Education shows the path to the door of opportunity.
For Brandie Oehring, the path began with a graduate certificate.
Behind the door was more than she expected.
A shift in focus
Brandie began her path here at Missouri State University.
After taking a year off post-graduation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she weighed her options.
“My undergraduate time was spent on more specific things like geochemistry and volcanology,” she said. “But then I wanted to do more with environmental studies because I felt like I could use it more.”
Brandie then discovered the graduate certificate in environmental monitoring and sampling in August 2020.
Land and water internship
About halfway through the program, she got an internship with Associated Electric.
From May to December 2021, she was on their land and water team.
Her responsibilities included performing audits, as well as monitoring monarch butterflies at one of Associated’s coal plants.
“At one of our coal plants, we have pollinator plots for monarch butterflies,” she said. “These plants will unavoidably disturb the land and ecosystem, so I would work with a team member to monitor them and conduct some supportive care, such as burning off weeds of invasive species.”
An encore with a twist
After that internship ended, the company asked her to come back, but this time on the air team.
“The switch was definitely a learning curve,” she said. “I was nervous, but a good nervous. My chemistry background really helped me make the switch.”
Since January, Brandie has been monitoring what the respective plant is emitting into the air.
“We use a program called Stack Vision for this,” she said. “It gives us the flexibility to monitor the air quality anywhere.”
Take the chance
Brandie never saw herself putting on a hard hat.
“Earlier in my life, I never thought I would be in the industrial sector.”
But now she wants other women who are reluctant to apply for experience in the male-dominated field to understand one thing.
“The men working in this field seem intimidating, but they’re really the sweetest people you know,” Brandie said. “I think that scares a lot of women off from this field”.
Thanks to her internship experience with Associated, she is now pursuing her professional science master’s in environmental geology.
A unique project opportunity
When you have 1,200 feet of fire hose that you don’t need, what do you do with it?
Instead of throwing it away, Brandie asked her director if it could be repurposed instead.
“My director absolutely loved the idea,” she said.
So, they took Associated’s extra supply from their Thomas Hill plant and created something new for a local zoo.
“The Dickerson Park Zoo is associated with a nonprofit called Hose2Habitat,” she said. “I was put in contact with them and they created plans to use the fire hose we donated for the larger animals in the zoo.”
Hose2Habitat uses discarded fire hoses and recycles them into beds, toys and other enclosure enrichment, such as hammocks, puzzle feeders and tether balls.
“This is by far my biggest success coming from this air internship that has nothing to do with air,” she said. “I’m making a huge difference and it’s amazing.”
Brandie couldn’t have made it this far without some special people.