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Elizabeth Trybula

Master's student in ecological sciences and engineering

Elizabeth Trybula

The desire to better protect precious surface and groundwater resources has propelled Elizabeth Trybula from a career in watershed management into graduate study at Purdue.

Trybula is seeking a master's degree in Purdue's ecological sciences and engineering interdisciplinary graduate program. A 10-year veteran in her field, Trybula also is an out member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community on campus.

What are you studying at Purdue?

As a member of the Ecohydrology Research Group, I'm studying the impacts agricultural cropping systems have on water quantity and quality. Specifically, I use measured data collected from the Water Quality Field Station at the Purdue Agronomy Farm to quantify how the impact of candidate, perennial crops grown for bioenergy production compare to those grown for corn and soybean production.

How did you become interested in watershed management?

During the summer of 2001, when I was an undergraduate student at the Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies in Mancelona, Mich., I was introduced to the idea of agroecology -- the study of agriculture within the context of ecological systems. Having grown up in a suburban environment, my mind was blown by something I had otherwise taken for granted: how food ends up on the table.

Intrigued, I explored aspects of conventional, traditional, indigenous and sustainable food production principles of design. I rode in combines, walked through confined feeding operations, visited organic farms and learned about traditional food practices in other countries. This personal interest, combined with my undergraduate degree in biology, led to professional opportunities to address nonpoint source contamination of surface and groundwater resources due to agricultural management decisions.

How has your work at Purdue intersected with your work in the LGBTQ community?

My work doesn't directly intersect with the activities of the LGBTQ community, but its presence affects my ability to succeed in the program. While we are all seeking acceptance during the first year in a new space, the environment that surrounds us is critical.

Since arriving at Purdue, I have acquainted myself with the work of the Purdue Queer Student Union, the National Organization of Gay and Lesbian Scientists and Technical Professionals (NOGLSTP), Pride Lafayette and the Stonewall Caucus. Their presence and initiative provided a connection for me with the community, and it conveyed that I was not alone on campus.

How do you hope your graduate studies will affect your career?

Graduate study has valuably shaped how I perceive information and how I approach problem solving. It has emphasized the importance of education that fosters critical thinking and analysis while nurturing creativity through intellectual mentoring. There are ample opportunities within the University to promote such exchange and to empower farmers and decision makers.

After I finish my master's degree this spring, I will pursue a doctoral degree. My goal is to secure a tenure-track faculty position that will allow me to collaborate with policy scientists and makers, to teach, to mentor and to conduct original research.