Recent graduate promotes aquatic environmental restoration
Joseph Eisinger spent his childhood turning over rocks and stomping around creeks in search of wild creatures. As he formed a relationship with nature, he developed a desire to protect the ecosystems he encountered. Now, as a participant in the Department of Energy’s Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship (SULI) program, he can pursue the same activities professionally.
“I’ve never really grown out of that urge to seek out and understand things that are wild and new,” Eisinger said.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in wildlife, Eisinger entered the SULI program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), a program sponsored by the Department of Energy Office of Science’s, Office of Workforce Development for Teachers and Scientists (WDTS) and administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, managed by ORAU.
Eisinger and his mentor, Dr. Ryan McManamay, developed a system for mapping small stream habitats that are generally difficult to study using traditional techniques, such as satellite and aerial photography. By physically entering Oak Ridge’s Bear Creek, they filmed the stream with cameras, gathered water quality measurements through various sensors and analyzed the data in the lab.
“This provided me an opportunity to quite literally get my feet wet in aquatic research,” Eisinger said.
Ideally, the results will provide further information to aid in environmental restoration projects, a task Eisinger believes is people’s responsibility.
“There are many species of plants and animals that spend most or all of their lives in small waterways and tributaries, including local species of concern like the Tennessee dace,” Eisinger explained. “In order to intelligently manage these systems, we need to have detailed and accurate assessments of the area’s environmental suitability and the distribution of important habitat features.”
Though he has witnessed the final stages of several projects, this one proves particularly interesting for him as he experienced a different project phase: the start.
“It’s valuable to have been able to work on a project from its very beginning stages, going from designing and budgeting to assembling and testing equipment,” Eisinger explained.
After his research experience, he plans to apply for graduate school and volunteer with Americorps, a program that places individuals in service positions to develop work skills, in the National Civilian Community Corps program.
“I hope to pursue a career that promotes the conservation and understanding of the natural world,” Eisinger said. “Grad school and other work experiences will help me decide if I best serve that with a focus on research, education and/or direct involvement in natural resource management.”
Regardless, he will continue to promote the environmental consciousness he developed at a young age.
“I believe conservation is a sacred responsibility for us to be intelligent stewards of the natural world, which we do not own but have been given an incredible amount of influence over it,” Eisinger said.