What’s in the Water?
An honors student tracks the environmental aftereffects of battle

What is the Great War’s environmental legacy in Europe nearly a century after millions of rounds of munitions rained down on the rivers and soil of the continent?

This is one of the primary questions Amy Collins ’18 seeks to answer as she studies the lingering environmental damage caused by World War I.

Last May, Collins waded into the Vesle River at Fismes, France, to collect water samples, which she brought back to Pennsylvania, then sent to a lab to measure the levels of lead and arsenic. “I’m looking at the long-term consequences of war,” says Collins, whose work is supported by a Dalal Family Fund for Creativity and Innovation fellowship.

A history and political science major and biology minor, Collins plans to publish a research paper on her findings this spring and pursue an interdisciplinary career that blends science and public policy to study the environmental effects of warfare in different world hotspots.

“Something needs to be done to address the persistent environmental damage affecting the biological inhabitants, people and wildlife as a result of warfare,” she says. “I’m interested in continuing the research through graduate school and want to use it to be an advocate for veterans affected by war. I hope my research has policy implications for how states handle environmental mitigation in a postwar society.”