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Featured Student: Keyyana Blount

KeyyanaKeyyana Blount has always loved estuaries. Growing up in southern Maryland, her primary education began with the basic ecology of the Chesapeake Bay. During her time at Salisbury University, she completed an undergraduate research internship with the EPA’s Atlantic Ecology Division laboratory in Narragansett, RI on the climate change effects on salt marsh plants. “During this internship,” she says, “I had the privilege of spending many summer days in the beautiful salt marshes of New England. In the field, I realized how dynamic these ecosystems were, and also how vulnerable they may be to climate change.” These experiences encouraged Keyyana to study the potential effects of climate change on coastal wetland ecosystems, and to find ways to protect and preserve them.

Keyyana chose the UO Environmental Sciences, Studies, and Policy Program for her doctoral degree for many reasons, the first being its interdisciplinary nature. The value of a classical training through the focal department, in Keyyana’s case, Biology, combined with a course plan spreading across disciplines was invaluable. This interdisciplinary nature would provide the tools for addressing the complex issues that interested her most, including the interworking of the science-policy interface, and finding ways to “bridge the gap between the production of science and the development of effective policy.” She liked “how the degree plan is catered to each individual student, allowing them to work with their advisors to create an experience tailored personally to their research needs.” Keyyana sees this structure as a foundation building opportunity, which will provide her with the skills needed to “address the complex social and ecological factors contributing to complex environmental issues like climate change.”

But what she deemed her “major deciding factor” for attending the Environmental Studies Program was the “warmth” she encountered on her recruitment visit. The experience, she says, “confirmed all my positive instincts about the faculty, students and program as a whole.” Upon starting in the Environmental Studies Program, Keyyana was struck by the strong sense of community; she says, “I never imagined a graduate program could be so supportive and accommodating to their graduate students.”

Though Keyyana won’t be graduating until 2020, she sees herself continuing her work in wetlands, through restoration and management, and potentially even developing climate change conscious policy.

Read about other Environmental Studies Program students and faculty members here.