My experience as a DTE Foundation Fellow

For the last two years, I have been working with HRWC as the Watershed Planning Fellow. In August, I began my next position in environmental consulting. Working with HRWC has been a huge step for me in my career, although this wasn’t my first rodeo with the heroes of the Huron.

I first met HRWC in high school

Eric surveying anglers
Conducting surveys of local anglers.

My first introduction to HRWC was back in 2015 at a River RoundUp volunteer event I attended when I was a senior in high school. The experience was rewarding to say the least, and I continued to volunteer with the organization. Then, in my junior year at Eastern Michigan University, I accepted the role of an aquatic field intern. This internship gave me the opportunity to exercise some of my more practical leadership skills. The results were rewarding as we collected a record amount of data that summer, and I built great relationships with staff.

Pandemic start up

After working for the City of Ann Arbor for a couple of years, I made my return to HRWC on a 2-year fellowship funded by the DTE Foundation. The position is designed for young, underrepresented environmental professionals who are just starting their careers. I applied, interviewed, and ultimately was offered the position in March 2020. However, due to the pandemic, I didn’t actually start the position until September 2020. When I finally made my long-anticipated debut with HRWC staff as the Watershed Planning Fellow, it came with a catch… I had to start entirely virtual.

My onboarding process, introductions to staff, and project work was 100% virtual. Although challenging, frustrating, and even awkward at times, we found a way to overcome adversity and get the most out of the two years to follow. After the first couple of months of onboarding, becoming familiar with everyone and their work, I was ready to accept more responsibility in the position.

My contributions to key initiatives

Eric training summer 2022 interns on data collection

I was given a feature role in launching HRWC’s watershed-wide Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) program. I worked closely with Ric Lawson on this program, and we made great strides in my time here. We’ve built a framework for how to assist establishments with maintaining their green infrastructure. We have also participated in a regional collaborative which includes other watershed groups across Southeast Michigan with similar goals to improve GSI in their watersheds. This collaborative has given us the opportunity to refine and improve the amount, quality, and knowledge of GSI in our watershed.

I have also served as one of HRWC’s coordinators for our summer field internship program. I have primarily managed the BANCS stream erosion program and GSI maintenance work, while filling in on several of our other field programs as needed. I was thankful to have had a great group of interns to work with both seasons and look forward to watching them continue to develop and contribute to the profession in years to come.

All in all, I have really enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity to grow and contribute to HRWC over the past two years. I’ve built skills and relationships that will last long into the future.

This blog post was originally published in the Huron River Report, Fall 2022.