Green Gator of the Month: Madeline Stewart

April 2024

Each month, the Office of Sustainability will feature members of the University of Florida community who are making a sustainable impact on a daily basis. Keep reading to meet our featured student for April!

Meet Madeline Stewart

This month’s Green Gator is Madeline Stewart! Madeline is graduating with her Bachelor’s degree this May 2024 and is a double major in Political Science and Sustainability Studies. She also has three minors – French, Environmental Science, and International Development and Humanitarian Assistance

Madeline Stewart, UF student, enjoying some free time hiking in the mountains.

That’s not all! 

Madeline competed in the UF Fencing Club and worked in the butterfly rainforest at the Florida Museum of Natural History! 

Madeline’s next step after graduation will be to pursue a Master of Science in Environmental Science.

Collecting Experiences & Transferable Skills 

Madeline’s experiences in and out of the classroom at UF have truly shaped her interests and guided her career trajectory.

Her experiential learning opportunities include: 

  • Assisted Dr. Leslie Thiele with the newest edition of his textbook, providing suggestions and feedback to engage students.
  • Treasurer for the UF Fencing Club, leading the club to fundraise nearly $20,000.
  • Manatee County Natural Resources Department Internship, preparing for Red Tide by implementing water barriers and managing invasive species removal methods. 
  • Butterfly Rainforest job, participating in physical projects such as planting, propagating, and chopping up stubborn branches. 
Madeline Stewart at her internship working in the water.

Her takeaways from these experiences include a better understanding of county-level park management and obstacles to environmental conservation. She also gained skills in humility, confidence, time management, patience, and resilience. She knows these are strong assets as she begins to navigate employment in the developing field of environmental sustainability. 

Pro Tip from Madeline: visit the websites of places you want to work! Or, if you hope to work for a government – look up that government with the word ‘internship’ or ‘opportunities’ attached! 

In the classroom, BSC2862: Global Change Ecology and Sustainability, taught by Dr. Stephen Mulkey (a former Green Gator of the Month himself!), was one of Madeline’s favorite courses at UF. 

Madeline explains that this course compelled her to work with communities on environmental and social issues. 

Understanding Environmental Justice 

Madeline is interested in addressing community environmental issues and bridging gaps between people and nature. 

She shares, “The connection between inequity and environmental hazards and degradation has become painfully obvious. To strive towards a sustainable society, we must also actively seek methods to uplift impoverished and oppressed groups.”  

Madeline completed an ArcGIS project with two other students that tackled environmental justice themes. They examined social vulnerability in historically Black neighborhoods in Boston, Massachusetts, and the gaps in infrastructure they face. 

Findings showed that the majority of lead water pipes remaining in Boston could be found in the three historically Black neighborhoods, which also held the highest concentration of impoverished individuals, disabled individuals, and minority groups. One of their project conclusions stated that socially vulnerable people were more likely to deal with a lack of adequate infrastructure, without having the appropriate resources to overcome these struggles. 

In other research pursuits, Madeline’s student thesis examines the question of Fish and Wildlife Department funding across the United States as hunters have declined over time. Because hunters are crucial in funding these departments, sometimes accounting for over half of the budget, there are vulnerabilities to explore and understand due to these trends. 

While Madeline’s thesis has been the most difficult project of her entire university career, it has provided her with incredible opportunities to connect with Fish and Wildlife Departments nationally and explore a budding research topic. 

Sustainability As A College Student

Madeline practices sustainability by thinking carefully about her decisions as a consumer. 

She shares two helpful strategies for other students: 

  1. Refrain from buying unnecessarily (although it’s difficult for her to resist buying cute stickers and pins!)
  2. Plan meals and utilize reusable food storage containers to minimize wasting food and materials
Madeline Stewart, UF Student and Green Gator of the Month spending some time outdoors in front of trees.

Madeline’s additional advice to other UF students is to pick just one thing at a time they would like to improve to be more sustainable and focus on that. 

Looking back, she also wishes she didn’t compare herself so much to other people who looked like they had it together, even in the sustainability space. She emphasizes focusing on yourself and your personal goals instead of the idealized lifestyles you see on social media!  

When times get challenging, Madeline’s motivation for sustainability comes from sitting outside in nature. 

She reflects, “When I am wrapped up in the noise of wind gently blowing through branches, or the sight of sunlight dappling leaf-covered trails, I remind myself that every individual from every generation deserves a chance to connect with nature the way I do.” 

Submit your recommendation for a student, faculty, or staff member to be featured in a future Green Gator of the Month article!

Published: April 7th, 2024

Category: Green Gator of the Month, Highlights