St. Kates Ecological Footprint: Inventory and Research


Environmental Sustainability and the Presidents' Climate Commitment at St. Catherine University

signingpccIn fall 2008, the St. Kate's Student Senate Environmental Issues Task Force asked St. Catherine University President Lee to sign on to The American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC), whose mission“…is to accelerate progress towards climate neutrality and sustainability by empowering the higher education sector to educate students, create solutions, and provide leadership-by-example for the rest of society.”  President Lee signed on to the commitment, and in the process created a mechanism by which students, faculty, staff, and administration can work together to create a climate neutral campus.

St. Kate's Ecological Footprint: Student Research
As part of this commiment, we must take inventory of our campus greenhouse gas emissions and develop an institutional action plan for becoming climate neutral.   This work has been entirely undertaken by St. Kate's students interested in research focused on environmental sustainability.   The past two campus inventories have been completed as a course-based research project in Environmental Biology. The research effort has been led by Greenhouse Gas Inventory Coordinators - St. Kate's students hired to work with students enrolled in the course to collect and analyze data needed to quantify total campus emissions.   The Inventory Coordinators have worked closely with student researchers and a diversity of offices across campus to collect data related to emissions from air travel, commuting, heating and electricity use in campus buildings and residence halls, grounds maintenance, food services, purchasing, and trash and recycling.  On top of this, a team of students recently measured how much carbon storage is occurring on campus through the growth of vegetation in our campus woods and extensive landscaped ebfieldareas.    These data are being used to generate a campus climate action plan this year.  
There are many opportunities to get involved in research projects related to our campus greenhouse gas emissions and to explore ways that we can further enhance carbon storage.  If you are interested in this research, please contact me.  See link to a news story about this project "St. Kate's Ecological Footprint: Linking Our Emissions to our Mission" here.

St. Kate's Sustainability Partners
The St. Kate's Presidents' Climate Committee is comprised of the Student Senate Environmental Issues Task Force (EITF) Co-Chairs, faculty, facilities, staff from community engagement and campus ministry, and student affairs.  We also work closely with student environmental organizations on campus including WAVE (Women Actively Voicing for the Environment) and MPIRG (Minnesota Public Interest Research Group).

St. Kate's Student Leaders in Environmental Sustainability:
 Where Are They Now?

gr3Our sustainability efforts are led and shaped by student ideas and initiatives.

Michaela Swanson ('07 Biology Major) was the founder of the Student Senate Environmental Issues Task Force.  This group increased the availability of organic and fair trade items and facilitated the building of a green roof on campus.  Michaela received the St. Kate's Dean of Students Award for her leadership.  She is now a master's student in ecology at the U of Alaska-Fairbanks.

Caitlin Gray ('10 Philsophy Major, Biology Minor) was the first Greenhouse Gas Inventory Coordinator.  She developed all of the campus office and local utility agency contacts, wrote and submitted the first St. Kate's Emissions Report to the ACUPCC, and contructed a how-to guide for future inventory coordinators.  Caitlin presented the findings of the first inventory in a campus-wide seminar presentation in 2010. Caitlin is currently working for AmeriCorps in California developing local food and recycling programs for public schools.  See link to "Earth First: Caitlin Gray Puts Global Warming on the Front Burner" a story about Caitlin's work and the inventory results here.

Kesey Boeff ('11 Biology Major) was the author of the second St. Kate's Emissions Report to the ACUPCC.  She was one of four Inventory Coordinators that worked on this project and helped to develop methods to measure carbon storage on our campus grounds.  Kelsey presented the results of the inventory at a campus-wide symposium, as well as a campus seminar with co-coordinator Kali Johnson. Kelsey is currently working at an environmental science consulting lab in Woods Hole, MA where she participates in research and completes water chemistry analyses for NOAA.gr1small  She will start a graduate program in Quaternary and Climate Studies in the Climate Change Instititute at the University of Maine in Fall 2012!

Brooke Vetter ('08 Biology Major) was a member of the first Student Senate Environmental Issues Task Force.  She played a fundamental role in bringing the Presidents' Climate Commitment to the attention of President Lee and making this part of our sustainability charge on campus. Brooke received the Dean of Students award for her campus leadership. Brooke is now a Ph.D. student in Integrated Biosciences at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

rachelRachel Toenjes Zander ('10 Biology Major) was an Environmental Issues Task Force Senate Co-Chair in 2009-10 and she was instrumental in getting the ACUPCC efforts off the ground.  With her co-chair, she also initiated discussions about water issues and social justice on campus.  Rachel is now pursuing a career in environmental law.  She is a law school student a the the University of Iowa and recently completed an internship working with Plains Justice - a Montana-based environmental non-profit that helps local communities transition to clean energy and enforce Clean Air Act compliance.

Lauren Brin ('10 Chemistry Major) was an Environmental Issues Task Force Senate Co-Chair in 2009-10 and part of the student leadership team that initiated the ACUPCC efforts.  With her co-chair, she also initiated discussions about water issues and social justice on campus.  Lauren is now in medical school at Creighton University.

Kali Johnson Higgins ('11 Master's in Holistic Health) was a Greenhouse Gas Inventory Coordinator in 2010-11, working with a team of four coordinators. Kali was also responsible for developing an internal website focused on the ACUPCC efforts.  Kali recently completed her master's degree at St. Kate's in holistic health and she is now a Utility Relations Specialist at EnergyPrint, a company that conducts energy audits to help other companies reduce their energy costs and track their carbon footprint.

Sristi Sadashankar Sunar (Environmental Studies) was an international student from Nepal who completed an internship with the St. Catherine University ACUPCC committee in 2010-11.  Sristi's research focused on water quality and sustainability and how St. Kate's might become more involved in these environmental justice issues.  She presented her findings to the committee just before returning home to continue her studies in Nepal. 

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