Although she grew up in Albany, New York, it was during the one month each summer spent in Maine when graduating senior Lianne Parmalee ’19 discovered her love for water resources and plants. At her family’s cabin on Panther Pond in the town of Raymond, she kayaked, dove for mussels, picked blueberries, and started along her academic pathway in ecology.
Lianne first became aware of the University of Vermont when her older sister was considering the university. When it came time for Lianne to apply to college, she learned about the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources and its dedication to the study of the environment. Drawn to the School’s emphasis on experiential learning both in and outside of the classroom, Lianne selected the Rubenstein School.
“My three siblings all went to Northeastern University, but I am very glad I chose UVM,” said Lianne who entered the Rubenstein School as an Aiken Scholar. “I loved the feel of the campus, and I knew I didn’t want to be in a big city, so Burlington was a big draw – a small city with a lot going on.”
As a Rubenstein Steward, she welcomed prospective students, served as a peer advisor, organized and hosted community-building events, and gained confidence as a leader.
Starting out in the Environmental Sciences major in the Rubenstein School, she transferred into the School’s Natural Resources major after her sophomore year and concentrated in ecology.
“Natural Resources provided flexibility and allowed me to explore different interests in resource ecology and plant sciences,” said Lianne, who minored in Plant Biology. “The major is a good mix of both the Environmental Sciences and the Environmental Studies majors and falls nicely in between.”
Pursuing her passion for water resources, she volunteered at the Rubenstein Ecosystem Science Laboratory on the Lake Champlain waterfront with Assistant Professor Mindy Morales-Williams. Under Mindy’s mentorship, Lianne learned to process aquatic algae samples, identify algae, and maintain a laboratory. She quickly achieved a paid student technician position and continued to work in the lab throughout her time at UVM. In the summer, she collected and processed lake water samples for the Northeast Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network (GLEON).
“It was an exceptional experience to be so immersed in the research process as an undergraduate,” said Lianne, who is considering graduate school in aquatic ecology.
Her research experience overlapped with aquatic monitoring opportunities she found with the State of Vermont Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) through the Rubenstein School Perennial Summer Internship Program. She spent a summer on Vermont lakes as an aquatic invasive species management intern and performed plant surveys and invasive water chestnut harvests with state environmental scientists Kim Jenson and Josh Mulhollem. Lianne assisted with aquatic invasive educational workshops for local lake associations, updated water chestnut site maps, and created an informational booklet on problematic invasive species in Vermont. With state aquatic biologist Pete Stangel, she conducted water sampling for cyanobacteria as part of the state’s algal bloom monitoring.
“My interconnections with Mindy’s limnology lab and with ANR helped me to see how academic scientists collaborate with state natural resource scientists and how research ties into the state’s monitoring and management of water health,” said Lianne, who received the Rubenstein School natural resources program award for quality student experience.
For her Plant Biology minor, Lianne took several courses in UVM’s Department of Plant and Soil Science and became a teaching assistant for a weed ecology course, which related to her work on aquatic invasive plant management. She reinforced her knowledge by teaching students about agricultural weeds and control methods.
As a USDA Multicultural Scholar in the Rubenstein School, Lianne used her financial award to study abroad at the University of Western Australia. There, she took courses in marine biology, a field of aquatic studies not offered at UVM.
For a capstone project in the senior core course, NR 206 Environmental Problem-Solving, Lianne teamed up with two classmates and community partner, Rozalia Project, to track plastic debris accumulation on Lake Champlain shorelines.
“I was familiar with the big studies on plastics in the oceans,” said Lianne. “But this project opened my eyes to the similar issues that lakes face with plastic accumulation on beaches and in the water.”
After four years, Lianne has come full circle. Following graduation, she heads to Raymond, Maine, where she will work in a full-time seasonal position with the Raymond Waterways Protective Association (RWPA).
The RWPA monitors and protects the water quality of the town’s many lakes and provides a boat inspection service to protect against movement of invasive aquatic plants. Lianne will manage the courtesy boat inspection program, conduct water quality sampling, and work with town officials and the association’s donor base to help protect Raymond’s lakes and ponds, including the very pond where her love of water and plants took hold.