Next Gen Scientist Spotlight: Yvette Onyango

Dec 19, 2022

Although the Old Woman Creek Reserve has been around for more than 40 years, the people who work at the Reserve are anything but old. In fact, the Reserve is focused on being a place where the next generation of scientists can thrive. Case in point: the Reserve’s 2021 graduate fellow Yvette Onyango.

Onyango is pursuing a M.S. in Civil Engineering with a focus on Environmental Engineering at The Ohio State University. She spent her year-long fellowship on both sides of the mentor-mentee relationship. Onyango advanced her graduate research, attended professional development trainings, and presented the results of her research to Reserve partners and community members. 

At the same time, she served as a math tutor and mentor to underserved students in Columbus, Ohio. “Research confirms that students thrive when they have strong relationships with friends, teachers and school personnel, mentors and academic advisors, and those from the community,” says Onyango.

High school students participating in fieldwork at the Reserve.

Onyango also included students in her research on the role of carbon, nutrients, and water levels in the production of methane and carbon dioxide by wetlands. Her focus is to better understand wetlands’ role in mitigating climate change by exploring whether dissolved carbon from upstream sources increase levels of methane trapped in the wetland.

While leading a group of students in the field can be challenging, Onyango is quick to highlight the positives. “Providing these combined research-education experiences not only enables me to gain skills in recognizing ecosystem concerns; it also helps the students appreciate the importance of managing and taking care of the environment.”

Fostering an appreciation for the environment in the next generation is critical to ensuring that our natural resources are valued and protected for years to come. And with every trip that Onyango and her students took to Old Woman Creek to conduct fieldwork, another group of students is exposed to the natural world.

In the past year, the Old Woman Creek Reserve hosted a variety of other early-career professionals, including NOAA Hollings Scholars, a Margarette A. Davidson Fellow, Ohio Department of Natural Resources interns, Friends of OWC interns, and an inaugural cohort of Old Woman Creek Graduate Fellows.

NERRA is proud to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Coastal Zone Management Act—the legislation that led to the creation of the National Estuarine Research Reserve System. Want more Reserve stories delivered to your inbox? Subscribe to our newsletter.

ReservesOld Woman Creek, OhioNext Gen Scientist Spotlight: Yvette Onyango