Hometown Hero: Casey Garland
M.S. student helping develop environmental policy in Panama.
Casey Garland isn’t just thinking globally. Supported by a fellowship from the Council of Women World Leaders, the BEE M.S. student from Canton, N.C., is working in Panama to develop policies to protect that country’s natural resources.
“They have a lot of land use change,” Garland says. “People are converting a lot of the forestland into agricultural land and so they’re getting a lot of runoff and it’s filling up the Panama Canal.”
Garland started at Panama’s environmental protection agency, the Autoridad Nacional del Ambiente, in August. So far she has been involved in developing an action plan for Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation, a UN-funded program that provides developing nations funding to decrease deforestation. By creating carbon sinks through reforestation, the program aims to allow the 35 participating countries to participate in the emissions trading market while improving the environment.
“…they had a workshop at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute to review and brainstorm the proposal,” Garland writes on her blog, Cartas from the Isthmus. “I was able to attend this along with other collaborators from the public and private sector.”
Garland graduated magna cum laude from North Carolina State University in May 2010 with a Bachelor of Science in biological engineering with an environmental concentration. For her capstone design project, she worked with a team designing a multiplexer system to monitor groundwater contaminants with high spatial and temporal resolution. “What we wanted was to be able to set a unit down in the field and have it take samples automatically and wirelessly transmit the data,” she explains. “We didn’t want to go out there and sample every part of the field because of the time lag involved and our results would be limited to the time we were there. With this, you could sample every 10 minutes if you wanted to.”
While at N.C. State Garland also worked in research and extension with local farmers. “I worked with a professor in swine houses and broiler houses trying to reduce the emissions that are coming out,” she says. “For the broiler houses, we were testing bedding developed by the USDA to see if it actually worked or not. The swine houses were a solar wall project to see if we could get them heated more efficiently.”
Garland was also involved with the International Student Program, and participated in cultural programs in India and Turkey. “I’m really interested in other cultures and I know that water is a big concern, and not just for people here, but everywhere in the world needs water,” she says.
In high school, she worked for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park doing biodiversity research. “We caught salamanders because we were trying to find different species to see what was in there. I remember loving that,” she says. “I was always interested in the environment and being outside and always loved water activities and it just kind of expanded into looking at the science of it.”
After her fellowship, Garland plans to conduct research on bacterial and chemical contaminants in rural water supplies in the Ethiopian Highlands with biological and environmental engineering professor Tammo Steenhuis.
Casey Garland drags a tackler as she carries the ball for the Avengers, Ithaca’s community rugby team.
“I’m very interested in international development and a lot of what I wanted to work on coming to Cornell was how I could use my environmental engineering experience in an international setting,” she says. “And also, to be able to have my project overseas so that I would be working in that context. So I would get the experience of not only providing the information and assessing the problem, but also how to, in a practical sense, fix the problem—how it’s actually going to work out as far as policy and working with different organizations because there’s so many different players that have a vested interest in all these different projects.”
At Cornell, Garland is an active member of Alpha Epsilon and works with Community Building Works building sustainable, green housing in New York State and abroad. She has also joined Ithaca’s community rugby team, the Avengers. “I did it in North Carolina. A friend got me into it,” she says. “I was like I don’t know, but then I came out to one practice and that was it. I was like, ‘This is too good. They let me hit people and its OK. It’s encouraged.’”
— Robert Emro