Elizabeth Ells goes over her research on Cape Cod’s hypoxic zones with Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Tara Kulkarni. (Mark Collier.)

Growing up with five younger siblings, Elizabeth Ells ’18 has always been forward thinking. And that is what has made her so passionate about the environment. “I’ve wanted to be a role model to my brothers and sisters, especially in school, so I dug into research,” she says.

In 2017, this civil engineering major took her research home to Cape Cod to test phosphorus levels in estuaries, one of the many areas experiencing “dead” zones, or hypoxic zones. These are areas in the ocean with reduced levels of oxygen and an increase of other nutrients that can cause species to die or move to new areas. They can also hinder the local economy, and Cape Cod relies heavily on the fishing industry.

Ells’ research sparked conversations about the importance of the ocean’s health to people, the planet, and prosperity. Now her work continues. In her last semester at Norwich, she is steering her honors thesis to look at how green infrastructure can help the ocean and coastal communities. And, while she dives deeper into this work, Ells is applying for graduate school to continue her research and gain experience in engineering and oceanography.

When this co-captain of the Norwich swim team dreams of how she can shape the future, her focus is on education. “I’d love to be able to provide education at any level to anyone,” she says. “To spark someone’s interest is to truly show that you care. When you’re passionate about something, you have drive and grit, and you help others succeed in the world.”

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