Author: Patrick Mckee

ELAs Recognize Leaders of Environmental GenEd & Metanoia

The movers and shakers of UConn’s first-ever Environmental Metanoia and new Environmental Literacy General Education requirement swept the 2017-2018 UConn Environmental Leadership Awards (ELAs). Metanoia

Co-Winners in the Faculty Category, Jack Clausen, Scott Wallace (accepting for Dave Wagner) and Carol Atkinson- Palombo, receive their ELA trophies from Rich Miller and Greg Anderson

Hosted on April, 4th at the UConn Foundation, the 6th biennial award ceremony recognized a variety of prominent environmental achievements led by faculty, staff, students, and external partners. Most notably was the successful student-faculty led push for the establishment of an Environmental Literacy GenEd requirement—which was approved by the University and will be in place for the fall 2019 semester requiring that all students take at least one course with an environmental focus. It also highlighted UConn’s first-ever Metanoia on the Environment, which featured 44 events held throughout the 2018 spring semester. While these initiatives involved dozens of individuals and groups, a handful of standout students and faculty helped lead these charges into fruition. Amongst these include several ELA award winners.

 


2017 – 2018 ELA Winners

 

Dr. John (Jack) Clausen

  • Winner, Faculty Category
  • Professor, Department of Natural Resources & the Environment
  • Co-Chair, Metanoia on the Environment
  • Co-Chair, Environmental Literacy Workgroup

 

 

Dr. David L. Wagner

  • Winner, Faculty Category
  • Director, Center for Conservation and Biodiversity and Professor, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
  • Co-Chair, Metanoia on the Environment
  • Co-Chair Environmental Literacy Workgroup

 

 

Dr. Carol Atkinson-Palombo

  • Winner, Faculty Category
  • Associate Professor, Geography & Director, Environmental Studies Program
  • Chair, General Education Environmental Literacy Task Force for UConn Senate
  • Funding Sub-Committee Chair, Environmental Metanoia

 

 

Benjamin Breslau

  • Winner, Undergraduate Student Category
  • Class of 2018, B.S. Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
  • Student Co-Chair for the Environmental Metanoia
  • Student Chair, Environmental Literacy Workgroup and Environmental Metanoia
  • SURF Award Recipient
  • Undergraduate Researcher in the Rittenhouse Lab
  • Office of Sustainability Intern (2015-2018)
  • UConn@COP22 Fellow
  • VP, ECOalition
  • Project Lead, HEEP Signage & Trail Dedication Ceremony

 

Dr. John Volin

  • Special Recognition
  • Vice Provost for Academic Affairs
  • Founded the Natural Resources Conservation Academy (NRCA), as NRE Department Head
  • Instrumental leader and champion among UConn’s senior administrators for the Environmental Metanoia, Environmental Literacy Gen Ed, and creation of the new UConn Institute for the Environment

 

Georgia Hernandez-Corrales

  • Winner, Graduate Student Category
  • Class of 2019, M.S. Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
  • Conducts research on plant physiology and global warming
  • Communicates research to rural communities in Costa Rica
  • Awarded NSF-Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation – Research Fellowships
  • Founder of Brenesii – a Social Enterprise, focused on activities that combine science communication and outreach for individuals in marginalized communities

 

Len Oser

  • Winner, Staff Category
  • Instrumental in launching EcoCoin program at the Bookstore
  • 12,000 bags have been avoided and $600 was raised for various charities
  • Host to the annual Eversource Energy Efficiency Outreach Event and LED Desklamp Promotion during Move In/Week of Welcome at the UConn Bookstore
  • Expanded to regional campuses in March 2019

 

EcoHusky Student Group

  • Winner, UConn Group Category
  • Leads student sustainability engagement & outreach
  • Volunteered at Green Game Days, campus clean-ups, HEEP trail clearing, Celebrate Mansfield Festival, and the Hartford Marathon each year
  • Hosts campus environmental film screenings
  • Oversees Recycling Patrol, Stop the Drop, and plastic film/bags collection initiatives

 

Quantum Biopower

  • Winner, External Group Category
  • Partnership with UConn to send all the food waste from the dining halls, diverting thousands of pounds of food each week
  • Biogas created by the anaerobic digestion converted to electricity
  • Participates in education outreach with the community

 

 

 

Below is the complete list of all individuals and groups who were recognized at the 2017-2018 ELAs:

Recognizing Cherie Taylor for 20 Years of Service to UConn

Congratulations to Cherie Taylor for celebrating 20 years at UConn this year!  I’m fortunate that 15 of them have been in her role as my Administrative Coordinator, and as the office manager and “mater familiae” for the OEP, which was recently reconfigured and refocused as UConn’s Sustainability Office.  She’s been the perfect complement to me as Director, given my skill set and management style, and has helped our office make a positive difference, not only for the University, but also (as you can see by the testaments below) in the lives of the staff and students who have worked here over the years.  Happy Administrative Professionals Day, Cherie!  Thanks for all you do.  – Rich Miller, Director, Office of Sustainability

“Cherie is our #1 supporter, and will do anything to help us out in anyway that she can, and that does not go unnoticed. In and out of the office, Cherie always has out backs. One time, I needed to print a poster for a research presentation, and I didn’t realize I had to submit the request so far in advance. Cherie called the Print Shop and had the order rushed, and because of her I had my poster printed on time. That is just one of the ways Cherie goes above and beyond to help out the interns in the office.” – Caroline Anastasia

“Cherie is absolutely magical. If any intern comes to her with a tough problem that they have been unable to solve, she swoops in to fix it with no expectations greater than a thank you. Her care for the well-being of the people in her life is made abundantly clear every day when I walk into work and see some kind of snack or baked good ready to save me if I’ve had to skip lunch.” – Emma MacDonald

“If our office was a plant, Cherie would be the entire root system. She ultimately holds together the office, connects us with so many other departments on campus, and provides us with the information, motivation, and accountability we need. Roots grow and make new connections. Cherie makes things happen and knows exactly who, how, and when to do all that she does. I have never heard or seen anyone get things done faster than Cherie does. Roots also store energy and nutrients for the plant for future use. Cherie stores years of experience and knowledge – not just about the office and this campus community, but also about life. Thank you, Cherie, for giving your advice to us. Although roots may not be seen from an outside view, they are so vital for growth, beauty, and life of the plant. Thank you for being our roots and dedicating so much for the office, we appreciate you!” – Mara Tu

“Cherie is a force of nature and she makes things happen! She is such an important part of keeping the office running. She consistently goes above and beyond to make sure that everything is done right and that everyone in the office takes care of themselves.” – Charlotte Rhodes

“Cherie always takes the time to notice the little things that make people happy and often uses this knowledge to brighten people’s days when they need it the most, whether it’s bringing in snacks, making a pot of coffee, or complimenting someone’s outfit.  Additionally, Cherie always has everyone in the office’s best interests in mind by expecting a high standard from us, but also remaining understanding and going above and beyond to deliver whenever we need her help.  She definitely is the mother of the office, and we are all grateful for the care she takes to help make the OEP such a wonderful place to work.” – Jon Ursillo

“Cherie has been a steady presence in the office since my first day on the job, and my experience at the OEP has been made that much better for this. Cherie has always made me feel welcomed and appreciated in the office, and clearly cares about the interns and our well-being. She has so much faith in our success, and has helped me feel better on multiple stressed or sad occasions. I am also quite confident that the office would not have achieved half of what we’ve accomplished if it weren’t for Cherie keeping us all on track.” – Sophie MacDonald

“Thank you for always being our greatest advocate, for guiding us with encouragement, and for the care you have shown each of us both during and after our time at the OEP.” – Christen Bellucci (’18)

“Cherie runs a tight but loving ship. She’s always willing to lend support to anyone that needs it and if Cherie’s on the case, best believe things get done!” – Rose Croog (’17)

“Cherie treats us like we’re her own family, always has our back no matter what, and teaches us some super valuable life lessons – like pushing in your chair and not putting pictures of monkeys on your resume!” – Katie Mae Main (’18)

“Cherie is amazing! She made me feel so welcomed from our very first phone conversation during my hiring process. I’m so thankful to have been a part of the OEP group and gotten to know her. Congratulations on 20 years! ” – Jennifer Williams

“Cherie has been a rock for me at OEP through the many years and many changes. With her heart of gold she has always put others ahead of herself.  She supported me through my almost 13 years here and helped me navigate the UConn culture.  She also had the knack of finding leftover meeting food for me which is always welcomed and appreciated. – Paul Ferri, EH&S Manager

“Whether you go to Cherie for advice on department operations, the inside scoop on UConn administrative changes, or a confidential chat on a personal matter, you always know you’ll get a straight answer, the wisdom of a sage, and just enough sarcastic humor to spice things up.  Thanks for all you do Cherie.  And since I am POSITIVE we cannot convince you to stay on another 10 or 15 years, good luck wherever in the world your future takes you.” – Jim Hutton, Environmental Compliance Specialist

Cherie is undoubtedly the glue that keeps UConn’s high achieving sustainability program together. Her organization, persistence, and wealth of institutional knowledge impresses me every day!  The personal investment Cherie makes toward supporting our student interns is what truly separates her in my opinion. We rely heavily on and have high expectations of our student sustainability interns. Cherie does anything she can to ensure their success, even if that means cooking for them or providing life guidance. And I’ve been the lucky recipient of more than one baked good… sometimes daily! Cherie It’s been a pleasure learning from you in my first year at UConn. Thank you for all your support – you’ve been a great teammate! The little things you do that make our lives easier and better don’t go unnoticed, so today we thank you and celebrate your achievement at UConn. Congratulations!- Patrick McKee, Sustainability Program Manager

Greg Anderson Wins Lifetime Achievement at 2018 ELAs

Earlier this month, Greg Anderson accepted the first Lifetime Achievement Award in the 15-year history of UConn’s Environmental Leadership Awards

From 1973 and the moment he arrived in Storrs as a young assistant professor in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Greg Anderson has been a campus environmental leader, dedicating time and effort, above and beyond his internationally recognized research and academic pursuits, to making UConn a greener place. Four-and-a-half decades later, having been named a Board of Trustees’ Distinguished Professor, and served as an EEB department head, then a Vice Provost for Graduate Research & Education (VPGRE), Greg remains the “heart and soul” of the environmental movement at UConn.

Even as a semi-retired, emeritus faculty member, working from his lab in Torrey Life Sciences for the past few years, Greg is still as active, engaged and passionate about the environment as anyone on campus! Nearly 25 years ago, he founded and remains a leader of the committee that oversees UConn’s thought-provoking Teale Environmental Lecture Series.  Similarly, more than two decades ago, Greg established, and still co-chairs, the Campus Arboretum Committee, which has planted, identified, preserved and mapped out the locations of dozens of specimen trees across campus. In fact, just this past year, Greg has worked with the co-president of EcoHusky to begin a tradition of planting a graduating Class Gift Tree, using crowd-sourced funding by students and friends of the Arboretum, plus tools and expertise provided by UConn’s landscape architect and arborist staff.

His moral support and leadership has also been key to an environmentally-responsible campus.  In 2008, while serving as VPGRE, he was the senior administrator most responsible for convincing then-President Mike Hogan to sign UConn’s pledge for developing a Climate Action Plan (CAP) and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050. Greg was at the front of the room, standing proudly alongside then-state DEP Commissioner Gina McCarthy (who later served eight years as head of President Obama’s EPA), when Hogan signed onto this important climate leadership commitment. And he was there four years later when Susan Herbst reaffirmed UConn’s carbon commitment upon her arrival as the University’s President.

Greg Anderson
Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, John Volin (right) and Director of the Center of Biological Risk, Associate Professor (EEB), Mark Urban (left), congratulate Greg Anderson for receiving the ELA Lifetime Achievement Award
Greg Anderson also delivered an inspiring keynote address to a full house of award winners, runners up, finalists and nominators during UConn’s 6th ELAs, held at the UConn Foundation on April 4th, 2019.

That year, and for several years after, Greg helped organize an annual series of panelists and guest speakers on topics relevant to Climate Impact, Mitigation and Adaptation, and he was instrumental in bringing his longtime colleague, Gene likens, a pre-eminent ecologist and founder of the Cary Institute for Ecosystem Studies, to UConn as President Herbst’s Special Advisor on the Environment.   The CAP has since driven UConn’s rise to the top of national and international green campus lists, according to the Sierra Club’s annual “Cool Schools,” Best Colleges, and GreenMetric World University rankings, among other sources.

The inaugural UConn Environmental Leadership Award for Lifetime Achievement looks great in the hands of Greg Anderson, the “heart and soul” of UConn’s Environmental movement for more than four decades.

2017-2018 ELA Honorees

Technological Methods for Addressing Climate Change

Editors Note: COP fellows had the opportunity to visit numerous pavilions sponsored by individual countries which highlighted their unique commitments to addressing climate change. While most countries showcased goals and projects related to energy efficiency and renewable energy, some countries discussed other technological solutions. The following blog discusses one such technological solution to mitigating climate change and its impacts on marine ecosystems.

CCell – One Innovation Among Many @COP24 – Sophie MacDonald

 

CCell – One Innovation Among Many @COP24

Sophie MacDonald – Junior, B.S. Mechanical Engineering

Technology alone is not going to stop climate change. The success of any large-scale movement is contingent on backing from the hearts and minds of the people it is affecting. In the case of climate change, this essentially means that everyone across the globe, or at least those people with direct access to policy (who in turn are backed by constituents… so really, it needs to be everyone) needs to be convinced of the importance of environmental stewardship and of using sustainable technology in the first place.

All of this in mind, the tech industry meanwhile is doing some pretty incredible things. One especially promising technology featured at the United Kingdom pavilion at COP24 is that of CCell, a device that harnesses wave energy in order to ultimately generate electricity and grow coral reefs to protect coastal areas and maintain marine biodiversity. The system consists of just a few key components, making the technology comparatively cheap, and the basic process is as follows:

  • A carbon fiber shell floats at wave height and harnesses the motion-based energy of waves.
  • This mechanical energy is converted into electrical energy inside a compact element featuring a hydraulic piston as the driving mechanism (I do not fully understand how this works, but it sounds very cool!)
  • Electrical energy is used for electrolysis (current-driven chemical reaction) in order to create a layer of limestone over a steel structure – any steel structure, you could throw a bike in the ocean and hook this device up – that has been placed underwater
  • This limestone attracts marine wildlife, and coral reefs in particular grow 2-5 times as quickly and are allegedly 20 times more resilient than a typical reef on this newly formed rock
  • The excess electricity not used in the electrolysis process (which requires just a low, safe voltage) may be returned to shore for use on land
CCell System
CCell system connected to an on-land electrical grid. Source

The last item on the list is a goal for the immediate future of the device, but the conversion of wave energy to coral reefs has been tested and implemented with success.

Like all novel technologies, it is important to take all of the above information with a healthy dose of skepticism, and I was initially tempted to chalk this technology up to a flashy sideshow with no real application. After talking with an engineer on the project, though, and doing plenty of individual research, I am quite hopeful for this project’s future.

First, the technology they are employing for limestone creation is not new; it is backed by 30 years of research, refinement, and implementation, and is a patented process under a company called BioRock. CCell’s addition to this process is that of off-shore harnessing of wave energy to produce the necessary electricity, and the two technologies work in tandem better than they ever could separately. CCell provides BioRock with electricity on the open ocean, enabling BioRock to have a wider range of applicability, and BioRock gives CCell a secure place to ground their device.

CCell technology seems to be about as invasive as a large buoy. It is also quite robust and degrades minimally over time, so concerns about harm to marine life appear to be mitigable.  Looking at CCell’s twitter page, they also seem to really care about environmental stewardship, and as a start-up company in renewable energy, are definitely not in it solely for the money.

Overall, this technology seems to have a lot of potential on a small scale, and specifically has promise as an energy source and means of coastal protection for smaller island communities. These communities are going to be the most affected by climate change – despite typically contributing minimally to its causes – due to sea level rise, so I have high hopes for CCell. While it will definitely never remotely reach the scale necessary to prevent global warming on its own, my guess is that in the small number of places it reaches, it will have a real, positive impact.

For more information, go to http://www.globalcoral.org/ccell-energy-save-coral/ or refer directly to CCell’s website and social media.