the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Center for STEM Research, Education and Outreach contributes to sustainable projects in cities across the region by partnering to produce greenhouse gas inventories that provide information on the carbon dioxide created by facilities from the city.
The Department of Environmental Sciences and the STEM Center partnered with the City of Granite City in 2020. Citing favorable reviews from staff and appointed officials, the City of Collinsville is partnering with the STEM Center on a sustainability project similar.
âCommunity partnerships are at the heart of the activities of the STEM Center,â said Sharon Locke, director of the STEM Center, professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences. âWe are always looking for new avenues to connect SIUE STEM students with projects that help local cities and their residents. Students are not always able to see how their classroom learning translates into the real world, and community projects that use science offer a different perspective and are exciting for students.
SIUE graduate student Waleska Valle is the primary data collector, working as a sustainability intern with the City of Collinsville. Valle holds a bachelor’s degree in natural sciences from the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil. She is expected to graduate from SIUE in the summer of 2021 with a master’s degree in environmental science with a focus on environmental education.
Valle began working remotely with the city in the spring of 2021, but with the loosening of COVID-19 restrictions from Illinois, she is now gaining in-person experience at Collinsville city hall that further benefits her development. professional and improves collaboration with city leaders.
“The City of Collinsville is committed to performance-based management to ensure residents and businesses receive the best possible service out of taxpayer dollars,” said Collinsville Deputy City Manager Derek Jackson. âAll departments are responsible for monitoring KPIs on a monthly basis and setting annual targets. The greenhouse gas inventory will serve as a city-wide key performance indicator by providing insight into the amount of CO2 created by city facilities.
According to Jackson, the baseline inventory data will help the city plan and quantify sustainable projects, such as retrofitting a building with solar panels, investing in a green municipal fleet of electric vehicles, and encouragement of new energy-efficient developments.
These works complement the city’s long-term plans as detailed in its Sustainability plan, which was adopted in 2020. The plan is the city’s primary policy tool for advancing sustainable practices within the city operationally and as a community.
âAs Deputy City Manager, one of my roles is to act as a liaison between staff and the Cool Cities committee,â Jackson said. âThis committee is an advisory group of residents who help the city by providing ideas and making recommendations to make the city’s operations more energy efficient. Additionally, the committee coordinates within the community to encourage residents and businesses to consider sustainable alternatives that benefit the environment.
In addition to working on the greenhouse gas inventory, Valle has been involved in additional sustainability planning, including the possibility of installing more solar panels in the city.
âThe hands-on work experience I get as a sustainability intern cannot be had in a classroom setting, which makes it a valuable opportunity,â she said. âI gain professional experience in a structured environment in which I can communicate with other employees. I also learned about the essential role of government in sustainability.
With enthusiasm for this important project, Jackson highlighted the city’s great success with the SIUE internship programs.