Cassie McCabe


My name is Cassie McCabe. I'm from Florida. I go to the University of South Florida where I am an MA in Global Sustainability candidate.

What sustainability, energy, and community issues are important to you?

My concentration in sustainability is Tourism. I have been fortunate enough to spend over a decade traveling the world, experiencing the many joys tourism has to offer. However, I have also seen the detrimental effect tourism can have on local communities, particularly on the environment and people. I have seen the splendor of the pyramids of Egypt, only to be disturbed by the garbage overflowing just a few hundred meters away. I enjoyed the beauty of Thailand’s Maya beach, only to find out it was closed to the public shortly after my visit until 2021, due to environmental degradation. I have climbed a volcano in Nicaragua to soak in the breathtaking view, only to be horrified when the local tour guide discarded his plastic wrapper over the edge. With tourism being the world’s fastest growing industry, it can be an example for stewardship and sustainability, or a major liability. Throughout my coursework, we have evaluated the triple bottom line impact of tourism on local communities, by considering the people and environment as well as economics.

What exciting projects/research are you working on now?

I recently helped build Florida’s first Biogas Digester at Fat Beet Farm where there is an abundant amount of organic matter "waste," from the food processing facility and agricultural processes. An anaerobic biogas digester turns food, animal and agricultural “waste” into energy! Microbes break down organic materials into methane (CH4), carbon dioxide (CO2) and digestate, which can be used as fertilizer. Typically, biodigesters operate by mesophilic digestion, with mesophiles being the primary microorganisms, at optimal temperatures of 30-38°C (86-100°F), with ambient temperatures between 20-45°C (68-113°F). In order to keep the biodigester at a constant high enough temperature, an additional heat source is required. We created an innovative design plan to install a solar powered hot water system of evacuated tube collectors and PEX coils positioned inside the biodigester. (My blog post about it is here.) I also recently participated in a project on Egmont Key, in conjunction with USF (Patel College of Global Sustainability and Access 3D Lab), the Egmont Key Alliance and the Seminole Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO). Egmont Key, which has been dubbed "the Incredible Shrinking Island," has lost half of its land mass over the last 100 years.This project aimed to digitally capture remaining historical structures on the island, before total submersion, allowing future generations to explore this small but historically significant island. Also, this project hopes to shed light on the lesser known Seminole internment that occurred here due to the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Egmont Key was used as a holding area for Native Americans taken from south Florida to Oklahoma in 1858-9. (My blog post about that is here.)

What are your plans for the next five years?

I plan to complete an internship at CREST, the Center for Responsible Tourism in Washington DC in the fall and graduate in December. Then I hope to launch my career in the sustainable tourism sector. I will continue my world travels, while hopefully educating others on responsible travel.  

What made you want to apply to SISE?

I heard about the program through my college and a friend who attended last year. She could not recommend it enough, and said she learned a lot, while having a fantastic time. I had recently finished my coursework and planned on taking the summer off before doing an internship in the fall, and SISE seemed like a perfect opportunity to learn, grow and network!

What are you most looking forward to doing in Chicago?

I have only been to Chicago once, for NYE and it was freezing! I am looking forward to enjoying the beautiful summer weather, getting some skyline views from rooftops and visiting the many fantastic museums.

Do you like Cats? If not, are you willing to learn to like cats?

I love cats! I am a huge animal lover, but cats are my favorite. People who claim they don’t like cats, usually have never had a pet cat.