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Environmentalist of the Month Improves Your Watershed and Water Quality

January 20, 2012 Environmentalist of the Month, Green Blog No Comments

Jennie Howland with trash collected from Muddy Branch cleanup











Gaithersburg, MD

January 20, 2011

By: Alex Stavitsky-Zeineddin

Jennie Howland is improving the local environment she lives in.   Over the past year, Ms. Howland has helped set up and run the Muddy Branch Alliance, a new non-profit in Gaithersburg, Md. engaged in educating the public about water quality issues.  She serves on the Muddy Branch Alliance board of directors.  Ms. Howland is only 25 years old.  She is looking for a full time job in the environmental sector.

Ms. Howland grew up in Gaithersburg.  “ I always played outside, rode bikes, and explored the woods. I also attended outdoor summer camps. My parents always sent me outside once I finished my homework.“

Spending time outdoors, then a trip to the Chesapeake Bay in 4th grade that explained water pollution and quality, influenced Ms. Howland’s interest in science.  She studied a lot of Biology at Wootton High School, and then was accepted at Mount Holyoke College, a prestigious private liberal arts school, the first all women’s college in the U.S.   Ms. Howland studied Biology there, thinking she wanted to be a vet, but then decided to transfer to University of Maryland to study Environmental Sciences where she earned a B.S. in Environmental Science and Policy.

“Environmental Sciences is the study of biodiversity and conservation biology. One scientifically measures the changes in plants and animals over time due to changes in the environment” said Ms. Howland.  “The ongoing debate is preservation versus conservation.  Because everything does change, do you try and conserve nature or slow down the outside environmental factors that create the change?”

These questions lead Ms. Howland to be interested in environmental policy.  Upon graduating from college, Ms. Howland interned for the Sierra Club’s Maryland chapter, a lobbying organization based throughout the United States.   There, she learned lobbying skills and helped plan different events.

Though Ms. Howland worked on the plastic bag bill, stopping hydrofracking, and other campaigns, Ms. Howland missed the hands on aspect of environmental work. This is what led her to helping establish a local watershed group, The Muddy Branch Alliance.

“ For me clean water is very important. I wanted to get involved in a local watershed and there wasn’t one directly in the area that I live. I went to the Clean Water Summit and met Paul Hlavinka who was also concerned about water quality issues in the area.”  Ms. Howland and Mr. Hlavinka soon decided, with others, to establish the Muddy Branch Alliance in the spring of 2010.

“ We want to bring attention to clean water, the Muddy Branch creek area.  The idea is that kids and people should enjoy clean water in the creeks.  Ms. Howland points out that all water run off from people’s lawns, from roads, all winds up in the creeks and then into the Potomac and becomes part of our drinking water. Water that has phosphates, fertilizers, pesticides, all runs into the local water sources.

Ms. Howland spends a lot of her free time setting up events, speakers and watershed cleanups along with writing grants for the Muddy Branch Alliance.  Currently, her paying job is at Starbucks. “ I am applying to jobs that are environmentally related and hoping that I can find a job in this field soon” said Ms. Howland.

When asked what Ms. Howland’s first environmental concern is, she said“ the biggest issue is where we get our energy. We are so dependent on fossil fuels and this source of energy will eventually run out. We need greater cleaner energy sources; there is not enough research or exploration. Fossil fuels are an unhealthy pollutant that contributes to water pollution. Pollution winds up in the water, it is all tied together.”

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