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Participant Profiles

ORISE Intern Teamed with Army Reserve to Protect Environment

Karen White is doing her duty for the U.S. Army but not in the way many people might think. In July 2005, White was appointed to the U.S. Army Environmental Command’s Environmental Management Participant Program as an ORISE program participant. There, White studied natural and cultural resources on Army Reserve properties and the effect that the Reserve’s mission activities had on the surrounding environment.

Karen White in field

Karen White

As a conservation technician intern, White’s program took her to Atlanta at the Installation Management Agency-Army Reserve Office. Whenever the Reserve considered any type of property action, such as buying or selling land, White helped to ensure that the military branch’s decisions were made with the environment in mind.

One case involved property on the North Carolina coastline. The military branch considered selling the property, but White said, with endangered manatees and a threatened species of butterfly inhabiting the area, the Reserve was making certain that whoever purchased the land did not negatively impact either species or their habitats.

The Army Reserve is responsible for properties in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and Europe. White said the Reserve makes an effort to work closely with federal and state environmental agencies, who review the Reserve’s projects to make sure they are following proper procedures.

"By word of mouth, they said ‘we have an ORISE person who has done really well here’,” she explained. “People told me ORISE opens doors. In my case, it not only opened the door but led me through it.”

A 2006 graduate of Randolph-Macon College in Virginia, White majored in biology and had not considered a career in environmental compliance. But following her internship with ORISE, she was hooked. After the ORISE program ended in March, White earned a position with the 81st Regional Readiness Command in Birmingham, Alabama. She said the people she interacted with during her internship helped her find a job and jump-start her new career.

Now charged with the environmental stewardship of Army Reserve property in eight southeastern states, White says she makes many of the same contributions but with added responsibility. In addition to ensuring environmental compliance, she also works on the restoration of contaminated property, pollution prevention, and preservation of cultural and natural resources.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today without the ORISE program,” White said, “and I will be forever grateful for what the program and the ORISE staff did for me."