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Innovation Lab director to attend environmental-leadership training

Kayla Carter • Jul 26, 2013 at 10:17 PM

Director of the ETSU Innovation Laboratory Dr. Audrey Depelteau will travel to Chicago on Monday for the Climate Change Reality Leadership Corps Training program that focuses on various environmental issues and how to create more awareness of those issues.

“My graduate work was in environmental toxicology,” said Depelteau, who is the only East Tennessee State University representative to attend the August training session. “I’ve been into environmental issues since the early 1970s.”

Led by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, the three-day Climate Reality Training program begins Tuesday and will focus on topics like climate change, public speaking, social media, leadership skills, communication strategies, community outreach and organization, a press release said. The program was also held earlier this year in Istanbul, where 430 representatives from more than 77 different countries were in attendance.

Depelteau’s interest in environmental issues was peaked after reading Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring,” which explained how birds across the nation were being affected by the use of DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane).

“One of the major affects of DDT, which is the pesticide that was used to kill mosquitoes, (was that) it affected the hardness of eagles’ shells,” Depelteau said. “The shells weren’t strong enough to withstand the weight of the mother. They just crushed. So we ended up having almost like an extinction of the American Eagle, and of course as Americans that’s our symbol.”

As obvious and subtle changes on Earth accelerate like North Pole melting and the migration patterns of Monarch butterflies, Depelteau said there is an urgency for her to understand and help others learn how to better treat the environment.

“What we are seeing are drastic changes,” Depelteau said. “A lot of it is from a lot of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and a lot of pollution.”

Overall, Depelteau said she is interested in climate change “because it’s what is going on and it is what is occurring right now.”

Depelteau will become part of a global network of climate leaders upon the program’s completion and plans to bring information back not only to share with the region, but the nation.

“Any time that maybe a high school biology class wants somebody to come in and talk about climate change, I could represent ETSU as a climate change specialist,” Depelteau said.

As efforts to kick-start her environmental awareness campaign, she already has plans after training to speak at the Johnson City Public Library on Aug. 5, create a climate change and environmentally oriented blog and visit her good friend Maggie Hassan, who is the governor of New Hampshire, to talk about environmental legislation focusing on car emissions.

“It’s something I will expand wherever the opportunity is,” Depelteau said. “There are a lot of things I’m planning to do with this above and beyond my job as the director of the Innovation Lab.”

In the news release, Dr. Jeffrey Kanel, CEO of Renewable Algal Energy LLC, said the knowledge Depelteau acquires could also help educate many new and established business about how to be more environmentally friendly.

“Dr. Depelteau’s acceptance into this program is a huge accolade for ETSU, the Innovation Lab, the region and for renewable companies such as RAE,” Kanel said. “When Dr. Depelteau returns, I look forward to furthering our collaborations that will make a positive global impact.”

Depelteau said she is prepared to handle any skepticism associated with the topic of climate change and environmental issues with the information she obtains during training.

“We need to be aware and we need to think, ‘What is the future for our children and grandchildren and generations to come?” she said.

For more information about the Innovation Lab, call Depelteau at 439-8535 or email depelteau@etsu.edu. To learn about the Climate Reality Project, visit climaterealityproject.org.

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