An Intro: Taylor Laing

Hello all! My name is Taylor Laing and I am a rising senior here at Pitt, majoring in Environmental Studies, minoring in Spanish, and receiving a certificate in Geographic Information Systems. The environment and climate change are such important topics to discuss because they affect everyone, and I believe we must care for the planet if we want it to care for us. I am originally from Cheltenham, PA, just outside of Philadelphia, but currently, I am in Central Oakland. Something I like to share about myself is that I run a little crochet business with my sister, and we like to sell shirts, hats, stuffed animals, or anything you can crochet really! It is a very calming activity, and it is something fun I like to do to destress (there’s nothing like watching Netflix and crocheting to end the day!).
I look forward to everything I will learn from this program! I am working with my mentor, Kate Zidar who represents the Pittsburgh Water Collaboratory and 3 Rivers Waterkeeper, to analyze per capita nitrogen waste from the watersheds included in the ALCOSAN (Allegheny County Sanitary Authority) treatment area and to determine how much waste goes to combined sewage overflows using ArcGIS to display the results in an interactive map. Due to an increase in rainfall in Pittsburgh in the past couple of years, there has been an increase in flooding of the stormwater systems causing an overflow. In Pittsburgh, the sewage and stormwater systems were created in such a way that if the stormwater systems are overflown, untreated sewage will mix in with it and flow into the river. This negatively affects drinking water quality, food resources, and wildlife habitats. My research will hopefully help us see the severity of the issue and have the city take proper action to solve this problem.
This research will help me in my field immensely as I plan to work in environmental policy or possibly GIS work. I believe that a lot of environmental change that needs to happen must come from a policy level. While sustainable personal choices are important (and encouraged!), change needs to be made on a wide scale and everyone, including big companies, must be held accountable for this environmental change. We have to all work together and I believe working on a governmental and policy scale is an integral part of that change. I will be working with census data and ALCOSAN data this summer. So, learning how to work with government-level data and understanding the problem from a policy lens will help me in my future endeavors.
My research will be like previous research on this topic when it comes to analyzing nitrogen levels being expelled out from different watersheds. The difference with my project would be having the data of the nitrogen expulsion be plotted onto a map of the whole ALCOSAN treatment area and have it displayed in a way that people can understand, using GIS. GIS is an important tool to show data on a map in a way that makes sense to people. I am so interested in this project because it will show many people how CSO’s are affecting the rivers of Pittsburgh and give people some context for this issue and help us mitigate the effects of combined sewage overflows. I cannot wait to see where this project will go this summer and I am excited to work with the Pittsburgh Water Collaboratory, 3 Rivers Waterkeeper and the Pitt Honors College this summer!

3 Comments Add yours

  1. staciedow says:

    First, I love that your crochet and have a store! It was one of my favorite pastimes in college. Second, I am excited to see how this data will be provided through GIS to help citizens of Pittsburgh become informed about the issues we face and what we can do to move forward to enact change.

  2. Hi Taylor! Your passion for this topic is incredible, and I can’t wait to follow your journey in impacting environmental policy/GIS work!

  3. jacksonfilosa says:

    This seems like a very interesting topic to focus on for your project! I have definitely noticed a lot of rainfall in Pittsburgh during my time there but I had no idea it was higher than usual and was even causing an overflow with negative repercussions. I’m excited to follow along with your project and continue learning more!

Leave a Reply