzie’s time working with the springs. Photo provided.

Recently, she was an intern in the summer and fall with the Florida Springs Council, a statewide group focused exclusively on advocacy for springs and rivers, according to its website. She worked alongside them on their biggest case, fighting against a potential land development that would severely impact the natural springs in north Florida.

Kenzie said it was interesting to see how things happened behind the scenes. She worked on campaigns and other projects. She even did some investigative work, which included calling state funding organizations. Kenzie asked about money allocation for water quality issues such as infrastructure or in the maintenance of water quality levels.

“It was fun to trace the money from where it was coming from and where it was going,” she said.

Kenzie is from Orlando where she grew up with a spring located just a few minutes from her house.

“I don’t think it was a coincidence that I fell into so much spring work because I love the springs,” she said.