Growing up in Purcellville, Virginia, Kylie Campbell was the little girl catching frogs in the creek. Now, as she graduates with a degree in water: resources, policy, and management, she hopes to use her interdisciplinary education to help protect water resources for future generations.
“I grew up playing in the creek in my backyard all the time, and I’ve always had a strong connection to streams and rivers. I’m passionate about protecting water resources for both people and wildlife. This degree has been perfect for me, and I’m so excited for where it will take me,” said Campbell, the College of Natural Resources and Environment’s 2018 Outstanding Senior.
Research has been a significant part of Campbell’s student experience. After her first year at Virginia Tech, she worked as a laboratory and field assistant under Stephen Schoenholtz, director of the Virginia Water Resources Research Center housed at Virginia Tech. There, she learned about quantifying macroinvertebrates and analyzing water samples as part of a project investigating the impacts of mining runoff in streams.
The following two summers, Campbell worked as a research assistant in the lab of Cayelan Carey, assistant professor of freshwater ecosystem ecology in the College of Science’s Department of Biological Sciences. During her first summer, Campbell worked on a project that investigated the impacts of hypoxia on zooplankton. She assisted with water sampling and took part in several 24-hour limnology field sampling campaigns.
“It was incredible to actually get paid to go camping. I love being outdoors, so I got to combine research with something I already love to do,” Campbell recalled.
Inspired by her research experiences, Campbell applied for and received funding from the Virginia Water Resources Research Center to conduct independent research on zooplankton ecology during the summer between her junior and senior years.
“That was definitely my proudest moment during my time at Virginia Tech,” Campbell said. “Seeing my research project through to completion was amazing. I learned so much about data collection, analysis, and how to use some of the latest software in my field. School has always come naturally to me, but this research project was definitely the most challenging thing I’ve ever done.”
Campbell has also worked as an administrative assistant over the past three years as part of an internship with the Virginia Water Monitoring Council through the Virginia Water Resources Research Center. There, she regularly puts together announcements and news items that are sent to the council members.
“I’ve been able to see how water resources are handled at the federal and state levels, and it’s been a great way to meet people in the field. Plus, since most of the announcements I’m sending out involve conferences and job opportunities, I’ve been able to see the kinds of jobs I’ll be able to do someday,” she said.
Campbell has also been involved in several on-campus activities. She served as president of the Virginia Tech Student Chapter of the American Water Resources Association and as a College of Natural Resources and Environment Ambassador. She is a Life Sciences Mentor, assisting first-year students with the transition to college, and a member of the Xi Sigma Pi Forestry Honor Society. She has received multiple scholarships, including the Sustainable Water Scholarship, which is awarded to the two top students in the water degree program.
“Kylie is a passionate student who has been remarkably successful in every effort she has made — in the classroom, in the lab as a research student, and in the community,” said Schoenholtz, a professor of forest hydrology and soils in the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation. “In the years I’ve known her, she’s maintained a remarkable work-life balance. That’s what’s exceptional to me — the balance in her life.”
After graduation, Campbell will head to Colorado for a 10-month term of service with AmeriCorps. Partnering with American Conservation Experience and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, she will travel to wildlife refuges across the country to help with the National Visitor Survey project.
“I’m really hoping to secure a position with the Fish and Wildlife Service after my internship. I aim to dedicate my career to public service and want to help protect water resources for wildlife and people,” she explained.
Campbell believes that her time at Virginia Tech has prepared her for all of the challenges she will face.
“I’ve gotten a strong background in the science, but I’ve also been able to take policy, law, and economics courses so that I can understand all sides of the issues around water resources,” she said. “That background will allow me to communicate with diverse stakeholders and policymakers about how to sustainably manage our water resources to meet the needs of people, the economy, and the ecosystem.”
And so little girls — and boys — can still grow up playing in the creeks.