Leila Quinn '12

Tahoe-Baikal Institute’s (TBI) Summer Environmental Exchange Program - California, Nevada, Russia, Mongolia
Major: Environmental Studies

The goal of the Tahoe-Baikal Institute’s (TBI) Summer Environmental Exchange Program (SEE) is to have participants come to a comprehensive understanding about watershed management and to be able to compare practices between regions.  I had the opportunity to look at the sister lakes, Tahoe and Baikal, from ecological and political perspectives.  By the end of the summer I was able to draw conclusions about differences in watershed management and issues of the environmental movement between the United States and Russia, between Russia and Mongolia which share the Baikal watershed, and California and Nevada which share Tahoe’s water resources.  In just three and a half weeks in California and Russia each, and eight days in Mongolia, we met with forest service workers, NGOs, private research institutes, and government officials, each of which provided an essential piece to the puzzle.

The diverse academic and life experience in my group was a welcome challenge and I was close with the eleven participants and many staff members.  I completed two week-long projects, one with the Sugar Pine Foundation looking at genetic resistance to White Pine Blister Rust in Tahoe’s pines, and the other with the Baikalski Nature Preserve creating interpretive signs for Siberia’s first handicapped accessible trail.  I was glad to be able to put to use my Russian language skills during the two months talking with participants and staff members and I felt I improved immensely not just speaking and comprehension but in my willingness to make mistakes in order to learn.  I realized that Mount Holyoke had prepared me well for this program through which I was purposefully engaged in the world!