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March / April 2004

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UMaine Today Magazine

Student Focus

Chemicals in the Landscape

Sarah Nelson
Sarah Nelson

Photo courtesy of Sarah Nelson

Matthew Rodrigue
Matthew Rodrigue

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University of Maine graduate student Sarah Nelson has spent two summers scaling mountains and traversing streams in Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine, to analyze water samples to study how mercury and other chemicals accumulate in the landscape.

Now, with a $78,000, three-year Canon National Park Science Scholarship, she will continue her research in the winter.

Nelson was one of eight student researchers awarded a Canon Scholarship to conduct environmental studies at national parks in North and South America. Nelson, who works in UMaine's Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Environmental and Watershed Research, will use the scholarship to analyze winter trends in watershed chemistry at Acadia National Park.

"The goal of the program is to train the next generation of conservation scientists," says Gary Machlis, University of Idaho professor and program coordinator for the Canon National Parks Science Scholars Program. "We see these students as future leaders in conservation science."

Nelson's proposal was chosen from 140 applications and is the only 2003 project to be conducted in the United States. Other 2003 Canon scholars will be working in Canada, Argentina, Brazil, Peru and Mexico.

Nelson, who grew up in Berlin, Mass., became interested in environmental science after volunteering to monitor water quality in the Assabet River, which flows through Berlin.

In 2002, Nelson earned her master's degree and is working toward a Ph.D. in ecology and environmental sciences. She was part of a team working at Acadia to understand how mercury and nitrogen in streams and precipitation relate to the natural features and history of the landscape national issues of concern to the National Park Service. In Acadia, the research effort focuses on watershed on Cadillac Mountain and on Hadlock Brook.

Setting the Pace

Four years ago, Matthew Rodrigue came to the University of Maine to pursue his interests in technology and business, and to compete in Division I cross country.

The valedictorian and two-time All-American athlete from Farmington, Maine, ran cross country for the university his first year and started coursework for two degrees one B.S. in computer engineering with a minor in business administration, and a second B.S. in electrical engineering with a minor in mathematics. Then he got involved in the many leadership development opportunities on campus.

"Through it all, there were common threads that complemented one another," says Rodrigue of his varied pursuits. "They all required focus, drive and work ethic."

Rodrigue left varsity competition as an America East runner-up to coach Orono High School's cross country team for the past three years. Concurrently, he was involved in Student Government, serving first as a student senator and senate president pro-tempore, then last year as Student Government president.

And that was just the beginning. In September 2002, he was appointed by then Maine Gov. Angus King to the University of Maine System Board of Trustees. Rodrigue also served as president of UMaine's chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon; last August, he was elected to the national fraternity's board of directors.

He has spent the last three summers in academic co-ops and internships in Maine, working at International Paper in Jay, then at Fairchild Semiconductor in South Portland, in the areas of process technology and device engineering.

Last year, Rodrigue was the UMaine Student Leader of the Year and a Rhodes Scholarship finalist. This summer, when Rodrigue completes his two degrees, he will take a year off before enrolling in law school to study intellectual property law.


UMaine Today Magazine
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