OWU Chimney Swift Tower. This Fall! Really!

A very cool project, planned and developed since 2012, is funded and ready to build. It has been delayed over and over, and frikkin’ COVID has slowed it down, but the plan is to start construction before the end of August (2021).

Watch for updates here: but for now, the proposal and details are below.


Proposal: OWU Chimney Swift Tower
Ohio Wesleyan University
Spring 2021

Dick Tuttle (’73), Caitlyn Buzza (’12), Alex Johnson (’15), Ashley Tims (’17), Dustin Reichard (Zoology), John Krygier (E&S, Geography)

Contact: John Krygier (jbkrygier@owu.edu)

Summary

The purpose of the Chimney Swift Tower project is to provide a safe area for resting and nesting of chimney swifts. Chimney swifts consume a significant number of mosquitos and thus reduce student’s exposure to mosquito-borne illnesses. The tower will also serve as an important point of interest on the residential side of campus, an attraction for both prospective students and those already on campus. As a student-driven project in collaboration with OWU alumni, the tower serves as a notable example of theory-into-practice and the OWU Connection.

Chimney swifts evolved to live in dead, hollow, tree trunks and adapted to chimneys over time. Chimneys are increasingly rare in new buildings and often closed off in older buildings. Thus humans created a habitat for these birds, and are now removing that human-constructed habitat. In response to this problem, artificial chimney swift towers have been constructed over the last few decades. OWU Alumni Dick Tuttle has spent years documenting the many chimney swifts in Delaware, and his experience suggests that a swift tower on OWU’s campus, near Stuyvesant Hall, would be a prime location for the birds. We have visited the site with Peter Schantz who sees no practical problems with the proposed location. Tuttle has tentatively agreed to fund the construction of the tower with a gift to OWU. The typical tower, about 5’ x 5’ and 20’ to 30’ tall, can accommodate around 100 birds. The swift tower will attract student attention: swifts entering the tower at dusk are an impressive sight. For students (and prospective students) pursuing biology, environmental science, and environmental studies the towers will be of much interest. Importantly, for the typical student (or prospective student) the towers will be an intriguing addition to OWU’s campus, signaling OWU’s commitment to the environment while promoting interest in the natural world. The tower, which will have information about chimney swifts and the function of the tower, will serve as an important point of interest on the residential side of campus.

Key Components

Planning for the tower is and will continue to be a collaboration between students, faculty, and alumni. Plans have been developed over several years by students (Caitlyn Buzza ’12, Alex Johnson ’16, and Ashley Tims ’17) working in collaboration with OWU Alumni Dick Tuttle (’73) and faculty members Dustin Reichard (Zoology, ornithology), John Krygier (Geography & Environmental Studies, sustainability), and Kristina Bogdanov (Art, ceramics). Tuttle, Reichard, Bogdanov, and Krygier will work with mason John Kuhn on design details and construction of the tower.

1. The tower will meet the standards set by Paul D. Kyle in his book Chimney Swift Towers: New Habitat for America’s Mysterious Birds, A Construction Guide (Texas A&M University Press, 2005). These guidelines have been used for many successful towers. John Kuhn, our contractor, is an experienced mason who has also taught masonry courses. He should be able to integrate OWU students in the building project if appropriate.

 2. Chimney swifts are of immense value to their immediate environment: they are disinterested in humans and are neither aggressive nor dangerous. They consume an immense amount of flying insects, including mosquitos. Thus they serve an important public health role. A functioning chimney swift tower will significantly reduce the number of mosquitos on campus (as they will most likely fly back and forth from the tower to the Olentangy River).

3. The tower will be located to the north-east of Stuyvesant Hall, near the top of the hill that slopes down to William St. This is a good location for the chimney swifts (high, open) but also for observing birds from the residential halls, the newly renovated terrace in front of Stuyvesant Hall, and William St. Peter Schantz has recommended this location. (see below)

Map of location for proposed chimney swift tower.

 4. The tower will serve specific courses on campus, and associated faculty and students. In particular, Dr. Dustin Reichard and his ZOOL 341: Ornithology course. See Dr. Reichard’s letter of support. (See Appendix 1).

5. The tower project is representative of student theory-into-practice projects on and around campus, focused on environment and sustainability. For prospective students, the project provides a tangible example of theory-into-practice and campus/community collaboration. The tower project serves as an example of and inspiration for the kind of projects students in the Environment and Sustainability Program (Environmental Studies and Environmental Science) have undertaken in courses such as John Krygier’s GEOG 360: Environmental Geography and GEOG 499: Sustainability Practicum, as well as independent studies and SIP funded projects.

6. The tower will be attractive, fitting into the aesthetic of OWU’s campus while serving as a landmark and destination for students (and prospective students). The preliminary proposal includes brick construction with stone accents using recycled bricks and stone from campus, to match the materials used in Stuyvesant Hall. (see below)

Draft design of proposed chimney swift tower (access hatch, left, tile inserts, right)

 7. The tower will also be tastefully distinctive, with Ohio Wesleyan-themed ceramic artwork near the base. Dr. Kristina Bogdanov (Art, ceramics) has agreed to assist with removable (or permanent) panels at the base of the tower. The primary medium will be tiles, created from recycled clay and dyes. Building on a project started by former OWU biology and art major Ashley Tims (’17), Bogdanov and students will create tiles with permanent images, such as historical OWU photographs (see below). In addition, tiles will be created that depict the leaves of local, native trees and plants, common birds and animals, insects, bees, and other natural features of the campus area. These OWU inspired tiles can be changed out or added to over time. The tiles can be used in activities by admissions (with prospective students) as well as part of orientation for new students, as a way of relating the history and environment of our campus. We also propose a mosaic tile description of the tower, chimney swifts, and illustrations of how the towers work. Thus un-guided visitors can learn what the tower is about and how it works.

Photograph transfer tiles for base of proposed chimney swift tower.

 Appendix 1: Letter of faculty support from Dr. Dustin Reichard (Zoology) & Dr. John Krygier (Geology & Geography, Environment & Sustainability)

To: OWU University Advancement & Administration

From: Dustin Reichard (Zoology), John Krygier (ENVS, Geography)

Re: Chimney Swift Tower on OWU Campus

We are writing to convey our strong support for the installation of a chimney swift tower on the OWU campus. Chimney swifts are migratory songbirds that spend their summers breeding in eastern North America and their winters in western South America. Over the past few decades, chimney swifts have been experiencing a steady decline in population size. A major cause of their decline has been the loss of nesting and roosting habitat as homeowners have transitioned away from brick chimneys and either capped or removed chimneys that are no longer in use. The installation of chimney swift towers is one method for mitigating this decline. Delaware is the summer home of a sizable population of breeding chimney swifts that have been monitored for many years by Dick Tuttle, a committed conservationist from the local community that has offered a generous gift in support of this project.

The addition of a chimney swift tower to the OWU campus will provide numerous benefits to the campus community with relatively limited investment from OWU faculty and staff. From a pedagogical perspective, the tower will provide ample opportunities for students to collect and analyze data of swift roosting, migration, and breeding biology. These opportunities will be utilized by students in Ornithology (ZOOL 341), which is taught every spring, and Organisms and Their Environment (BIOL 122), which is taught every semester. Many of our zoology students are interested in careers related to conservation, and the accessibility of a swift tower on campus would allow them to develop skills in population monitoring while working with an at-risk species.

Additionally, chimney swifts are aerial insectivores that will contribute to the management of aerial insects, such as mosquitoes, which are a nuisance and can carry disease. This issue is particularly relevant given the recent expansion of the Zika virus to the southern United States, and the increased likelihood of more tropical parasites in the future as a result of climate change. The swifts also undertake a tremendous migration to the tropics each winter, which makes the bird an excellent international ambassador as OWU seeks to attract a larger number of international students. Finally, observing the birds enter the tower each evening to roost is an amazing natural spectacle that will undoubtedly thrill members of the community for years to come.

This proposal for chimney swift towers grew out of efforts to enhance habitats for birds, insects, and animals on and around the OWU campus. Work on this project over the past year or two has entailed determining viable locations for the tower, generating plans and designs, all done in consultation with Buildings and Grounds (for advice and input). Additional related campus projects include birdhouses, bat houses, and bee hotels. The development of such habitats on campus is one component of our proposed campus sustainability plan.

Please contact us with any additional questions, and let us know how we can proceed on this important opportunity.

Dustin Reichard

John Krygier

 

OWU Student & Project Win Delaware County Award

Keep Delaware County Beautiful Recognizes Community Partners

DELAWARE, Oh. – Several community members, leaders, schools and groups received recognition at the annual Keep Delaware County Beautiful Awards that occurred on Dec. 4 at Stratford Ecological Center.

The Litter Prevention Award recognized Ohio Wesleyan University student Brianna Graber who coordinated with the City of Delaware on a project to install a storm drain net in Delaware Run on the OWU Campus. The 6-and-a-half ton device is the first of its kind installed in the United States and collects trash and organic debris. The collected waste will be analyzed and the water quality will be monitored giving the community a better picture of the health of our water resources.

More on the storm drain net:

Delaware Run Storm Drain Net Installed and Catching Crap!

OWU and City of Delaware Storm Drain Net Collaboration

OWU and City of Delaware Storm Drain Net Collaboration

Students and faculty have been working a project to implement a storm drain net in the Delaware Run on campus. The purpose of the net will be to remove trash and green waste/debris from the Delaware Run behind Merrick on campus.

Beginning in the Fall of 2018, Janelle Valdinger, Dr. John Krygier and I (Brianna Graber) have been cohesively working a project to implement a storm drain net in the Delaware Run, on OWU’s campus. The purpose of this project will be for Summer Science Research through Ohio Wesleyan University and for an internship with the City of Delaware. The purpose of the net will be to remove trash and green waste/debris from the Delaware Run behind Merrick on campus.
I will be using funding from the City of Delaware, a Theory to Practice Grant from Ohio Wesleyan that I wrote and was awarded, as well as a donation from FLOW (Friends of the Lower Olentangy Watershed), DelCo Water Co., and the American Kayaking Association (AKA). These funds will be used to obtain and purchase the net and research supplies, fund the machinery used for the project, and create an educational sign.
We will be in constant contact with the company used in purchasing and constructing the net, StormX, to give measurements and data for the net as well.
As of mid-January, the run area behind Merrick was surveyed for data and measurements to begin constructing the net and the order will be placed soon.
     
The goal is to have the net delivered mid-April in order to stay on schedule for Summer Science Research. As of right now, the plan is still on track.

Ohio Wesleyan Student Earns NSF Funds to Attend First-of-Its-Kind Conference

DELAWARE, Ohio – Ohio Wesleyan University student Janelle Valdinger is one of fewer than 20 undergraduate and graduate students across the country invited to participate in January in the first national Workshop on Community Geography.

Building Community Through Geography

Ohio Wesleyan Student Earns NSF Funds to Attend First-of-Its-Kind Conference

DELAWARE, Ohio – Ohio Wesleyan University student Janelle Valdinger is one of fewer than 20 undergraduate and graduate students across the country invited to participate in January in the first national Workshop on Community Geography.

Valdinger, an OWU geography major, has been named a Community Geography Fellow and awarded funds to attend the two-day conference Jan. 25-26 at Georgia State University in Atlanta. According to organizers, the National Science Foundation-supported workshop will bring together 40 to 50 Community Geography Fellows, who are “academic researchers and community leaders interested in using geographic research for community development, social justice, and environmental sustainability.”

In addition to being a full-time Ohio Wesleyan student, Valdinger also is a full-time employee of the City of Delaware, where she works as a Geographic Information System (GIS) technician.

She said her main goals for the workshop include “learning new ways to use geographic research for community development, especially in other countries … and finding new ways to build a stronger, long-lasting working relationship between Ohio Wesleyan University and the City of Delaware.”

Valdinger already has helped to coordinate a joint university-city project to install three water-purifying rain gardens on OWU’s campus. She is helping now to implement a collaborative relationship that involves the city’s Department of Public Utilities hosting OWU students as interns and “developing a partnership with the OWU Summer Science Research Program where the city hires a student-intern for the summer and the university provides housing, along with faculty guidance for a research project.”

The first Ohio Wesleyan student to hold the summer research internship is junior zoology major Brianna Graber. Graber is working with the city this semester on a project to fund and install storm-drain nets to catch large waste items and prevent them from entering the Olentangy River.

While attending the Georgia conference, Valdinger will present information on the developing OWU-Delaware partnership, which currently includes eight university students working on environmental projects.

In addition, she hopes to glean information to assist with her Ohio Wesleyan departmental honors project, which focuses on mapping public utilities in Belize.

On campus, she is collaborating on the honors project with Department of Geology and Geography faculty members John Krygier, Ph.D., director of environmental studies; Nathan Amador Rowley, Ph.D.; and Ashley Allen, Ph.D., and with Jay Scheffel, assistant director of physical plant. Off campus, Valdinger is working with 2003 OWU alumnus Tim Hawthorne, Ph.D., assistant professor of GIS at the University of Central Florida.

“Not only will we be mapping utilities, but we will be providing utility locators to the local government officials in Belize,” Valdinger said. “Citizen Science will play a large role in this project, and learning (at the workshop) about what avenues other professionals have taken will help greatly in the execution of my project.”

Krygier, who was also named a Community Geography Fellow, said he is excited for Valdinger to attend the workshop and share her OWU accomplishments with scholars from across the country, and to learn how to further community engagement on campus, in Delaware, and abroad.

He also is excited by the overall potential of community geography, one of his research specialties, and its focus on engaged community work.

“It’s about creating a win-win situation for colleges and their communities,” Krygier said, “with positive impacts, research experiences, and real-world engagement between people and institutions who share many common goals.”

Learn more about the upcoming national Workshop on Community Geography at www.communitymappinglab.org/commgeog19.html and more about OWU’s geography major at www.owu.edu/geography or https://sustainability.owu.edu.

Special Spring Course: Geog 490: Humanitarian Mapping

For the Spring of 2018, Dr. Amador-Rowley and Dr. Allen along with student Janelle Valdinger have organized a “group independent study” course focused on creating better maps for areas of rural Tanzania through a non-profit organization called Crowd2Map.

For the Spring of 2018, Dr. Amador-Rowley and Dr. Allen along with student Janelle Valdinger have organized a “group independent study” course focused on creating better maps for areas of rural Tanzania through a non-profit organization called Crowd2Map.

No experience necessary!

You can take the class either Tuesday (Dr. Amador-Rowley) or Thursday (Dr. Allen) afternoon.

Space is limited!

Contact Dr. Rowley (nsamador@owu.edu) or Dr. Allen (alallen@owu.edu) ASAP.

Probably best if you fill out a Change-of-Schedule Form from the Registrar’s site and use that to enroll in the class.


Independent Study Description: Students will help create better maps of rural Tanzania, particularly those areas where girls are at risk of Female Genital Mutilation. Students will liaise with volunteers in Tanzania and worldwide. Adding roads and buildings from satellite images into OpenStreetMap will allow activists to better protect girls at risk of FGM and allow better delivery and monitoring of services, as well as improved navigation. After training, students will also give feedback to new mappers and assist with validation. They will liaise with community mappers on the ground and also create village level printable maps using QGIS. We will work with small communities that do not typically show up on maps. The open-source map developed in this independent study effort will be open to everyone and help better planning of services. No previous mapping experience necessary!!

New .25 credit Activity Course on Zero Waste! Spring 2019

It took us more than a year but we now are able to offer an ACTV (Activity Course) with sustainability content. This started as a student initiative.

For the spring of 2018, this course will be offered during the first and second module for .25 credit. Thus the course is a great add-on to your normal class load.

Please sign up for the class, and urge others to do so. We can offer additional topics (organic gardening, repair, etc.) in the future if this one flies.

The instructor is Aleks Ilik: he is an OWU grad and happens to be married to Kristina Bogdanov (Art). Aleks runs the Blue House Worm Farm in town and is currently working with students Matt Burke and Peyton Hardesty on a worm composting table at MTSO. One goal for the course is to expand this effort to OWU’s campus.

Chris Fink of HHK is listed as the instructor, but that is only because Aleks is not yet in the OWU system.

Meetings are scheduled Wednesday, noon-1 and Friday 2:10-4pm. Location TBA.

The Activity course will expand this effort, working with AVI and other folks to reduce waste on campus.

Please let us know if you have any questions!

 

Students & Organizations: Sponsor a Rain Barrel!

Rain barrels have become increasingly popular. As a community, we can increase this popularity by making them more visually appealing. Businesses, organizations, and individuals have the opportunity to fund a rain barrel with an installation kit for $34. The cost includes sanding, washing, and priming each barrel before it is given for painting.

Sponsor a Rain Barrel!

Since 2014, the City of Delaware has organized the Northern Olentangy Watershed (NOW) Festival that highlights our local, water resources. This summer, the 5th annual NOW Festival will take place on June 16th at Mingo Park (500 E. Lincoln Ave. Delaware, OH) from 12-3 p.m. As part of the festival, the annual rain barrel raffle will occur. Rain barrels provide many stormwater benefits including:

 

  • Reduction of stormwater runoff
  • Providing a free/sustainable source of water for lawn and gardening care -Reduction of harmful pollutants being carried into our waterways
  • Reduction of ponding and flooding
  • Reduction of water bill costs

Rain barrels have become increasingly popular. As a community, we can increase this popularity by making them more visually appealing. Businesses, organizations, and individuals have the opportunity to fund a rain barrel with an installation kit for $34. The cost includes sanding, washing, and priming each barrel before it is given for painting. The barrels can be both sponsored and painted by the same entity, or a request can be made for a local art class to paint it. These barrels will be raffled off at the NOW Festival on June 16th at Mingo Park and proceeds will go to help support the Upper Olentangy River Watershed.

See form, below.

Payment must accompany the sponsorship requests. All rain barrel request forms must be received by Friday, April 13th by 4 p.m. The purchase of the rain barrel and kit is non-refundable.

Checks can be made out to “City of Delaware, Public Utilities” and mailed to:

City of Delaware
Caroline Cicerchi, Watershed Coordinator 
225 Cherry Street
Delaware, Ohio 43015

There are a limited number of barrels available for this opportunity. Once that limit has been obtained or the deadline for ordering has been reached the barrels will be distributed to the appropriate painters. Local art programs in the community, including local schools, have been contacted about painting some of these barrels. If you are interested in utilizing one of these programs, please indicate so on the order form. There may be a limit to these programs, so each request will be accommodated on a first-come basis. You will be notified by email once the supplies are available for pickup or delivery. It is expected that the rain barrels will start to be delivered or available for pick up starting Monday, April 2nd as requests are received.

If you are painting the barrel yourself, please use outdoor acrylic paint (same paint that is bought for painting the outside of houses, outdoor fencing, etc.). The rain barrels will need to be decorated by May 31st. Once decorated, you can put them on display at your business either inside or outside leading up to the Northern Olentangy Watershed (NOW) Festival or, if preferred, they can be dropped off at the Wastewater Treatment Plant Facility for the City to put them on display.

All painted barrels will need to be delivered to the City of Delaware’s Wastewater Treatment Plant Facility (225 Cherry St., Delaware, OH) before 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday, June 13th.

Please consider participating in this fun event! The festival will be held at Mingo Park (500 E. Lincoln Ave., Delaware, Ohio) on June 16th from 12:00-3:00 p.m. Raffle ticket sales will begin at 12 p.m. and end at 2:30 p.m. with the winning ticket to be drawn shortly after.

Please contact Caroline Cicerchi, Watershed & Sustainability Coordinator, with any questions at 740-203-1905 or ccicerchi@delawareohio.net.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.


 

 

OWU Environmental Studies & Sustainability Progress, Spring 2017

Established and ongoing efforts in environment and sustainability by Ohio Wesleyan students, staff and faculty and off-campus collaborators active during the 2016-17 academic year.

Established and ongoing efforts in environment and sustainability by Ohio Wesleyan students, staff and faculty and off-campus collaborators active during the 2016-17 academic year. 

A PDF of this document is available here.
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OWU Sustainability Plan: As a liberal arts institution, Ohio Wesleyan University must be a leader in progressive sustainability initiatives through educational, technical, and social means. The proposed Ohio Wesleyan Sustainability Plan (click for PDF) is intended to invigorate and expand a culture of sustainability that has a positive impact on the environment. Draft of the OWU Sustainability Plan, created by faculty, staff and students, is complete and being revised and vetted. Students in our Sustainability Practicum are currently arranging to move the proposed plan through OWU’s administrative network during the spring of 2017.
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May Move Out: A student-initiated project in collaboration with Goodwill, to defer usable materials from the trash as students move off campus in May. We defer 10 tons of reusable furniture, appliances, clothes, bikes, etc. on average, each May. Students are currently meeting with OWU’s Buildings & Grounds and Residential Life staff to plan for and promote the 2017 May Move Out. Ohio Wesleyan’s May Move Out program was awarded the 2015 Recycling Award from the Keep Delaware County Beautiful Coalition.

Reusable Food Containers in Hamilton Williams Campus Center: A student project initiated in the Fall of 2015 is being expanded during the spring of 2017. A new dishwasher was installed in our campus center in part to provide adequate washing of the containers. Students and campus food service staff are working to improve and expand the program during the Spring of 2017.

Environmental Science Major: A proposal for an Environmental Science major (in addition to our 39 year old Environmental Studies major) will be brought before OWU committees and faculty for consideration and approval during the Spring of 2017.

Environmental Studies Minor in Food Studies: A Food Studies Minor (developed from the Food Course Connection) is in place (a collaboration between Health and Human Kinetics [HHK] and Environmental Studies). Two more minors, Sustainability and Climate Science are being developed.

Living Green Infrastructure Proposal: Students and staff are working on a proposal for a Living Green residence hall option. 1) Develop structural sustainability. 2) Allow students to live more sustainably by reducing their water, energy, and material waste. 3) Include workshop/classroom area for sustainable learning (repair, self-production). 4) Trained RA’s to be sustainable life assistants.

Delaware Foodshed Farm and Food Collaboration: Building on the Food Studies Minor and student interest in gardens, farming and food, OWU faculty in Environmental Studies and HHK are developing a collaboration between Stratford Ecological Center farms and the Methodist School of Ohio farms. Initial efforts will focus on student internships and engagement of OWU in a regional food network. With financial support for staff (donations or grants) campus gardens will be developed. Efforts will focus on the practice of ecologically sound farming, food production, regional food networks and social outreach (building on the existing Cooking Matters Program, organized by Dr. Chris Fink) to engage students and community members in growing food.

Environmental and Sustainability Internships: Eight to ten internships are being offered on a regular basis at Stratford Ecological Center and the City of Delaware. Foci include environmental education, marketing, farming, and sustainability. Additional internships will be available at the Seminary Hill Farm (Methodist Theological School of Ohio) Fall 2017.

Global Environmental Change Collaboration & Travel Learning Course: OWU collaboration with Amy Work (OWU ‘04) and her organization GeoPorter in Bahia Ballena-Uvita, Costa Rica. Learning and using environmental assessment methods in Delaware, Ohio (Fall 2017) and during a travel learning course trip (Dr. Nathan Amador’s Geography 347) to coastal Costa Rica (January 2018). Goal: to understand how local environmental data is collected and relates to regional and global climate and environmental change.

Chimney Swift Towers: A collaboration between students and OWU Alumni Dick Tuttle (OWU 1973) to build a chimney swift tower on the residential side of campus. Plans have been drawn up and cost estimates provided by a contractor. Funds will be provided by Tuttle. We anticipate construction during the spring or summer of 2017 pending approval from B&G and OWU’s Administration.

Campus Wildlife Habitat Enhancements: Student efforts continue to install and maintain bird houses, feeders and solitary bee houses on campus.

Green Week 2017: Building on a successful week of events in 2016, students are organizing another week of events for the spring of 2017 (the week prior to Earth Day).

Delaware Run Assessment and Restoration: Ongoing project focused on restoring Delaware Run between Sandusky St. and Henry St. Emerging collaboration with stream restoration specialists who propose restoration of the stream and adjacent riparian zone in return for state of Ohio stream credits. Currently waiting on the establishment of an official Ohio stream banking and credit procedure.

Bottled Water Sales Reduction: Student-led efforts to drive down bottled water purchases on campus, including the installation of hydration stations and promotion of reusable water bottles. Bottled water sales have dropped significantly in the last three years. We continue to install hydration stations (filtered water) at key locations as an alternative to bottled water.

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.