Summer NSF Fellowships: Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU)

SUST majors who have had some biology/environmental science classes are in a good position to apply for a Research Experience for Undergraduate (REU) summer fellowships, offered through generous funding by the National Science Foundation. These fellowships are excellent opportunities to work directly with scientific researchers on lab- and field-based topics, gain hands-on research experience, and network with fellow undergrads from other schools. Plus they’re well compensated with a fellowship stipend of several thousand dollars. (Yes — you read that correctly.)

Here in the Chicago region there are several notable REU programs that offer multiple paid fellowships, including those at the Field Museum of Natural History, the School of Freshwater Sciences at the University of WI Milwaukee, and the Center for Ecology at Southern IL University in downstate Carbondale.

Further afield, check out these opportunities at the University of Vermont’s Rubenstein Ecosystem Science Lab summer research fellowship opportunity entitled “Interdisciplinary Research on Human Impacts in the Lake Champlain Ecosystem,” from May 31 to August 7, 2015 (deadline: Feb. 13th); and the opportunities at the University of Michigan Biological Station (2015 deadline: Feb. 2nd) and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (2015 deadline: Feb. 15th). Both are phenomenal places to spend a summer doing field-based research!

Interested applicants should also check out the NSF’s REU Students website for access to dozens of fellowships opportunities across across the US.

Check individual program sites for 2015 application materials and deadlines,
which are usually in February or March.

In summer 2012, recent SUST grad Allison Breeding (BA ’13) won a fellowship at SIU’s Center for Ecology and studied agroecology in beautiful Southern Illinois; she blogged about her experiences here and presented an overview of her research at the October 2013 Sustainability Studies Student Symposium.

Want to learn more? Check out the links above! And remember: you can’t get one of these awesome fellowships unless you apply . . .

Allison Breeding working with soil samples in the lab at SIU during her summer research fellowship in 2013

Allison Breeding working with soil samples in the lab at SIU during her summer research fellowship in 2013

Posted in students, conservation, research, ecology, science, fellowships, education | Leave a comment

RU Students Present their Environmental Justice Travel Experiences this Wed, Dec 9

Need a break from finals and a reason to be totally proud of being at Roosevelt? Please attend a discussion this Wednesday afternoon at 4:30pm of this semester’s student environmental justice research and civic engagement in Olympic National Park and Vancouver and how it compares to Chicago.  The Fall capstone event for the Joseph Loundy Human Rights Project is entitled: Student Environmental Justice Research in Vancouver, Fall 2014: Lessons for Chicago?

In November of 2014, six students in Prof. Bethany Barratt’s POS 343 Urban Human Rights class, with support from the Loundy Human Rights Project, spent 8 days in Olympic National Park and Vancouver, British Columbia, seeing firsthand the environmental justice challenges those regions face, and how citizens have organized to address them. In this event they present preliminary findings, potential cross-national lessons, and other highlights of their experiences.

Discussants include local environmental justice advocates Kimberly Wasserman, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization; and Tom Shepherd, Southeast Environmental Task Force.

Wednesday, Dec. 10th
4:30 – 6 p.m.
Auditorium Building, Spertus Lounge, Room 244

A light reception will follow. Free and open to the public. This is the final event of the semester in the Loundy Human Rights Project Just By Nature Distinguished Environmental Organizer Series.


For more information, contact Prof. Bethany Barratt, Director of the Joseph Loundy Human Rights Project ( See this flier (pdf) and the image below for future events through the Loundy Project’s “Just By Nature” series at Roosevelt this fall.

Just by Nature RU Lecture Series F14

Posted in cities, conservation, ecology, education, ethics, events, field trips, policy, presentations, research, Roosevelt, social justice, students | Leave a comment

Photography Presentation by Terry Evans on Fracking and Petcoke, Next Tuesday in Chicago

Terry Evans lecture 9 Dec 2014 pt2

Noted photographer Terry Evans, who has done dramatic work on Chicago’s urban landscape, the Calumet Region, Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, and many other sites throughout the US, presents and discusses her dramatic images of fracking in North Dakota, the Trinity River in Texas, and petcoke piles in Chicago next week at the Harrington School of Design. This event is free and open to the public.

Time/Place: Tuesday, Dec. 9th, 7pm, Harrington School of Design, 200 W. Madison, Chicago IL.

RSVP for this free public event here at Eventbrite.

Terry Evans lecture 9 Dec 2014

Posted in activities, arts, climate change, energy, events, exhibits, humanities, Illinois, presentations, waste | Leave a comment

Spring 2015 Registration at RU Is Underway!

Advising and registration are now ongoing (since Nov 1st) for the Spring 2015 semester at Roosevelt. If you’re an RU student, look over the Spring 2015 schedule using this coursefinder, check your remaining course requirements on your curriculum checksheet, and email or call your assigned academic advisor with your planned schedule and any questions you have about your upcoming classes. Your advisor will provide you with an RU Access registration code so you can register.

Sustainability Studies courses offered in Spring 2015:

SUST 210 Sustainable Future (Chicago, M 1-3:30pm, Bryson)
SUST 220 Water (online, Jones)
SUST 230 Food (Chicago, T 6-8:30pm, Gerberich)
SUST 240 Waste (online, Bryson)
SUST 310 Energy & Climate Change (Chicago, W 6-8:30pm)
SUST 340 Policy, Law, & Ethics (online, Hoffman)
SUST 390 Sustainable Campus (Chicago, W 3-5:3pm, Bryson)

November is a super busy time of the academic year, but don’t neglect getting in touch with your advisor! It’s the best time to get signed up for classes. And for additional useful info, see this Advising Resources page on Prof. Mike Bryson’s faculty website.

Posted in courses, education, faculty, Roosevelt, students

Illiana Tollway Project Meets Widespread Criticism in IL

In the weeks leading up to the Nov. 4th elections and in its wake, a spate of editorials by many of IL’s leading newspapers (as collected here by the Environmental Law and Policy Center) have criticized the project as wasteful, unnecessary, and/or unwarranted. On this blog, we have followed the politics of and citizen opposition to the controversial roadway, which is located in the same area — eastern Will County — and linked in spirit to the ill-fated Peotone Airport project. Both the road and the airport would have major impacts on land use, agriculture, open space, and rural communities in this part of Chicago’s south suburban region.

Today we re-post this commentary by Chicago environmental journalist and radio host Mike Nowak, who is featuring a segment about the Illinana on his show this morning on WCPT. Nowak’s pre-show analysis contains a wealth of news updates and resource links that collectively address the status of the Illiana project in the context of changing IL politics. 

What Does a New Governor Mean for the Fate of the Illiniana Tollway?

(By Mike Nowak)

Well, there’s a new sheriff, er, governor in town, er, Illinois but it’s still unclear if the new sheriff, er, governor, will approve the $1.2 billion boondoggle known as the Illiana Tollway. I wish people would stop calling it an “expressway,” because it is literally a tollway, and it’s a pretty good bet that it will ultimately cost the state and the people who use it a lot of money if it is built. That doesn’t even take into consideration the environmental damage it will do to Illinois, which is considerable.

I stood in the back of the room with a lot of people on October 8 and 9 of this year and basically watched the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) punch itself in the face. The board voted once again, as they had done a year before, to block the road from I-65 in Indiana to more-or-less I-55 in Illinois. . . . Unfortunately, the very next day, the MPO Policy Committee of CMAP decided (also for a second time) to ignore the recommendation of the CMAP board and approve the Illiana Tollway. POW! OUCH!

Those split decisions seem to throw the regional GO TO 2040 plan under the bus, with environmental groups threatening lawsuits, the ultimate disposition of the tollway left in doubt and the credibility of CMAP itself undermined by the process. Then, of course, Bruce Rauner defeated Pat Quinn in the gubernatorial race and everything changed.

Or did it?

Quinn and the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) have lobbied hard for what many people are calling the “highway to nowhere.” So where does Rauner stand on this issue? He was pretty coy about it during his campaign–which was pretty much his strategy on every issue. In response to that, here’s what the Chicago Tribune says in a piece titled Memo to Bruce Rauner: Kill the Illiana Expressway, that came out just last week:

Back in September, when you and Gov. Pat Quinn met with us to talk about the Nov. 4 election, we asked whether the Illiana Expressway would be built if you were elected governor.

The question should have been right in your wheelhouse, given that your campaign was all about fiscal responsibility and the Illiana promises to be a money-sucking fiasco. “Don’t know,” you said. “Have to see the studies.”

Have you had a chance to look at them yet?

In a few short weeks, you’ll be governor of Illinois. Deciding whether to go forward with the Illiana should be one of your first and easiest calls. But there’s no need for your transition team to spend a lot of time on research. Give us three minutes.

First, the upside: There is no upside.

Yikes. And they’re not the only ones against this project. As I wrote on October 5, when you have ententies as disparate the Chicago Tribune, Openlands, Crain’s Chicago Business, Progress Illinois and Illinois PIRG all saying that this is a bad idea . . . well, it might actually be a bad idea. A very bad idea.

Now Will County residents themselves are calling on the Illinois General Assembly to turn down any legislation that would fund or advance the tollway. And that, surprisingly, includes some local officials, including Judy Ogalla, Will County Board member from District 1, and Symerton Mayor Eli Geiss.

Ogalla states,

The Illinois Dept. of Transportation’s (IDOT) own study shows that the tolls would need to be much higher than any of those on existing toll roads today, consequently not attracting the traffic necessary to recoup the costs to build the road. This is a dangerous way to handle limited tax infrastructure dollars and puts the Illinois taxpayer at risk of paying of a toll road that in the end would not eliminate local traffic congestion due to the proposed location of the road being so much farther south of most areas where the traffic is generated.

Geiss concurs, saying,

The Village of Symerton is opposed to the building of the Illiana highway. It will totally disrupt our way of life. Many of the residents of our village have lived here for generations. This project will not provide long term jobs and the state of Illinois doesn’t have the money to fund it.

Leading the charge against this project are groups like Openlands, whose CEO and President Jerry Adelmann says,

Not only would the Illiana Tollway negatively impact or destroy natural areas, farmland, and open space, it runs counter to every conceivable concept of sound regional planning. Absurd projects such as this should be the stuff of Illinois’ past. It’s time to put an end to the Illiana.

Jack Darin, Director of the Sierra Club, Illinois Chapter, chimes in:

The Illiana Expressway would pave over some of the best farmland in the world, pollute the Kankakee River watershed, and threaten the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. Leaders from around the region have expressed concern that the Illiana project would siphon dollars from other transportation projects and undermine planning for a strong Chicago region.


Posted in agriculture, economics, Illinois, news, planning, suburbs, transportation

Microcosm Film Project: Fall Update

by Michele Hoffman Trotter, SUST adjunct professor at Roosevelt University and director/co-producer of the Microcosm film project

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, the Microcosm team pauses to reflect on how much has happened and how far we have come over the past year in creating our ninety-minute high-definition documentary on the microscopic universe in the ocean.

Friday Harbor Labs, San Juan Island, WA

Friday Harbor Labs, San Juan Island, WA

The script is nearing completion thanks to our time over the summer at the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Lab.  The amazing scientists we met there gave us so many rich story lines that revolve around the incredibly important research work they are doing. In addition, Dr. Jonathan Trent spoke with us about some amazing ways we might use the microcosm to improve the future, and agreed to help out as a science advisor on our script.

We are also fortunate to have some incredibly talented interns with us this year.  Nicholas Garcia (School of the Art Institute in Chicago) and Kiera Ryon (Columbia College) have become masters in the lab and are diligently filming new batches of microorganisms weekly to incorporate into the film.  Rebecca Kennedy (SAIC) and Alex Eldridge (CC Alum) are creating epic animation shorts that will be incorporated to demystify some of the more complex scientific principles we want to relate in the film.  Once the film is complete, it is our hope to make these film shorts available to teachers free of charge for use in their classrooms.

RU student and SUST major Emily Rhea works in the chemistry lab at Columbia College on a Microcosm ocean acidification experiment, Nov. 2014 (photo: M. Hoffman)

RU student and SUST major Emily Rhea works in the chemistry lab at Columbia College on a Microcosm ocean acidification experiment, Nov. 2014 (photo: M. Hoffman)

As more and more carbon enters our ocean, the very chemistry of sea water is changing.  Last week we began trials on an experiment that will simulate the impacts of ocean acidification and its impact on various forms of marine life for the film under the direction of award winning chemistry professor Dr. Beatrix Budy of Columbia College. A new Microcosm intern, Emily Rhea (SUST major at Roosevelt University), joined the team on this exciting project.

Meanwhile, another SUST major and longtime Microcosm intern, Jordan Ewbank (who is studying abroad in Spain this fall semester), is working across continents and oceans remotely with Hawai’i Association for Marine Education and Research (HAMER) as an advancement officer.  In this role he has constructed and helped spearhead an Indiegogo campaign that will go live this December.  The campaign (which seeks to raise $75,000) will support a manta ray research initiative lead by Dr. Mark Deakos with a view to diagnosing and preventing the entanglement of imperiled mantas in fishing line.  One in ten Maui mantas suffers sever injury and even amputation due to such entanglements.

As you can see, things are coming together and the journey has been truly spectacular!  Because we are an independent film, the support we have received along the way is the only reason we have been able to keep production going.  To that end, we encourage you to shop Microcosm this holiday season with t-shirts (also available in kid sizes) and hoodies available for a short time through Booster, and through our art store on Etsy featuring photographic art prints on metal, jewelry and more.

BOOSTER (shirts and hoodies)the manta t-shirt design was hand drawn by Microcosm Director Michele Hoffman Trotter

ETSY STORE (VibrantSea)

Posted in arts, biodiversity, climate change, conservation, ecology, education, faculty, Roosevelt, science, students, water

SETF Activist Tom Shepherd Speaks at Roosevelt on Nov 19

Tom Shepherd of the SETF discusses environmental activism in the Calumet Region at the SETF storefront headquarters on Chicago's far South Side.

Tom Shepherd of the SETF discusses environmental activism in the Calumet Region at the SETF storefront headquarters on Chicago’s far South Side.

The Joseph Loundy Human Rights Project at Roosevelt University continues its Fall Distinguished Environmental Organizer Series this Wednesday, Nov. 19th, 3:30 – 5 p.m., with a special presentation by Tom Shepherd of the Southeast Environmental Task Force. Mr. Shepherd will talk about his two decades-plus of grassroots activism on Chicago’s far South Side and the promotion of environmental justice in the industrial neighborhoods of the Calumet Region.

SETF celebrated its 25th anniversary this year and is one of Chicago’s most active and influential grassroots environmental citizen groups; it operates entirely as a volunteer organization. Their mission “is to inform and educate all members of the southeast Chicagoland community, including residents, businesses, and leaders, in areas related to the improvement of our neighborhood’s environment. We strive for sustainable development of residential facilities, environmentally friendly and green business practices, and preservation of natural areas that improve the quality of life in the Calumet region.”

RU students and faculty listen to Tom Shepherd describe the history of landfills while on a SETF recycling, waste, and pollution tour for SUST 240 Waste classes this fall (M. Bryson, Oct 2014)

RU students and faculty listen to Tom Shepherd describe the history of landfills while on a SETF recycling, waste, and pollution tour for SUST 240 Waste classes this fall (M. Bryson, Oct 2014)

Among SETF’s many activities is running “Toxics to Treasures” bus tours of the industrial areas and neighborhoods on Chicago’s far South Side that highlight the area’s many landfills, power plants, industrial facilities, polluted sites (including the infamous storage piles of petcoke along the Calumet River), historic landmarks, and natural features of what was once one of the most extensive and species-rich wetland areas in the eastern US.

Please join the Roosevelt community this Wednesday at 3:30pm for an interactive conversation with Tom Shepherd in the Spertus Lounge in RU’s National Historic Landmark Auditorium Building, 430 S. Michigan Ave., room 244. Refreshments will be served!

For more information, contact Prof. Bethany Barratt, Director of the Joseph Loundy Human Rights Project ( See this flier (pdf) and the image below for future events through the Loundy Project’s “Just By Nature” series at Roosevelt this fall.

Just by Nature RU Lecture Series F14

Posted in cities, conservation, ecology, education, events, green design, planning, policy, pollution, presentations, Roosevelt, science, social justice, water