OSM/VISTA Watershed Development Coordinator, NFRIA-WSERC Conservation Center, Paonia, Colorado
Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement
 
How Anna Santo got involved with Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement
While I was studying biology and environmental studies at Oberlin College, I became very interested in the biological and social impacts of coal mining. After doing an internship with a nonprofit in the southern Appalachian coalfields, I designed a study and wrote my senior honors thesis on the effects of acid-mine drainage (AMD) and AMD remediation on macroinvertebrates in strip-mined areas of Southern Ohio. I graduated in 2009, and went to work for the Midwest Biodiversity Institute on the EPA's National Rivers and Streams Assessment (NRSA) for the field season. After working on the NRSA, I was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to teach in Venezuela for one year. When I returned to the United States, I wanted a job where I could use my science background to help mining communities protect their access to clean air and water. I found the Western Hardrock Watershed Team online, and began working as an OSM/VISTA in a Colorado coal mining community in fall 2010.
 
Experience
I have felt very inspired by our Citizens Gas Water-Quality Monitoring Project, a community initiative to collect scientifically valid water-quality data about local surface and groundwater drinking water sources. The valley where I live has experienced a boom in gas mining in the last decade, and local people are concerned that drilling and fracking may be contaminating their irreplaceable drinking water supplies. The willingness of community members to get involved in this project has been extraordinary; in our small mining and farming community, over one hundred people have offered input on our sampling plan, requested presentations to stakeholder groups about the project, been professionally trained to collect water samples, and donated nearly $15,000. This project has demonstrated to me that stakeholders can and will work together to protect their shared resources, even if there are conflicting interests within a community.
 
Anna Santo's accomplishments
I think my two major professional successes have been to (1) recruit and organize volunteers to collect the first round of water quality samples for the Citizen Gas Water-Quality Monitoring Project, and (2) increase visibility of our organization through local print media, radio, volunteer workdays, public meetings, and educational events. On a personal level, this position has been a valuable way for me to learn about the finances, politics, and rewards of working for an environmental nonprofit.
 
Anna Santo's next steps
When I finish my year of service as an OSM/VISTA, I plan to work for a few years and then go to graduate school. In the future, I would like to work in an organization that helps communities protect their access to clean air, water, and land.
 
Hometown: St. Paul, Minnesota
School: Oberlin College
Major: Biology; Environmental Studies