Meet Audrey: Trout Lake Station’s Summer Science Communication Intern

A woman points to a red cliff face while standing on a hiking trail.

We are thrilled to, once again, host an aspiring undergraduate science communicator on station this summer. We’ll let Audrey introduce herself and look forward to following her adventures on our northern lakes! 

by Audrey Hoey-Kummerow – When I came across the position for Science Communication Intern at Trout Lake Station, I was thrilled. I am a rising junior studying sustainability science and am fascinated by the intersection of physical, biological, and social systems. As much as I’d like to say sustainability is something I’ve always been passionate about, it wouldn’t be the truth. I could never seem to decide what I wanted to do as a child and even into adulthood. I said I wanted to be a Hollywood stunt double, a writer, a veterinarian, a computer programmer. Though my career aspirations have fluctuated, my love for the outdoors has remained constant. 

My love for the outdoors began in my hometown of Lawrence, Kansas. As a college town in Kansas, Lawrence is not known for its natural beauty. However, Lawrence offered numerous opportunities to connect with nature. My parents frequently took me and my brother to local parks, hiking trails, state parks, and lakes, where we spent hours exploring and appreciating the outdoors. These experiences instilled in me a deep sense of wonder and respect for the environment, teaching me that beauty can be found everywhere.

In elementary school, I was a curious child who loved learning. However, after middle school I stopped enjoying school. I have always struggled with reading comprehension, so when my classes started assigning weekly readings, school became much harder. My goal became just to get good grades, not to learn.

A group gathered around a campfire at dusk near a lake.
A group of Trout Lake Station’s summer students and team leaders enjoy the first “Fuego Friday” of the summer. Photo: A. Hoey-Kummerow

This was how I viewed school up until I took AP Environmental Science my senior year. That class gave me opportunities to see real-life applications of what we were learning. We had a limnology unit where we got to collect samples from a nearby lake, watch a prescribed burn on the prairie behind our school, and get lots of experience in a lab setting. Taking that class inspired me to join the Garden Club. Through our consistent upkeep of the school garden, I found a community. On the weekends we’d work on projects – making compost bins, installing natural irrigation for our native plant garden, and general upkeep. I became so invested in our garden that I’d drive by the school to check on the watermelons, my favorite of our plants. 

Watermelons require consistent watering, lots of space and lots of time. Most take around 80 to 100 days to mature. Because of this, we were all so excited for our hard work to pay off and finally get to enjoy some watermelon. However, a couple weeks before our first watermelon was ready, it was stolen. We were all upset but still had two watermelons. To our surprise, the second watermelon was also stolen. I was angry that we weren’t able to enjoy something we spent so much time on. I was also angry that the people that stole the watermelons didn’t even get to enjoy them because they weren’t ripe yet. 

I remember thinking to myself about the tragedy of the commons, a problem we learned about in AP Environmental Science – the class that set me on the path to be involved in the garden club in the first place.

The tragedy of the commons arises when individuals prioritize their own self-interest over the common good. The result is often overconsumption, environmental degradation, and even the collapse of a resource system. Of course, two watermelons getting stolen from a school garden did not cause the collapse of a resource system, but it did lead to a shared resource being wasted. 

Applying something I learned in class to a real-world problem was a big deal to me. After this, I started seriously considering environmental science as a career, but I knew I wanted to work with and study people, not just our environment. I spent my first year and a half of college undecided. My advisor was desperately trying to get me to declare a major. He had me take career quizzes and self-discovery classes, but I couldn’t make up my mind. Finally, he brought up a newer major called Sustainability Science that would let me study the interactions between natural and social systems and how to meet the needs of both people and the environment for the present and future. I knew then that I’d finally found what I was looking for. 

Two people in snorkeling gear stand in a lab.
Audrey and summer field technician, Abby Buzdon, prepare to go snorkeling for a mudpuppy study. Photo: A. Hoey-Kummerow

With my position as the Science Communication intern, I will not only be able to learn about the research being conducted at Trout Lake, but also researchers’ relationships to their projects. I can then share what I’ve learned with people beyond Trout Lake Station. Increasing public knowledge of sustainability practices through outreach programs is one of my main career goals, so I am excited to be able to do exactly that this summer.

My main goal while I’m here is to make the station’s events and research more accessible to the public through social media. As a teenager addicted to her phone, I have personally seen the power social media holds, and I hope to harness that during my time here. I plan to use the existing FaceBook, Instagram and blog accounts, as well as experiment with other types of outreach.

I’ve already learned so much in my first few weeks on station and I’m so excited to go out with crews and learn about their research in depth. This summer I want to show the public what Trout Lake Station does and why it is important. Though I have only been here a short time, it is obvious how passionate everyone is about their research, and I want to learn why. I hope to not only educate the public about research, but also about the researchers – the people doing this work. Community is clearly important at Trout Lake and I have been welcomed into it. I’ve learned to ask as many questions as possible because here, they will always be answered enthusiastically.