Emily Norton

People love living near the water, especially here in the Great Lakes, but shoreline development can incur environmental costs. First year graduate student Emily Norton is interested in how human activity affects lake ecosystems, shorelines and the wildlife that inhabit them. She is a student in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife and ESPP.

Norton pursued her interest in the environment by working for the Department of Natural Resources in Indiana for three years, on permitting related to lakes and streams. Originally from Anderson, IN, she did her undergraduate degree at Purdue University in biology with a specialization in ecology and a minor in anthropology.  Her undergraduate advisor recommended she apply to MSU, based on her interest in the environment and MSU’s excellence in environment-related studies.

Currently, Norton is working on an economics project relating lakes’ water clarity (a measure of water quality) to the value of surrounding residential properties, in the Lower Peninsula. She is studying 20 counties, over 100 lakes, and over 1400 properties, and expects to conclude the project this summer. Previous studies have found water clarity and housing prices to be positively correlated. She hopes that her results will build on past studies and help inform decisions on water quality regulation in Michigan, by demonstrating the value of water clarity through housing prices.

Norton is considering future research on the effects of shoreline development on surrounding habitat and wildlife. She is interested in whether wildlife are affected by simply the level of development around a lake (i.e., having more people on the lake) or the diminishment of specific habitat types as a result of development. She is also interested in impacts of lakeshore development on fish. Her career goal is to work for a conservation organization like the Nature Conservancy.

She has taken ESP 801 so far and appreciated how it “brought in a broader spectrum of ideas,” by covering a range of environmental issues and ways to assess impacts and minimize environmental harm.