Claire Reid – Toxicology and Outreach Assistant
My name is Claire Reid and I attend the University of Notre Dame as a Political Science and Economics double major. Over the summer, I worked as the Toxicology and Outreach Assistant for the Board of Pesticides Control. The BPC is housed under the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry and is tasked with regulating pesticide use around the state. This involves licensing individuals who would like to apply pesticides, registering pesticides for legal use in Maine, creating and enforcing pesticide regulations, and educating both applicators and the general public about a variety of topics related to pesticide use.
As the Toxicology and Outreach Assistant, my primary responsibility was to create a variety of informative educational materials for the general public about the risks involved in pesticide use. These materials took the form of videos, infographics, and FAQ pages. The goal was to create enough materials to put on a webpage about each topic. Some of the topics I worked on included homemade pesticides, rodenticide safety, and pesticide use on marijuana. In addition to these outreach projects, I gathered data for two different risk assessments. This involved finding toxicity values for the active ingredients in certain pesticides. These values are then used to calculate the relative risk of pesticide use to certain species and the environment. The resulting risk assessment will be used in determining future pesticide regulations.
I was also able to attend a variety of interesting meetings over the summer. One of these meetings was the EPA Region 1 Water Quality Round Table. This is a biannual meeting that includes representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency as well as each of the states in Region 1 (all New England states). The meeting was held at an EPA lab in Chelmsford, MA. At the meeting, all states provide updates on any new initiatives they are undertaking related to water quality as well as any recent issues they have encountered. I really enjoyed hearing about everything the states are doing and seeing the similarities and differences between each state’s water quality program. This was also an interesting opportunity to see the interaction between a federal agency and state programs.
Another highlight of the summer was a field trip to the Greenville area to observe pesticide practices in the forestry industry. The day involved a tour by a forestry company. The company showed us multiple plots of land at different stages of growth. We saw land soon after herbicide had been sprayed as well as land where trees were actively being harvested. This trip gave me unique insight into one of Maine’s leading industries. It was eye-opening to see and hear about the extensive process that goes into harvesting just a single tree.
This summer was a valuable learning experience for me. Aside from learning about office culture, I learned a lot about the vast scope of state government. There are many positions and entities within state government that I was not aware of before this summer. I also learned a great deal about pesticides and all of the rules and regulations surrounding their use. I became certified as a commercial pesticide applicator as a way to become familiar with the licensing process. This involved taking two different exams; the first exam covers regulations more broadly and the second exam is specific to the type of pest you will be controlling. My internship was also a great lesson in communication. Since the BPC is purely a regulatory office, it cannot endorse nor discourage any legal pesticide usage. This can make effectively communicating the risks involved in pesticide use difficult. Precise wording is necessary to ensure you are conveying the correct message. Overall, this summer was a great experience. It certainly broadened my horizons and gave me a vast set of knowledge that I did not have previously.