Though Kelly Love is now pursuing her Master in Environmental Studies through the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Service at Ohio University, she has not forgotten her AmeriCorps roots.

After wrapping up undergrad in wildlife conservation at OU, Love wasn’t sure where to go next; but she ended up in Arizona, studying the effects of climate change on lizard behavior.

Kelly Love, blonde and fair-skinned, smiles wearing a blue-green flannel shirt while a small parrot sits on her chest.

Kelly Love

From there she had her fair share of “odd jobs” before AmeriCorps. But through her work in Arizona she found AmeriCorps … which led her back to Athens in 2019.

“I ended up applying for Rural Action’s positions,” Love said. “I applied for a few of them and then I interviewed for the Raccoon Creek Partnership,” where she remained for two service terms!

But Love’s service was the beginning of the “new norm;” life during the coronavirus pandemic. Her work, along with community engagement, had to adapt to the pandemic’s parameters.

“Everything changed,” Love said. “It required a lot of creativity. We had to cancel a ton of things that we had planned. So we had to think of alternative ways to do those same events.”

Love’s service at Raccoon Creek Partnership (RCP) focused heavily on acid mine drainage, within and beyond Racoon Creek. Her responsibilities included dosing, or the process of de-acidifying the water, contributing to stream restoration, and monitoring water quality.

RCP also works closely with OU’s Voinovich School, where Love was first exposed to her current grad program – so when she left AmeriCorps, she had an inkling for what to do next.

“I realized I could do that,” Love said. “I got two years of that already. I could keep going.”

Plus, Love now serves on the board of RCP, where she gets to work with AmeriCorps members all the time.

She started grad school last fall and now works on the other side of stream restoration, where she studies the question: Are stream restoration efforts actually effective at restoring a stream?

Love sought to answer the question by pulling 18-hour days, monitoring a restored stream in Appalachian Pennsylvania. Despite the long hours, “I actually really enjoy those days,” Love said.

But what does successful stream restoration mean?

“There’s a lot of different elements to determine if a creek is restored,” Love said. “But it means more biodiversity. You’ll see a lot more macro invertebrates, which is mainly what I work with, but – I actually didn’t know this before doing AmeriCorps – most insects start out in the water for a long period of time. Dragonflies, for example, live in water for up to five years.”

Creeks are “someone’s home,” Love said. Like smog in a city, quality of environment impacts quality of life, she explained.

Though no longer serving, Love is forever an AmeriCorps. From Racoon Creek to Pennsylvania hills, Love is passionate about protecting our precious environment.

What motivates Love to work 18-hour days, climbing uphill, without GPS service in the middle of the woods? Her answer is simple: “I want to make a difference and help.”