Announcements / Science

Green Stormwater Infrastructure Symposium Connects Students and Environmental Professionals

“I want to end by saying two things…it’s possible to do very good things in very bad places and it’s possible to go carbon net-positive and have a grand time while doing it.” UVM Professor Emeritus John Todd ended his keynote speech at the Green Stormwater Infrastructure Symposium with these inspiring words. The event brought students together with professionals in the stormwater field as a response to a growing demand for Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) specialists. Attendees learned about the multitude of career types that are critical for changing our stormwater infrastructure standards. They also had time to hear about successful GSI projects in our region, present some of their own research, and network with professionals who are leading the field.

Presented by the Green Infrastructure Collaborative the Symposium was held at the University of Vermont’s Davis Center at the end of March. The event hosted over 150 students from UVM, SUNY Plattsburgh, and Norwich University. Three hours of professional presentations were broken into three tracts related to GSI: 1) Design, Engineering, and Implementation; 2) Natural Green Infrastructure; and 3) Policy, Education, and Careers. Featured speakers came with a wide range of experience: University faculty members, state agency employees from the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Stormwater Program and Vermont’s Urban and Community Forestry Program, Regional Planning Commission staff, land trust and non-profit sector leaders, municipal experts, and private-sector design teams. The projects they discussed varied but the common theme of the benefits associated with shifting stormwater management towards an alignment with natural hydrologic site conditions was clear throughout all sessions.

Dr. Todd’s keynote address complimented the day’s talks. Entitled “Healing the Waters through Ecological Design” Dr. Todd focused on his experience using ecological systems to improve water quality all over the world. He brought the audience on a tour of more than 40 years of projects – from small-scale eco-machines to clean up crude oil in a Massachusetts waterbody, to floating vegetation systems in China’s sewage-filled Baima Canal, to his newest design dreams focused on building a large ocean vessel to remove pollutants from the seas while serving as a floating classroom for the next generation of environmental stewards. His remarks added a dreamer element to the event, inspiring the young people in the room to think about the next creative steps to protect our natural resources.

John Todd, PhD talks with students following his keynote address on using ecological design to manage stormwater runoff at the GSI Student Symposium at UVM.

John Todd, PhD talks with students following his keynote address on using ecological design to manage stormwater runoff at the GSI Student Symposium at UVM.

The afternoon-long event concluded with a student poster session featuring seven student-made posters explaining current projects and research. Professors and students networked with professionals from the stormwater sector, creating new connections and partnerships for what may become featured work at next year’s Symposium.

The emerging fields associated with the promotion, design, installation, and education around GSI can offer new opportunities for those just entering the work force. This event was the first of what the Green Infrastructure Collaborative is hoping will become a yearly occurrence connecting new research findings, field professionals, students, and educators with a little inspiration to push the field ever forward.