Fall 2015 SUST Student Symposium: Glaciers in Iceland, Sustainability in Chicago

This past week, the Sustainability Studies Program at Roosevelt University hosted its biannual symposium of student research in RU’s LEED Gold-certified Wabash Building at 425 S. Wabash Ave. in downtown Chicago (room WB 1015). Three seniors in Roosevelt’s SUST program shared their recent internship, study abroad, and urban landscape exploration experiences in a forum open to all RU students, faculty, and staff as well as the general public. We had an enthusiastic crowd as well as phenomenal views of Grant Park and the city’s lakefront for our 4th symposium!

SUST major Shannon Conway in Copenhagen, Denmark, Summer 2015

Leading off our slate of presenters was Shannon Conway, a senior SUST major who tranferred to Roosevelt in Fall 2014. During the summer of 2015, she took a class on glaciology and climate change through the Danish Institute for Study Abroad in Denmark that included a week-long field study session in Iceland. Shannon is also working during the Fall 2015 semester as an Environmental Sustainability Associate in RU’s Department of Physical Resources. Among her duties is managing the Chicago Campus Rooftop Garden and assisting in the development of the new Roosevelt Urban Sustainability Lab.

Shannon’s presentation described her experiences in Scandinavia learning about the impacts of climate change on the sub-polar landscape first hand. The effects of a warming earth on Iceland, a land shaped by geothermal activity and glaciation, demonstrate that changes wrought by rising average surface temperatures are not theoretical, but altogether real. Check out Shannon’s presentation here (pdf, 2.8MB).

Group photo of Shannon's class while retreating down the Svínafellsjökull Glacier. The weather was unusually hot and we needed to take off many layers of clothing. My professor, an expert glaciologist, claimed that was the warmest glacier hike she had ever been on.

Group photo of Shannon’s class while retreating down the Svínafellsjökull Glacier. The weather was unusually hot and they needed to take off many layers of clothing. Her professor, an expert glaciologist, claimed that was the warmest glacier hike she had ever been on.

Laura Miller Hill M15Our second speaker was Laura Miller Hill is a returning adult undergraduate student at Roosevelt University, where she is a senior Sustainability Studies major. Laura spent her 2015 summer and early fall working as a Keller Science Action Center intern at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago under the supervision of Sustainability Manager Carter O’Brien. As she describes here in a series of engaging and informative essays for this blog, Miller Hill’s primary job was to take facts, stories and general information regarding sustainability initiatives throughout the museum and consolidate them into webpages that are both educational and easily understood by people who visit the Museum’s A Greener Field website.

The Field Museum’s Edible Treasures Garden and friend (photo: L. Miller Hill 2015)

The Field Museum’s Edible Treasures Garden and friend (photo: L. Miller Hill 2015)

Through interviews of scientists and practitioners within and beyond the Field Museum, Laura documented how the museum achieved LEED-Gold certification for its national historic landmark facility, revamped its restaurants to serve more sustainable food to staff and visitors, improved its waste management practice to include large-scale food waste composting, developed an award-winning culture of active transportation for its employees, and cultivated a culture of sustainability through its community garden and related enterprises. Check out Laura’s presentation slides here (pdf, 714KB).

Karen CraigOur final presenter for the afternoon was SUST senior Karen Craig, who reported on her work in the inaugural section of Prof. Mike Bryson’s SUST 390 special topics course, Writing Urban Nature. This experimental field-intensive class took place over a two-week period last May and consisted of five full days’ worth of exploring different natural areas within the city and suburbs of Chicago, discussing a wide variety of readings on the natural and human elements of the urban landscape, and developing an image-rich original work of urban nature writing.

Inspired by online projects in the environmental humanities such as the City Creatures and The Nature of Cities blogs, Karen and her fellow students crafted their own perspectives on the interaction of people and nature in the Chicago region. These writings are now part of the newly-created Writing Urban Nature Project, co-edited by fellow SUST senior Tiffany Mucci. Karen adapted her work of creative non-fiction, a photo essay entitled “I Know It When I See It,” for the symposium as a means of representing the incredible diversity of landscapes, ecosystems, and plant communities within Chicago, the NW suburb of Schaumburg, and various sites in Will County. Karen’s slides are here in pdf format (11MB).

Craig image 1 Montrose Point

Montrose Point, Chicago IL (K. Craig, May 2015)

Thanks to all who attended our Fall 2015 SUST Student Symposium and to the RU Physical Resources Department staff who provided refreshments and logistics. Stay tuned for next spring’s event during Earth Week in April, which will feature more student internship/research presentations on a variety of sustainability topics!

Links to past Symposia:

  • Symposium 1.1 (Fall 2013): Alison Breeding, Kyle Huff, Ron Taylor
  • Symposium 1.2 (Spring 2014): Colleen Dennis, Jordan Ewbank, Mary Beth Radeck
  • Symposium 2.1 (Spring 2015): Melanie Blume, Rebecca Quesnell, Mary Rasic, Emily Rhea
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