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Young Alum of the Month: Theresa Brehm

Theresa BrehmName:  Theresa Brehm

Hometown:  Durango, IA

Major and Graduation Date:  Global Resource Systems and Environmental Science, with a minor in Agronomy, May 2020

Favorite ISU class:  AGRON 497: Agroecology Field Course.  I loved getting to visit so many different agricultural areas in Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota.  I learned directly from farmers how they are implementing different conservation practices and dedicating themselves and their families to working with the natural environment, rather than against it, to build a better agricultural future for the world.

Job Title & Company:  Currently, I am a Master’s candidate at The Ohio State University, studying the effects of natural gas pipeline installation agricultural soils and crop yields throughout the state.  After graduation in May, I plan to work for the USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service as a Soil Conservationist in Salem, Oregon.

Major Job/Position Responsibilities:  As a student working towards a Master of Science degree, I’ve developed a two-year project over 29 farm sites in eight Ohio counties to better understand the longevity of disturbance impacts from pipeline installation on agricultural areas.  I work directly with farmers to collect soil and crop yield data from areas impacted by pipelines, as well as from other areas of the same field to compare a pseudo “before-and-after” of what pipeline installation changes about soil and crop properties.  I’m currently developing my thesis, and I’ll be sharing the data with farmers, landowners, members of the federal government who regulate the pipelines being studied, and anyone else interested in the project.

Theresa BrehmAs a soil conservationist, I will be working to improve irrigation systems and develop soil conservation practices throughout the county I’ll be working in.  I will be sharing knowledge about how to improve water quality, soil health, and natural resource conservation practices on farmland, urban areas, and public lands.

What you like most about your job/position?  I have loved getting to develop my own project that has actual on-ground implications for farmers across the state and across the country. Pipelines are still rapidly being installed in Ohio as fracking expands in nearby states, so the project has been a huge point of interest for many people across the state.  It’s been a great way of applying so many of the soil science concepts and skills I learned at Iowa State regarding soil compaction, nutrient management, and water movement through disturbed soils.

What advice would you give to current students pursuing a career in Agriculture and Life Sciences?  Absolutely in every way possible, try to bring down your own biases and truly listen to the people and world around you.  Everyone has a different background, a different story to tell, and a different way of experiencing daily life.  Take a minute away from your papers, exams, and studying to just have an honest conversation with the person next to you.  Walk onto central campus and find a tree to just sit beneath (my favorite spot is the little alcove between Curtiss Hall and the Margaret Sloss Center in the spring) and experience the day.  Listen to the birds sing, the trees whisper, and the chaos happening around you.  Life is too short to be “on” all the time.  Take some time to yourself to be in the world and live life.  Also, take advantage of every study abroad opportunity out there.  Shelley Taylor and the CALS Study Abroad office staff are incredible people.  They are there for anything you might need, and studying abroad will absolutely change your life, I promise.  CALS took me to five continents within two years, and I don’t regret a moment of it!