Brittany Flaherty ’10 recently took a truly interdisciplinary approach to research, combining her studies of the sciences with her background in English by helping Assistant Professors of Environmental Studies Darrin Magee and Beth Kinne work on a manuscript for a water resources textbook. Their work will help future students learn more about what is “arguably the most important natural resource on this planet,” explains Flaherty.
The double major in environmental studies and biology had initially sent her resume to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) in Boston, and was pleased to see that she had sent her resume to a Hobart alum, John Clarkeson’75. “He told me that he’d be happy to have me work with EEA for the summer, but they weren’t going to be able to pay interns,” she explained. “He recommended applying for HWS summer research, saying that one of his greatest summers was spent in Geneva, and that it was an important part of being a student at this institution.”
This was enough to convince Flaherty to apply for – and subsequently receive – the research position on campus, which is in its second year. On a typical day, she would head to the Finger Lakes Institute to conduct research about various aspects of water resources such as water quality, water treatment, dams, canals, and water law. She was allocated sections of the textbook, particularly the chapter focused on water-related disease, to write…herself.
“I’ve never written a chapter of a textbook before, and the style of writing is definitely something that’s new to me,” explains Flaherty, an English minor. “But there is a lack of adequate interdisciplinary texts on the subject of water resources. It was challenging to find all of the information I need from reliable, credible sources, and to combine all of the information I’ve gathered into a cohesive piece of writing.” Despite the challenges of the project, “It has been so rewarding to be a part of this textbook because I feel as if I’m contributing to something very important,” she continues. “I also feel so fortunate to be able to combine my love of writing with my interest in environmental issues.”
Kinne agreed, hopeful that the book once published will enhance discourse surrounding important environmental issues. “This book will include discussion questions and suggestions for further reading, allowing us to open doors for conversation in and outside of the classroom.” She and Magee will use the textbook in their own courses, Topics in Environmental Studies: Water, which include the study of supply and demand, geopolitical crises, global privatization, water law, climate change, and water-borne disease.
“Water quality and disease control have always been interests of mine, and I plan on continuing to study water resources in graduate school,” explains Flaherty. “I would like to spend my career ensuring that people around the world have access to the clean drinking water they need in order to avoid water-related disease and live a long, healthy life.”
Flaherty is the co-founder and co-president of Colleges Against Cancer, as well as co-chair of its biggest event, Relay For Life. She participates in America Reads and studied abroad in New Zealand.