Amy Hueber ’77 remembers waiting for the school bus on the west side of Syracuse—not far from Tipperary Hill—and being able to smell a polluted Onondaga Lake, more than five miles away.
Her feelings about that lake were in stark contrast to those she held for Lake Ontario—the summer vacation spot for her family—including brother Jim ’79 and her four other siblings—and the site of so many happy memories swimming and exploring the wetlands.
“Lake Ontario equaled perch fish fries,” she said. “Onondaga Lake—don’t even touch the water. Thankfully, that is improving through the dedicated work of many factions.”
These early and vastly different experiences with water introduced her to the role pollution can play in environmental quality.
“I wanted to understand better and get involved with solutions to remedy ecosystem imbalances and in turn educate myself and others on ways to be environmental stewards to maintain the balance,” said Hueber, who has spent the past 36 years working in SRC Inc.’s Environmental Hazard Assessment Division.
In this role, she has completed work for the National Library of Medicine on the Hazardous Substances Databank, which gives the public a better understanding of the effects and fate of potentially hazardous chemicals on air, water, soil environments, plants, animals and people.
She credits a Biology 101 research project with Dr. A.J. Nappi for laying the foundation for a master’s degree in library science at Syracuse University and, more importantly, for her life’s work as a research scientist.
But she adds, “Field classes at Rice Creek were far and away my favorites, and studying with true experts in their fields really kept the sense of curiosity and problem-solving at a feverish pitch. A favorite was Dr. Don Cox’s project presentation class, where we applied all the ecological and environmental concepts we had been taught over the years to identify and present remedial actions for an area of your choice, such as brownfields, altered shorelines, water quality degradation due to runoff, etc. It was a very real-world experience with a lot of lively discussion/point-counterpoint, stopping just short of a famous SNL skit.”
At Oswego, she also nurtured her love for music and culture through coursework and a summer semester in Austria—“home of the Vienna waltzes, the music of Mozart, fine chocolate, and where the beer is perfect,” she said. The experience also inspired her to pick up courses in the German language.
Today, Hueber continues to balance science and the arts; she is learning the harp and enjoys quilting. She fuels her passion for the outdoors through kayaking, cycling, snowshoeing, and, of course, enjoying and preserving the natural resources of Central New York.
“I get out on the water with the Oswego County Soil and Water Conservation District, pulling invasive water chestnut plants, doing garbage cleanup, bird watching and just being in nature,” she said. “I think that wonder of the outdoors needs to be re-instilled in children especially … It’s how they can develop a sense of this is our home,” she said. “Take care of the earth and the earth will take care of you.”