Student Profile: Claire Counts

Environmental health major Claire Counts has her sights set on a career in environmental stewardship. She gained first-hand experience in the field with a small environmental consulting firm this past summer and currently works as water treatment operations intern for Athens Clarke County.

“I was initially interested in a degree in something related to the environment because I am passionate about protecting and maintaining the natural world, but I was specifically drawn towards Environmental Health Science due to the wide variety of fields and opportunities that are available post-graduation,” she said.

Bachelor of Science in Environmental Health (BSEH), Public Health Practitioner Track
Undergraduate Certificate in Water Resources

May 2024

Forsyth County, GA

What attracted you to a degree in the field of public health? 

I was initially interested in a degree in something related to the environment because I am passionate about protecting and maintaining the natural world, but I was specifically drawn towards Environmental Health Science due to the wide variety of fields and opportunities that are available post-graduation.

Claire helped collect fish surveys and habitat assessments in Tallapoosa, AL and Bartow County, GA.

Why did you choose your degree concentration? Certificate? 

I chose to pursue the public health practitioner (PHP) track because I want to enter the environmental consulting field. Since I’m not on the pre-health path, and don’t want a career in academia, the other track was not as geared towards my goals. The PHP track offers classes that directly translate to certifications and skills that will be applicable in the workforce. I’m also working towards earning a Certificate in Water Resources (from the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources) because it offers the opportunity to learn skills and knowledge that will be applicable to consulting, and I want to learn as much as possible about water, water resource management, and the like.

Are you engaged in any interesting research or outreach projects?

Currently, I am not a part of any research or outreach projects, but I do work at the J.G. Beacham Water Treatment Plant in Athens, Ga. as a Water Treatment Operator Intern.

What do you consider to be the highlight of your time as a public health student?

I would consider the highlight of my time here to be the incredible internship opportunities that I’ve been fortunate enough to have had. I’ve learned so many real-world applications of the knowledge I am gaining in the classroom and I’m continuing to learn even more through my current internship. These experiences have also helped me narrow down what career field I would like to work in once I graduate.

What did you do for your internship? Why did you pursue this internship? What did you learn? What was the biggest challenge you faced?

This summer, I was fortunate enough to intern at FOX Environmental, a small environmental consulting firm, as an environmental science intern. FOX Environmental specializes in water resource management and permit compliance which is the field that I am particularly interested in. The position description listed many different opportunities for learning and involvement in various project types which really intrigued me because I want to gain as much as possible. I was also very excited to conduct field work.

I learned many field work skills, such as water quality monitoring, inspection and mapping of storm sewer structures, and fish surveying. I was also able to hone my writing skill through writing and updating various types of reports. Most of all, I learned that I loved the work and that I want to become an environmental consultant.

The biggest challenge I faced during my internship was the frustration in dealing with companies that did not want to fix their mistakes or change their protocols to ensure environmental compliance. Instead of working towards compliance, they would try to test out what they could get away with or they would be content just paying the fine.

Claire helped conduct facility inspections and a hydraulic unit inventory for a lumber company in Barnesville, GA. The inspections and inventory were for evaluating NDPES Permit compliance, as well as updates and revisions to their Industrial Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan, and Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure Plan.

Do you have any external activities that you are passionate about?

I have been a member of the UGA Women’s Rugby Football Club since my freshman year and have served as the treasurer for 2.5 years. This year I ran for and was elected as Forwards Captain. Overall, the team has faced many different challenges, but we have grown and persevered through it all, which I am very proud of.

Do you have any volunteer experiences that were especially meaningful?

I volunteer every semester with the UGA Women’s Rugby Football Club, and one of our favorites has been volunteering with the UGArden. We have helped with a range of tasks, from weeding the gardens to helping the former Herb Program Manager with producing and packaging herbal teas.

What accomplishments during your time here are you most proud of?

I’m most proud of how I’ve worked a job throughout my entire time at college, both during the academic year and during breaks. I have also held three internship positions and have learned a lot and made connections at each.

What are your plans after graduation?

Following graduation, I plan to enter the field of environmental consulting with a focus on water resources. I also plan to work towards earning a master’s in either water resources management or environmental science.

What insights have you gained a public health student?

Before joining the College of Public Health, I did not realize how important the field of public health is. Through my classes and exposure to this field, I now know that it is vital to society and is largely underappreciated. I have also realized that the field can be very challenging because it deals with industry, workers, the public, environmentalists, and government – all of which tend to prioritize and fight for different things.

Posted November 10, 2023.