Sustainability at the Field Museum: SUST Major Laura Miller Hill Reports on Her Summer Internship

During the summer of 2015, several Roosevelt University students majoring in Sustainability Studies have been doing internships or pursuing study abroad opportunities in various locales around the world, from Chicago to Hawaii and from Schaumburg to Scandinavia. Over the new several weeks, we’ll post their reports from the field on their activities, adventures, and advocacy work in the service of environmental conservation, sustainable development, and social justice.

Here’s the first of these student blog posts, from Laura Miller Hill, a senior SUST major who is interning at Chicago’s world-renowned Field Museum along beautiful Lake Michigan.

The Field Museum’s Edible Treasures Garden and friend (photo: L. Miller Hill 2015)

The Field Museum’s Edible Treasures Garden and friend (photo: L. Miller Hill 2015)

This summer I have been working with Sustainability Manager Carter O’Brien as a Keller Science Action intern at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. My primary job is to take facts, stories and general information regarding sustainability initiatives throughout the museum and consolidate them into webpages that are both educational and easily understood by people who visit the Museum’s A Greener Field website.

During my time as an intern, I have met and interviewed many interesting people around the Chicago area who are instrumental in making the Museum more sustainable. From my interviews I have learned how to initiate and sustain the composting of food waste, the steps needed to start a workplace food garden, how to establish native landscaping on a large scale, and the steps involved in transforming the food service industry into one that relies on local foods and produces zero food waste.

Miller Hill blog image 1bBefore I even began my internship, I was invited to participate in my first meeting of A Greener Field, the Museum’s green team and the driving force for sustainability initiatives at the Museum. A Greener Field began in 1989 to promote recycling at a grass-roots level, and now has over 50 members representing every area of the Museum. The team provides an outlet for staff to share the successes they have had and the challenges they have faced when trying to make their departments more sustainable. It is also used as a way for staff to initiate and help implement museum-wide sustainability programs. Under the guidance of Carter O’Brien and the A Greener Field team, the Museum has made great strides in energy and water conservation and the reduction of waste throughout the Museum, and in the process helped the Museum earn Gold LEED Certification.

Southern portion of Northerly Island, Spring 2015 (photo: L. Miller Hill)

Southern portion of Northerly Island, Spring 2015 (photo: L. Miller Hill)

I was also invited to join Carter, museum scientists, and our own Professor Mike Bryson on a tour of the southern half of Northerly Island led by members of the Army Corps of Engineers. This was an exciting opportunity for me, as this 40-acre portion of the “island” (actually a peninsula created as part of the 1909 Daniel Burnham Plan of Chicago) is not yet open to the public. Our group was able to see the restoration work that the Army Corps and the Chicago Park District are doing to turn a former airport into a wildlife habitat that will be accessible to the public through trails and boardwalks throughout the site. Regrading of the island will provide birds with hills and the visual topography to help them land and avoid flying into large buildings in the area. The addition of a pond and the creation of a deeper wetland will provide an estuary for non-game species of fish, and a habitat that will remain wet during dry periods for birds traveling along the migratory Lake Michigan flyway.

Photo: L. Miller Hill, 2015

Photo: L. Miller Hill, 2015

The tour of Northerly Island and my meeting with A Greener Field helped me realize how instrumental the Field Museum is in acting as a sustainability leader and preserving biodiversity in the Chicago region. Although we tend to think of the Museum primarily as a protector of rain forests and as a collector of artifacts from archeological sites all over the world, along with government entities, citizen groups and other non-profit organizations, the Museum also plays a significant role in protecting natural habitats in our own backyard. I am very much looking forward to my role in documenting how Field Museum staff are working together to reduce their own ecological footprint and the processes an educational science institution must go through to change the way society thinks about and interacts with the natural environments we live and work in every day.

Laura Miller Hill M15Laura Miller Hill is a returning adult undergraduate student at Roosevelt University, where she is a senior Sustainability Studies major. She is spending her summer working as a Keller Science Action Center intern at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago under the supervision of Sustainability Manager Carter O’Brien. Miller Hill’s primary job is to take facts, stories and general information regarding sustainability initiatives throughout the museum and consolidate them into webpages that are both educational and easily understood by people who visit the Museum’s A Greener Field website. She also authored this waste and environmental justice essay about Town of Pines, Indiana, on the Schaumburg’s Sustainable Future website.

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One Response to Sustainability at the Field Museum: SUST Major Laura Miller Hill Reports on Her Summer Internship

  1. Laura Miller Hill says:

    Carter,

    Thank you! I will be at the museum this Wednesday at 8:30, so I’ll see you then!

    Laura >

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