The 2022 Distinguished Research Specialist or Technician Award goes to Stephanie Wagner! Stephanie has worked as an environmental site assessor with the environmental assessment team at the Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) for nine years. The ISGS environmental assessment team works closely with the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), which as part of infrastructure construction and improvements must acquire properties that have the potential for environmental problems. Wagner and her environmental assessment colleagues help determine project costs, prioritize projects, and ensure the safety of workers, the public, and the environment.
"I feel honored and grateful to have received this award from PRI," said Wagner. "I hope that my work will help sustain the relationship between PRI and IDOT, and support infrastructure projects throughout the state."
In addition to completing her master's degree in environmental restoration from the University of Illinois, Wagner has completed, as sole author or as a major contributor, more than 200 high-quality technical reports for this program, with each report requiring site-specific research and analysis. Her contributions to the program have improved IDOT's ability to keep projects on time and on budget, and to ensure safe and environmentally responsible work.
"The process of researching and writing our contract reports feels like putting together a giant puzzle to me, which I find satisfying," said Wagner. "I also have a massive amount of support from coworkers, team leaders, and administrative staff."
According to her colleagues, Wagner consistently volunteers for many of the most complex, technically challenging projects. Her work involves careful analyses and syntheses of thousands of technical reports and reams of technical data on highly contaminated sites in the most contaminated parts of Illinois, including the Chicagoland industrial areas and highly polluted areas in Metro East.
"These projects aren't particularly glamorous or visible to ISGS or PRI, however, these positions are critical to the success of our PRI institutions: for our reputation, for the grant money they bring in, and for their contributions to the infrastructure of Illinois that we all depend on," wrote Anne Ellison, retired senior environmental geologist and former head of the ISGS environmental site assessments section.
Her colleague Laura Quirk wrote that in addition to taking on some of the group’s most difficult projects, Stephanie frequently volunteers to assist her peers. “Her positive attitude and willingness to take on more than her fair share of work makes Stephanie a role model within our section.”