Interning on a project that hits close to home

My name is Patrick Daugherty, I’m an upcoming 5th year undergrad at Georgia Tech getting my degree in Environmental Engineering with a minor in Environmental Science. After I graduate I am planning to go to graduate school and get a masters degree in hydrology or water resources engineering. I’ve always wanted to work in the environmental field since I was a kid so to be able to work on a project like Smart Sea Level Sensors is truly a privilege.

How I learned about the Smart Sea Level Sensors project

I first became aware of the Smart Sea Level Sensors project a few summers ago when Dr. Clark asked to put a receiver for the water level sensors in the attic of my parent’s house on Hutchinson Island in Savannah, Georgia. As an upcoming sophomore in Environmental Engineering at Georgia Tech I was immediately interested in getting involved on a project concerned with sea level rise, a topic that was relatively new to me since coming to college but one that seemed to be at the fore front of my attention not only in many of my classes but especially considering my home in Savannah, where sea level rise poses a looming threat to my family, my friends, and my community.

It took me a while to find an opportunity to get involved in the project but fast forward two years and I am taking an excellent class about sustainability and energy taught by Dr. Cobb and it’s brought to my attention that the Smart Sea Level Sensors project is looking for interns. I immediately applied because I knew that I would be working on would be something I was passionate about even if it wasn’t strictly about sea level rise because any environmental issue in Savannah is an issue that I want to concern myself with.

My Team

To be frank, I didn’t really know what to expect going into this internship. I had never really worked on a project like this before but I was excited and optimistic to get to work on a project located squarely in my community. Fortunately, I landed on team that has guided me along the way to succeed in my role and have helped me so much in such a short time. I report to Nick Deffley, the Sustainability Director for the City of Savannah, who has been such a great resource for me in this internship in guiding me through it but also in serving as a career mentor. He has contributed greatly in helping me decide where I want to take my career and has given me a valuable glimpse into the work of sustainability and environmental justice in the public sector. My fellow intern on the project that I work beside, Alyson Laura, has been excellent in that regard as well and I’m lucky to be able to work so closely with someone like Alyson. Her experience has been an invaluable resource to me and I can’t think of where our project, the Hudson Hill Community Profile Report, would be with out her working on it.

Alyson and I on a visit to Hudson Hill

The Hudson Hill Community Profile Report

The project that I am working on this summer is the Hudson Hill Community Profile Report, a report lead by Dr. Allen Hyde, a Georgia Tech professor in the school of history and sociology, about the community and people of the Hudson Hill area including the Bayview and the West Savannah area. This report is meant to serve as an account of the facilities and services available to the people that live here as well as to asses the unique vulnerabilities that the community faces due to their location. This area is located in very close proximity to many of Savannah’s heavy industries and is subject to very poor air quality as a result along with a number of other problems that this proximity creates. In addition to serving as a profile of the community on the surface, this report is meant to highlight and bring attention to these environmental injustices faced by the residents of the area. Learning about this community that I have lived so close to all my life but have been so aloof to the problems they faced has been truly eye opening for me. I live less than half a mile away from the area the report concerns and I can attest to the low air quality environment that the heavy industry creates so to talk about their air quality being poor when a large portion of these people’s homes are less than an eighth of a mile away from industry is a massive understatement.

The area in green represents Hudson Hill while the area in red represents the area the industry takes up. The individual points represent direct sites of industry in the area.

I think this graphic does a good job at displaying the point I’m trying to make here. I’ve lived in Savannah my entire life and I had no idea that there was a neighborhood not only so close to the industry on the Savannah River but nestled almost entirely inside it. The air quality and noise pollution in the neighborhood have immediate and long term health consequences and their hasn’t been much done in the all but very recent past to address these problems. I hope that this report and this project can help contribute to finding a long term solution to these injustices faced by the people of Hudson Hill and it has been a privilege to work on it.

1 comment

#1 teammate :)