Angela Pantell: Young researcher breaking new grounds in sustainability
Angela Pantell, 19, USA
My name is Angela Pantell and I’m 19 years old, originally from Chicago, Illinois. I am a rising junior at the University of Notre Dame, where I’m double majoring in Environmental Science and Economics and minoring in Sustainability.
In high school, I worked for three summers at Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago doing medical research. I studied several pulmonary diseases and conditions such as lung cancer and pulmonary fibrosis and possible cures to these ailments. This research experience sparked my interest in medicine and public health. Although over the years I have chosen to follow a career path focusing on sustainable agriculture, my interest in public health continues to play a large role in every project I engage in.
Since I started college, I’ve conducted several research projects that focus on sustainability from environmental, societal and economic perspectives.
Last summer I performed urban ecology research through the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. This project focused on urban communities of pollinators and how they are changing, as plant communities in restored natural areas throughout the city are changing.
The Chicago Park District will be able to use this project as a baseline for assessing their management practices to ensure that the declining populations of urban pollinators are supported with the proper plant communities.
I’ve spent this summer at the University of Notre Dame Environmental Research Center in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I’ve been researching the drought resistance capabilities of different tree species in the North Woods because droughts are expected to increase in this area due to future climate change.
My research can help us understand which species are at the highest risk to these increased droughts so that we can better manage the forest to allow these species and the entire forest community to thrive well into the future.
Next summer, I will be doing research in Bali, Indonesia. I study long-tailed macaques, and human-macaque interactions are rapidly increasing in Bali due to higher levels of tourism and the accelerating pace of land-use changes to support agriculture and urbanization. I will be studying how these increased human-macaque interactions affect the macaques’ behavior and, in turn, how this affects the diversity and intensity of the parasite communities that they host.
This research will allow us to better understand the potentials for parasite transmission between humans and macaques and ensure that this remains a sustainable species interaction.
My main project is a pig farm called the Mama Farm Foundation that I cofounded with one of my classmates from Notre Dame. Our farm is geared toward providing economic opportunities to young women in rural Kenya so that they are better able to support themselves and their children financially.
I am working to improve the sustainability of the farm, specifically by improving soil quality so that crops and feed for the pigs can be grown on site, which will improve the environmental health of the area and reduce costs for the farm so that we can provide opportunities to more women. We are currently making plans to expand our network of farms throughout Kenya and eventually throughout Eastern Africa.
I’ve always been very passionate about food. I started cooking at age two and gardening at age eight, but working to improve the sustainability of farming systems like I’m doing with Mama Farm Foundation is what I want as a career for many other reasons.
Agriculture is essential to achieving almost all of the sustainable development goals. Ensuring nutritious food is a huge step in improving people’s health and well-being, which are the first steps to educating people so that they can improve their livelihoods.
Agriculture is also a huge employer and an effective way to provide opportunities for economic growth to countless people.
Finally, agriculture is one of the largest contributors to climate change, so improving agricultural techniques can help fight climate change.
I’m excited to be a part of such impactful work and I can’t wait to participate in the Youth Assembly at the U.N. where I hope to gain the skills that I need to help me succeed with Mama Farm Foundation and with all of my future work.