Global guardians energize Indiana as climate Fellows

Global guardians energize Indiana as Climate Fellows

Thirty-nine McKinney Climate Fellows have spent their summers working on independent projects across the state, addressing issues of sustainability and conservation alongside communities, businesses, and nonprofits. They are part of the McKinney Midwest Climate Project, hosted by IU’s Environmental Resilience Institute. 

These Fellows work in towns and cities throughout Indiana on projects that are tailored to the needs of each community – these include funding for local conservation initiatives, assessing tree canopy health, working with congregations on clean energy and energy efficiency, and more.

At the end of the summer, the Fellows will gather together to informally share what they worked on and accomplished, says Danni Schaust, the resilience implementation manager of the McKinney Midwest Climate Project.

Meet a few of the College of Arts and Science’s McKinney Climate Fellows and see what they’ve been working on:

Isioma Nwayor

“I am working with the Economic and Sustainable Development Department of the City of Bloomington to prepare a plan for the implementation of more Electric Vehicle Charging Stations in Bloomington.

“The City of Bloomington has set a goal to cut the community's greenhouse gas emissions by 25% below 2018 levels by 2030, and to reach carbon neutrality by 2050. Transportation is one of the city's major sources of carbon emissions. As a result, my summer project will assist in the creation of a plan for the adoption of more electric vehicles in the city, reducing carbon emissions from transportation and resulting in a more sustainable and equitable city.” 

After she graduates, Isioma would like to pursue a career in sustainability consultancy and provide solutions to environmental challenges in the U.S. and internationally.

Matthias Benko

“I’m creating an equitable tree management plan for the Town of Zionsville, Indiana. I will be creating this plan using geographic information systems (GIS), which will help me determine priority areas for tree planting based on environmental, economic, and social factors. 

“My project will help Zionsville to expand their urban tree canopy cover, which in turn will advance the sustainability efforts of the town. Trees themselves provide important benefits such as flood management and heat reduction, so I hope that my work will help the community experience these positive environmental impacts.” 

After finishing his undergraduate degree in Environmental Sustainability Studies and Geography, Matthias plans to work in the environmental sector for a couple years before pursuing a graduate degree in environmental policy.

Sam Schafer

“I have been partnered with the Hoosier Environmental Council where my purpose is to complete research and analysis of conservation funding, interviews and surveys of partners, public officials, and businesses, as well as participate in staff meetings and assist in community engagement activities. My projects include updating the Indiana Conservation Alliance website, determining federal funding for local conservation programs, updating the state's conservation funding initiatives, helping plan town hall meetings, and assisting with HEC tabling events. 

“It is my hope that my projects will help sustain Hoosiers' quality of life. By determining if more funding is available for conservation programs, as well as updating the state's initiatives, I aim to maintain and increase the amount of access to green space for the public. More funding would sustain nature preserves and other outdoor areas that protect Indiana’s environment and offer leisure activities.” 

After finishing her undergraduate degree in Environmental Sustainability Studies, Sam hopes to work for a nonprofit and to one day work as a sustainability director for a park or nonprofit.

Story by Devyn Blandford