By Kyle Martin, Michigan Sea Grant 2022 summer undergraduate intern 

Kyle Martin is a young Black man in a black sweater and silver necklaceAs an undergraduate summer intern with Michigan Sea Grant, my journey delved into the heart of environmental education, conservation, and community engagement. This experience, marked by research, outreach, and creating an impactful STEM education program, has left an indelible mark on my academic and professional aspirations.

Fostering Environmental Stewardship

One of the primary focuses of my internship involved developing interactive educational programming opportunities that reached over 30,000 students and visitors to the Detroit Zoo and partner locations at the Metro Detroit Youth Day Event—this initiative aimed to foster environmental stewardship, civic engagement, and the conservation of native fauna. The commitment to educating diverse audiences about the importance of our ecosystems became a cornerstone of my internship.

Exploring Urban Ecology

In Southwest Detroit, my fellow Michigan Sea Grant intern Sarah Krzemien and I conducted research using i-Tree Canopy digital software to analyze native tree species. Our work encompassed assessing canopy percentage, CO2 sequestration, water mitigation, and pollutant removal. Developing a method to express and compare carbon sequestration among native tree species in different parks further contributed to our understanding of urban ecology. The fusion of technology and ecology showcased the innovative approaches employed in studying and enhancing urban environments.

Digital Habitat Analysis

I used tools such as ArcGIS Pro, ArcGIS Survey123, and Excel to analyze tree canopies’ digital habitat, which involved determining canopy percentage and optimal pollutant removal in communities. Using technology in environmental research opened new avenues for understanding and mitigating the impacts of urbanization on natural habitats.

School of Green: A Community Engagement Triumph

Kyle Martin, a young Black man, stands in front of a display of amphibian and reptile images while presenting at the School of Green event.

In the summer of 2021, I marked a significant milestone toward combining my passion for STEM education and community engagement with environmental conservation. Working with Michigan Sea Grant, I created an interactive and inclusive STEM education program, the School of Green, to foster appreciation for and celebrate the rich biodiversity surrounding us. Each year, the program features a different animal theme. At its core, the School of Green event is a community service project, an educational learning experience, a park clean-up initiative, and a networking opportunity. Our primary goal is to educate local communities about the fascinating creatures residing in their neighborhoods. To achieve this, we organize live animal demonstrations, hands-on activities, arts and crafts, and civic engagement opportunities. The event became a collaborative effort, with numerous programs and organizations across Michigan coming together to create a truly immersive and enlightening experience. I am proud to say that the School of Green is now an annual event and kick-started a movement that celebrates the wonders of the natural world, breaking down barriers to access and empowering communities through education and experience. As I ponder the success and future direction of the event, I am energized by the possibilities and eager to continue positively impacting our communities.

Empowering Diversity in STEM

My vision for the future extends beyond personal goals to a commitment to promoting diversity and inclusivity in STEM education. My experiences with Michigan Sea Grant and other environmental initiatives reinforce my belief that everyone can find a place in STEM regardless of background. As I aspire to become a university professor, I aim to inspire and mentor students from diverse backgrounds, fostering a sense of belonging in STEM and contributing to scientific understanding.

Reflections on Impact

The success and future direction of the School of Green have left me energized by the possibilities of positively impacting our communities. Reflecting on my journey, I am fueled by a profound sense of purpose and the belief that research, education, and community engagement can collectively contribute to a sustainable and inclusive future for all.

In closing, my internship with Michigan Sea Grant has been a transformative chapter, shaping not only my academic pursuits but also instilling in me a deep commitment to environmental education and outreach. It’s a journey that has set the course for my future endeavors and solidified my belief in the power of individuals to make a lasting impact on the environment and the communities they serve.