Authorized for the Unauthorized 

Last week we were able to tour the Torres Bermejas at the Alhambra. The Torres Bermejas is a military barrack just outside the wall of the Alhambra. It has not had any restoration attempts since the 1960s, so most of what you see in this video is about 450-500 years old. The aqua duct system was most intriguing to me (see pics). The system seemed so modern for such the time period. I am very grateful to Prof. Javier Gallego Roca and the team from the New York Institute of Technology for allowing me to be a part of this once in a lifetime opportunity! ​

Kauai – The Garden Island

Thanks to jet-lag, I am officially a morning person in Kauai! The island has a certain vibe to it and the first week supplied a slew of knowledge and realizations.

Touring Malama Kauai, our host organization located in Kilauea, brought a lot of the community’s issues to the surface and gave me some insight into what the needs of the island are, particularly the rural farming communities. I was connected with a few farming organizations, hopefully to garner some answers to questions about the current state of things on the island, along with setting up future interviews.


Youth Garden at Malama Kauai

One of my first observations is the lack of solar photovoltaic panels anywhere on the island.   You find them sporadically, but not nearly as prevalent as you’d expect, especially for a place that has had daily sunlight since I’ve been here. This is an underutilized energy source and I still haven’t quite figured out what the challenges are to installing solar, or if people even want to change their ways.

Another quick realization is the hundreds of shipping containers docked at the harbor and at each grocery store. With Kauai importing over 80% of their food products, these are a common sight and an uneasy one.  Besides the local markets, it’s difficult to find locally sourced foods. If you do visit a restaurant that sources locally, you definitely pay the price.

One of many shipping containers throughout the island.  This one is at Kapa’a’s Safeway grocery store.

Granada and Alhambra Welcomed Me with Open Arms

My arrival to Granada was one that I will never forget. The people (for the most part) are kind and willing to help the often, directionally-challenged, tourists and students. The streets are steep, narrow and made of river rock. Now, imagine me carrying a 30lb back pack and a 45lb over-sized suitcase down/up the aforementioned streets and alley ways; you now understand why Arabic Baths will be on the site-seeing list in the near future!

On Monday afternoon, I met with my internship professor, Rafael Garcia. He’s one of the head professors for the school of Architecure here at the University of Granada. Pictured below is Rafael and our student assistant, Marisol. We discussed the importance of water and how Granada receives its water and electricity. I explained how important the use of water flow and velocity are in water recirculation and reuse. Both to determine pressure potential and energy conservation, as well as resource conservation. I also explained to them why we, in the southeastern United States, require water extraction from below ground aquifers – a concept they knew nothing about. Our second meeting went more in depth on the above mentioned topics. It was a learning experience for both sides!

This morning, Marisol took me to the library (bibliotheca) at the Alhambra to conduct research. The archivists were on hand to answer questions and help in any way possible. We found quite a bit of books and articles regarding water, its importance and how the systems at the Alhambra operate.

After I spent a couple of hours looking through books and articles for my final paper, we took a walk through the Generalife section of the Alhambra. Below, you will see a selection of pictures from the Alhambra and my experience here in Granada so far. Ciao!

Me on la escalera de agua

Little bit in Panama

My internship is in City of knowledge where is a really tranquil place   located in Panama city. I’m working for Forest Finance Team (FTT) with its quality control manager, Sabine Wischnat. FFT is a German company and its headquarter is in Bonn, Germany with several branches in Latin America, Europe and Vietnam. So, the employees in panama branch are very diverse and are come from German, Spain and Panama. The first week of my intern life was quite interesting and calm. The first barrier I got to conquer was switching language use between English and Spanish, also, experienced the language cultural shock between traditional Spanish and Latino Spanish. Therefore, sometimes, I couldn’t really understand what the people were talking about. Because they have their own local slang use and accent. However, in this special circumstances, my colleagues and I developed a new language system called “Spanglish” which means that we will communicated in half of English and in half Spanish for easily understanding between us. Besides, I observed one thing that really dragged my attention was that local people prefer to say “ciao” when they say goodbye to each other.

This week, FFT will go through FSC annual renew certificated process. It would be a fantastic experience to participant the audit process and know more about FSC certificated. So the coming up blog next week will introduce what is FSC to everyone, stay tune~~

I would like to put a conclusion for my first week life in Panama (it seems it was irrelevant to this internship but it is “must know”in Panama!) was that once you come to Panama, you must taste all the products made of banana. Banana here for Panamanians is dessert, is garnish, is main dish and is fruit of course. The banana cuisines here will re-shape the images of your banana stereotypes. I have tried one of them called “plataitos” and it was perfect with my smoke salmon sandwich as my weekend lunch.


Bittersweet Endings…

I would like to begin this final blog entry by thanking everyone involved in my graduate schooling-career and everyone at the EPCHC. The support and guidance has provided me with the tools needed for success, and brought me to where I am today. Thank you!!

The featured image is a Deionized (DI) Water system from the 1980’s which is still in use today for field blanks. This method is the most sensitive form of pure water for sample collection.

Due to my 2+years of experience working in environmental testing laboratories, I have been given the task to make standards for Total Phosphorus and TKN analyses throughout my internship. These standards are made with a first and second source of quality control (QC) solutions. The QC is an important part of each analysis and determines the validity of the analysis, since the QCs have a specific known range for their results.


The image is my bench-space where I made the standards (in the smaller beakers) using the first and second source solutions – which are usually bought externally. I used the volumetric glass to measure out each solution and diluted them into 100nL of DI water – type 1 (taken from the laboratory sink, treated with UV).

Working in a laboratory setting is my passion, especially with environmental samples! It brings a sense of purpose, that the work I contribute is helping the environment and protecting our common resource. Everyone at the EPCHC is extremely warm and friendly and though I’ve spent only the past two months there, I feel like an adopted relative into their wonderful family. Their work and dedication has made the Tampa Bay estuary a role-model for the nation, as our Tampa Bay has completely recovered our seagrass populations to levels before the industrialism impact of the 1950s- late 1980s. Our story of success brings hope and guidance of sustainability to all sensitive estuary ecosystems shared with our fellow human beings.

Nutrients, a substance that provides nourishment essential for growth and the maintenance of life.

Nutrients are an essential component for life. Though, sometimes nutrient loading (an excess of nutrients within an ecosystem in a period of time) occurs due to animal fecal excrements, fertilizer runoff, and other anthropogenic factors. An increase in nutrients are harmful and toxic to our ecosystems. When soil and water cycles are not able to keep-up and maintain the natural filtration of nutrients, it can be detrimental to all living organisms in the area (including humans).

The EPCHC routinely collects samples around the Tampa Bay to ensure the levels of nutrients are within appropriate levels. When the samples are brought in, they are acidified in order to preserve the nutrient contents. As seen in the images, about 5-10mL of sample are filtered through a small circular attachment on the syringe. They are placed into the corresponding glass tube and covered with parafilm to place into storage until the analyst is ready to run the samples.

The acidity (pH) must be around 1.6-1.9pH in order to run the analysis accurately on the machine. Before filtration, each sample must be tested for the pH levels and if they are out of range (usually higher than 2.0pH), then one drop of hydrochloric acid is added to the sample, shaken, and the pH is tested again. Usually, one drop does the trick to bring the pH back down to 1.9pH, which is the ideal level.

Laboratory analysis of our environment is crucial to quantifying the sustainability of our ecosystems. This scientific approach provides quantified evidence on the levels of our ecosystem’s health. If the levels are out of range within specific analyses, then the area where the sample was retrieved is targeted to be recovered. Thus, providing guidance where our ecosystems need assistance to ensure the sustainability of our environments.

NASA Earth Day Celebrations

Earth Day is an important day to celebrate. Kennedy Space Center finds it so important that they extended the celebrations for two days. The first day of celebrations took place on private property just for the employees located at KSC. Over 40 eco-friendly companies and schools came out to educate employees on the latest and greatest environmentally friendly products and technologies.

The next day these companies and schools came out to the Visitor Complex to educate the guests. This day we were also able to showcase the Bag Monster that we had previously made! We handed out coupons to the guests to get reusable bags at the gift shop.

Both days were a success and I truly feel that everyone who came out learned a lot. Hopefully it had opened people’s eyes to the importance of our Earth and that they begin to make environmentally friendly decisions. An exciting part of both of these days is that our very own Patel College of Sustainability was able to come out and set up a booth to further educate employees and guests on the great things that are happening at our college.

Mission Updates

nasa helicopter

These past few weeks have been a whirlwind. I have been able to gain so many new experiences. One of the days I was there, I was able to shadow a company called IMSS. While I was there I was able to learn more about NASA’s Recycling and Sustainable Acquisition Program, visited toxic remediation sites, and was able go tortoise tracking along the launch pad shorelines. The shorelines at Kennedy Space Center are quickly eroding and coming closer to the launch pads. The biologist team has created sand dunes to sow down this process. The dunes are covered in native vegetation to make it more sturdy. They have been tracking how animals on the wildlife refuge are responding to it. The more animals that have inhibited it, the healthier the dunes are.

I have also been working on a few of my main projects. One of them is coming up with ideas for the Nature and Technology Exhibit, this exhibit is currently underutilized. I have a few ideas that I think might enhance the experience while still connecting people to the environment. I have also been working on a project with some astronauts, which I am going to keep secret for now:)

The Week of the SpaceX Falcon 9 Launch


This photo is taken at the launch site of what was supposed to be the SpaceX Falcon9 Rocket. Two days in a row we went out to help manage this site, and sadly neither of the day the rocket went off.  At least one of the days a rainbow appeared behind the rocket.

This week I was able to meet with the NASA SpinOff team to discuss future possibilities for the Nature and Technology exhibit. We focused in on spinoffs that were related to the environment and for animal tracking.

I was also a part of a meeting where we met with the NASA environmental regulations team. They inspected the HVAC machines in the maintenance area.

Lastly, I have been working on creating my presentation for the Nature and Technology exhibit. The photo below is my second slide. I made the nature and technology tree on Microsoft Powerpoint.

IMG_5063 (1)

The Mission Continues


This week I was able to finish my article that will be posted on the Delaware North GreenPath news. The article is about the food that the KSC Visitor Complex is able to donate. I have pasted the article below!

“Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex Gives Back in a Sustainable Way

Food waste has become a hot topic when discussing the issues of our planet. What most people fail to recognize is the amount of land, energy, and water that goes into making our food. Each one of these aspects is becoming increasingly more scarce. In the United States alone, 40% of all food goes to waste. With this in mind, the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (KSCVC) has recently been freezing hundreds of pounds of excess café food each week that meet strict health guidelines. This food is being donated to the Brevard Sharing Center in conjunction with the Second Harvest Food Bank. This excess food would usually be considered as waste and would be transported to a local landfill, but KSCVC is changing this habit.

The goal of this new and exciting program is to incorporate the values Delaware North’s GreenPath® program of continues improvement by minimizing food waste, while being able to give back to the local community. This program kicked off at the end of December in our Crewmember Lounge and Debus Center, but is planning to expand to other cafés in the near future. KSCVC is hoping that this small gesture will be able to help out the community and out planet in a big way.

The director of the Sharing Center has expressed her appreciation for all the food being donated. With all the food being donated from KSCVC on a weekly basis, they are able to incorporate the food into every meal which serves around 180 guests daily. The first incorporated meal was mac & cheese and the guests said they thoroughly enjoyed it!”


This week I learned that the visitor complex is replacing existing lights in the rocket garden with solar lights that are also wildlife friendly (because they sit on a wildlife refuge). I was able to calculate the amount of carbon dioxide that will be saved from going into the atmosphere, and it is a lot!

I was also able to work more on my Nature and Technology exhibit project. My supervisor and I sat down and discussed the possibilities for the exhibit. Many emails have been sent out to those at NASA who might be able to help us make this possible! Hopefully next week meeting dates will be set up and we will able to move forward with this project.