Internship Experience Helps Indiana County Residents Visualize Rainfall

Posted on 8/2/2019 12:40:49 PM

Many residents in Indiana County have watched their backyard rain gauges overflow as record rainfall has been documented over the last 12 months throughout the region.

How much rain has fallen locally? Thanks to an Indiana University of Pennsylvania student, that information is available online.

Emilee Howells IUP student Emilee Howells, of Ernest, spent her summer internship with the Borough of Indiana designing a county rainfall dashboard to share current data, including monthly rainfall charts, annual precipitation, and average monthly precipitation. The website includes a collection of years of rainfall data.

Her internship was funded through the Pennsylvania Municipal League.

The idea for the website originated from the Indiana County Stormwater Education Partnership. Established in 2014, the partnership includes 25 organizations—five of them with ties to IUP—all focused on bringing awareness and information about stormwater policy and its issues to Indiana County residents. IUP partners include the departments of Geocience, Biology, and Geography and Regional Planning; the Division of Administration and Finance; and the Office of Engineering and Construction.

The new Indiana County Rainfall Dashboard website was unveiled to the Stormwater Partnership membership at the organization’s August meeting. 

Howells, a double major in Communications Media and Journalism and Public Relations, is on track to graduate in May 2020. 

Her lifelong love of all things weather related, combined with skills she learned in classes in communications media and journalism, well prepared her internship, she said.

In addition to interpreting and inputting the data, Howells also was responsible for redesigning the partnership logo and developing the website from scratch, including creating the editorial content.

“Both my communications and journalism classes really helped me to be successful,” Howell said. “Public relations classes taught me how to plan tactics and structure a press release. Communications media classes taught me how to speak to various stakeholders and to think through content creation and understand software that would help me create that content.

“In all these classes, my professors emphasize experiences and creating relationships, and this skill was a big part of the work of my internship. I had to rely on others for sending me the data and work with my supervisor to think through design. 

“I’ve lived in Ernest all my life,” she said. “I had no idea what communications in local government looked like and the effort it would take to bring together so many groups to tackle one project.” 

Howells joins a group of other IUP geoscience and geology students working with the data collected by rain gauges, which have been located in six spots in Indiana Borough and White Township since 2016.

This summer, geoscience faculty member Katie Farnsworth is overseeing the students who are reading the gauges. The students also monitor water flow and water content. Farnsworth compiles this data, which updates the website.

“It’s a great applied science project because we give students the research experience in a topic that’s important to all communities,” Farnsworth said. “The interaction with local partners also provides the students with valuable experience dealing with a multitude of stake holders.”

Kyle Mudry, Indiana Borough’s coordinator of grants and communications, served as Howells’s supervisor during the internship.

“Emilee was fully prepared to tackle the work and the work was top notch,” Mudry said. “She had a very positive attitude, even while we were waiting for content. She also showed great initiative, learning what she needed to know before asking questions,” Mudry said.