Overall Rating Platinum
Overall Score 85.50
Liaison Breeana Sylvas
Submission Date Feb. 28, 2022

STARS v2.2

University of California, Merced
AC-8: Campus as a Living Laboratory

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Breeana Sylvas
Assistant Director
Sustainability
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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 Campus Engagement?:
Yes

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Campus Engagement:
The Carson House Living Learning Community is an opportunity for students to build a sustainable economic, social, and environmental way of living that preserves the ability of current and future generations to meet both their and the communities’ needs. Students’ tasks included developing a campus community garden website that informed the community how to create a sustainable future through partnerships on campus and in the surrounding area. Tasks also include workshops, socials, and events that revolve around sustainability. Other tasks also included Do-It-Yourself (DIY) projects on the website so students could interact and learn more about projects they could work on within the community garden.

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:
In collaboration with the UC Merced Vernal Pools and Grasslands Reserve, the Naturalist App Engineering Service Learning team, created a searchable field guide of the reserve to aid in tours for 6-12 grade audiences. The field app highlights the area’s plants, animals, geology, history, and climate, with a map interface. To better serve visitors to The UC Merced Vernal Pools and Grasslands Reserve, the Naturalist App Engineering Service Learning team created a mobile application that will serve as a site specific field guide. This app will enhance community access and understanding of the Reserve via the development of a field guide to our local flora and fauna, and localized trails, and landmarks. Additionally, the app will serve as a tool to aid researchers at the Vernal Pool Reserve to better analyze and identify flora and fauna that live within the Merced Vernal Pools Reserve by providing opportunities to document spatial and environmental data using mobile devices to a centralized Reserve database.

https://engineeringservicelearning.ucmerced.edu/team-natapp

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:
The President’s Bonnie Reiss Carbon Neutrality Student Fellowship/Internship (CNI Fellow) was established by the University of California (UC) Office of the President to support the UC’s Carbon Neutrality Initiative. This position communicates UC Merced efforts on climate change to students, staff, and faculty via remote learning, along with researching climate change impacts on distressed communities. CNI fellows have focused on projects that have assessed UC Merced’s emissions profile, (2) reduced the ever-increasing pre-consumer and post-consumer waste from vendors that partnered with the campus, and (3) supported the development of educational infographics.

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:
UC Merced established the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Lab, which is a multi-disciplinary immersion course that focuses on preparing students to become green building leaders and sustainable stewards of the environment. Students' tasks are to facilitate the LEED certification audit with the goal of certifying all campus buildings while striving for the highest-ranking LEED certification for all buildings, platinum certification. Students attain the skills, knowledge, and expertise needed to manage building certifications and sustainability projects. Students who complete the course are eligible to sit for professional certification exams to further their expertise with LEED Green Associate and LEED Accredited Profession certificates.

Additionally UC President's Bonnie Reiss Carbon Neutrality Student Fellowship/Internship and the campus Energize Colleges Program have provided students with opportunities to assess costs associated with university buildings that have included, evaluating design vs. actual building performance. Other internships have included recommissioning and retro-commissioning of buildings.

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:
The LEED Lab Engineering Service team has worked on Existing Buildings Certification: Operations & Maintenance (LEED EBOM) for the campus. The LEED Lab team has gathered technical data on operations and maintenance activities that is analyzed to rate the performance of a facility including energy use, water consumption, waste reduction. Additionally, participation in this project satisfies LEED Accredited Professional Certification requirements for professional licensing.
https://engineeringservicelearning.ucmerced.edu/team-leed-lab


Project Nexus is a solar-paneled canal research project conducted by a UC Merced graduate student and is commissioned by Solar AquaGrid through the Sierra Nevada Research Instituted and UC Water. Graduate student, Brandi McKuin, found that covering the thousand miles of California’s water canals could reduce evaporation by 82% and therefore saving 63 billion gallons of water a year. Covering these canals with solar installation panels could also generate around 13 gigawatts of renewable power, equaling about one sixth of the state’s current installed capacity. Working with UC Merced Professor and Principal Investigator of the project, Sarah Kurtz, and other UC Merced researchers, McKuin and the team published a paper in the journal Nature, demonstrating the advantages of solar canals. Some of them including the dual use of land, reduced plant growth in canals and reduced evaporation of water.

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:
The campus Energize Colleges program provided the Lifecycle of a Tomato Project, with UC Merced professors Dr. Colleen Naughton and Dr. Stefano Foresti. Tasks were to collect data and research on the supply chains of both processed and fresh tomato products to compose a Life Cycle Assessment(LCA) and determine its environmental impacts. Objectives of this project include, (1) compiling research, (2) preparing presentations and data, (3) conducting interviews, and (4) provide project update reports to document the project’s progress.

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

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Grounds:
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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 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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Is 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:
UC Merced students taking part in the Carson House Living Learning Community worked on a semester long project collaborating with the Lantern Cafe to reduce food waste. The students worked to identify opportunities to reduce overall food waste generation at the site. The students recieved course credit for their work. Additionally, Carson House Students worked on a semester long composting project at the UC Merced campus community garden. The students were tasked to identify a way to reduce waste at the site through a composting project. Students recieved credit for their particpation in the course.

A Carson House Sustainability Symposium was helded for campus stakeholders to display student project(s) outcomes.
https://housing.ucmerced.edu/carson

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:
LEED Lab class on campus students measure water consumption at the building and irrigation levels to look for ways to improve water efficiency. Students that are certifying a building under the USGBC LEED Operation and Maintenance program, create water budgets and then look for water-efficient fixtures to apply to the water budget to improve water efficiency. LEED Lab is a class that uses the campus buildings as a living laboratory, where students research the buildings' sustainability initiatives and what can be done to improve the performance of the buildings. Students have prepared a water budget for potable water and irrigation to determine what measures could be implemented in buildings fixtures to improve water savings. From there, the students meet with facility managers to determine the best way to implement their findings.

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:
UC Merced students taking part in the Carson House Living Learning Community worked to plan and coordinate the development of the UC Merced Campus Community Garden website, developing page layouts and providing information on the community garden and general gardening practices. The students recieved course credit for their work. A Carson House Sustainability Symposium was helded for campus stakeholders to display student project(s) outcomes. https://ucmcampusgarden.weebly.com/start-your-own-garden.html
https://housing.ucmerced.edu/carson

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

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Diversity & Affordability:
The University of California, Merced, and the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion have teamed up with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a non-profit international environmental advocacy group that allowed a student to participate in a remote internship to gain experience in ecological research with the NRDC Clean Transportation Team. The studnet was able to provide perspective on clean tranportation efforts taking place.

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?:
No

A brief description of the projects and how they contribute to understanding or advancing sustainability in relation to Wellbeing & Work:
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Website URL where information about the institution’s living laboratory program is available:
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Additional documentation to support the submission:
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Data source(s) and notes about the submission:
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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 or simply email your inquiry to stars@aashe.org.