DIS Alumni, What’s Next?

on top of a windmill, field study for Renewable energy systemsHeather Sadusky, DIS spring 2013 blogger for Sustainability in Europe, wrote with enthusiasm and passion for her academic experiences while here at DIS. Her blog posts were chock-full of facts and reflection on sustainability, with constant inspiration, big and small – from everyday observations walking to class in Copenhagen, to larger realizations, brought to the table on her week-long study tour. Anyone taking a glance at her blog, could certainly learn a thing or two, as she stopped to admire each and every Danish turbine. So, when she posted news of landing a summer internship in Alaska, the shock factor was not there – but our interest was! Read on, as Heather discusses her summer internship, her hopes & dreams for a future career, and how a semester filled with interactive learning at DIS sparked her desire to know more.

Name: Heather Sadusky
Home University:
Florida State University
DIS Program & Semester:
Sustainability in Europe, spring 2013

I must admit, if there’s one thing I learned from a semester dedicated to understanding sustainability, it’s that there is no clear definition or straight career path for sustainability. You don’t graduate as a ‘sustainabilitor’ or immediately follow the flow of ‘sustainabiliteers.’  Rather, you take what you know and apply it to everything; incorporate it into your life, and whatever future positions you may reach for, because sustainability is indeed everywhere.

After completing the best semester of my life with DIS in Copenhagen, I assumed I’d go home to Florida, have a decent, boring summer, and try to find any kind of environmentally related internship to exercise my Europe-inspired passion.  While abroad I had applied to numerous positions, but it’s difficult to convince someone you’re the best candidate from another country.  At the height of my dissatisfaction with normal home life, I received an email about an internship I had applied to months ago.  Thinking it was far-fetched to begin with, I followed up.  After a phone conversation on Friday, I was offered the job Monday and flew to Alaska Thursday!  This unexpected and quick turn of events gave me the opportunity to work with salmon aquaculture on the island of Kodiak, Alaska.

American River, Surveying Angles
At the American River, surveying anglers

Clearly, this is a different kind of sustainability than what I learned in Copenhagen, but sustainability nonetheless.  My personal definition includes any work that heads in the right direction of a sustainable future, smartly managing resources and minimizing wasteful consumption.  Something very similar actually came up while studying in Copenhagen, a genius idea I’d love to help implement all over the world. Copenhagen’s south port has seen better days, and to utilize this rundown waste of space many new sustainable projects are cropping up.  In my Sustainability in Europe course we had a bike tour through the area led by a city planner who’s also a DIS instructor, where we were shown new designs of sustainable buildings including an apartment complex made from old grain silos. Through my Biodiversity and Conservation class, during our fisheries section, we had a guest speaker come talk with us about his company’s sustainable revamp of the port.  These guys are creating a mini ecosystem beneath a floating dock, complete with oysters, small fish to clean the algae, and larger ones to eat those, and above the dock will eventually be an oyster restaurant. Can you say sustainable!?  This kind of intelligent thinking and planning gets me very excited for the future.  Not only is this an awesome, appealing idea to a city full of chic people, but also sustainable and extremely environmentally friendly.  Aquaculture has been around for decades, yet in the modern sense it is a developing field undergoing rapid changes as the need for it increases.  The work I’m doing in Alaska is not nearly as glamorous as the waterfront designs of Copenhagen, but all these different fields—transportation and city planning in Copenhagen to fish collection and egg harvests in Alaska—come together to create the sustainable world we’re working towards.

Netting King Salmon
Netting King Salmon that swim into our trap

As I’m sure you know, internships act as that golden ticket to get you into the chocolate factory of the working world.  I am so happy to have earned a position in the field I love and finally put my education to use while gaining the necessary experience.  Here in Alaska I’m working specifically with King salmon, the largest species, and collecting the brood stock whose eggs will be harvested to make more salmon for the following years.  It is one of many projects my organization has going on across the island of Kodiak, in an effort to aid the natural process by enhancing salmon stocks for fishermen, and thereby sustainably manage and support the local stocks.  This kind of aquaculture takes pressure off the natural salmon runs while still providing fish for the people who depend on them.

I realize wading through rivers to net King salmon in the wilderness of Alaska is exceptionally different from interviewing a sustainability politician in the lively city of Copenhagen.  While I’d have to agree that DIS is no outdoors internship, there are many occasions where my knowledge was taken out of the classroom and applied to real life.  I had the opportunity to climb a windmill and speak with the technician, question the city municipality of Amsterdam on their energy sources, visit an organic dairy in western Denmark, and talk economics with my professor whose sole purpose in life is sustainability.

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These educational and examination experiences undoubtedly helped me with my internship, where I still feel like a student, trying to absorb as much information I can [considering I’m not a salmon expert, there is a lot to learn…].  There is no doubt that learning about sustainability in Copenhagen, the world’s best city to do so, further inspired my passion to save the world.  There is so much you don’t know if you stay in your bubble and confined to the walls of your books.  I’ve been awakened to new ways of doing the same old thing, have learned to question the standard, and been taught that what is established may not necessarily be the most efficient.  Some may call me an idealist, but with so many smart ways to improve our usual routine, I have hope for a global sustainable society.

sunny day in nyhavn

And now you know what I mean when I say I have no idea what I want to do!  The world of sustainability is so broad and all encompassing that I can’t decide which aspect I love most. Should I go after coral reef conservation in Florida, salmon aquaculture in Alaska, city planning in Copenhagen?  At some point I will absolutely go back to graduate school and become a professional in whatever it is I decide I must do.  Ideally, I will combine all of this knowledge spanning multiple fields and sustainably transform an existing system, whether it is the fisheries industry or an international city.  However, I recognize that half the fun in life is not knowing, and I am excited for what the untold future holds.  One thing I can say with certainty is that I will be somewhere wonderful in the world, working with my passion to create a sustainable planet.

Check out Heather’s new blog based on her internship in Alaska, to hear full details on her summer adventure!

If you’re a DIS alumni with a story, inspire us with a comment below!

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