Overall Rating Silver
Overall Score 55.74
Liaison Karen Talentino
Submission Date May 11, 2021

STARS v2.2

Saint Michael's College
AC-8: Campus as a Living Laboratory

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Karen Talentino
Professor of Biology
Biology
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Campus Engagement?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Campus Engagement:

The EcoRep program as well as student employees who are hired by the Center for the Environment are continually engaged in projects related to campus engagement - they facilitate student involvement in sustainability efforts - recycling, waste reduction, energy conservation, etc.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Public Engagement?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Public Engagement:

Eco and Environmental Arts course uses the Natural Area, the Farm, and other sites on campus, for public display of student projects related to sustainability and the environment.
Bee Hotels have been built by various student groups over the years, and are placed throughout campus with information about the importance of pollinators. Finally, the campus as several "no-mow zones" which have interpretive signage explaining the importance of native plants and pollination.
The public frequently uses the campus grounds as a place to wander and learn. The art projects on campus are developed and implemented in a manner to capture both the attention of our on-campus community as well as our off campus community. For example, the Bee Hotels have educational post-cards attached to educate the broader community on issues relating to pollinator decline and the importance of providing safe habitat to protect all pollinators. We also have informational signage around the campus that directs the public to rain gardens, geothermal systems, the Teaching Gardens, Natural Area, Waste Management Systems, and the Farm.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Air & Climate?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Air & Climate:

PY 107 Meteorology: Climate and Weather studies the origin and structure of the atmosphere, global wind patterns, air masses and fronts, the Earth’s energy budget, analysis of weather maps, formation of clouds and precipitation, and features of thunderstorms, tornadoes, and hurricanes. Activities include monitoring and analysis of local and climate weather patterns.
ES 213 Earth Systems and Processes looks at the physical systems and processes: landforms, geology, vegetation, soil, and weather/climate. The emphasis of the course is on these processes, but human-Earth interactions are also examined.
GG 102: Introduction to Physical Geography, students complete an on- campus lab on field weather forecasting thinking about measurement bias and location of weather equipment siting. If there is snow-cover on campus in December, students also complete a snow measurement and snow water calculation laboratory exercise.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Buildings?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Buildings:

BI 238: Community Ecology: In this course and in other courses before this one, students address how buildings and other impervious built surfaces shed water and how that water is kept out of the groundwater and instead channeled to surface water flow leading to stream erosion. Students also learn how carefully designed construction on campus mitigates this problem.
The Continuous Energy Improvement internship (initiated in 2019) also uses the buildings and their HVAC systems as a point of evaluation. The annual electricity competition in the residence halls also emphasizes and understanding of how buildings function and are controlled.
Finally, when we were building our most recent residence hall, the contractor and engineers supported a student internship so that a student could learn about the design and construction of a sustainable, geothermal-heated building.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Energy?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Energy:

Our residence hall energy competition provides an opportunity to educate students about their use of energy, and the values of conservation.
In ES107 (Environmental Science) and ES201 (Research Methods), students learn about energy utilization on campus - sources of energy, including our solar and geothermal systems, as well as the conservation practices and policies to reduce overall energy consumption.
In ES 301 (Energy and Climate Change) students use our extended campus to learn about different forms of energy and energy sources; they explore our solar array and our geothermal systems.

ES 103: Our Sustainable Future. Students’ final projects focused on creating a sustainability action plan for the campus. One group in each section of the course focused on creating an action plan to reduce the impact of energy usage on campus. One project focused on creating a proposal to implement more solar energy usage by the residential halls on campus.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Food & Dining?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Food & Dining:

ES 225 Food Systems & Sustainable Ag uses the Farm at SMC as a laboratory to study agroecology, permaculture, biointensive, and regenerative agriculture. ES 337 & 339 Farm & Food Intensive drives the planning for the Farm for the season, learns the skills and gains experience necessary to do so. ES 308 Environmental Education uses the Farm to study how to do farm-based education from a pedagogical stand point and further sustainable food education in schools and educational programs. All food grown on the Farm moves past the farm gate to at 45 person CSA, the College's dining hall, and to local area food selves. Green Up (student sustainability club) uses the Farm and farm grown food in their outreach and activism around local food miles, nutrition of local food, and food waste and cycles. Our student volunteer organization, MOVE has a program Outdoor Volunteer Efforts and they use the Farm to engage student volunteers in the act of growing food for campus. Courses across education, psychology, philosophy, and biology use the farm as a classroom. In these general inquiry courses, instructors work with students to see how theory in the classroom plays out on a real working farm.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Grounds?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Grounds:

AR 332: Eco and Environmental Arts. In this course, there are numerous projects that are intended to model the myriad ways art can be used to raise awareness about environmental issues, model alternative ways to manage outdoor spaces, utilize resources in more sustainable ways and create some long lasting functional sites that have small scale ecological benefits. Students use demonstration installations to draw attention and build education of mowing practice, mulching practice, and water retention practices as well as pollinator friendly plantings.

The interests and activism of our students have led to the reduction or selective application of pesticides to maintain high travel locations on campus as well as flower beds. The Grounds team is also using more perennial and at least more ecological plantings in the declining number of annual flower beds.

On the Farm - Ecological plantings, and their success on the farm have fostered ecological practices around campus. Native perennials that need to be thinned are used in planting beds around campus.
No Mow Zones have increased around campus, reducing labor hours and fossil fuel consumption and earth compaction around campus. Education around succession is slowly spreading through campus. This has lead to the implementation of a nursery in a prime campus location, plants to then be used in the natural area for restoration, habitat and pollinator work.

The Teaching Garden and the college arboretum are used in Biology and Education courses. Lessons learned include gardening with native plants, avoiding use of invasive species, and the fate of the American Chestnut.

Community Ecology has successfully used footprint analysis to quantify the differences in mammal diversity between the built portions of campus and the more natural areas south of Rt 15.

In 2017 our Animal Behavior will use motion-activated trail cameras to study the mammals that frequent the natural area south of Rt 15. Pre-class deployment has detected 8 mammal species including an abundant coyote population and an occasional bobcat.

Since 2006 we have utilized neighboring properties (Camp Johnson and Gil Brook Natural Area) as contrasts to the habitat that is our grounds. Our military collaboration has included prescribed burns and serves as a contrast to fire suppression management approach used in Gill Brook. Both of these campus-adjacent habitats serve as more natural experimental treatments as compared to our well-groomed and landscaped campus.

In 2010 a student did a research project measuring squirrel tolerance of human approaches on campus and in the woods. Students in 20012 measured the impacts of duckweed on communities in artificial ponds installed on campus. These are examples of the sort of research projects that occur on the grounds.

Beginning in 2008, our Streams Project, funded by Vermont EPSCoR has utilized our campus as a training location where high school and undergraduate students learn to take surface water samples, macroinvertebrate samples, and also to measure rainfall and water infiltration into soil.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Purchasing?:
No

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Purchasing:
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IIs the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Transportation?:
No

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Transportation:
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Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Waste?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Waste:

ES107 (Environmental Science) performs an annual "waste audit" as a lab activity. Students collect data on trash, recycling and compost bins around campus; they determine weight of items in each category, as well as degree of contamination.
EcoReps designed and posted signs throughout campus to educate students about the importance of and proper procedure for dealing with their waste (recycling, composting, trash).
Our student sustainability club, GreenUp, has taken the lead on two waste reduction projects this year. First, they worked with the Campus Store to create a "Green Products" zone, and recommended the inclusion of a number of relevant new items, such as washer sheets, reusable cutlery, and sustainable storage containers. Second, they designed and built a "recycling center" in our mailroom, that assists students in making sustainable decisions about recycling of their mailing and packaging materials. They have included an area for the drop-off of batteries as well, which are properly disposed of with the local solid waste facility.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Water?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Water:

ES107 (Environmental Science) and ES238 (Ecosystem Ecology) uses a variety of resources on campus to discuss issues of water sustainability. First, in ES107 we review the stormwater collection system on campus, which distributes and stores stormwater runoff for use in limited watering on campus, as well as to limit the amount of surface pollutants from hardscapes that flow directly into our watershed. In both 107 and 238, we use the Natural Area to observe the impact of former agricultural land on the soil and pollution of the Winooski River. We also look at the consequences of interfering with the natural water flow in the Natural Area, which has disrupted certain habitats (floodplain forest, wetlands). In both classes we also sample and test the water in the Natural Area and other locations on campus to look at standard metrics for water quality.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Coordination & Planning?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Coordination & Planning:

EcoReps, and members of our student sustainability group GreenUp are regular members of our Sustainability Campus Team. This team of students, staff and faculty (led by Director of the Center for the Environment) reviews practices, considers proposals, makes recommendations to the administration, takes leadership for projects, and fosters an understanding to the campus on the importance of coordination and planning with regards to campus sustainability. Student work and engagement as mentioned in the Grounds section of this "Campus as a Living Lab" have led to greater coordination and planning around particularly planting selection, timing, use of pollinators and perennials.


Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Diversity & Affordability?:
No

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Diversity & Affordability:
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Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Investment & Finance?:
No

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Investment & Finance:
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Is the institution utilizing its infrastructure and operations as a living laboratory for applied student learning for sustainability in relation to Wellbeing & Work?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Wellbeing & Work:

AR 332: Eco and Environmental Arts. In this course, there are numerous projects that are intended to model the myriad ways art can be used to raise awareness about environmental issues, model alternative ways to manage outdoor spaces, utilize resources in more sustainable ways and create some long lasting functional sites that have small scale ecological benefits. All projects are focused on having an on-campus applications.
--Students in the Spring 2018 course created a project focused on “Green Spaces” in which they focused on putting plants in various office spaces with the idea that plants help promote well-being (as well as numerous health benefits).

The CSA program run by the Farm is extended to staff and students around campus and in the community. Membership to the program affords participants access to education of nutrition, cooking recipes and techniques, food history and culture.


Website URL where information about the institution’s living laboratory program is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:
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The examples provided are just a small representation of the myriad ways in which we use our campus as a living laboratory. There are few, if any, departments in which the campus is not used for teaching, research, and/or reflection. As the coordination by the Center for the Environment and the management of our natural labs (Farm, Natural Area, Teaching Gardens) are enhanced, the vision of our campus as a living laboratory will be fully realized.

https://www.smcvt.edu/academics/center-for-the-environment/sustainability/

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