Aquatic Educator Erin De Vries Moves to Great Lakes of Michigan

By Lake Champlain Sea Grant Staff
July 25, 2016

by Shari Halik

Rubenstein School staff member Erin De Vries (MS-NR '08) will step down on July 15 from her position as Watershed and Lake Education Coordinator for theUniversity of Vermont Watershed Alliance, a key partnership between the Lake Champlain Sea Grant(LCSG) and UVM Extension. After six years with the Watershed Alliance, Erin and her family are moving to Ann Arbor, Michigan where her husband will start a new job.

Erin earned her B.A. in environmental science, focused on conservation biology and botany, from Franklin Pierce College (University) and her M.S. in ecological planning from the University of Vermont, where she conducted inventories of wetlands and vernal pools for her graduate project.

Prior to her position with the Watershed Alliance, Erin worked as a wetlands ecologist for the state of Vermont, as a botanist in Oregon, and as an environmental consultant on Saint Kitts and Nevis where she helped to create the St. Mary’s Biosphere Reserve, the first reserve in the English-speaking Caribbean. She also briefly worked as an administrative assistant for the UVM Environmental Program.

For the Watershed Alliance, Erin coordinated local middle and high school educational programs in water resources. She used a place-based approach that mixed classroom instruction with applied action, such as water quality monitoring and community service.

In classrooms of local schools, Erin taught both students and their teachers about watersheds, aquatic ecology, water quality, stormwater, erosion, blue-green algae, and phosphorus, among other topics affecting Lake Champlain and its watersheds. In Vermont’s wetlands and streams, she engaged the students in activities that involved netting and identifying macroinvertebrates, measuring water quality, and assessing stream habitat.

“The goal of the program is to ensure that all students in the Lake Champlain Basin are aware of their local water resources and learn how to be good stewards,” explains Erin, who grew up developing a love for water near the headwaters of the Brandywine River in Pennsylvania.

The program culminates with a stewardship project designed by the students, such as spear-heading a river clean-up or invasive species removal. Others have designed a lake-related exhibit at the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center on the Burlington waterfront.

As an Aquatic Science Literacy Educator for a number of primary and secondary education initiatives in the state, Erin contributed her expertise in water education to help meet the goals of environmental literacy in Vermont. She sat on the board for SWEEP (State-Wide Environmental Education Programs) and partnered with the Champlain Basin Education Initiative (CBEI).

“Erin has played a key role in the development of the Lake Champlain Sea Grant program,” states Professor Breck Bowden, Director of the Lake Champlain Sea Grant. “With critical support from UVM Extension, Erin nurtured and grew the Watershed Alliance and related initiatives that seek to enhance the environmental literacy of youth in the Lake Champlain Basin. Through her efforts dozens of undergraduate interns have received valuable training in environmental education, scores of teachers have learned how to better incorporate environmental science into their curricula, and thousands of young students have been introduced to the complexity and wonder of the Lake Champlain environment. These students will be the next generation of scientists and stewards and Erin’s efforts have sown the seeds for new visions of our future. We will miss Erin’s dedication to the LCSG program and her enthusiasm for Lake Champlain and all that make their home here.”

“Leaving Vermont is bittersweet,” says Erin, “but it is time for me to move on and do something new and different. I will miss Vermont’s landscape and the waterways and wetlands I have grown to know so well. I enjoyed the small tight-knit Sea Grant and Extension community and working with my undergraduate interns.”

She will also miss her home in Colchester near the Burlington border from where she could ride her bike to work at the Rubenstein Ecosystem Science Laboratory on the Lake Champlain waterfront.

The move is a new adventure for Erin, her husband Greg, a cultural landscape architect, and their two children Wade and Twyla. Erin is looking forward to sailing the Great Lakes, camping on rocky shores, and picking the best peaches and cherries west of Pennsylvania. We can bet Erin will spread some of her spunky Vermont progressive ideas and her know-how in water stewardship throughout Ann Arbor and the greater Detroit area.