Parish explained her work at the lab, which she described as a “city of scientists and engineers looking for better types of energy.”
She also talked to the students about the impacts of climate change on their own communities.
“As our climate changes, we will see different types of trees begin to grow in the Smokies, as well as more nuisance pests and bugs, such as ticks,” she said.
“Agriculture will be affected; farmers may need to change what types of crops they can grow.”
More frequent local flooding and an increase in the number of people with allergies and asthma also demonstrate how changing climate conditions affect East Tennessee, she told the students.
Parish also discussed how scientists use supercomputers – such as Summit, the nation’s most powerful supercomputer, located at ORNL – to better understand how systems on Earth interact.
She surveyed the class on what they knew about sources of energy; solar panels and hydropower were the first two answers, and gasoline was third. She explained how energy sources have unique tradeoffs: Each type has benefits and impacts to consider.
Parish said her own interest in environmental education began in her middle school years when she became concerned about oil-tanker spills that were making headlines.
National Environmental Education Week is congressionally chartered to complement the work of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It’s a nonpartisan organization working to make the environment more accessible, relatable, relevant and connected to people’s daily lives. NEEF partners with educators, students, government agencies, businesses, communities and nonprofit organizations to inspire environmental learning and encourage stewardship of the world’s natural resources.