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Sustainability at Wake Forest

Posts Tagged ‘CEES’

Visible Entanglements: Plastic, Art, and Advocacy

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Join ICE, Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies, and CEES in welcoming Dr. Jennifer Wagner-Lawlor, an associate professor of Women’s Studies and English at Penn State University. Dr. Wagner-Lawlor is an avid environmental advocate and activist concerning plastic pollution and its creative transformation into works of art which will result in a new book entitled: Visible Entanglements: Art, Advocacy, and the Ecological Aesthetics of Found Plastic Art.

Beholding Nature: The Ecology of Beauty in Japanese Woodblock Prints

Sunday, February 2nd, 2014

The Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability (CEES) faculty member, David Phillips, Ph.D., Wake Forest University, joins The Weatherspoon Art Museum for a Sunday afternoon lecture, Beholding Nature: The Ecology of Beauty in Japanese Woodblock Prints, concurrent with the exhibition Bugs, Beasts and Blossoms: Japanese Woodblock Prints from the Dr. Lenoir C. Wright Collection on view at the Weatherspoon through April 13th.

Master of Arts in Sustainability

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

A new Master of Arts in Sustainability offered by Wake Forest’s Center for Energy, Environment & Sustainability (CEES) will give students and early to mid-career professionals the diverse skillset they need to carve out a place in the burgeoning global sustainability marketplace.

The MA in Sustainability is a distinctive interdisciplinary one-year program that combines coursework in the social sciences, humanities, natural sciences, management and law. The program is currently accepting applicants for the Fall 2014 semester. Read more…

Technology Council Speaker Series

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

Professor of Biology Miles Silman will speak on how sustainability can drive the local economy at an event held by the Technology Council of the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce as part of “Real-World Sustainability in Winston-Salem: Solving Today’s Environmental and Energy Challenges.”

The future of Andean and Amazonian biodiversity

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

Join us on Wednesday, October 9th at 4pm in Winston Hall, Room 126 for a lecture by  Professor of Biology and CEES Director Miles Silman.  Silman will speak about Earth’s  biological diversity and how many crucial ecosystem services are being harbored in
tropical forests, chief among them the vast forests of the Andes and Amazon.  But how these forests respond to climate changes remains unclear. This talk will look at the challenges facing Andean and Amazonian forests, and how species have responded to climate change in the past, how they are responding now, and what we might expect the
fate of Andean and Amazonian forests to be in the future.

Where are they now: Allie Gruber

Friday, June 14th, 2013
Photo courtesy of Allie Gruber

Photo courtesy of Allie Gruber

Allie Gruber (’13) knew she had a vague interest in sustainability when she boarded a plane bound for Peru in early June, following her sophomore year at Wake Forest University.  She had no idea, however, that upon her return she would dedicate the remainder of her undergraduate career to learning about and advocating for the natural world.  Her impressive list of sustainability credentials includes undergraduate research, two internships, and, perhaps most impressively, a tireless, personal peer outreach campaign.

Allie made her pivotal trip to the Amazon through the Wake Forest Tropical Diversity Program, a month-long study abroad opportunity offered by the biology department.  The field program offers an in-depth exploration of biodiversity, which introduces students to the complex ecosystems of the tropics through hands-on learning.  Allie remembers her study abroad experience in vivid detail, from her flight into Lima where the class studied the coast’s unique desert ecosystem to her second flight across the mountain range into Cuzco where she and her peers fought altitude sickness before taking a nine hour hike into the amazon basin.  She recalls the hundreds of native hummingbird species her professors asked her to look out for on bird watching expeditions and well recalls the Manu research station, where she and her research partners, Chris Bobbitt (’12) and Brad Shugoll (’13) conducted original research.

This program, which highlights both the beauty and the vulnerability of some of the world’s last undeveloped landscapes “really turned me towards sustainability,” explains Allie.   However, she emphasizes that her transformation wasn’t merely about the setting. Being in Peru helped, she explains, but “it was really the professors.”  In particular, Dr. Miles Silman, Director of the Center for Energy, Environment, Sustainability, inspired Allie’s budding environmental interests.  She says “he is so charismatic, it is contagious.  He really got me excited about the environment.”

Dr. Silman mentored Allie as she continued to explore sustainability through the lens of the life sciences.  Under his direction, she and fellow students conducted a feasibility analysis for conch farming as a means of economic development and collected relevant research on coral reefs for one of his courses.  Allie finished her studies a semester early, and upon graduating last fall, she spent what would have been the spring semester of her senior year assisting Dr. Silman with the early phases of a biochar research project.  Biochar is an organic fertilizer that increases the productivity of the soil while sequestering carbon from the atmosphere.  The material, essentially charcoal, forms through pyrolysis, a high-heat anaerobic conversion process.   As Allie explains, biochar offers the dual advantage of being both “an organic alternative [to conventional fertilizer] and helping with the fight against global climate change.”

Allie has used what she learned from Dr. Silman in the classroom and the laboratory to explain relevant issues to her friends and to convince them to adopt sustainable behaviors.  Though she modestly deems herself “the token tree-hugger of the group,” she has seen results from her consistent, positive persuasion. “I get texts all the time, like ‘I refilled my reusable water bottle at the water bottle-refilling station, it’s so cool!’ I tell them, yeah it is cool! Do it every day.”

Allie’s informal peer outreach was usually one-on-one, but last fall Allie used her position as the membership development chair for her sorority Delta Delta Delta to arrange for her entire chapter to attend a screening of 11th Hour hosted by Greeks Go Green.  Throughout the film she got texts from her sorority sisters, asking if the films messages about ecosystem collapse were true.  One friend sent a text demanding that Allie switch seats mid-film so she could explain the Coriolis Effect (a phenomenon caused by the Earth’s rotation).  Allie complied, whispering quietly to her friend and scribbling diagrams of the Earth on the back of scratch paper.

Allie also gained two professional experiences relating to sustainability, serving as an intern for both Environment America’s Research and Policy Center in Washington, DC and Wake Forest’s Office of Energy Management.  Allie’s internship at Environment America, through the Wake Washington program, gave her valuable experience in communicating research results and in understanding how non-profit organizations operate.  As the intern for the Office of Energy Management, Allie and her co-intern Joey Matt (’13) planned Energy Bowl 2012.

Through her work with the Office of Energy Management, Allie met Dedee DeLongpre-Johnston, a second figure who impacted her aspirations for the future.  DeLongpre-Johnston, the Director of the Office of Sustainability, pointed out to Allie that every environmental problem is also a social problem.  Allie reports that this insight is leading her to pursue an explicitly humanitarian path.  In addition to helping Allie make the connection between the social and environmental, she says DeLongpre-Johnston also taught her the importance of professionalism and organization.  Allie says “Dedee taught me that it is one thing to be passionate and excited, but without a plan you really don’t get much done.”

Allie’s plan is to pursue further education, but her next step won’t be a linear extension of her undergraduate academic career.  With a strong foundation in the science behind sustainability already, Allie is planning to incorporate other influences into her education by pursuing an MA in Management at Wake Forest this fall.  She says “being fluent in other areas, such as business, will help me bring the environmental aspect into those fields.”  Wherever she goes, Allie knows she will carry the benefits of a balanced and engaged Wake Forest experience.  She reaped the benefits of mentoring relationships with faculty and staff who invested in her development and, in turn, she is focusing on paying those benefits forward by serving as a positive influence for her peers.

Written by Annabel Lang, Wake Forest  Fellow for the Office of Sustainability

ROV Supports Diving Deacons

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

ROV2Professor of biology Miles Silman and undergraduate student Max Messinger are producing an unmanned submarine, also known as an ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle), for use in the study of aquatic ecology and oceanography. The ROV is a small, low-cost, and easy to operate tool which can be used to study the underwater environment in places where first-person observation is either difficult or dangerous. The ROV can dive to depths in excess of 300 feet, operate in total darkness, function in extremely cold water and can do so for up to 2 hours at a time, all while transmitting live video to the surface.

The design of the ROV is from OpenROV, a free and open-source project founded with the goal of providing researchers and laypeople with a low-cost ROV solution. The plans are openly available online, which allows individuals to modify the plans as necessary to cater the equipment to their needs. In addition to its camera and lights, the ROV can be equipped with a variety of additional equipment capable of taking water samples, testing water quality, collecting wildlife, and collecting sediment samples. These additions make the ROV a robust tool for studying a variety of aquatic habitats.

The ROV’s first deployment will be at Lighthouse Reef, an atoll off the coast of Belize and part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, over spring break. This trip will provide an opportunity to study a wide variety of aquatic environments including mangrove forests, the shallow reef lagoon, the reef surrounding the atoll, and the infamous Great Blue Hole. The Great Blue Hole is a 407-foot deep sinkhole in the reef. Jacques Cousteau was the first to reach the bottom of the hole in 1971, diving in dangerous conditions using advanced equipment and techniques. The ROV will explore the depths of the blue hole making visual observations as well as collecting data about the water column and sediments. This information will provide valuable insight into the nature of this unique marine environment.

After exploring Lighthouse Reef, the ROV will continue to be used to further research on the forefront of conservation science. With global climate change threatening to fundamentally change our world’s oceans through coral bleaching, ocean acidification, and sea level rise, the study of coral reefs, near-shore environments, and open-ocean has never been more important. With the ability to observe our oceans in greater detail, we are able to learn more about how our oceans work and make better, more-informed decisions about how to protect our environment.

By Max Messinger, WFU Class of 2013

Save the Date: Christine Todd Whitman

Sunday, September 18th, 2011

September 19, 2011 at 7 p.m. in the Kulynych Auditorium in the Byrum Welcome and Admissions Center

The lecture, titled “Bi-Partisan Leadership in Today’s Environment: Substance or Sound Bite,” will be presented by Christine Todd Whitman, former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and former governor of New Jersey.

Whitman is the president of The Whitman Strategy Group (WSG), a consulting firm that specializes in energy and environmental issues. WSG offers a comprehensive set of solutions to problems facing businesses, organizations and governments; they have been at the forefront of helping leading companies find innovative solutions to environmental challenges.

Read more….

Faces of Sustainability: Miles Silman

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

As a conservation biologist researching biodiversity in the Amazon Rain Forest, Professor of Biology, Miles Silman, has been a de facto part of the sustainability movement since beginning work on his doctorate nearly two decades ago. Yet he admits that he “just didn’t get it” until a confluence of events made him see his research and human impact on the planet in a new light.

“When I came to the university in the fall of 1998, I was working on species distribution and biodiversity in the Amazon, but I never connected it with the wide-scale events that are happening in the world,” he said. “It’s hard for people to connect the things that they work on with these larger processes.”

In 2002, at a 50,000 year-old lake in the Peruvian Amazon, Silman and his colleagues constructed the past climate of the lake through examination of the changing biodiversity as seen in the fossil record. The biodiversity of the lake had changed in synchrony with the climate for millions of years. If species diversity changes were to keep up with projected climate change patterns, species would have to migrate 30 times faster than they had in the past. The results of this research were published in Science and were used to brief Senator John McCain in 2004 for the senate hearings on climate.

Around the same time, Silman and his wife, Alycia, moved to a small farm in Yadkin County, NC where they raised cows, chickens, pigs and goats. Here, they tried to live Silman’s personal take on sustainability: “living in the world, but not using it up.”

It was in the rolling hills of the Piedmont, far from the exotic Amazon rainforest he’d dreamed of exploring as a child, that Silman had the most profound and simple realization, “Animals eat, and that eating has consequences” he said. “And changing anything about an ecosystem – trees, plants, animals, temperature, water – the system changes.”

The realization brought his personal commitment to sustainable farming and his professional career as a leading conservation biologist together in a new way. His research focus shifted to species response to climate change. Together with a group of sustainability-minded faculty, he helped found the Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability (CEES) last fall. The interdisciplinary center promotes critical thinking and effective action across the fields of renewable energy, biodiversity and ecosystem conservation, environmental policy, human behavior, social influence, enterprise, and environmental markets.

His work as the center’s director has furthered his understanding of the systemic nature of the sustainability movement. “I now see the other facets,” he said. “I’m still dense about parts of it, but the CEES faculty members are all exploring different angles on the same problems. Coming from a science background, I have a natural interest in energy and technology, but we can have all the science and technological solutions possible and it doesn’t matter if we don’t understand people. Realizing that has been the most important thing for me.”

When not conducting research and working with CEES, Silman spends much of his time communicating the importance of an interdisciplinary approach to sustainability to his students in the classroom and on field studies to the Andes. Through his courses, he tries to convey a message: “What you do matters. Be engaged; there are many different ways to be engaged. There is not one way to be sustainable,” he said. “But whatever you do, wherever you do it, you have to be mindful.”

By Caitlin Brooks, Wake Forest Fellow

Safina lecture kicks off first CEES Series

Monday, March 21st, 2011

Students, faculty and community members packed Pugh Auditorium for Dr. Carl Safina’s February 23 lecture on the state of the world’s oceans. Safina is a leader in science and policy regarding oceans and was a central voice in the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. He leads the Blue Ocean Institute, testifies before the U.S. Congress on fisheries issues, and lectures extensively across the country.

His career grew out of a childhood obsession. “I am a guy who likes to go fishing and that’s more or less who I’ve been from a very young age.” During graduate school, the Long Island, NY native pursued studies of terns. “They (terns) gave me a lot….In pursuit of terns and fish, I started realizing that the ocean was changing.”

Audience members left the auditorium ready for action. “One of my colleagues walked out and said ‘we’ve got work to do,’” Miles Silman, co-founder of the Center for Energy Environment and Sustainability (CEES) and associate biology professor, said. “And that’s really the point of the whole series. You have to see that there is an issue before you devote your time to fixing it.”

Safina’s lecture was just one of several introductions to environmental issues that the first-ever CEES Series hopes to provide. Through lectures and other activities such as a Meadow Restoration roundtable, Silman and the more than 60 members of CEES are trying to lay the groundwork for future action.

“Lecturers like Bill McKibben (who will speak in Wait Chapel on April 26) explain it how it is. We have this planet as it exists, not as we want it to exist. We need to work with what we have,” Silman said.

The lessons from the CEES Series are by no means directed solely at the university community. Strategies are in place to promote attendance by as many members of the wider Winston-Salem community as possible, as well as members of other universities.

“In a way we are saying ‘come to the table, here’s the playing field,’” Silman said. “These are the ideas that are shaping the movements in environment, energy and sustainability. We’ve set it up so that you are pretty much guaranteed to disagree with something we present.”

By Caitlin Brooks, Communications and Outreach Intern

Become part of the CEES Series, lookout for these great opportunities:

Meadow Management and Prairie Restoration Working Group, April 1, 9:00 a.m., Reynolda Gardens Green House:

The public is invited to participate in an examination and discussion of issues related to constructing and maintaining a Piedmont prairie, using the conversion of the historic Golf Links at Reynolda to a managed meadow as a case study. Speakers include representatives from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Piedmont Land Conservancy, NCDENR, Forsyth County Environmental Affairs, and Forsyth County Audubon Society. Free; registration requested, contact (336) 758-5593.

Bill McKibben, April 26, 6:30 p.m., Wait Chapel:

Bill McKibben is one of America’s best known environmentalists. As a bestselling author, he has written books that have shaped public perception and public action on climate change, alternative energy, and the need for more localized economies. He will discuss his latest book, Earth, and the impact of local farmers, gardeners, and food vendors on human health, the economy, society, and the environment.

Christine Todd Whitman, September 19, 7:00 p.m., Welcome Center Auditorium:

Christine Todd Whitman is an author who served as the 50th Governor of New Jersey. Whitman also served as the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under President George W. Bush in the aftermath of 9/11. Much of Whitman’s work with the EPA was focused on global warming research, drinking water standards, and air quality in New York City in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., October 6, 7:00 p.m., Wait Chapel:

Mr. Kennedy is the Chief Prosecuting Attorney for the Hudson Riverkeeper and President of Waterkeeper Alliance. He was named one of Time’s “Heroes for the Planet” for his success helping Riverkeeper lead the fight to restore the Hudson River. Mr. Kennedy is a graduate of Harvard University and has a law degree from the University of Virginia Law School and a Masters Degree in Environmental Law from Pace University School of Law.