April Israel, ’14, knows she wants to help make food production in the United States healthier and more sustainable. This past summer, she decided to start with the fundamentals—the environment. An interdisciplinary studies major, business minor, and Bonner Scholar, Israel reached out to the Maryland Coastal Bays Program for her summer service commitment and received an enthusiastic invitation to come to Ocean City, Md.
Israel explored everything from testing Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (SAV) to counting bird eggs and hatchlings on islands where people usually aren’t allowed to visit. She says that her internship was tailored to her interests, but it also provided a good mix of office and field work.
Out in the field, a head biologist scuba-dived while Israel walked next to him with a handheld GPS noting the amount of SAV and its coordinates. They later plotted the data using Google Earth maps and sent to a team of experts. SAV is a prime area for young aquatic wildlife to grow, Israel explains, and low amounts could be disastrous to the bays.
“When we started testing SAV, weird numbers kept popping up,” Israel says. “At a conference we attended, one expert even said that SAV was completely wiped out.
“After my supervisor Roman and I thoroughly searched and plotted where the SAV was and how much of it we found, we concluded that SAV was still there and very prosperous—especially compared with the expert’s findings.”
Israel also plotted how many bird eggs and hatchlings were residing on the five bays surrounding Ocean City. This helped the Maryland Coastal Bays Program keep a record of nesting patterns and bird populations.
This coming spring, Israel will be a different kind of testing—taste testing in Perugia, Italy in a food studies program. Israel has been a vegetarian for two years, but is considering a break while she studies abroad. Her goal is to both see and taste the difference in meat production in Italy compared to the U.S., as well as study the vegetarian movement overseas.
“I think along with studying how meat is produced, I will focus on how food production affects lifestyle and cultural eating habits,” Israel says. “I plan to take other marketing classes at UR, such as consumer behavior, and study why people buy what they buy.”
While at Richmond, Israel has worked at William Byrd Community House for her Bonner Scholar community service commitment. Using both the community garden and an urban garden, Israel spent last semester developing a healthy eating project with children in the community. Together, they grew seeds and held a cooking class that helped teach them how to use produce in the kitchen.
Israel says she hopes to combine the seemingly disparate fields of enviornmental studies, community food needs, and sustainable agriculture to explore the business of food production.
“Ideally someday I’d like to work for a food company, possibly doing consulting,” Israel says. “I’d love to help them develop better practices that could affect the environment in a positive way.
“The networking that came from [the internship] experience is amazing. Even though it doesn’t relate directly to what I want to do, in order to make changes, you have to understand the interconnectedness of everything.”