Erin Garrett is Natural Resources, Environment, and Energy Extension Educator for University of Illinois Extension in the southernmost five counties in Illinois - Alexander, Johnson, Massac, Pulaski and Union counties. In this role, Erin develops and delivers high impact programming to local and statewide audiences to help them develop an appreciation for natural resources and to empower them to make small changes to positively impact the environment.
Erin’s environmental stewardship programming focuses on why homeowners should consider choosing native plants, how to support native pollinators, how to identify grasses, how to identify and manage invasive species, and developing an appreciation for prairie ecosystems. In regards to energy programming, she was part of the Illinois Extension Smart Grid Outreach team that developed and delivered consumer education pertaining to the electric smart grid in Illinois, following the rollout of smart meter installation across the state. She also helps homeowners better understand if solar is right for them, and what energy efficiency practices they can put in place at home to save money on their electric bills.
Additionally, Erin serves as the local coordinator the Master Gardener and Master Naturalist programs in her five counties, providing training and volunteer leadership. She has been instrumental in acquiring and managing funding to support both large-scale food donation gardens and smaller pollinator/vegetable garden projects throughout the 5 counties. Two such food donation gardens include the Plant a Row, Watch COPE Grow Food Donation Garden in Metropolis and The Pilot Garden: Cairo’s Food Donation Garden in Cairo. She serves as a co-leader of Extension’s Natural Resources, Environment, and Energy Team.
Erin earned her Master’s degree in Plant Biology from Southern Illinois University in 2017, where her research focused on the interactions of an invasive legume with native forbs, grasses, and legumes. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies from the College of Saint Benedict in 2015. She served as a board member for the Southern Chapter of the Illinois Native Plant Society from 2017-2021. The Illinois Extension Smart Grid Outreach Team was awarded the Interdisciplinary State Team Excellence award from University of Illinois Extension in November 2019.
Prior to her time with Extension, Erin was a Conservation Education Representative at the Barkhausen Cache River Wetlands Center for Illinois Department of Natural Resources, and worked three consecutive summers as a Grassland Restoration/Monitoring Technician for The Nature Conservancy.