Image Credit: Lauren Castellana; Edwin Remsberg Inc.
For Angela Perantoni, the pursuit of a career in environmental science is a philanthropic effort. “Environmentalism, to me, is not a movement to protect the Earth, it’s a movement to protect ourselves,” said the senior environmental science and technology (ENST) sneior. “It’s the largest form of social altruism.”
In order to prepare herself, this highly motivated student has taken on three minors including sustainability, soil science and Spanish. She also studied abroad in Costa Rica last summer and participated in a prestigious, competitive internship program in the New Mexican desert this summer. It was her Costa Rican experience that defined the environmental issue she would like to work to resolve.
While in San Ramón, a small town in the north of the country, she noticed a large amount of greywater in the streets. Greywater is soapy water, often from laundry, dishwashers, and kitchen sinks. While in the United States the greywater is treated in plants, developing countries such as Costa Rica don’t have the infrastructure to make that a reality. “Seeing that transitioning country with the greywater in the street was jarring,” explained Perantoni, who is majoring in ecological technology design. “This new, firsthand knowledge of this issue inspired me to look into greywater.”
In addition to this inspiration, studying in Costa Rica allowed Perantoni to experience a different culture, see a diversity of life, and finish her Spanish minor. She was able to take a class in tropical marine biology that included snorkeling trips to both sides of the country in order to examine the biodiversity and types of organisms that live on each side. She found that the Pacific side had a large intertidal zone that led to some interesting adaptations in the organisms while the Caribbean side had more sedentary organisms due to a small intertidal zone. “I unknowingly touched an octopus!” she said. “It was marvelous to see that diversity of life, but it also helped me to notice that I take for granted the beauty in the world.”
Perantoni did not come to the University of Maryland knowing that she wanted to study soil sciences. After listening to a sustainability lecture her freshman year, she realized she needed to help fix society’s environmental issues. “ENST has provided me with the necessary academic background to be successful in this position,” she said.
During her time as a student at UMD, Perantoni has become a leader in sustainability initiatives. She was able to speak with university President Dr. Wallace Loh about the university’s plan to become carbon neutral by 2050. As her career draws closer, Perantoni says she’s excited to be on the cutting edge of such an important field. “My heart is tied to the people, not the plants,” she said. “I want to leave the earth better for my kids and grandkids. It’s a real concern.”