COVID-19 Updates: Fall Semester

SSL Summer Intern Blog Posts

SSL Summer Intern Blog Posts

Check out weekly blog posts from our summer interns below:

     As the communications team with the SSL this summer, we are lucky to be involved in a large mishmosh of projects. Mainly, however, we are responsible for editing and updating Middlebury’s Sustainability website. This process has involved a great deal of learning about Middlebury’s sustainable practices as well as learning how to edit webpages. 

     Moreover, we are also closely involved with the Energy 2028 team, helping with the social media campaign for the Creative Climate Art Contest. We have gotten the opportunity to spend some quality Zoom time with Midd’s social media manager Andrew Cassel to learn about professional social media accounts and how to make an impact on platforms like Instagram and Facebook. 

      Additionally, we have been working with the director of Midd’s school in Japan Sanae Eda, to help develop a plan for a new website based on their GPS programs. These programs allow for students studying abroad to interact with some of their countries developing sustainable practices. During the fall term, students visit the Chizu Village  in the Tottori Prefecture, where they learn about the dense cedar forest (shown below, photographed by Director Sanae Eda) present in the area and how it is protected via forest thinning. Then, during the spring term, students visit the Nagano Tenryu Village to learn about life on the tea plantation in the area and interact with the youths that are working to preserve it. The goal of the new website is to allow for the programs to build off of the experiences of previous students, instead of just having students duplicate what was done the previous year. 

    

     Finally, collaborating with other members of the Middlebury community has taught us a great deal about team-work and resourcefulness. Although we are going through a very unstable situation due to the pandemic, it has also been an opportunity to learn to work together effectively through a screen.  Whether it be a director of the Mddlebury schools abroad, a professor or our peer interns, we have had the opportunity to adapt and have a very meaningful experience.

 

     Hi this is Maya! This summer I have been working with Monique to create some Environmental Study Breaks for freshmen in Stewart and Hepburn dorms. We are trying to engage with the fourth pillar of the Energy 2028 initiative: commitment to educational opportunities. Our goals for the study break include: building community, increasing environmental awareness, engagement in environmental activities and promoting campus sustainability.

     This past week we have been working with ResLife and Freshman Orientation to coordinate how our study breaks will be different due to remote programming. Everyone has been super helpful and we plan to distribute some stickers that I designed to the targeted dorms so that students are aware of our programming and efforts to environmental conservation and sustainability. I also created a resource for new students where I compiled a list of environmental and outdoor clubs on campus (and how to contact them) because we are uncertain the activity fair will happen. It was eye opening to read about how many clubs Middlebury has relating to the environment! Who knew?

     Additionally, we have created and solidified our event calendar and I am currently in the process of working out the details. It's been really fun because I love organization, but I did not realize how much planning it takes and how difficult it is to organize events with such an uncertain future. It has given me much appreciation for Middlebury’s Faculty, Staff and Administration!

     While this summer was much different than I expected, I’ve learned a lot. It started with reading and analyzing various journal articles. At the beginning, it felt long and tedious but I enjoyed learning so much about the Self-Determination Theory, framing, pro-environmental behaviors and more! I also got a lot better at being able to read an article and quickly pull out the main themes and takeaways. I know this will be so helpful in my future. Other skills that I have developed include budgeting and social media! We have been working to “brand” our study breaks and thought that the best way to do this was create an instagram page (follow us @energy_2028_studybreaks). I have yet to post anything but I have been creating posts that will be shared in the future.

We can't wait to meet the incoming freshman and hope that they enjoy our study breaks and reach out to us with any questions!

     What steps can we take on our global journey to a sustainable future for all? The United Nations (UN) created 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a blueprint to achieve a more sustainable world. These goals turn the nebulous idea of a “sustainable world” into tangible actions. Although progress has been made towards each of these goals, there’s still work to be done in achieving the 2030 deadline. Our project centers around devising a “marathon” of fun challenges associated with one of each of the SDGs. For each SDG, we have created challenges appropriate for youth, teenager, and adult participants. Essentially, a challenge will encourage participants to perform an action in their lives that works towards achieving an individual SDG. For example, SDG #13 (action to combat climate change and its impacts) challenges teenagers to eat vegetarian or vegan for one day each week.

     This summer, we’ve been working with the Middlebury Schools Abroad and the Lake Baikal Eco Center in Irkutsk, Russia to create our challenges. Starting August 1st, participants in Russia will have the opportunity to take part in the challenges. This fall, we hope to bring a similar SDG marathon to the Middlebury community. These challenges are meant to be a fun way to both learn more about and work towards the completion of the SDGs. If you’re interested in participating in the upcoming challenges, you can follow us @sdg_2020_! 

Over the past couple of days, we each tried out one of the challenges. Jonna tried making an entirely vegan meal for her family’s dinner. She chose to make a vegan tikka masala with chickpeas, broccoli, tofu and peas. Her parents said the meal was delicious! They said they wouldn’t mind incorporating more meals throughout the week. Here are photos! 

Michael cleaned out his bookshelf and he plans to donate the unwanted books to  a local elementary school. Here is a photo of his newly cleaned and organized bookshelf and the book he will be donating:

  

 Finally, Ev had a screen-free Saturday! She turned her phone off and spent the day reading, cleaning, cooking, hiking, and relaxing. While she missed the presence of her constant Spotify backtrack, she definitely enjoyed the peace and quiet both her ears and eyes experienced. She definitely recommends taking some time off from devices, especially during such a tech-heavy time for everyone. Below is a photo of Ev enjoying some nature during her time off (don’t worry, she didn’t upload this until after the challenge was over!)

     Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some students are unable to study abroad, specifically in Hangzhou, China and because of this, we have been assigned to work with The Nature Conservancy in China to conduct research for their national park candidate in Baishanzu.  

     For the first half of our internship we have been in the national parks volunteer systems in the United States and Canada. We have been able to meet a variety of people involved with national parks and we discussed the relationships between humans and national parks. The relationship between humans and national parks is complicated and requires balance. The primary objective of national parks is to preserve the cultural heritage of the land and to protect the area for generations to come. However some national parks are places for people to come see nature and appreciate its beauty.

     The balance between humans and nature in national parks is extremely delicate. Tourism is important to help maintain the parks and to also garner excitement about nature, but at the same time, tourism is harmful. For example many of the big national parks conduct bus tours, and while these buses create more accessibility, they also increase the amount of carbon emissions in the area. One could say that we should keep humans from national parks, but when people come to national parks, they often leave inspired. They are inspired by the beautiful nature all around them and hopefully, this intimate relationship with the land inspires them to protect our earth and to become more environmentally conscious. In the end, while conservation is the most important aspect of national parks, allowing people to enjoy it and maintaining a balance in the parks ecosystem is important and both of these aspects play a role in many national parks worldwide.

  

   Aquaculture Team

     Hello everyone! We are helping the Nature Conservancy in Hangzhou, China, to review Best Management Practices for shellfish aquaculture in North America to help make Chinese aquaculture more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

     First, we want to give a little background on aquaculture. Aquaculture is the breeding, rearing, and harvesting of fish, algae, and other organisms in many types of aquatic environments. There is a great deal of variety in the industry; operations can range from large indoor salmon farms to kelp farms that span acres of the coast, to small-scale oyster farms using plastic floats tied to a town dock. Shellfish aquaculture most often involves the rearing of oysters, clams, and mussels. Usually, shellfish aquaculture yields products for human consumption, but there are other types of aquaculture whose purpose is to harness the ecosystem services of the organisms being reared. This is known as “restorative aquaculture”, and in many cases, it involves growing bivalves (oysters, clams, or mussels, typically) that remove pollutants from the water while filter-feeding. Examples of such restorative operations include the Billion Oyster Project in New York Harbor and a similar oyster operation in the Chesapeake Bay.

oysters

     Like all farming, aquaculture can be done in ways that can either enhance or destroy the ecosystems with which they interact. For example, many farms add nutrients to their grow-out facilities, increasing the growth rate of their livestock, but if these nutrients are used to excess they frequently accumulate in the estuaries that drain the farms, leading to eutrophication, algal blooms, and hypoxic zones, all of which can destroy an estuarine ecosystem. With proper planning and design, feeding rates can be controlled so that they match the needs of the stock, and eutrophication of the system does not occur. This planning and design is part of what Best Management Practices are all about. 

     

Best Management Practices (BMPs) are guidelines for a business. In this case, it’s a “code of recommended practices”, and for this project, we were specifically focusing on sustainability-related issues. In other words, these recommendations were created to turn aquaculture farms into making positive changes in the environment rather than adversely affecting it while still making a profit and sustaining a business in the long run. BMPs are becoming more frequently used as the aquaculture business continues to grow for one major reason: each farm is unique. They have different environments, grow only certain species, use varied culture methods, and have more or less access to resources. So, there are no specific laws/regulations that are applicable to every single farm due to the sheer amount of differences between them. Another reason is that each country/state has its own regulations when it comes to preserving the environment, how aquaculture businesses should operate, and what certifications/licenses are required to be formally recognized. Therefore, the BMPs have been most successful as they operate more as “follow and apply the suggestions that are most relevant to you” rather than a “you must do all of this”. Most BMPs promote becoming a sustainable business and environmental stewardship.

how to shuck an oyster

     In this project, we are working with The Nature Conservancy of China (TNCC) on their 5-year plan to revolutionize the oyster farming industry in China. Currently, China is the world’s biggest producer of oysters (~80% of global production). As explained above, oysters are filter-feeders, and usually cause positive impacts on their environment by removing various chemicals and nutrients from the water, from large amounts of phosphorus to heavy metals, phytoplankton, and even radionuclides.However, if the culture of oysters exceeds the carrying capacity of the site, then the oysters can be detrimental to the local ecosystem, which is what is currently happening in China. Our goal by the end of the summer is to have read a large number of BMPs and to make a final report for TNCC based on our readings. This report is for TNCC so that they can eventually make their own BMPs specifically for their farms in China and become leaders in sustainable restorative oyster aquaculture. 

 

Energy2028 team banner

     Energy2028 has four major pillars—it’s the college’s commitment to reduce energy consumption by 25%, power the campus with 100% renewable energy, divest from the fossil fuel industry, and incorporate sustainability education into everything we do. The Energy2028 Outreach team is working on two projects this summer to engage the Middlebury community in these goals.

Creative Climate Art Contest Poster     On July 3, we launched the Create Climate Art Contest, which is designed to educate and involve members of the Middlebury community around Energy2028 through the visual arts. Current students, alumni, faculty, and staff are all encouraged to submit an original work of art (i.e. a painting, drawing, print, collage, or other visual art form) that relates to Middlebury, showcases their creativity, and calls for climate action and environmental justice on campus. You can submit your work at this submission form (go link: go/creativeclimate/) or at sustainability@middlebury.edu. The deadline for submissions is Aug. 1. The winning posters will be showcased around campus and distributed to the class of 2024 with credit for your work. The winning artists will receive $75 to donate to an environmental justice non-profit organization of the artist’s choice (suggested NGOs will be provided).

Sustainability Consultants Program poster     Also in the works is the Sustainability Consultants Program. Sustainability consultants will be students hired by the SSL to help student orgs, staff departments, and academic departments better incorporate sustainability practices and the goals of Energy2028 into how they operate. This could mean anything from overseeing a plan to reduce energy consumption and waste, to helping develop syllabi or programming that is climate-conscious and sustainability-centered. The launch date for this program is still TBD.

     If you are interested in learning more about the Sustainability Consultants Program as a consultant or as a client, or if you have any questions about these two projects, please contact sustainability@middlebury.edu. Our team is so excited to see the Middlebury community continue to make the college a more just and sustainable space!