Soil and Water Summer Experience – Lily Willingham

The Soil and Water Sciences Department is offering students the chance to blog about their summer experience. The students enrolled in one of three courses over the summer, for which they received credit: SWS 4905-Individual Work, SWS 4911-Supervised Research in Soil and Water Science, and SWS 4941
Practical Work Experience. This is Lily Willingham’s summer experience:

College student in car taking a selfie

Lily Willingham’s internship with the Orange County Environmental Protection Division included driving to check air monitoring sites. (photo provided)

My name is Lily Willingham and Environmental Management of Agriculture and Natural Resources is my major. This summer, I worked with the Orange County Environmental Protection Division. I was an air quality management intern.

Task assignments included creating an emergency hurricane procedure for the air monitoring equipment, creating an anti-Idle campaign for air month, creating a GIS map to help find a new air monitoring site, researching mobile air monitoring labs, and looking for an air monitoring site by car and knowing the rules and regulations required by the EPA.

I learned SO much during my internship. I knew about the Clean Air Act, but seeing how it is implemented and everything that has to be done to monitor the air was an amazing learning experience. I quickly memorized the pollutants we monitored and how they affect human health. I was even able to help set up some of the air monitoring equipment and see how it is monitored. I learned how to interpret the data and how the weather can influence some of the air pollutants.

Learning about the Clean Air Act in class definitely helped me grasp the new information a lot better. Understanding the chemistry of air was also helpful.

Working a full-time job, going to school full-time and having an internship was not easy. I am really thankful the Orange County Environmental Protection Division tried to make sure I was not overwhelmed, but that I also had an informative and fun internship. This internship really helped me figure out what I want to do after I graduate. I was able to job shadow when I was not working on tasks. I was able to shadow the manager of the entire division as well as the heads of NPDES, water quality, pollution prevention, air monitoring, air inspectors, and air quality management. I had a close-up look at everything that goes into environmental governance and how tax dollars are spent. This experience has changed my opinion of environmental government work and seriously made me consider it as a future career.