Career Addressing Climate Change Already Underway for Environmental Sciences Graduate

May 5, 2021 | Graduate News, News, UToday, Alumni, Honors, Natural Sciences and Mathematics
By Meghan Cunningham

Hannah LaPoint has already begun her career doing her part to address climate change for generations to come.

As a natural resources technician for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, a position she was connected to following a previous internship with the Black Swamp Conservancy, she works to remove invasive species, conduct prescribed burns and maintain the facilities of northwest Ohio’s nature preserves.

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CELEBRATING SUCCESS: UToledo recognizes the Class of 2021 with a series of stories featuring students receiving their degrees at spring commencement.

“I fell in love with the natural world when I was young. I was always playing outside and taking camping trips with my family as a kid,” said LaPoint, who is graduating with a bachelor of science degree in environmental sciences with a concentration in geology. “As I grew older, I was captivated by science because it is the window with which we understand our world. I knew I wanted to study the environment because climate change is arguably the biggest challenge of mine and future generations. I want to make a tangible difference and be part of something bigger than myself.”

In the hydrogeology lab of Dr. James Martin-Hayden, associate professor of geology in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, LaPoint said she learned the vital skills for her career collecting field samples, performing laboratory testing and creating models on pesticide flow through groundwater.

“He is a professor who is clearly excited about the material they’re teaching, and that translates into better learning by the students,” she said. “Working in his lab has given me valuable technical skills and helped me to build connections with other researchers.”

“Hannah has been a stellar student,” Martin-Hayden said. “It was a challenge to keep other students busy during the research pause last summer. However, Hannah took the initiative to sit down with me and design a solid research project that she could complete amongst all the restrictions. So, not only did she design an excellent research project but she was flexible enough to adapt it to the unusual circumstances.”

Hannah Lapoint, an honors student graduating with a bachelor of science degree, poses next to the newest engineering project she headed with the Student Green Fund, the Solar Field Array on Health Science Campus.

LaPoint, who also is an honors student in the Jesup Scott Honors College, will graduate from UToledo having left her mark on campus. As the student manager of the Student Green Fund, she helped create the HSC Tech Park Solar Field. The 2.3-acre, 337-kilowatt solar array on Health Science Campus increases the amount of renewable energy powering the University. The projected electrical production over the 25-year life of the system will be more than $700,000, enough to power about 60 homes annually.

It was a collaborative project. First Solar, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of solar cells and a company with deep ties to UToledo, donated 365 kilowatts of its Series 5 modules to the University. A student engineering design team worked with UToledo Facilities and Construction on the construction plans. And the UToledo Student Green Fund approved spending $350,000 to cover the costs to install the array.

“I helped champion the solar field because I wanted to learn more about solar technology, design and implementation,” LaPoint said. “I also wanted to get involved because it was a fantastic project that built sustainable infrastructure and gave students real-world experience in design and problem solving.

“This organization is close to my heart because I’ve been able to help UToledo become more sustainable right in front of my eyes.”

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