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By Taylor Holbrooks

Taylor Holbrooks

Taylor Holbrooks is graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in May 2023, with a degree in Media and Journalism and a minor in Environmental Science, and a concentration in coastal mitigation systems. Prior to attending UNC-Chapel Hill, she attended College of Charleston, where she studied Environmental Geosciences and Communications. During her time at UNC-Chapel Hill, Taylor is actively involved in UNC Institute for the Environment’s EcoStudio program where she served as an intern for the Town of Carrboro’s Stormwater Department and Ethereal Films. After graduation, Taylor is pursuing her master’s degree in Global and Environmental Strategic Communications.


When I was young, I was gifted The Usborne Book of Knowledge and it transformed my perception of science. My entire life, I have struggled to bridge the gap between my curiosity for the natural sciences and an understanding of them. As I entered my time in college, I focused my efforts on replicating my experience with The Book of Knowledge which taught me the importance of educational materials that effectively teach difficult topics in a digestible and exciting way. Studying both Environmental Science and Journalism, was the first step in the process of becoming an effective science communicator. The second step was when I began my involvement with the UNC Institute for the Environment’s EcoStudio program.

EcoStudio focuses on pairing students with projects and internships that allow for classroom skills to be applied to real-world problems in a professional setting. This program has been a pivotal turning point in my collegiate career and has introduced a new environment for me to grow my skills and work with mentors that introduce me to new challenges and solutions. During my first semester in the EcoStudio program, I was selected to work with Carrboro’s Stormwater Department, and it redefined my perspective of working within the community that I live in. I was granted the opportunity to create a multi-layered, interactive Story Map on ArcGIS and coordinate community outreach workshops to engage and educate the people of Carrboro.

(EcoStudio) has been a pivotal turning point in my collegiate career and has introduced a new environment for me to grow my skills and work with mentors that introduce me to new challenges and solutions.

The Town of Carrboro focuses on creating accessible and comprehensive tools for the people of its community. The intentionality behind this practice allows for the citizens of Carrboro to utilize the Town’s online materials to self-educate themselves on where their drinking water comes from, how to safely protect their stormwater from contamination, and what resources are available to uphold a sustainable community. Bridging the gap between scientific data and the community is made possible with educational and comprehensive tools that involve the entire community in problem-solving. It is imperative to “speak the language of the community,” by allowing community members to readily understand the compounding issues that are impacting the place they live in, as well as, presenting the community with tangible solutions and resources to address these issues. The Town of Carrboro exemplifies this method and actively involves its community members in solutions-based environmental education.

Through my experience with the Stormwater Department, I learned the immediate value of community involvement as we hosted workshops to partner with specific neighborhoods to begin to educate individuals on how to address immediate issues in their neighborhoods. One of the workshops particularly inspiring was held in a neighborhood in the Bolin Creek Watershed that experiences difficulty with the gutter systems causing flooding in crawl spaces and the poor distribution of stormwater is eroding downhill properties. This workshop invited all members of the immediate neighborhood to attend a hands-on demonstration that showed how to replace the current gutter system and involved the community members in the problem-solving processes in real-time. Neighborhoods like this are gathering together to learn more about the natural processes impacting their environment and what they can do to mitigate the issues that have arisen.

gutter workshop

Working within my immediate community to create projects like the ArcGIS Story Map and assist in local educational workshops for the Town of Carrboro, has reinforced my initial ambition to grow myself as an effective science communicator. The synthesis of a well-informed science background and the skillsets of an effective communicator have helped me to actively give back to my community and grow as a person. I am encouraged by the work that Carrboro’s Stormwater Department does to involve its community in moving towards an actively sustainable future through resources that are applicable and accessible. I am eager to implement the skills I have learned in this experience in the future and continue to encourage others to be fascinated by the environments around them!

For more information about this program, please visit the EcoStudio website.

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