|Submission Date||Dec. 14, 2017|
St. Lawrence University
AC-10: Support for Research
|4.00 / 4.00|
Does the institution have an ongoing program to encourage students in multiple disciplines or academic programs to conduct research in sustainability? :
A brief description of the student research program, including the incentives provided and any positive outcomes during the previous three years:
The Department of Environmental Studies (ENVS) at St. Lawrence leads the institution in encouraging students to engage in sustainability-related research. St. Lawrence has the distinction of having one of the oldest interdisciplinary environmental studies programs in the United States, dating back some four decades. Our core commitment to interdisciplinary collaboration and inquiry has flourished over the years, leading to the creation of ten ENVS combined majors, which enable ENVS students to integrate substantial efforts in traditional disciplines with environmental studies. These majors were designed for students who wish to acquire expertise in another department while still benefiting from the integrative approaches of environmental studies. Five ENVS options are available with natural science departments (biology, chemistry, geology, psychology, and math), along with five additional options in the social sciences and the humanities (economics, English, government, philosophy, and sociology). ENVS has consistently attracted significant numbers of students, with course enrollments averaging 586 annually over the last five years, and ENVS and combined majors ranking among the ten majors during the same period. In the tradition of St. Lawrence teacher-scholars, ENVS faculty have actively involved students in their research endeavors. These include Associate Professor/Department Chair Jon Rosales’ research on the effects of climate change in Alaska; Assistant Professor David Murphy’s research on the intersection of energy, the environment, and economics; Assistant Professor Sara Ashpole’s study of cumulative impacts to amphibian, reptile, and turtle populations in the Great Lakes and the South Okanagan Valley, British Columbia; and Assistant Professor Peter Pettingill’s research on park and public land planning and management.
The St. Lawrence ENVS Department operates the Ecological Sustainability Landscape (ESL), a tract of land located several miles from our main campus on 110 acres, including forests, wetlands, and streams complete with a three-story house and outbuildings. Many courses within the ENVS department use the ESL property as a living laboratory, including Sustainable Agriculture, Renewable Energy, and Global Amphibian Decline. The facility gives students opportunities to experiment with building materials and energy efficient technologies. Past student research projects have resulted in the installation of a super energy-efficient demonstration window, new energy conserving lighting, solar panels, and a nano-wind turbine.
St. Lawrence’s Sustainability Program, led by Associate Professor of Performance and Communication Arts (PCA) Dr. Jessica Prody, is also playing a key role in encouraging students to pursue research on sustainability issues. During the semester, students live on a farm site located approximately four miles from campus and take a full academic roster of courses designed to explore issues of sustainability from multiple perspectives. These courses are taught by faculty members from the Departments of Biology, Environmental Studies, PCA, and Sociology, who use project-based teaching methods to guide students in identifying sustainability problems, evaluating solutions, and working with communities to implement those solutions. Participating students are eligible to participate in summer internships in a wide range of sustainability fields, many of which include opportunities to engage in research.
The St. Lawrence Center for International and Intercultural Studies (CIIS) provides students with funding to conduct research projects abroad, including projects focused on sustainability studies. In addition, student can enroll in courses addressing a wide range of sustainability topics through CIIS including:
• India: Ecology, Environmental Studies, Sustainable agriculture
• Australia: Eco-System, Environmental Studies
• Denmark: Sustainability
• Kenya: Eco-System, Environmental Studies, Sustainability
• New Zealand: Eco-System, Environmental Studies
• Costa Rica: Eco-Tourism, Environmental Studies, Human Ecology
• Thailand: Mekong fisheries
St. Lawrence University offers several long-standing institutional programs that support intensive student research during the summer months, including students interested in sustainability. The “University Fellows” program, established in 1999, supports 35-50 students each summer, who spend 8-10 weeks conducting in-depth independent research with a faculty mentor. The Tanner Fellowships program is intended to encourage students to enlarge their capacities to make a positive and creative mark on the world by enabling them to design and pursue educational experiences not otherwise available to them. Many Tanner Fellows choose to conduct their projects off-campus.
Government-sponsored grant programs are another important source of research funds for students, notably the New York State Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP), which serves 36 students annually, and the federal Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program, which serves 28 students annually. Both programs help students from under-represented populations pursue advanced degrees and professional careers. These programs all offer student stipends to offset the loss of wages from summer employment. Other granting agencies, such as the National Science Foundation, also support student research.
The following section provides examples of student research projects and outcomes in the area of sustainability during the past three years.
• In 2017, Heather Thompson ’19 and Thoin Begun ’18 worked with Associate Professor of Biology Aswini Pai to identify 94 wild bee species in 10 different genera as part of their Ronald E. McNair Summer Research Fellowship. The student researchers sifted through more than 60 journal articles and worked with community volunteers who allowed them to collect samples from their kitchen gardens in the Canton region.
• In 2015-16, the University’s Tanner Fellowship Program supported two international student sustainability research projects: Caleb Kessler ’18 “Examining Iceland’s Renewal Energy Infrastructure” and Emily Terry ’17 “Internship with Conservation Heritage-Turambe in Rwanda.”
• Andrew Nolan ’16 worked with Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Dr. Sara Ashpole on a wetland conservation project in the Okanagan region in British Columbia, Canada, with grant support from Canadian agencies. Andrew was subsequently hired as an intern for the Okanagan Similkameen Stewardship Society, a nonprofit agency Dr. Ashpole helped establish in 2013 to promote the stewardship of the endangered ecosystems in the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys. Andrew assisted the organization in providing community stewardship groups and land stewards with information and technical support in voluntary stewardship, conservation and restoration of natural areas within the focal area. Andrew and other students mentored by Dr. Ashpole completed follow-up Senior Year Experience research projects and developed posters from research presentations, both locally and for conferences in Canada.
• In Summer 2015, Sean Reville '17 took part in a Sustainability Semester internship with the Union of Concerned Scientists in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He credits the writing and workshops he did during the Sustainability Semester in Spring 2015 in helping him secure his internship. His duties as the Clean Energy Outreach intern involved going to the front-lines of the climate debate and drudging through disinformation, reaching out to local allies in every state to counter the influence of fossil fuel interests, and finally compiling a research analysis on how the media treats climate policy disinformation.
• CIIS and National Science Foundation funding made it possible for three St. Lawrence students to travel to Alaska to conduct research with Dr. Jon Rosales: rising seniors Margaret Mauch and Gunnar Ohlsen (summer 2016) and rising junior Jesse Lowell (2017). These students assisted Dr. Rosales in collecting traditional ecological knowledge from local indigenous populations and sampling driftwood to measure the effects of climate change.
• David Smith ’15 exemplifies the closeness of the St. Lawrence faculty mentor-student research relationship. David, who graduated in 2015 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Environmental Studies & Geology, spent the summer prior to his senior year as a climate change research assistant to Dr. Jon Rosales in Shaktoolik, Alaska. In 2016, David was invited to return to St. Lawrence for a flash seminar event to present “Stay and Defend,” a documentary film that he created based on his research experience in Alaska. He is currently enrolled in a graduate GIS program in Colorado and hopes to continue his advocacy work in the future.
Does the institution have a program to encourage faculty from multiple disciplines or academic programs to conduct research in sustainability topics?:
A brief description of the faculty research program, including the incentives provided and any positive outcomes during the previous three years:
St. Lawrence University actively supports faculty research across the disciplines through a number of institutional programs. Tenure-track faculty members are provided with $4,200 in professional travel funds annually to conduct research and attend conferences. New tenure-track faculty hires receive start-up funds for research and equipment; amounts depend on the disciplinary area, but range from 4- to 5-figures. Each semester, The Office of Academic Affairs invites the faculty to apply to St. Lawrence’s internal research grant program, with awards of up to $3000 for research and smaller supplemental travel/research awards of $700. In addition to presentations at regional and national professional conferences, faculty are encouraged to share their scholarly research interests and project outcomes on campus through a series of “Faculty Cafes” held throughout the academic year. The University also supports faculty research through the Office of Corporate & Foundation (C&F) Relations/Sponsored Research (2.5 FTE). The C&F Grants Office assists faculty across the disciplines in securing external grant funding, including projects related to sustainability. During the last fiscal year, the C&F Grants Office raised almost $2.7 million in private and public grants.
Notable faculty outcomes in the area of sustainability during the last 3 years include:
• Dr. Jon Rosales (Environmental Studies) received a National Science Foundation grant award of $90,366 in June 2016 for his work on climate change in Alaska, using traditional ecological knowledge from local indigenous villagers in the Bering Strait region. His work in this field, showcased on the Alaskan Sharing Indigenous Knowledge website (AKSIK.org), has attracted international attention. Dr. Rosales has been invited to speak numerous times at United Nations conferences on climate change, as well as conferences of the Society for Conservation Biology, the Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences, and the North American Benthological Society. He is an expert reviewer for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
• Dr. David Murphy (Environmental Studies) also received National Science Foundation funding. His 2015 award supported his collaboration with Dr. Thomas Love of Linfield College to develop a January 2016 workshop on “The Implications of Net Energy for the Food-Energy-Water (FEW) Nexus.” Attended by 28 participants, the workshop examined the FEW nexus from two linked perspectives: 1) net energy, and 2) the Social, Behavioral and Economic (SBE) disciplines. Dr. Murphy has also gained recognition as an expert on energy returns on investment, or EROI, and was featured on an Energy Transition Show podcast in November 2015.
• St. Lawrence Professor of Biology Erika Barthelmess launched Nature Up North in 2012 as an environmental education and outreach project whose mission is to foster appreciation for, and understanding of, the natural environment in the rural communities of the “North Country” region of upstate New York. Grant sponsors of Nature Up North have included the Thoreau Foundation, the Alcoa Foundation, and the St. Lawrence River Research & Education Fund. In only a few short years, the project has achieved remarkable results: as of 2017, Nature Up North has formed partnerships with ten North Country school districts, engaging over 1,900 K-12 students through field days, class visits, and after-school programs—representing over 12% of the entire K-12 student population in St. Lawrence County. Over 20 St. Lawrence students have been trained as Nature Up North interns to assist in delivering programming, helping to develop the next generation of leaders in environmental stewardship and sustainability.
Has the institution published written policies and procedures that give positive recognition to interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, and multidisciplinary research during faculty promotion and/or tenure decisions?:
A brief description of the institution’s support for interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, and multidisciplinary research, including any positive outcomes during the previous three years:
Faculty are assessed for tenure and promotion on their Achievement in Scholarship and the Arts: Concrete evidence is sought of a growing, outreaching mind that is not content with merely passing on received knowledge but demonstrates eagerness and ability to develop itself and to make important contributions to scholarship and the arts.
Does the institution have ongoing library support for sustainability research and learning?:
A brief description of the institution’s library support for sustainability research, including any positive outcomes during the previous three years:
Our library provides ongoing support for sustainability research. Campus user have access to the GreenFile database (GreenFILE covers a variety of disciplines such as agriculture, education, law, health and technology. Topics covered include global climate change, green building, pollution, sustainable agriculture, renewable energy, recycling, and more. The database provides indexing and abstracts for more than 612,000 records, as well as Open Access full text for more than 9,100 records. Its collection of scholarly, government and general-interest titles includes content on the environmental effects of individuals, corporations and local/national governments, and what can be done at each level to minimize these effects) and to the Environmental Studies eReference Collection ( collection of research and reference for major global environmental issues. The specific topics covered include sustainability (theory and practice), global environmental change, global warming, environmental health, green ethics, green education, water, and environmental history. We believe this collection will facilitate work in Environmental Studies, our Sustainability Program, Biology, Conservation Biology, Government, and the work in the humanities and social sciences that ask students to consider the environment.)
Our libraries are also home to current and historical collections of digital and print media related to sustainability. Currently, our campus community has direct access to over 20,000 titles on environmental and sustainability topics and issues. The Library’s Digital Initiatives group provides ongoing data support and technical assistance to sustainability-oriented research projects such as Back to the Land Research Collections, Adirondack Bibliography Project, and Nature Up North. The Library’s GIS Program provides data, instruction and technical assistance to classes focused on issues of sustainability.
The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:
As of 7/14/17 - 2336 titles for sustainability and 18,038 for environmental
The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution and complete the Data Inquiry Form.