Overall Rating Silver
Overall Score 47.16
Liaison Yara Watson Colon
Submission Date March 5, 2021

STARS v2.2

University of Central Florida
AC-8: Campus as a Living Laboratory

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Yara Watson Colon
Sustainability Specialist II
Sustainability Initiatives
"---" 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:

Sustainability Initiatives in collaboration with several departments across campus worked to integrate living laboratory opportunities into curriculum and internships. Examples include:
- Providing tours to engineering courses of campus assets, including the LEED-certified District Energy Plant IV. During the DEP IV tours, students learn the facilities of reclaimed water and efficiency technology and the importance of grey infrastructure solutions for water conservation in Florida.
-As part of the Environmental Studies capstone, students are paired with departments on campus to pilot sustainable campus solutions, such as working toward Fair Trade designations, designing an urban tree canopy, and assessing mobility on campus.
- Utilities and facilities data is shared with researchers to analyze and produce recommendations for improvements.

The Arboretum and Natural Resources Programs participated in and/or hosted events throughout campus teaching the UCF community about topics pertaining to gardening, health, organic foods, and natural resources. The Arboretum, partnered with Student Health Services, hosted cooking classes using produce from the Arboretum garden to teach students the importance of healthy eating. Workshops called “Everyday Herbalism” were hosted by the Arboretum to teach students how to make their own Kombucha and homemade facemasks, all contributing to the student’s overall knowledge of health and self-care. The Arboretum participated in “Just BE Day”, in which we set up a Plant an Intention station where students could write their positive intentions on seed paper, plant them, and watch their intentions grow, along with their plant, to provide a positive self-reflection. For Earth Month each April, the Arboretum and Natural Resources host an Arbor Day event, in which students are invited to plant trees on campus and learn about the importance of our natural canopy and the benefits trees provide overall. Students are also given tours of the Natural Lands for Arbor Day so they can better understand the importance of our natural systems and how they are vital for overall ecosystem health. In conjunction with Earth Month, the Arboretum partnered with the UCF Library for an Earth Day celebration in which we made natural confetti using tree leaves to give to students in order to teach about the negative effects of microplastics in “traditional” confetti compared to the healthy decomposition of natural confetti. The Natural Lands Program hosted a CREOL pond Natural Lands planting event where native, aquatic plants were planted around the pond to educate about the importance of riparian vegetation around stormwater ponds.


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 Sustainability Initiatives and Event Services, students developed educational materials and tools to help organizations using on-campus event spaces consider the environmental impacts of their event.

The Arboretum and Natural Resources Programs hosted tours and events for the public to further engage them in our campus as a living laboratory. International students from China joined the Arboretum for a tour and educational immersion learning about the various tree species native to Florida that are present in the Arboretum Park. The Natural Resources Program engaged the Environmental Crisis in Cultural Context class from Rollins College in the Natural Lands talking about natural land conservation with an emphasis on prescribed fire. A BioBlitz event was hosted by the Natural Resources program in which individuals from the community came to the Arboretum to assess the biodiversity in our natural systems surrounding Lake Claire. BioBlitz events are hosted by the Natural Resources Program to further engage the community in learning the importance of our native ecosystems and how they play a role in the overall health of the natural environment. ADAGE, a program for gifted elementary, middle, and high school students, joined the Arboretum for a 3-day camp in which they participated in gardening, plant identification, and natural land activities learning how you can use the outdoors as a living, learning laboratory.


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 University of Central Florida (UCF) Orlando campus encompasses 1,415 acres of land, 800 acres of which are actively managed, and increasingly rare Florida ecosystems. These natural areas, both on campus and in the surrounding Central Florida area, are under development pressure due to increased urbanization in this region. These habitats support native, and protected flora and fauna, including longleaf pine trees (Pinus palustris) and gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus), a critical keystone species in flatwood ecosystems. UCF’s campus urban forests provide benefits to the UCF and surrounding communities that include ecosystem services such as stormwater filtration, carbon sequestration, the release of biological emissions, aesthetics, and recreational activities. An analysis of the tree canopy was done to assess their gross carbon sequestration and pollution removal from the natural world.


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:

Utilizing the Energy Star Portfolio Manager as a guide, students analyze existing data of buildings on campus that are not LEED or Energy Star certified. In teams, students developed a plan for the building to meet Energy Star's existing building standards. This included energy efficiency retrofits and innovations/programs to decrease GHG emissions.


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:

Students performed a cost/benefit analysis of implementing solar PV-covered bike racks on campus. Students gained an understanding of the trade-offs of isolated solar PV installations and a proposed 12MW solar farm.


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:

Many internships are hosted by the Arboretum Program that focuses on food topics such as organic growing methods, food insecurity, and honey. Each semester the Arboretum has interns who work specifically in our organic vegetable garden learning the importance of growing organically and how to properly maintain a vegetable garden to provide the food grown for free to our student body. Internships focusing on bees and honey are also provided by the Arboretum, and students have completed projects within these internships looking at proper honey harvesting methods and sales, along with bee diseases that can contribute to the lack of honey production. In the Urban Ecological Field Studies course at UCF, students conducted a project assessing different soil types on vegetable plant growth rates.

Multiple cohorts of the Environmental Studies capstone course worked with faculty, staff, and dining services to work toward a Fair Trade University designation. This effort helped to educate the UCF community and vendors of unsustainable supply chain practices and responsible sourcing.

In collaboration with Sustainability Initiatives and Event Services, students developed educational materials and tools to help organizations using on-campus event spaces consider the environmental impacts of their event. The materials addressed right-sizing catering orders, donating and composting food scraps, selecting vegan and vegetarian menus, and reusable flatware and cutlery.


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:

The Arboretum and Natural Resources Programs hosted tours and events for the public to further engage them in our campus as a living laboratory. The Natural Resources Program engaged the Environmental Crisis in Cultural Context class from Rollins College in the Natural Lands talking about natural land conservation with an emphasis on prescribed fire. A BioBlitz event was hosted by the Natural Resources program in which individuals from the community came to the Arboretum to assess the biodiversity in our natural systems surrounding Lake Claire. BioBlitz events are hosted by the Natural Resources Program to further engage the community in learning the importance of our native ecosystems and how they play a role in the overall health of the natural environment. For Earth Month each April, the Arboretum and Natural Resources host an Arbor Day event, in which students are invited to plant trees on campus and learn about the importance of our natural canopy and the benefits trees provide overall. Students are also given tours of the Natural Lands for Arbor Day so they can better understand the importance of our natural systems and how they are vital for overall ecosystem health. Internships through the Arboretum and Natural Resources Programs are conducted primarily utilizing the entire grounds of campus as a living laboratory. A student conducted a study in which he placed wildlife cameras around our Natural Lands to capture wildlife movement and figure out where our wildlife hot spots are located. Another student did a Soundscape study in which she looked at how sound pollution from Urban settings has adverse effects on wildlife living in natural systems near urbanization. Mapping campus landscape beds is another project that was conducted by a student through the Arboretum where he used GIS to create the various landscapes surrounding the buildings. This project allowed the Landscape department to have a better record of the plants growing in specific landscape beds in buildings around campus. All Urban Ecological Field Studies students conduct projects that are directly related to the grounds of UCF. Project descriptions for each project are below:

• A study comparing the potential impact to stormwater ecosystem services was conducted by measuring stormwater infiltration rates, temperature, and relative humidity in a solar array site and natural mesic Flatwoods to see if there was a significant difference. The University of Central Florida is proposing the development of a 40-acre solar array within an actively managed, fire-dependent mesic Flatwoods ecosystem. Mesic Flatwoods provide important ecosystem services such as wildlife habitat, groundwater recharge, water quality improvement, and carbon sequestration (Lu, Sun, McNulty & Comerford, 2009). Vegetation removal, compaction of soil, and increases in impervious surfaces reduce an ecosystem’s infiltration and evapotranspiration rates, preventing any recharge of groundwater and leading to more runoff (Boggs & Sun, 2011).

• Many of Florida’s ecosystems are diminishing due to urbanization and development. The University of Central Florida (UCF) has 1,415 acres of natural lands that primarily contain mesic flatwood ecosystems. All land not currently protected by conservation easements are potentially subject to development. UCF’s land management team periodically conducts prescribed burns in natural lands to open up midstory vegetation, remove invasive species, and increase biodiversity. Florida’s mesic Flatwoods provide habitat to a variety of native and endemic species. Biodiversity on UCF natural lands was evaluated for potential biodiversity loss should these lands be developed.

• The University of Central Florida (UCF) Orlando campus encompasses 1,415 acres of land, 800 acres of which are actively managed, and increasingly rare Florida ecosystems. These natural areas, both on campus and in the surrounding Central Florida area, are under development pressure due to increased urbanization in this region. These habitats support native, and protected flora and fauna, including longleaf pine trees (Pinus palustris) and gopher tortoise (Gopherus Polyphemus), a critical keystone species in flatwood ecosystems. UCF’s campus urban forests provide benefits to the UCF and surrounding communities that include ecosystem services such as stormwater filtration, carbon sequestration, the release of biological emissions, aesthetics, and recreational activities. An analysis of the tree canopy was done to assess their gross carbon sequestration and pollution removal from the natural world.

• The University of Central Florida's Arboretum was founded in 1983 with the garden being established in 2008. The goal of the project is to analyze proper soil types to maximize yield in order to obtain the full benefits of the garden. The project researched the effects of six different soils within three plant families and two species in each family: Solanaceae, Brassicaceae, and Fabaceae.

• Basal Area study of Long Leaf Pine in mesic Flatwoods: Comparing basal area of LLP between two burn units. One unit has a known fire history and the other unit has no recorded Rx or wildfire history. This is a comparative data study that should show a high basal area and high # of LLP stems in the burn units that have been fire suppressed. Students will count # of LLP stems and measure DBH of all LLP in pre-designated burn units and compare their findings.
Additional elements if necessary:
(1) Measuring the duff layer and / or shrub height between the same two units. The fire suppressed unit would show a thick duff layer and tall shrub height, etc.
(2) Measuring tree heights using the clinometer or laser to calculate board feet or other ecological measurements.
(3) Introducing the topic of tree rings and coring to calculate tree age and effect of thermal thinning vs backlogged suppressed trees.
(4) For the surface fuels and duff, introducing Anderson 13 fuel models and Brown Intersects to calculate how much surface fuel there is in each unit.
(5) Measuring and recording KBDI

• Intercropping Kale with Culinary Herbs: The aim of the study is to evaluate the effects of intercropping Red Russian Kale (Brassica napus var. pabularia) with various culinary herbs to assess aphid growth and population to determine which culinary herb is the best biological control. Possible culinary herbs to evaluate are green onion, sweet basil, Italian parsley, rosemary, lemon balm, cilantro, coriander, or sage. The following characteristics will be measured: 1) arthropod diversity and abundance 2) population growth rate of aphids 3) average number of aphids per leaf 4) the total fresh weight of kale produced.
• Scrub Jay Habitat Assessment: Florida Scrub-Jays (Aphelocoma coerulescens) are the only species of bird unique to Florida. They breed and forage exclusively in upland habitats of scrub and scrubby Flatwoods, both of which exist on campus. This project will explore the habitat requirements of scrub-jays to determine whether or not the UCF campus natural lands could sustain a scrub-jay population, and what land management techniques might be required to do so. Vegetation data will be collected using plots and transects in suitable habitat types in UCF’s natural areas and at a near-by preserve that currently hosts a scrub-jay population.
• Pond Cypress Age Assessment and Dendrochronological Mapping:
The goal of the study is to assess pond cypress (Taxodium distichum var. imbricarium) ages across 3 different cypress dome ecosystems and construct a dendrochronological map of the formation of these systems over time. Urbanization factors will be taken into account within the 3 testing sites:
• A pristine cypress dome (east parcel)
• A partially impacted cypress dome (Gemini X Orion)
• A highly impacted cypress dome (student union)
Students will use tree aging techniques, dendrochronology analysis, and historical hydrological regimes to infer if and when the fire has shaped the systems and how these factors have affected the growth rates and health of the overall cypress dome ecosystems on UCF’s main campus. Transects will be randomly distributed through the cypress domes and an increment borer will be used to age the trees in question. Fire scars, age, height, health, diameter at breast height (DBH) and stand density data will be collected for analysis.
• Sandhill Ecological Restoration
This site was originally sandhill and scrub habitat both of which are threatened habitat types in Florida because they are desirable to build upon state-wide. UCF has a reasonably good example of a rare and endangered habitat in this area and we believe that the educational and cultural benefits of site restoration would be a tangible expression of UCF’s commitment to conservation.
The site was previously mowed regularly but has not been mowed in the last year. Since the mowing was stopped a rich native sandhill community has started recovering that represents a unique and regionally threatened community. Restoring the ecological functionality of this site would provide educational opportunities for our students and visitors.
The objective of this project is to restore the sites’ natural community which would include increased plant height, active control of invasive/undesirable species, and increased habitat for wildlife and rare/endangered plant species. The final restoration plan will include removing non-native plant species and encouraging or reintroducing native species. Currently, the Sandhill community is not well represented on UCF’s campus. The restoration of this ecological community would make our campus a unique place to visit and would provide additional educational resources for multiple classes in biology and environmental studies. Students, interns, and campus leaders will be involved in all aspects of the restoration learning important skills in ecological restoration, planning, and educational outreach.
• Pollinator Evaluation in Arboretum Gardens and Landscapes
The aim of this study is to evaluate the types and an approximate number of pollinators using various landscapes around campus. Pollinators will be studied in two vegetable gardens, two pollinator gardens, and two inner circle landscapes. The following characteristics will be measured: 1) insect diversity 2) insect abundance 3) plants most frequented by pollinators


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

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

Multiple cohorts of the Environmental Studies capstone course worked with faculty, staff, and dining services to work toward a Fair Trade University designation. This effort helped to educate the UCF community and vendors of unsustainable supply chain practices and responsible sourcing. Students worked with Dining Services to identify existing and increase the number of Fair Trade goods in dining areas and shops.


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

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

Landscape and Natural Resources supported a student Service Learning project on the implementation of a bike-share program on campus. The students did research on different bike-share companies and implementation processes and compared pricing to determine what the best options might be for the University. The student gained an understanding of what it takes to implement a bike-share program and how that would offset carbon production on campus.

Students worked with Sustainability Initiatives to assess the impacts of the introduction of Lime bikes on students' commuting habits and ultimately on carbon emissions resulting from commutes to campus.

Students worked with Parking and Transportation Services to assess student satisfaction with UCF's shuttle system and identify areas where improved service would increase shuttle ridership.


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:

In collaboration with Recycling Services, students documented and mapped all current recycling bin locations and styles in UCF buildings. They then collect data on the diversion rate of recyclable aluminum and plastic containers in various buildings. The study assessed differences in diversion rates between a floor with the new paired bins and the older assortment of recycling bins with the goal of identifying the effectiveness of the new bin style and placement.


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:

The Urban Ecological Field Studies course in partnership with the Arboretum and Natural Resources Programs conducted a research project that involved analyzing campus stormwater. Their project description is below:

• A study comparing the potential impact to stormwater ecosystem services was conducted by measuring stormwater infiltration rates, temperature, and relative humidity in a solar array site and natural mesic Flatwoods to see if there was a significant difference. The University of Central Florida is proposing the development of a 40-acre solar array within an actively managed, fire-dependent mesic Flatwoods ecosystem. Mesic Flatwoods provide important ecosystem services such as wildlife habitat, groundwater recharge, water quality improvement, and carbon sequestration (Lu, Sun, McNulty & Comerford, 2009). Vegetation removal, compaction of soil, and increases in impervious surfaces reduce an ecosystem’s infiltration and evapotranspiration rates, preventing any recharge of groundwater and leading to more runoff (Boggs & Sun, 2011).


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

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

The Arboretum hosted two separate internships with a focus on health and wellbeing. One student assisted us in establishing our partnership with Student Health Services to provide cooking classes and health and nutrition advice, which resulted in the continued partnership we have today. Alternately, we had a student complete an internship that resulted in the creation of an herbal tea book that shares recipes to improve health.


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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