Microcosm Heads to the San Juan Islands in Washington State

This summer the adventure into the microscopic universe with the ocean continues as SUST Adjunct Professor of Sustainability Studies Michele Hoffman Trotter and crew hit the road to pursue more interviews and information for her upcoming documentary Microcosm.  Michele and her team have headed to the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Lab in the beautiful San Juan Islands of Washington State.

Hoffman portraitWhile there, Michele (pictured at right) will interview leading researchers studying the impacts of ocean acidification, evolutionary biology, and food web interactions as it relates to the base of the food web. In addition, she will visit a local shellfish farm to film the very sustainably grown oysters and clams feeding on the microcosm as they naturally filter the waters of the Puget Sound (she plans to bring Tabasco sauce).

A trip to the San Juan Islands would not be complete without an attempt to see the endangered killer whales, so Michele and crew plan to voyage out for three days by kayak in the hopes of a life altering encounter. Be sure to follow the Microcosm travel blog here!

Posted in arts, biodiversity, ecology, education, faculty, Roosevelt, science, water

NSF-STEP Summer Undergraduate Science & Math Research Symposium at RU on July 30

Here at Roosevelt next week, a science research symposium highlighting the work of 17 undergraduate researchers who have been participating in the NSF-STEP Summer Research Experience will take place Wednesday, July 30th, from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. in WB 1015 at RU’s Chicago Campus. Students will be presenting posters and short talks in the areas of biology, ecology, chemistry, environmental science, math, and pharmacy. All are welcome to attend for some or part of the afternoon. This is a great opportunity to get a glimpse of some of the research taking place in the math and science departments at RU and to support the accomplishments of the students.

For more details contact Thea Wilson, Visiting Postdoctoral Teaching Fellow and Coordinator of Science Initiatives (twilson20@roosevelt.edu)

Posted in conferences, education, events, research, Roosevelt, science, students

Environmental Justice and Sustainability in Appalachia; Beeka Quesnell Reports from Southwest VA

Beeka Q cropThis guest post is by RU undergraduate student and SUST major Beeka Quesnell, who is working as an intern at the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards (SAMS) in the coal-mining mountain region of southwest Virginia this summer. Back in Chicago, Beeka is an environmental sustainability associate with the Physical Resources Department at Roosevelt, an intern in the bird division of Field Museum of Natural History, and a student activist for environmental and social justice.

The past two weeks of interning in Virginia has brought on a lot! During the Fourth of July week the vice president of SAMS, a fellow intern, and I took a 3½ hour trip to West Virginia — more specifically, to White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia. There, we participated in a civil protest during the Greenbrier Classic, which is a part of the PGA Tour — an event supported and attended by Jim Justice, the coal baron that I mentioned in my previous post. Many people in that area see Mr. Justice as a very nice man and great community member mainly because he hosts events such as the Greenbrier, coaches the high school girls’ basketball team, and so on. They don’t, however, see that he is tearing up land in the coalfields and leaving the area in shambles when he leaves.

Beeka Quesnell in White Sulfur Springs WVaFor the protest a group of around 20 of us marched up and down the sidewalks near the event (essentially, we did a picket), held a candle-light vigil for all those who have lost their lives to coal mining, and did some small group presentations in the local library to try and get community members involved. All in all, the event was extremely empowering, mostly because it was a form of direct action and it also helped to get a couple of community members involved. For more info on the picket, check out the Justice to Justice website at www.justicetojustice.com!

Then, this past Tuesday (July 8th) I worked a table at a local farmer’s market as a part of AppalCEED — Appalachian Communities Encouraging Economic Diversity — which is a part of SAMS. To put it in simple terms, AppalCEED works on the part of SAMS’ mission statement to “help rebuild sustainable communities,” which is a very crucial step in helping communities prosper in the coalfields.

Right now we are trying to get support for a community kitchen in our county. This kitchen would allow farmers, entrepreneurs, and other individuals an area where they can prepare foods for resell. At the farmer’s market we handed out samples of cooked Pokeweed — a weed-like green that grows in this area, and that has a similar texture and taste to cooked spinach – and encouraged community members to sign our petition asking for county support for this community kitchen. Our petition was successful and so far we have gotten about 50 signatures.

Dead Hemlock

Dead hemlock (photo: B. Quesnell, 2014)

I have also had the opportunity to help with some trail clearing on the Roaring Branch Trail right outside the town I am staying in. I hiked this particular trail about a month ago and although there was some brush and a couple of trees down on the trail, it was still walkable. However, within the past couple of weeks several hemlocks have fallen onto the trail and a section has become impassable.

I was extremely surprised that this happened in such a short amount of time, but after talking to a local SAMS member it turns out that there is an invasive species called the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid that has invaded this area. This invasive species essentially sucks the “blood” of these trees, like a tick or mosquito would suck the blood of its host. Even worse, these hemlocks are some of the only ones left in this part of Appalachia. The rings were counted on one dead hemlock and the tree was nearly 300 years old. It was a really sad sight, but interesting to learn about at the same time. Overall, it was great to see all the biodiversity that was around me on that trail and to learn how one species relates and interconnects to many more in the area. To learn about this trail a little more, visit www.dgif.virginia.gov and search for “Roaring Branch Trail.”

Moth on the Trail

A moth found along the trail (photo: B. Quesnell, 2014)

The last part of my week involved the SAMS Strategic Planning Meeting. It was a six-hour meeting this past Saturday and we got a lot done as an organization. We had an outside facilitator conduct the meeting and we did it in a neutral space. Just under 15 of us attended the meeting and that included three interns, community members involved with SAMS, and also those who are a part of SAMS but not initially from this area. The purpose of this meeting (which has its second part on July 19th) is to plan for the next year. This includes going over SAMS’ funds, campaigns, and meetings. We got a lot accomplished and I expect that this next year is going to be busy and exciting all at once.

Overall, I had a couple of great opportunities to get out and about these past two weeks, and I am hoping to have that same luxury in these coming weeks, which will be my last few in Appalachia. I know that next week will consist of a few meetings and possibly a public hearing as well as possible trail clearing again. I will also be working on researching some grants that AppalCEED can apply for so that we can make this community kitchen a reality!

Beeka Quesnell, submitted 14 July 2014

Posted in conservation, education, internships, parks and public land, policy, Roosevelt, service, social justice, students

Fall 2014 Course Preview for SUST 330 Biodiversity at the Field Museum

This coming Fall 2014 semester the Sustainability Studies program will offer a special section of SUST 330 Biodiversity that will meet at the Field Museum of Natural History on Thursdays from 9am to 1pm.

Overview of SUST 330 at the Field Museum

Taught by Dr. Julian Kerbis Peterhans, professor of natural science at RU and adjunct curator of mammals at the FMNH, this course is an exceptional opportunity to learn about biodiversity, conservation, and sustainability at one of the world’s foremost natural history research museums.

The Field Museum is actually a “Library of Biodiversity” as it has been documenting plant, animal and fossil species of the world for 125 years. As Dr. Kerbis Peterhans notes, “Come join the team at the museum where you will work on these specimens: either sorting, cataloguing, photographing, drawing, databasing, or counting. Let us know if there are a particular group of plants or animals that you are interested in and we will see if we can find you a position.”

SUST major Amanda Zeigler working in the Mammals Department at the Field Museum, spring 2011

SUST alum (BPS ’12) Amanda Zeigler working in the Mammals Department at the Field Museum in the spring of 2011

SUST 330 includes weekly seminar-style class meetings where students discuss readings and hear from scientists working on biodiversity research in a variety of fields. They then work individually with a scientist in one of the many laboratories/collection departments of the museum, based on their individual interests. Several RU students have secured short-term paid positions following their successful experiences in this course, and two are currently employed on a year-round basis.

For additional information about SUST 330 at the Field Museum, please contact Dr. Kerbis Peterhans (jkerbis@fieldmuseum.org).

Course Registration Information

  • Title/number: SUST 330 Biodiversity (section 01)
  • Semester offered: Fall 2014
  • Location: Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago (map here)
  • Day/time: Thursday 9am-1pm
  • Start date: 28 Aug 2014
  • Pre-req: UWR

SUST majors and minors may take this class to fulfill an upper-level SUST requirement, but 330 also is open to students at large who need a general education course or desire elective credit. It also counts toward the Environmental Science minor for BIOL and CHEM majors.


Posted in biodiversity, conservation, courses, education, faculty, museums, research, Roosevelt, science, students

Student Interns in Environmental Sustainability Install Drip Irrigation System at RU’s Community Garden

As reported here by SUST major Mary Beth Radeck on the Schaumburg’s Sustainable Future blog, students and staff at RU’s Schaumburg Campus installed a drip irrigation system in late June for the RU Community Garden, now in its third growing season. Students working as paid environmental sustainability interns with the university Physical Resources and Operations department, under the supervision of Assistant VP Paul Matthews, planned this system over the last two years and installed it with the help of Pedro Perez, chief engineer at the Schaumburg Campus.

Kudos to sustainability interns Mary Beth Radeck, Mary Rasic, and Kevin Matthews for their great work on this cool project!

Drip irrigation system at the RU Community Garden, awaiting tubing to deliver water directly to plants (photo: M. Radeck)

Drip irrigation system at the RU Community Garden, awaiting tubing to deliver water directly to plants (photo: M. Radeck)

Posted in agriculture, education, green design, internships, news, Roosevelt, students, suburbs, water

SUST Prof Julian Kerbis Peterhans Presents Conservation Research in the National Museums of Kenya

SUST prof Julian Kerbis Peterhans recently returned from 10 days in Kenya where he presented two papers and a video during the first-ever conference on “African Large Carnivores: Impacts on Ecosystems and Human Interactions.” The event was held at the National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi.

Nairobi Natl MuseumKerbis Peterhans’ first presentation discussed his recently co-published, multi-authored paper in the esteemed conservation journal Oryx: “The Potential Distribution of the Vulnerable African Lion in the Face of Changing Global Climate.” This paper predicts that, under three differing emissions scenarios, large areas of southern Africa and west Africa will become far less suitable for lions over the next four decades. Further, climate change will have major impacts on their prey base even in the heart of lion distribution (eastern Africa), in particular the well-known prey migratory routes which are impacted by temperature and rainfall. Also, it is recognized that during times of drought, lions are more prone to attack livestock, a situation leading to their demise; this impact will be exacerbated by climate change.

Kerbis Peterhans’ second presentation summarized his earlier work (with colleague Tom Gnoske of the Field Museum in Chicago) on the causes of man-eating behavior among lions, with reference to the infamous “Man-eating Lions of Tsavo” that have been showcased at the Field Museum since 1925. Finally, Kerbis Peterhans concluded with a screening of Bill Kurtis’ documentary footage from his and Gnoske’s discovery of an active lion’s den in the Kyambura Gorge of western Uganda. This was of interest to the audience as part of the symposium addressed the behavior and diversity of lions and large carnivores in the past. Caves are areas where lions and early peoples may have had long standing conflicts and where both species operated and were more likely to have been preserved as fossils.

Kerbis Peterhans then visited longtime colleague Dr. Tom Butynski, who is running conservation, wildlife and sustainability activities at the Lolldaiga Group Ranch on the Laikipia Plateau of Kenya. Butynski is spearheading efforts to coordinate efforts in livestock husbandry, scientific research and ecotourism. He and Kerbis Peterhans discussed the prospect of a Sustainability Studies field program in the future at this fascinating location.

As a professor of natural science and sustainability studies in RU’s College of Professional Studies and an adjunct curator of mammals at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Kerbis Peterhans has long conducted scientific and conservation research in central Africa. He spent the 2012-13 academic year as a Fulbright Scholar at Makerere University (Kampala, Uganda, eastern Africa), one of the premier sub-Saharan academic institutions.

Julian Kerbis Peterhans working in the mammals lab at the Field Museum in ChicagoKerbis Peterhans engaged in training African students in biodiversity survey techniques, as well as documenting the biodiversity of mid-elevation forest ecoystems in Uganda. This project followed on the heels of a five-year award from the MacArthur Foundation in the mid-1990s, when Kerbis Peterhans contributed to a program to train over 60 African students in similar techniques in Ugandan National Parks.

Posted in biodiversity, conferences, conservation, ecology, faculty, museums, presentations, publications, Roosevelt, science, wildlife

SUST Major Beeka Quesnell Reports on Her Summer Internship in Southwest Virginia

This guest post is by RU undergraduate student and SUST major Beeka Quesnell, who is working as an intern at the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards in the coal-mining mountain region of southwest Virginia this summer. Back in Chicago, Beeka is an environmental sustainability associate with the Physical Resources Department at Roosevelt, an intern in the bird division of Field Museum of Natural History, and a student activist for environmental and social justice.

Photo by B. Quesnell, 2014

Photo by B. Quesnell, 2014

Cultural shock can be defined as “the personal disorientation a person may feel when experiencing an unfamiliar way of life due to immigration or a visit to a new country, a move between social environments, or simply travel to another type of life” (Wikipedia). For a long while I didn’t realize that this was a phenomenon that could occur within a move in the same country. But this came to light for me when I moved from Chicago, IL to Appalachia (pronounced as Ap Uh Latch Uh), VA. Despite the cultural shock that I have experienced, much more has happened and it has all been very positive! I have met amazing, dedicated and incredible people in this region of the country where there is a struggle going on between keeping coal around and protecting this region’s beautiful mountains that provide a quality of life to many people in the area.

A strip-mined mountain in southwest VA (R. Quesnell, 2014)

A strip-mined mountain in southwest VA (R. Quesnell, 2014)

I am interning with SAMS — the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards — a non-profit “organization of concerned community members and their allies who are working to stop the destruction of our communities by surface coal mining, to improve the quality of life in our area, and to help rebuild sustainable communities.”

Since I have been in Appalachia for nearly a month and a half now, I have seen various components of this mission statement set to action. I have seen community members and those from various organizations, based both locally and nationally, fight together to stop the destruction being faced in coalfield communities such as Appalachia. I have also seen the effort going into restoring this beautiful area of our country, for reclamation has to follow such destruction in order to keep the area vitalized and whole. I’ve seen such beauty while canoeing, hiking, and camping and especially while attending the Mountain Justice Summer Camp, where dozens of activists came together to partake in a week-long camp featuring various workshops to help teach us and sharpen our skills in our organizing around both social and environmental issues, or even both at the same time since they greatly interlink.

So far my duties as an intern have varied greatly, but they have all contributed to the larger goal and mission of SAMS. For the first couple weeks, aside from getting settled and acclimated, I went to the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy to retrieve several different permits. SAMS could request the permits, but the costs associated are a lot compared to putting in our own hours into pulling the permits ourselves. This task has included pulling permits, inspections, complaints, notice of violations, and cessation orders.

All of this helpful in the larger scheme of things because it contributes to when SAMS takes out lawsuits on these coal companies and holds organizations such as the DMME and the Office of Surface Mining (OSM), etc. accountable for properly regulating these coal companies. I have also attended several meetings including our very own SAMS member and board meetings as well as AppalCEED meetings — Appalachian Communities Encouraging Economic Diversity — which is a campaign of SAMS; and I have also attended some informal public hearings on related issues.

SAMS Protest in southwest VA (B. Quesnell, 2014)

SAMS Protest in southwest VA (B. Quesnell, 2014)

It is sad to think that I only have a month left here in Appalachia, but I feel that this work and type of environment that I have been experiencing and living in has greatly impacted me in many positive ways. I am going to miss everyone I am currently working with, such as those in the picture to the left. (I was there for this small protest, but I was the one who took the picture.) The protest was held at the A & G coal company office in Wise, VA and we were there to deliver 300 petitions asking Jim Justice — a billionaire “coal baron” — to clean up his act. This act was a part of SAMS and their Justice2Justice campaign. For more information on this campaign I urge you to visit http://www.justicetojustice.com/.

I am not sure what the coming weeks will bring, but I am anticipating some meetings, more time to focus on writing a grant, and a great deal of fun to hopefully include a few hikes as well!

Posted in conservation, economics, education, health, internships, pollution, Roosevelt, social justice, students