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As an environmental geochemical science major, Caitlyn Maceli ’15, along with faculty, staff, and fellow students, has been conducting comprehensive research on the impact of flooding on the SUNY New Paltz campus.
How did you get involved with water research on campus?
I took general bio with Dave Richardson, and asked how I could get involved in some research. I’m interested in flooding and ecology-based water studies, so he told me about this project on the impact of flooding on campus, and how it affects the water quantity and quality. The Haggerty Administration Building flooded in 2011 during Hurricane Irene, and the school was trying to figure out how to prevent this in the future by getting water to enter the ground and not cause runoff into the Gunk pond. They’re interested in getting a lot of students involved, so that’s where I came in.
Did you make any recommendations as a result of your research?
I looked at all the biology and chemistry of what’s happening underneath the surface, and then we had a computer scientist construct the buoy, which takes data every five to 10 minutes so we can track the storms and figure out what’s happening. We found that porous pavement was a good way to get surface water to enter the ground and not be problematic. And we put in vegetative bio swales by Crispell Hall that will allow heavy metals to be trapped in the vegetation and kept from entering the Gunk.
As a science student, why is SUNY New Paltz’s location conducive to your studies?
That’s been the most awesome part of going to New Paltz. For ecology class, we go to Lake Minnewaska and Mohonk Preserve and study tree identification. We’re doing water sampling at Minnewaska for my freshwater biology class. For geology, we went to see outcrops on the mountain, and we got to piece together the historical and regional geography. It’s literally in our backyard.
How did you hear about New Paltz?
I was trying to decide between here and Fordham University in New York City, but as a science student, there are so many more resources available to me in upstate New York. I came for an open house event one weekend, and it was pretty obvious that everyone loves it here. I thought the environmental geochemical science major was very unique and interesting, and I haven’t heard of any other schools that offer it.
What are your post-New Paltz plans?
I eventually want to blend journalism and science, and examine how we talk about science and how people look at it. I feel like science and real life should not be separate. You should always think about how science is applicable to people, and how people will interpret the information. I’d love to use research as a way to inform people. All these scientists are doing such great work – but how you talk about it is really important, too.