2018-19 The Libby Reed Scholarship in the Geosciences: Janelle Valdinger

Libby Reed

We are pleased to announce that rising junior Janelle Valdinger has been awarded the 2018-19 Libby Reed Scholarship, currently $9,000 per academic year, to be extended through her senior year at OWU.

“The most selective colleges and universities, such as Ohio Wesleyan, have students and professors whose thirst for knowledge surpasses those of most of their peers. They are eager to transcend the ordinary challenge of everyday courses and laboratory work and adopt a pace appropriate to their extraordinary talents and motivation. Incredible professors make indelible imprints on these lives. Professor Libby Reed exemplified such a thirst for learning complemented by an intense desire and talent for teaching.”

“In recognition of Professor Reed’s enthusiasm and dedication to education and her persistence in teaching him to write, Richard Alexander ‘ 82 established The Libby Reed Scholarship in the Geosciences. The income from this endowed fund will be used annually to award a scholarship to a rising Junior who exemplifies academic excellence and who shows promise and dedication to the study of the geosciences.”

Janelle Valdinger

Janelle works for the City of Delaware Public Utilities Department, as a GIS Technician, and chose to finish her undergraduate coursework (started at OSU) at OWU last year. In the short time Janelle has been at OWU she has had a profound impact on campus by engaging with faculty, staff, and students on collaborative projects of interest to both OWU and the City of Delaware.

In the Fall of 2017 she developed a project proposal to install two bio-retention cells (rain gardens) on OWU’s campus, near Branch Ricky Arena. The cells were installed in the spring of 2018. Funds for the gardens came from a City of Delaware grant, and OWU contributes to the maintenance of the gardens. An OWU press release written by Cole Hatcher details the project and Janelle’s collaborators on the project: “Purposeful Plantings.”

John Krygier, co-director of the Environment & Sustainability Program at OWU has been working with Janelle, city Watershed and Sustainability Coordinator Caroline Cicerchi on a series of student collaborative projects, internships and externships. The ultimate goal is to provide students with engaged, OWU Connection experiences that are intellectually and practically challenging and that benefit OWU and the City.

Projects guided by Valdinger, Cicerchi and Krygier underway this semester include:

City Public Utilities Externship: Genaro Garcia (Environmental Studies, ’20): Gain practical knowledge in watershed planning, water quality monitoring efforts, water quality improvement initiatives, storm-water management planning, MS4 permit implementation, the use of GIS software and equipment, reading/understanding record drawings, grant research, community outreach, professional conferences, and formal meetings. Build critical thinking, research, and writing skills by assisting with multiple projects developed in collaboration with Public Utilities staff, and submitting a final report on this work.

Bio-Retention Cells: Kayla Adolph (Geography, Politics & Government ’19): Assess and develop a plan for a bio-retention cell near OWU’s Merrick Hall and one near OWU’s Citizens of the World House.

Green-Roofed Bike Racks: Celeste Wallick (Environmental Studies, ’20): Develop a plan and budget for one or two covered bike racks on OWU’s campus and in Delaware. Ideally, these bike racks would have a green, living roof, which would allow OWU students to do research on the plants on an actual green roof.

Delaware Food Scraps Composting Project: Kait Aromy (Botany, Environmental Studies, ’20): Working with Worthington (OH)-based Compost Exchange/Innovative Organics on a drop-off program for food scraps at the Delaware Farmer’s Market.

Storm Drain Net Project: Brianna Graber (Zoology, ’20): Working with City Public Utilities to fund and install a storm drain net over one or two major storm drains in the City of Delaware. These nets catch larger items washed into the storm drains before they get into the Olentangy River. The material caught by the net will be analyzed to develop a sense of the kinds of larger waste being washed into the Olentangy via the storm drain sewers, leading to strategies to reduce such waste at the origin.

E Coli Testing for Delaware Run: Ashley McCracken (Chemistry, ’19): Delaware Run, which flows along OWU’s campus and empties into the Olentangy River, has had a notable increase in e coli detected by tests on Run water done over the past few years. The e coli counts are particularly high during the increasing number of storm events. Ashley McCracken, a senior Chemistry major and Geography minor is developing a procedure for a lower-cost method to test for e coli, allowing us to do more sampling and testing of the water and, hopefully, determine the source of the e coli contamination.

Storm Water Awareness: Cole Petty (Business, ’19): Developing an interactive presentation and short “field” experience for city of Delaware 4th grade students, focused on understanding the problem of stormwater pollution. The effort includes an exploration of stormwater drains near the elementary schools, which will be marked with “Drains to the River” plaques.

Trashy Art: Shayla Scheitler (Environmental Studies, ’20): An environmental art project, using an array of spectacular and mundane items extracted from waterways in the city of Delaware. An assemblage will be partially created with these items, and a Peace and Justice House (SLU) open house held, where students and other visitors can manipulate the items and ponder the role of waste in our environment.

“City of Delaware Public Utilities Department geographic information system (GIS) technician Janelle Valdinger, left, shows co-worker Ron Spring how to update work orders in the field using one of the department’s new tablets.”

Photo above from the Delaware Gazette: “Technology increases efficiency: City utility crews using tablets, GPS in field.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

2018 Richard B. Alexander Award for Excellence in Environmental Studies: Emily Howald

Above (from left): Emily Howald, Holly Keating, Kait Aromy, and Eva Blockstein

Emily Howald received the 2018 Richard B. Alexander Award for Excellence in Environmental Studies at the Environment & Sustainability Program’s year-end event, in April of 2018. Emily is currently a Graduate Fellow at The Ohio State University, in the Department of Environment & Natural Resources.

Emily exceeded the requirements of the Alexander Award, which includes

  1. GPA: 3.5 or above
  2. If an ES major is elected to Phi Beta Kappa then that student should also receive the Alexander Award
  3. Campus environmental activism
  4. Statewide or national activism

Emily also received E&S Program Honors for her research project and paper entitled “An Unlikely Alliance: Endangered Species Conservation on the Military Estate.”

Emily’s accomplishments also include, Phi Beta Kappa, Omicron Delta Kappa, Mortar Board, Phi Eta Sigma and she was awarded the Bridge Builder Golden Bishop Award.

While at OWU, Emily was instrumental in the three-year process behind our recently adopted Sustainability Plan. The plan was largely the work of students in collaboration with faculty and staff at OWU. The last year consisted of Emily meeting with diverse groups and individuals across campus, including administrators, faculty committees, campus Buildings & Grounds, food service, cleaning service, student organizations, and student government. The effort concluded with a lunch with Rock Jones, President of OWU, where she convinced him to support the adoption of the Plan.

Emily and faculty member John Krygier co-wrote a book chapter on experiences getting sustainability on the agenda at OWU with grass-roots, campus-wide efforts. The chapter was published in a book edited by OWU alumni Woody Clark (’67). Clark has been long involved with environmental and sustainability efforts. The second edition of his Sustainable Cities and Communities Design Handbook (December 2017 info here and here) contains the book chapter, entitled “‘Scrappy” Sustainability at Ohio Wesleyan University.”

Emily was the Sustainability intern during her senior year and co-chaired OWU’s Sustainability Task Force. She was involved in dozens of campus sustainability projects and exemplifies the spirit of “scrappy sustainability” at OWU. She was also involved in statewide student environmental efforts.

Eva Blockstein at the Spring 2018 Environment & Sustainability program get-together.

Campus Talk! Thurs. Sept. 20: Dr. Timothy Hawthorne, OWU 2003 “The Power of People in Science: Exploring Community-Based Uses of Maps, Apps and Drones”

Above: Tim Hawthorne (left) and OWU Geography major Lucas Farmer on a drone survey in Belize. Credit: Citizen Science GIS

Dr. Timothy Hawthorne OWU 2003, University of Central Florida

“The Power of People in Science: Exploring Community-Based Uses of Maps, Apps and Drones”

Thursday, September 20
 at 4:10 p.m. in Science Center 163

Abstract: The community is where mutually beneficial research and education outcomes are discovered together through the power of citizen science, maps, apps, and drones. Our work through Citizen Science GIS seeks to engage academics and community organizations/residents in shared knowledge production focused on community-engaged research that benefits real-world communities. In this talk, we unravel the potential of engaging communities and science in meaningful collaboration. We will highlight opportunities to use interactive and visual mapping technologies to share the spatial stories and knowledge of community members around the world to understand some of the most pressing challenges in coastal communities.

Biography: Timothy L. Hawthorne is a 2003 Ohio Wesleyan University alumnus. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in the Department of Sociology at University of Central Florida and the State of Florida Geography Steward with National Geographic. He earned his Ph.D. in geography in 2010 from The Ohio State University. He is a broadly trained human geographer with deep interests in citizen science GIS, community geography, qualitative GIS, and critical GIS. Professor Hawthorne is Principal Investigator of the Citizen Science GIS Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Site in Orlando and Belize, funded by the National Science Foundation. He also is an associate editor for both the Journal of Geography and The International Journal of Applied Geospatial Research.

OWU Talk Feb. 20: Kemi Fuentes-George (OWU ’01): Post-Slavery Narratives and Conservation in Rural Jamaica

Kemi Fuentes-George’s (OWU ’01) recent book, Between Preservation and Exploitation: Transnational Networks and Conservation in Developing Countries explores how local justice claims affect states’ abilities to implement their obligations under international environmental agreements.

Post-Slavery Narratives and Conservation in Rural Jamaica:
How Local Culture Affects Global Environmental Governance

Tuesday, Feb. 20th 7:00 p.m. HWCC Benes B

Kemi Fuentes-George (OWU ’01)

Kemi Fuentes-George (OWU ’01) is an Assistant Professor at Middlebury College. His recent book, Between Preservation and Exploitation: Transnational Networks and Conservation in Developing Countries, published by MIT Press, explores how local justice claims affect states’ abilities to implement their obligations under international environmental agreements. He has also published research in Global Environmental Politics Journal, book chapters in Routledge, and written about environmental justice on Salon.com. He is active in his community as a member of the Town of Middlebury Conservation Commission, and as a volunteer for the Vermont chapter of Migrant Justice.

 

Publication: “Scrappy Sustainability at OWU” – Chapter written by OWU Student & Faculty

“‘Scrappy” Sustainability at Ohio Wesleyan University” is a recently published book chapter which describes OWU’s sustainability efforts and strategies over the last decade.

Woodrow (Woody) Clark is an OWU alumnus (’67) long involved with environmental and sustainability efforts. The second edition of his Sustainable Cities and Communities Design Handbook (December 2017 info here and here) contains a chapter written by OWU student Emily Howald (OWU, ’18) and Professor of Geography John Krygier.

“‘Scrappy” Sustainability at Ohio Wesleyan University” describes OWU’s sustainability efforts and strategies over the last decade. These efforts have been the work of students, staff, faculty, alumni and community members all working at a grassroots level. These efforts, in practice, have led us to develop a series of strategies, Scrappy Sustainability, which is particularly appropriate for colleges and universities.

The first page of the chapter below. PDF here.

…and a text from the first few pages:


“Scrappy” Sustainability at Ohio Wesleyan University

Emily Howald, John Krygier

Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware, OH, United States

Chapter Outline
A Grassroots Model for Sustainability in Higher Education 561
The Context of Sustainability at Ohio Wesleyan University 561
Coordinating Sustainability Without a Sustainability Coordinator 564
“Scrappy Sustainability” Outcomes 565
A New Model for Sustainability? 570

A GRASSROOTS MODEL FOR SUSTAINABILITY IN HIGHER EDUCATION

There are colleges and universities with the expertise and financial resources to invest in large-scale, conspicuous sustainability efforts (such as large solar arrays, stylish LEED-certified buildings, and full-time sustainability staff) and there are those who do not. However, those without the funds for conspicuous sustainability are not necessarily excluded from substantive sustainability efforts. Indeed, we suggest that grassroots, “scrappy” sustainability efforts on college campuses and at other institutions may have certain benefits over top-down, high-investment sustainability.

THE CONTEXT OF SUSTAINABILITY AT OHIO WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY

Ohio Wesleyan University (OWU) is a small, private, liberal arts college in central Ohio that serves as a modest showcase for a relatively low-cost, grassroots, and distributed approach to sustainability. The university neither has a sustainability coordinator position nor any other employee with distinct expertise in sustainability. None of the faculty have specializations in the field, and there are no classes taught on the subject. As of yet, there is no official sustainability plan and there are neither funds nor donations set aside specifically for sustainability projects. OWU has, over the last decade, expanded its endowment, raised significant funds for student travel and research, and embarked on a substantial upgrade to campus student housing. These are all fundamentally important and easily justifiable priorities. Given this situation, it is easy for students, faculty, and staff to feel like not enough is being done to foster sustainability on campus. Instead of complaining about the lack of top-down, large-investment sustainability, a group of students, faculty, and staff have embarked on a grassroots effort to make sustainability work at OWU despite limited resources. Ultimately, we argue, sustainability efforts can succeed if those who believe in the value of sustainability actually do something, then persist in furthering the efforts until something takes hold, and then persist in keeping the efforts going. Successes with these smaller, “scrappy” efforts will, hopefully, lead to larger efforts, backed by a spreading culture of sustainability.

OWU has a rocky history with sustainability efforts. Many higher education institutions believe that they must be leaders in finding solutions to the environmental crisis by developing and promoting the knowledge, tools, and technologies needed to transition to a sustainable society. As the environmental movement emerged and developed in the 1960s and the 1970s, OWU established an Environmental Studies major, the first such program in an academic institution in Ohio. In its nearly 40-year existence, the program has produced hundreds of majors that have gone on to successful careers related to the environment. In 2009, a Sustainability Task Force was created to evaluate the President’s Climate Commitment (PCC), which 80% of students voted to support. Despite the lack of any direct negative consequences for not meeting the PCC goals, the Task Force was concerned about the capital investments and employee time needed to implement and monitor the necessary energy efficiency upgrades to campus facilities, and recommended that a sustainability coordinator be hired (rather than signing the PCC). In 2011, an American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant funded a 2-year sustainability coordinator position. The university hired Sean Kinghorn for the position, and his efforts generated significant rebate funds for the university, as well as energy-saving efforts and dozens of sustainability projects (many led by students). In 2013, Kinghorn’s position ended, after the failure of several grants intended to acquire additional funds for the position. A student protest later that year demonstrated student commitment to the sustainability coordinator position. With the decision not to sign the PCC and the lack of funds to continue the sustainability coordinator position, one might expect the prospects for sustainability on campus to fade. At that point, the campus Sustainability Task Force set out on an effort to encourage grassroots sustainability efforts and create a campus sustainability plan, despite the setbacks.


 

 

How to get a Land Management Job for Summer of 2018

This is a “How to get a Land Management Job for summer of 2018” i.e. work for the Forest Service or Park Service where the mountains are your office…

OWU Students,

This is a “How to get a Land Management Job for summer of 2018” i.e. work for the Forest Service or Park Service where the mountains are your office…

A little about me: My name’s Aaron McCown, I graduated from OWU in spring of 2011, and headed out to Montana to do a season with Montana Conservation Corps. I wanted an adventure and I got it. Within 2 weeks of leaving Delaware, OH, I was deep in the Northern Rockies. I spent the next 5 months in the Bob Marshall Wilderness that summer digging trails, swinging an ax, sawing logs with crosscut saws, and living in a tent – it was awesome. As much as I loved trail work, I saw the writing on the wall (thanks to my OWU education) and so I went off to the frontlines of climate change as a wildland firefighter the next summer, where I have been ever since. I’m currently a career employee on the Bitterroot National Forest and I really like my job:) Accordingly, I want to help current OWU students explore the world of Land Management via passing along some summer job opportunities, or rather, how to find those jobs and get them.

The vast public lands of the western US are managed by the US Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and numerous state agencies with help from a growing number of non-profit Americorps-funded Conservation Corps. Their workforce is mostly composed of temporary seasonal employees – in other words, the perfect summer jobs for college students!

What kind of jobs are there?

– trail maintenance

– maintaining and improving campgrounds

– marking timber for logging operations

– collecting data from field sites

– fighting wildfires

– spraying weeds

Admittedly, most of these entry-level jobs are fairly menial, but you will also use the skills you’ve learned at OWU. Reading maps, using GIS, measuring fuel samples (moisture content of vegetation), and inventorying the forest are all part of my regular duties. Also, this is the Federal Government we’re talking about and once you get your foot in the door, a nice benefits package including a pension, healthcare, matching retirement, etc does await you. So really, taking a job like this could be viewed as a decently paid internship.

On to the jobs…

Federal jobs are a little tricky to apply for. There is a certain dance you have to do. Right now, applying on time via USAJobs.gov is the most important step. Many seasonal jobs for the USFS in Idaho, Montana, and North Dakota are closing soon (on January 9th)! Most opportunities in the Southwest have already closed, because believe it or not, their field season is rapidly approaching! If I were you, I’d focus on Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Oregon, and Washington. Those area’s field seasons run much more inline with your summer break away (mid-May through the fall, but student employees are common, so fret not!).

Step 1: What do you want to do? And where do you want to work?

You need to figure out roughly what you want to do (dig trail, inventory vegetation, spray weeds, fight fire, etc) and the associated job. You will likely only qualify as a GS-03 or GS-04 grade employee as a college student.

Most of these jobs are going to be called “Forestry Technician,” “Forestry Aid,” “Range Technician,” and “Range Aid.” So you need to get on USAJobs.gov and search those positions.

Also figure out where roughly you want to work, e.g. Colorado or the Northern Rockies or Yellowstone National Park, because later you will need to call those places and talk to the hiring official. Here’s a list of National Forests to get you started. https://www.fs.fed.us/recreation/map/state_list.shtml

Another option, is to use this website: https://fsoutreach.gdcii.com/Outreach

I’d recommend setting the search functions to: Opportunity > Temporary Appointment; Series > 0462 Forestry Technician; Grade > 03 or 04; and Within State > Utah/Idaho/Montana/North Dakota/Wyoming, etc

If you really want to go spend next summer working for the Land Management Agencies, I’d recommend applying to 30+ positions.

Step 2: USAJOBS.GOV

All Federal hiring goes through USAJobs.gov and it can be a real pain!

Your USAJobs application must be very thorough. Unlike many lines of work, the Feds want LONG RESUMES. Like pages and pages of info. Include very detailed accounts (e.g. several paragraph essays) of each job/work experience you’ve had. Also include any and all relevant skills and experiences including sports, outdoor hobbies, any 1st Aid/CPR training you’ve ever had, and relevant classes you’ve taken.

Also upload a short cover letter saying why you want to get a summer job in Land Management and include a short “normal” resume (and label it as such), which some hiring officials may prefer.

The reason for the excessively long USAJOB resume is that basically a computer screens it before any human. It’s a good idea to include “buzz words” and phrases from the description of the job to which you are applying.

When you’re done, make sure you application is actually submitted and it’s on time.

Step 3: Calling People – THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP

You need to call and talk to people at Yellowstone NP or wherever you want a job.  Applying online is basically only a formality. You need to CALL the various parks/forests you’ve just applied to (use google & call the front desk) and ask to talk to the hiring person for trails/fire/weeds/range/timber/recreation. You can call before you submit an application, but again, time is ticking for the 2018 field season!

Just call the front desk and ask for whoever does the hiring for “fire” or “trails” or “weeds” or “recreation.”

Have a few lines rehearsed about why you want the job and why youre worth hiring. Ask questions about their program, the local area, what you’d be doing if you got hired, if they have housing, when you’d start work. Hiring officials keep “score” of who called, when, and how good they sounded. You can leave a message and hiring officials will usually call you back.

Have a resume ready to email them and offer to do so.

It also helps to keep a spreadsheet or at least notes of all the places you’ve called, and who you talked to, etc

Step 4: Await your fate…

Although the Fed’s are currently taking applications, it might be a few months before they tell anyone that they have a job. Basically, your application is going to go into a massive system and it will take weeks of screening before it gets to those hiring officials who you need to call. Once it gets to them via a Referral List, they can then choose who they hire. So you need to make the list and call those folks they choose your name off the list.

Step 5: Managing job offers.

Come late February/March/April, you’ll start hearing back from those folks who you called…  Here’s my advice:

* Accept your 1st offer no matter what.

* Accept all subsequent offers that you are interested in.

* Finally, go with the offer that you’re most interested in and call everyone else and tell them that you’ve taken a different job. It’s no skin off their back and you will not be black listed.

Final advice… Getting your foot in the door is important, but this is temporary seasonal work… there’s always next summer. It took me 3 years to get a job with the USFS Forest Service. I’m from the East Coast and was hired for my 1st firefighter job in Idaho while vacationing in Costa Rica. Yup, I was calling back to the US and begging for jobs on the beach and it worked out just fine. Did my hiring packet in a computer in Nicaragua…

But if you don’t get a job with the Feds this year, there’s always Americorps.

Americorps Conservation Corps

I’m not going to go into nearly as much detail with the Conservation Corps, as each one is different and their websites and application processes are much more straight forward. Basically, they are all modern day spin-offs of the Civilian Conservation Corps from the New Deal, but nowadays they’re all non-profit corporations that get funding through Americorps (which is a big Federal fund of money) so long as they meet certain criteria.

Admittedly, the pay with Conservation Corps is much less, as these are truly internship, but they are VERY FUN experiences. You will make some great friends and build a solid resume if a career in Land Management truly interests you. I’ve worked for both Montana Conservation Corps and Arizona Conservation Corps (formerly Southwest CC). Both were great organizations and I have nothing but good things to say about them. Anyhoo, here’s a brief list for ya:

Arizona Conservation Corps

California Conservation Corps

Montana Conservation Corps

Northwest Youth Corps

(^ just Google these, I’m not gonna bother with links)

There are definitely more out there, I believe Vermont has one, but again, these organizations are much easier to find and apply to online. There’s not quite the dance as there is with the Feds.

OWU’s ‘Still In’ Paris Climate Agreement

President Rock Jones, Ph.D., signed the document June 5, making Ohio Wesleyan one of 183 colleges and universities to endorse the proclamation. “We Are Still In” also has been signed by representatives from 125 cities and nine states, and by 902 businesses and investors.

Source

University Among Those Supporting Paris Climate Agreement

There’s a familiar name among the 1,219 who signed the “We Are Still In” document in support of the Paris Agreement and its efforts to combat climate change.

President Rock Jones, Ph.D., signed the document June 5, making Ohio Wesleyan one of 183 colleges and universities to endorse the proclamation. “We Are Still In” also has been signed by representatives from 125 cities and nine states, and by 902 businesses and investors.

“It is imperative that the world know that in the U.S., the actors that will provide the leadership necessary to meet our Paris commitment are found in city halls, state capitals, colleges and universities, investors and businesses,” the document states. “Together, we will remain actively engaged with the international community as part of the global effort to hold warming to well below 2℃ and to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy that will benefit our security, prosperity, and health.”

There are many reasons for Ohio Wesleyan to sign the document, Jones said. Perhaps most notable is the pioneering work of F. Sherwood Rowland, Ph.D., a 1948 OWU graduate.

A Delaware native, Rowland earned the 1995 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his work studying chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). His research led to significant discoveries in the field, including that chemicals in aerosol sprays, air conditioners and foam insulation were damaging the oxygen layer surrounding the earth’s atmosphere.

At a White House climate change roundtable in 1997, Rowland spoke passionately on behalf of scientists concerned about global warming: “Isn’t it a responsibility of scientists, if you believe that you have found something that can affect the environment, isn’t it your responsibility to do something about it, enough so that action actually takes place? If not us,” Rowland said, “who? If not now, when?”

Woodrow W. Clark II, Ph.D., a 1967 Ohio Wesleyan alumnus, also made an impact through his efforts to protect the environment as one of 30 members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The IPCC was a co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, along with former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, for the film “An Inconvenient Truth.”

The spirit of “We Are Still In” also connects well with Ohio Wesleyan’s academic program and the April announcement that it was creating an Environment and Sustainability Program with a new environmental science major this fall, Jones said.

The Environment and Sustainability Program will include the collaboration of nearly 20 Ohio Wesleyan faculty members who specialize in the natural sciences, social sciences, arts, and humanities. One of the program’s highlights its innovative “Conversations: Toward a Sustainable Future” course. Students will take the course twice – once as newly declared environmental science majors and once as seniors in the program – to provide both a cornerstone and capstone for their study of ecological issues.

In addition, Jones said, Ohio Wesleyan’s signature Sagan National Colloquiumlecture series also has spent a semester examining global warming.

“In 2013, the entire campus focused attention on the ‘Interdisciplinary Impacts of Climate Change’ through the Sagan National Colloquium,” Jones said. “The Colloquium’s founding vision of connecting the liberal arts with civic arts – studying a topic and taking action in response to that study – is reflected in our signing of the ‘We Are Still In’ document.”

Learn more about the “We Are Still In” initiative at http://wearestillin.com.

Environmental Studies at OWU Update Summer 2017

An update on OWU’s Environmental Studies Program as the summer of 2017 starts.

An update on OWU’s Environmental Studies Program as the summer of 2017 starts.

This is a followup to a 2015-2016 update and 2016-2017 update posted on the OWU Environment & Sustainability Blog.

First of all, the Environmental Studies Program is no longer a thin after our proposal for an expanded Environment and Sustainability Program was voted into existence at the May 2017 faculty meeting. The proposal was compiled by a group of faculty, Laurie Anderson, Ellen Arnold, Amy Downing, Chris Fink, and John Krygier, drawing from 5 years of efforts. Additional work on the Environmental Science major was done by Bart Martin.

Information about the program has been added to the OWU web pages:


Our proposed OWU Campus Sustainability Plan created by students, staff and faculty over the last few years is just about in its final form and should be heading to the administration this summer.

Sustainability_Plan_OWU_March_2017

Student Emily Howald has spent the year gathering feedback and making adjustments to the plan. The Sustainability Task Force (STF), initiated in 2008, has overseen the development of the plan. Contact Nathan Amador and let him know if you want to be added to the STF mailing list. The STF is open to all.


Student Emily Howald and faculty member John Krygier wrote a paper which is to be published as a chapter in the book Sustainable Communities Design Handbook edited by OWU Alumni Woody Clark (OWU 1967). The book should be published by Elsevier in 2018. The chapter is an overview of OWU’s approach to sustainability, called “Scrappy Sustainability at Ohio Wesleyan University.” Clark was recently presented with an OWU Alumni Distinguish Achievement Award.


The 2017 May Move Out was another success. Students donated tons of items to Goodwill as they moved off campus last month. The event, first held in 2012, is at this point relatively easy to manage and does not cost the University any money (the cost of additional storage pods for donations is offset by the need for fewer trash dumpsters).


Our reusable carryout food container program is also relatively stable after some ups and downs over the last year. We have added drop off locations for the containers, increased their size, and decreased the size of the paper, throw-away containers (thus an incentive to use the reusable containers). Students Izzy Sommerdorf and Sarah Hanes have developed a proposal for making the program even easier for students, and our campus food service, Chartwells, is evaluating their proposal.


Sustainable food on campus has moved forward on several fronts. Our campus food service has recently worked out an agreement to purchase local produce from the Seminary Hill Farm, just south of campus, beginning this fall. This outcome is based on the efforts of student Ellen Sizer.

Student Emily Howald is working on a proposal for quarter-credit OWU Activity courses focused on gardening. Students would work with a skilled gardener in a course held during the first half of the fall semester, and second half of the spring semester, to maintain our campus community garden.

Students Maddie Coalmer and Larynn Cutshaw generated a proposal to plant perennial crops (asparagus, mint, raspberries), which require minimal maintenance, on a few out-of-the-way locations on campus.


Another successful Green Week was held at the end of the 2017 spring semester:


We have expanded the number of hydration stations on campus with a half-dozen new stations being installed this summer. Most of the new hydration stations are in or around athletic facilities on campus. Athletes have tended to be one of the more significant users of bottled water. Student Dominic Orsini wrote a grant and received funding for promotional water bottles. These will be used to promote the new hydration stations to athletes when they move on campus late this summer.


Nathan Amador will take a group of 12 students to Costa Rica as part of a Travel Learning course. This will be the second time the class will travel to Costa Rica. The students will learn environmental data collection and analysis methods, then implement those methods while in Costa Rica over the semester break (January 2018). Amador and the students are working with Amy Work (OWU ’04) and her Geoporter organization. More info on Amy’s efforts are here.


Again, thanks for all the efforts on what has been a great cross-disciplinary collaboration between faculty, students, staff and alumni over the past five years.

GeoInspirations: Amy Work (OWU ’04) – Connecting People, Communities, Geotechnology, and the Environment by Joseph J. Kerski

Amy Work’s zeal for making a positive difference in our world through geography and geotechnologies led her to Costa Rica, where she has been working closely with students, community leaders, and conservation organizations for the past few years.

dsc_0016_1


Directions Magazine and author Joseph Kerski report on Amy Work, who graduated from OWU in 2004 with Environmental Studies, Geography, and Urban Studies majors, and her work in southern Costa Rica in Directions Magazine’s GeoInspirations Series.


By Joseph Kerski

I met Amy Work through the Teaching with Spatial Technology (TwiST) program that she conducted for educators at the Institute for the Application of Geospatial Technologies in Auburn, New York.  The goal of TwiST is to empower student discovery through GIS by teaching K-12 teachers and college faculty the skills and perspectives needed to teach with these tools.  Each year, Amy actively grew the network of educators who are using the TwiST content effectively in their own instruction across the country.

I also visited Amy a few times at Cayuga College and was consistently impressed by her ability to conduct research in remote sensing and environmental issues while simultaneously teaching numerous face-to-face and online courses.  She was never content to teach just her own students; she has always been keen on teaching other faculty.

Her zeal for making a positive difference in our world through geography and geotechnologies led her to Costa Rica, where she has been working closely with students, community leaders, and conservation organizations for the past few years. As a Directions Magazine reader, you may already be familiar with Amy Work; she and Anne Haywood wrote an article on applying geospatial technologies to solve local problems for our June 2015 edition.

The seeds of Amy’s career were sown back in her high school mentorship program at the City of Westerville Ohio’s Planning and Development Department.  “I thought I wanted to be a civil engineer, but this mentorship position, which evolved into a job during school breaks, including summer, introduced me to GIS,” she said. “This was back in the 1990s when not many city governments were using GIS.”

Then, in her freshman class at Ohio Wesleyan University, she took a course called Maps and GIS taught by geography and cartography professor John Krygier. After additional coursework in  cultural geography and economic geography, she said, “It all made so much sense to me.”

Amy ended up with a very impressive triple major in geography, urban studies, and environmental studies from Ohio Wesleyan University.  She went on to pursue a master’s degree in geography from Syracuse University, graduating in 2006.  She then became the GIS coordinator at the Institute for the Application of Geospatial Technologies housed at Cayuga College.

One of Amy’s projects at the institute was to create an interactive tool to foster analytical thinking about global climate change and the potential impact on human health by enabling investigations between climate and socioeconomic and health data. This tool and associated activities focused on real-world issues that people will continue to encounter as changes in precipitation and temperature values impact agricultural lands and food production. This further impacts access and quality of food, altering the availability of freshwater, and exposing greater numbers of people to malaria for the first time via new habitats for malaria-carrying mosquitoes.  A critical component of this, and other projects Amy has been involved in, is training educators in the use of the tools and activities that help them and their students  investigate the data and gain skills in critical thinking, spatial thinking, and geotechnologies.

After connecting with Anita and Roger Palmer, founders of GISetc.com, Amy began working and living in Bahia Ballena, Costa Rica in 2012.  Bahia Ballena is a unique community.  It is the gateway to Marino Ballena National Park, one of the first marine protected areas in Latin America. Tourism related to marine life in the park is the primary income generator for the area. In this community of 3,000 residents, more than 200 individuals thus far have participated in an activity or event using GPS and GIS to map and analyze data.  Projects with which Amy has been involved have included reducing trash through community partnerships, combating beach erosion, analyzing water quality, and mapping humpback whale sightings.  She engages all of these with the help of GIS and field-collected and mapped data, but more importantly, with the help of the community.  Her projects involve teachers, students, community officials, nonprofit organizations, businesses, parents, and others.  Her work is funded by Geospatial Educators’ Opportunities for Partnership Outreach Research and Training (Geoporter), a nonprofit organization designed to send educators around the world to solve local issues with GIS.

When I asked Amy to identify what, or who, has been the most inspirational to her career, she replied, “I don’t think I can pick just one class or person. There are so many people who have inspired me along the way, thus the reason I am where I am.  However, in my career as a geospatial educator teaching other educators to use geospatial technologies, I had a great group of teachers from Hannibal School District participate [in the summer institutes].  These teachers helped me merge my knowledge of geospatial technologies with what classroom teachers needed the most.  Prior to these workshops, I had only taught GIS and remote sensing labs for technical skills.  I began teaching GIS for the purpose of engaging youth in exploring their community and their world.  Therefore, it is Bob Jones, Carol Burch, and Tom O’Neil to whom I owe so many thanks for not only sharing their knowledge, but becoming true friends.”

One of the things I admire about Amy is that she actively connects with her alma mater.  She has partnered with students and faculty at Ohio Wesleyan University, for example, to bring them to Costa Rica and involve them in community projects there: One examined what could be done to reduce yearly water shortages, another examined banana plantations, and another used a UAV to collect high resolution imagery for the coastal area near Bahia Ballena.

Another thing I admire is that Amy doesn’t just study a topic—she acts upon the knowledge that she gains.  For example, as part of the Semilla de Ballena (Seeds of Ballena) project, she and community members germinated and planted 1,000 manglillo, sota caballo, and cedro maria trees to combat beach and soil erosion.  In another example, Amy doesn’t just say, “Schools are important to the region’s future,” and leave it at that—she actively works with educators to identify their needs and empower them in the use of GIS, GPS, and remote sensing technologies.   In other words, she practices what she preaches.  She is patient—whether with trees or with people—she realizes that thoughtful efforts focused on important issues will reap long-term benefits.

Amy is also a good listener.  You don’t move to another country and work on successful projects with local people by blazing forward with your own agenda; you do it through careful listening to their needs, building trust, and working toward common goals.

I have taught with Amy for many years as part of the Teachers Teaching Teachers GIS (T3G) program at Esri, a professional development opportunity that resulted in an online community and a face-to-face intensive GIS-focused institute.  I have been consistently impressed with Amy’s focus on doing everything to the highest standards of quality, down to the smallest detail of instruction or component of the lesson.

After listening to Amy’s keynote speech at a recent Applied Geography Conference, I could not help but think that her efforts have always been exactly that–applied.  She applies what she knows to teacher training, to teaching students, and to helping people and communities achieve their potential.

Amy has been involved with many projects involving geography over the years, but the one she is perhaps proudest of is a Syracuse Community Geography project with which she was involved while studying for her master’s degree.  The project applied GIS to social issues such as food security and access to resources for senior citizens. It was an expansion of how GIS and geography could help city organizations and institutions better understand their clients, their clients’ needs, and how to best allocate their resources.

Amy says she is also proud of what she is currently doing with Geoporter and teaching community residents to apply the technology to their own concerns. “Perhaps it’s hard to say I am most proud of this project, because to me it is still ongoing. It’s not complete. Maybe in time I will see it not as my daily work, but as something to be extremely proud of.”

Given Amy’s leadership, I asked her what she thinks is the most important thing we, the geography community, need to work on.  Amy responded, “I think we should continue to look at social and human dynamics related to environmental changes; for example, applying geography to human health, including infectious disease, or just for a better understanding of individuals’ medical histories.  How do changing climates impact disease patterns and incidence?  Furthermore, how does climate impact the political sphere or the refugee crisis, and how does it alter access to food and water resources?”

Amy’s advice to new geographers?  “Geography is all around us. Find what interests you and apply your skills to helping better understand that topic. Keep trying and you will be a geographer. There are so many of us in the world, and when you do meet them, you will find you have so much in common.”

Amy believes in dreaming big and making those dreams a reality.  As she said in an article for the Ohio Wesleyan University news, “If you would have told me when I was in college that I’d be living in the tropics and working, I would have said you’re joking, there is no way…Now I know that anything’s possible.”

For more information about Amy Work’s projects, see the Geoporter nonprofit organization’s webpage.

Preserving a Paradise: The OWU Connection

An Ohio Wesleyan alumna, professors, and students are teaming up and using high-tech geography in Costa Rica to help preserve a rich and wonderful ecosystem.

(Photo by Alejandro Orozco)

An Ohio Wesleyan alumna, professors, and students are teaming up and using high-tech geography in Costa Rica to help preserve a rich and wonderful ecosystem.

Working with Geoporter’s Amy Work ’04 (far left), the OWU team included (from left) Professor John Krygier, Olivia Lease ’17, Michael Durfee ’17, Christopher Pessell ’18, Luke Steffen ’16, Maddy Coalmer ’18, and Assistant Professor Nathan Amador.

Looking out at the lush, vivid greenery around her simple home in Costa Rica, Amy Work ’04 can scarcely believe her good fortune. The sky is a gorgeous blue, a crystal-clear ocean is nearby, colorful tropical birds swoop overhead, and the sunshine is endless.

It’s a far cry from her growing-up years in Westerville and her college years at Ohio Wesleyan University, where weather tended more toward overcast skies and freezing Midwest winters.

“If you would have told me when I was in college that I’d be living in the tropics and working I would have said you’re joking, there is no way,” Work says. “Now I know that anything’s possible.”

A lofty sentiment, to be sure. But one she believes in so firmly that she’s trying to pass it along to other OWU students by inviting them to visit—and learn—in her little piece of paradise.

Work’s life on the eastern coast of Costa Rica centers on something she was introduced to at Ohio Wesleyan: GIS—geographic information system—technology. In its simplest form, it’s a way to display several sets of data on a single map so users can see and analyze the relationships between each. Accessed through computer software, the technology is used in fields ranging from archaeology to mosquito control to politics—anything that can use location as a factor.

GIS technology was growing in popularity in 2000 when Work was an OWU freshman taking a mapping course taught by geology and geography professor John Krygier.

“That class talked about how maps have helped us understand the world over time, and at the end it talked about GIS,” Work says. A follow-up class taught her the nitty-gritty of GIS and convinced her of its power. By the time she graduated in 2004 with a triple major in geography, urban studies, and environmental studies, she knew she wanted to pursue a career centered on GIS.

Work was sharp, focused, and fully engaged in learning about GIS, Krygier says, especially in upper-level courses where students used the technology to help map potential pathways for future Delaware bike paths. Eventually, Delaware created new paths based on the students’ work.

“She’s one of those people who has a vision and can see the parts needed to make it happen,” Krygier says. “What Amy got in that class was that there’s a tool that can make big, good things happen.”

After graduating from Syracuse University with a master’s degree in geography in 2006, Work became an education and GIS coordinator at the Institute for the Application of Geospatial Technology, or IAGT, in Auburn, New York. Through her work there she met Anita and Roger Palmer, founders of GISetc, a for-profit company that helps educators learn to use GIS in the classroom.

Beginning in 2009, the Palmers began traveling to the Costa Rican coastal village of Bahia Ballena to introduce GIS to community leaders, in the hopes the technology would help the village transition from a farming-and-fishing economy to a tourism economy. When it became obvious the couple’s yearly visits weren’t enough for the project to prosper, they asked Work to live and work there full-time.

That’s what she’s done since August 2012. She’s funded by Geoporter, a nonprofit organization set up by Work, the Palmers, and two Bahia Ballena community members. It’s designed to send educators around the world to do exactly what Work is doing in Costa Rica: solve local issues with GIS. This is Geoporter’s first project.

A hallmark of Geoporter is helping communities help themselves, Work explains. “The community members are the ones who are doing it,” she says. “The community has the goals and the objectives, and the focus is on getting community members to use the technology themselves.”

Bahia Ballena leaders decided to tackle trash in the streets with the help of GIS. For a decade, trash had been picked up curbside at homes, but in public places, residents tended to toss it on the ground, Work says. As a result, trash ended up in local streams and then in the ocean, reducing the area’s appeal for tourists.

Work suggested mapping where trash was coming from as a first step. In 2013, she and community members collected trash at specific intervals on the road, counted the kinds of trash found there, and mapped the results using GIS. They found a high concentration of candy wrappers outside grocery stores near schools, for example, from students buying candy on their way home. Soccer fields—popular community gathering spots—had food wrappers and bottles.

“Life in Costa Rica revolves around family, church and soccer, so on Sundays the entire town shows up to watch the games. And there were no trash cans near the soccer fields.” – Amy Work ’04

“Life in Costa Rica revolves around family, church, and soccer, so on Sundays the entire town shows up to watch the games,” Work says. “And there were no trash cans near the soccer fields.”

An analysis of the mapped trash produced action within the year: Trash cans with sections for recyclables and sections for non-recyclables were added where they would reduce the most trash, and an education program encouraged residents to use the cans.

Since then, trash in streams has diminished and more is being recycled—exactly what Geoporter was set up to accomplish.

To spread the word about the success and encourage others to embrace the technology, Work turned to her alma mater. She contacted Krygier, who had first taught her GIS, and his new colleague, Nathanael Amador, and asked: Would Ohio Wesleyan students be interested in working with Geoporter?

The idea jelled when Work returned to the states in 2014 to be inducted into the Ohio Wesleyan Athletic Hall of Fame for her starring role on the Battling Bishops’ national title-winning women’s soccer teams of 2001 and 2002. She talked up her GIS project with Ohio Wesleyan President Rock Jones and by 2015, Amador, with Krygier’s help, was offering a travel-learning course to Costa Rica. Such courses are a core element of The OWU Connection, helping students connect classroom learning with real-world practice in global settings.

“I still feel such a connection to the students at Ohio Wesleyan,” Work says. “I wanted them to see what I’m doing with my degree and to instill in students that you can apply your knowledge to anything and, if you have a passion, follow it.”

The proposal had clicked with Amador, an assistant professor of geology and geography who’d begun working at Ohio Wesleyan in 2014. He was teaching Environmental Alterations, a required class for environmental studies majors, and added the Costa Rica portion as an option for additional class credit.

“What Amy does embodies the point of the course, which is how humans impact the environment,” Amador says. “And it ties together the whole idea of being at Ohio Wesleyan, which is that graduation isn’t the end of your involvement with the University community.”

By December 2015, five students, along with Amador and Krygier, were bumping along the mostly unpaved roads of Costa Rica. Each had completed an environmental project centered on the country before their trip, and their 11-day visit expanded on those projects.

“It’s a good model. Our alumni are spread out all over the world, and I’m hoping other travel-learning courses will take advantage of that.” – John Krygier, professor of geology and geography

Madeleine Coalmer ’18 examined the effects of ecotourism, global warming, and climate change on water supplies in Costa Rica. She wanted to find out what could be done in the future to reduce yearly water shortages during the dry season. She soon realized that even her use of water at home in Youngstown, Ohio, could ultimately affect the water supply in Central America.

“When my mom picked me up from the airport after the trip, the first thing I told her was I’m going to be more cautious of how much water I’m using,” she says.

Coalmer also learned how much opportunity her chosen major, geography, can provide.

“Amy’s work shows that you can be successful and flourish with a geography major, and for her to have taken the same classes in the major that I’m taking meant even more,” Coalmer says. “It showed me that I could reach out to others and have connections all over the world.”

Chris Pessell ’18 of Cincinnati had studied the impact of African palm-oil plantations on the soil, water, animals, and plants of Costa Rica. African palms were brought to the country after Costa Rica’s banana-growing industry shut down. While they’ve helped the economy, native mangrove forests have been destroyed to make way for the plantations.

Pessell’s view of the industry changed when he visited a plantation on the trip. He realized he’d inflated its harm to the environment.

“I assumed it was like a tree farm, but there was a carpet of plants under the trees and a ton of different bugs,” he says. As long as the plantations aren’t expanding, he says, it doesn’t appear they’ll do additional damage to the environment.

Pessell particularly enjoyed another trip project: testing water in the Bahia Ballena area to ensure clean drinking water is available. After the trip, he helped map the data and hopes to add more as additional testing is done periodically.

“Development has encroached on the amount of water available,” Work says. “We’re mapping the water quality and the stream flow to understand what’s happening and to ensure that our dirty water is taken care of.”

The work cemented Pessell’s plan to pursue a career in water-quality testing when he graduates with his geography major.

In addition to the palm-oil plantation, students and professors visited two national parks, a bat sanctuary and a pineapple plantation; kayaked through mangrove forests; and took a whale-watching tour (but, unfortunately, saw no whales.)

Interestingly, neither Work nor Amador had opportunities similar to the Costa Rica trip while they were students.

Work’s plans to travel abroad were dashed by 9/11. Instead of traveling, she applied her GIS knowledge on local projects as a student, such as the bike-trail project.

For Amador, plenty of opportunities for study and travel existed at The Ohio State University where he obtained his undergraduate degree, but he had no money to participate.

“I think part of my passion for this is living through the students, letting them take advantage of these opportunities,” he says. “I was interested in getting students to really understand what it means to study this content outside of the classroom and to understand that people are employed doing what you’re learning in this class.”

“We’re mapping the water quality and the stream flow&hellips;to ensure that our dirty water is taken care of.” – Amy Work

The January trip was the second time an Ohio Wesleyan student had visited Work. The first was a year ago, when graduate Christian Gehrke ’15 took a University drone to Bahia Ballena to capture a birds-eye view of the community. The new imagery updated some from 2011 and has a higher resolution. Work will use it to see changes in the environment over time.

“We don’t have the resources to acquire a drone,” she says. “But the student had the technology to help us advance what we’re doing here.”

Krygier hopes the collaboration with Work spurs similar collaborations with OWU alumni.

“It’s a good model,” he says. “Our alumni are spread out all over the world, and I’m hoping other travel-learning courses will take advantage of that.”

In Costa Rica, the link between alumni and OWU continues. Amador visited this summer to take more water samples, and another OWU student took additional aerial photos with a drone.

Work appreciates the extra hands, the equipment and the enthusiasm that students and professors bring to the Geoporter project, but she also sees the collaboration as a way she’s giving back to the University.

“I want to be able to share with students what the University taught me,” she says. “It provided me with the foundation to know that you can learn and do whatever you want to. It shaped me into what I am today.”


Kathy Lynn Gray is a freelance writer from Columbus, OH.

To learn more about the GIS project and travel-learning course, see flickr.com/photos/geoporter/ and geoporter.net, or contact Amy Work at amy@geoporter.net.

Originally published 09/21/2016 in the OWU Magazine.