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Students survey reservation residents

Apr 21, 2013 - By Randy Tucker, Staff Writer

A group of four graduate students from George Washington University recently visited the Wind River Indian Reservation as part of an outreach program with the U.S. Department of Energy.

William Dam, hydrologist and site manager with the Department of Energy from Grand Junction, Colo., coordinated and managed the visit by the four master's degree candidates.

The purpose of the visit was to survey reservation residents on their impression of water quality at the Susquehanna Western Inc. uranium mill tailings site as measured by 18 monitoring wells near the facility.

Forrest Miller, Anthony Cefali, Susanna Murley and Emily Halter are all in the final weeks of obtaining a master of arts degree in Environmental Resource Policy from George Washington University.

Each of the graduate students has a different background.

"I grew up in a small town in a rural area," Halter said. "It influenced my understanding of the environment."

Murley had a much different impetus in obtaining an advanced environmental degree.

"I'm working to stop climate change," Murley said. "The problem with environmentalism is communicating the science. It always comes down to jobs versus the environment but doesn't have to happen. You can have both."

Murley is an advocate of solar energy and works for the Solar Energy Industries Association, a national trade association based in Washington, D.C.

The variety of academic challenges found in working with the environment intrigued Cefali.

"I was scared of specialization in one field and enjoy looking at the world in a way to make it better," Cefali said. "I grew up in Illinois with environmentally interested parents."

Miller is a Maryland native who said he thoroughly enjoys the West. Miller worked on Montana ranches for several years and sees the connection between that lifestyle and protecting the environment.

"Good quality water is important to ranchers," Miller said. "Maintaining the quality of life on Western ranches is another important aspect of environmental management."

The Wind River Environmental Quality Commission received accolades from the group.

Dam pointed out that the entire process is about respect for the community and fixing environmental problems that continue to affect people today.

The graduate students passed out many surveys during their visit but encouraged interested people to log onto their website at WindRiverProject.Com to complete a survey.

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