Hurricane Ian made landfall at Fort Myers as a Category 4 hurricane on Sept. 28. Madeline Clark, a graduate student in the Department of Environmental Studies at SUNY ESF and an employee with AmeriCorps, deployed with the Red Cross Sept. 29 to bring relief to residents. She works in disaster cycle services which helps people recover after natural disasters, house fires, and floods.
After graduating from ESF in 2015 with a bachelor’s in environmental fisheries biology, Clark returned to school this fall to pursue her master’s degree concentrating on environmental policy. With her advisor Paul Hirsch, she is working on a master’s project that includes interviewing people who have experienced large-scale disasters as a youth to learn how the disasters impacted them moving into adulthood. Her work with the Red Cross and her master’s project also allows her to channel her energy in a purposeful direction.
“Trying to figure out how I can help prepare people for large-scale change to our ecosystem through climate change interested me,” she said. “When I heard the Red Cross has efforts in community resiliency and educating people about climate change, I thought it was a good fit.”
As a graduate student, Clark recognizes she doesn’t have all the answers yet. But she’s taking her knowledge and putting it to use building resilient communities that can withstand traumatic events. She explains that “What we do with our shelter is provide a stop-gap for people to come in and catch their breath, so they’re not sleeping out of their car or in a gas station trying to figure out how to find food or water or shelter. So, you can take care of those things for them, and then they can focus on what comes next or even just immediate needs.”
“The ESF community is very dedicated to their studies,” said Clark. “If the average ESF student wants to get experience with environmental studies or something like that where the rubber meets the road, it’s here. It’s a little different than being in a classroom or a lecture hall. It’s very different.”