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Call for Proposals: Sustainable Susquehanna River Communities

Center for Sustainability & the Environment

Grant Funding via The Degenstein Foundation


Samantha Myers, CSE Operations Manager
(570) 577-2437
Olin 463

Bucknell University is located in an area rich with ecological, social and cultural heritage. Historical development practices such as logging, mining, farming and short term land development have left lasting impacts on ecosystems and river towns. Located on the banks of the West Branch of the
Susquehanna River, the CSE has the distinct advantage to study how impacted river communities, both human and non-human, can become more resilient and adaptive. Such communities are poised to reclaim a future of economic, social and environmental prosperity. Analyzing current
challenges/opportunities, providing affordable solutions, and creating sustainable models for these communities that solve their most pressing problems will position our Bucknell students to become leaders in the world during the coming years when these interdisciplinary confounding problems (technical and societal) come to the forefront.

In keeping with the Center’s mission and current priorities, while building on past experiences, the CSE has been successfully awarded a Degenstein Foundation planning grant to explore the use of multidisciplinary field stations centered on key United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to build partnerships with communities along the Susquehanna River. The following SDG’s: Life on land (15), Life below water (14), Sustainable cities and communities (11), Clean water and sanitation (6), Affordable and clean energy (7), Decent work and economic growth (8), and Climate action (13) directly address local and regional environmental and sustainability needs, and will help guide the development of near and long term regional solutions. The CSE believes that addressing these economic, social and environmental issues will lead to the development of successful models for communities across our nation seeking more sustainability.

About the CSE

The mission of the Bucknell CSE is to “create impactful, interdisciplinary, experiential opportunities for learning and research that address global environmental and sustainability challenges” while leveraging our unique intersection of 3 Colleges housed in one dynamic, leading liberal arts university. Our 2017-2020 strategic plan calls for efforts to enhance Bucknell University’s capacity to teach and conduct research in critical areas of sustainability and the environment, as well as to enable transformational opportunities for the campus and surrounding communities through experiential learning in these areas. At the CSE, we seek to establish long-term partnerships, research, and teaching that bring together faculty, staff, students, and community partners to develop greater understanding of the complexities that underlie our most challenging environmental, social, economic and engineering issues.


Per our grant budget, we will make available multiple research fellowship awards (faculty and student), up to $5,000, for the Summer of 2021. If you wish to complete your research in the Spring of 2021, you must contact CSE Faculty Director, Peter Jansson at or CSE Operations Manager, Samantha Myers at by 11:59 pm on January 15, 2021. If you elect to complete your research in the spring, you will be paid either hourly or academic credit. Each summer research fellow includes a $3,500 student research stipend, $1,000 stipend for their faculty mentor and up to $500 in support for equipment / supplies – as required. Each summer student will work between 8-10 weeks with their faculty mentor pursuing full-time scholarly work on one (or more)
of the SDGs above in collaboration with a Program Director from the Center. In addition, students will receive on-campus summer housing for the duration of their project. Students will not receive academic credit for this research.


All full-time Bucknell undergraduate students enrolled in any of our three (3) Colleges in-person are eligible to apply. Due to university guidelines, students participating in virtual/distance learning are not eligible. Awards are not available for the summer following the student’s senior year, although students enrolled in a five-year degree program are eligible to receive an award during the summer after their fourth year.


  • Complete a short proposal describing interest, preferred SDG study area(s) and qualifications
  • Identify a faculty mentor willing to undertake the research and why
  • Complete scholarly project for 8-10 weeks with their faculty mentor and assigned CSE program director
  • Attend 3 project meetings with CSE Program Directors, staff and other student/faculty research teams to provide project updates, along with a written 1-page update
  • Submit a report on their scholarly work by August 14, 2021
  • Submit a 1-2-page reflection of the summer research experience
  • Present the results of their research work with their faculty mentor (via poster and/or oral presentation) at the 16th Annual Susquehanna River Symposium Friday, November 5th and Saturday, November 6 th 2021

Question & Answer Session

There will be no formal question and answer session this year, however, you may request to schedule a virtual meeting to answer any questions you may have by emailing

Application Deadline

February 6th, 2021 by 11:59 p.m. (rolling thereafter until all fellowships are awarded)


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A Turning Point For Fossil Fuels & a Greener Future

For decades the road to greener, renewable energy and the slow of climate change has been an uphill battle. The fossil fuel industry has been largely responsible for thwarting green movement global progress. As a $257 billion industry in the U.S. alone and much of the world still relying on high carbon-producing fossil fuels, large-scale change has been slow-going. Nonetheless, we haven’t given up on the goal of a cleaner planet for future generations.

World consumption of fossil fuels by country as of 2017. Source: “Which Countries Use the Most Fossil Fuels” –

Collectively, the world has been making changes and advancements in renewable energies to reduce our CO₂ emissions in hopes of slowing and ultimately reversing climate change. Leading the way is Switzerland, currently considered the greenest country in the world, whereas the U.S. only tops in at 27th on the list.

Switzerland has made many advancements and lifestyle changes which highly contribute to their number one spot on the list. Just to name a few:

  • They have no landfills and instead incinerate all trash, producing a very minimal amount of air pollution. (Caldwell, 2020)
  • They’re among the top recycling countries in the world, charging for trash disposal but offering recycling for free. (Caldwell, 2020)
  • Utilization of hydroelectric power as their primary total energy source. (Lakshmi, 2018)
  • Large-scale protection and designation of land to national parks. (Lakshmi, 2018)

This is not to diminish any advancements of the U.S. or other countries, but the Swiss are clearly not afraid to make the difficult changes for the long-term payoff. Total energy supply from renewable and low carbon producing sources is on the rise in Switzerland as fossil fuel is being phased out. Using virtually no coal and very little natural gas, the only fossil fuel Switzerland still uses for energy supply is oil, and even that has drastically dropped. In 2013, total energy supply coming from oil dropped roughly 1,000 ktoe (kilotonnes of oil equivalent) and continued on a steady decline as the country relied more on a nuclear power vs. oil. Although not a perfect answer, this change-over undoubtedly contributed to the country’s overall environmental health. As compared to the USA and the world, you can see how this Switzerland’s changes has made an impact.

Although Switzerland is leading the green movement, as renewable energies become more widely available and cost effective, their utilization is on the rise and fossil fuels are at a steady decline. The elimination of fossil fuels is not going to be the singular answer to reversing climate change, but it’s a big factor. Looking at the incline of renewable energies in the U.S. and the world, a trending projection for the future appears.

Fossil fuels don’t seem to be suffering all that much according to the above depictions. The U.S., however, has drastically dropped in coal use since 2008 and coinciding with this drop, our national CO₂ emissions also decreased by over 4% that year. Over the next decade, the U.S. would go on to accomplish an 18.7% decrease in CO₂ emissions. Globally, CO₂ emissions have fluctuated greatly as under-developed countries became more robust, populations increased, and the need for clean, renewable energy was realized.

Projections from several studies and experts say that the fossil fuel industry is in trouble. A 2018 study by lays out the expected peak of fossil fuels between 2020 and 2027, with a likelihood that the peak will occur in 2023. With populations growing across the world, energy demand is projected to grow 1% – 1.5%. Wind and solar energy specifically are looking at a 15-20% increase in demand. Couple this with increased government policies driven by the need to decrease emissions, air pollution, and control climate change, the rise of electric vehicle supply and demand, and the drop in cost of renewable energy, the fossil fuel industry is looking at a risky future and possible losses of $25 trillion in fixed assets.

These projections are also mirrored in the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Annual Energy Outlook 2020 Report. In the report, one of the many projections show the growth in electricity generation from renewables and the steep fall in generation from fossil fuels.

What none of these reports have or could have accounted for was the Covid-19 pandemic that immobilized the globe in early 2020. The peak of fossil fuels was estimated to occur around 2023 originally, but ultimately, the shutdowns across the world sped up the process. With more people working from home than ever before, oil demand dropped by more than 20% compared to the 2019 high. Many sources have reported that if the economy doesn’t recover fairly quickly from the pandemic and renewable energy demand continues to rise, the demand for fossil fuels will have already peaked in 2019. If, however, the curve of our recovery is more v-shaped, the fossil fuel industry could recover demand by 2022 says a article.

The world all but stood still as only “essential” employees were commuting and some countries completely shut down, causing nature to reclaim metropolitan areas. Global CO₂ emissions dropped by 17% in the beginning of April during the peak of shutdowns.

For the green-minded, this was a leap in the right direction. Coupling a massive drop in CO₂ emissions, the decline of fossil fuels, and the increase in affordability and demand of renewable energy sources, we are well on our way to slowing climate change, right? While these are historic accomplishments, it’s important that we don’t live in a bubble of denial and comfort zones and also take a look at the measurable percentage of CO₂ that is still lingering in our atmosphere.

In May of this year, the amount of CO₂ in the air hit the highest average monthly value ever recorded. Measured at over 417 ppm (parts per million) and over 2 ppm over last years average of 414.7 ppm, it’s clear that the emissions phenomenon caused by the pandemic didn’t make much of a difference in the grand scheme of things. Considering that CO₂ can remain in the atmosphere for up to 1,000 years, the global output is simply building up layer after layer. We now have the highest concentration of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere in human history! (The Washington Post, Freedman and Mooney, 2020)

Several factors beyond emissions have contributed to this buildup. Increased deforestation, El Niño conditions causing drought and extreme heat, and the wildfires as a result, are all things that inhibit the ability of plant life and trees to absorb the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It’s a vicious cycle that will ultimately lead to our own demise. Mass deforestation, and emissions from travel, production, trade, and more have all thrown climate change into full swing. As a result, weather conditions change, temperatures are at record highs, and natural disasters increase in frequency and intensity, all contributing to the inability of nature to absorb the massive amounts of CO₂ the world produces.

Living with the belief that Covid-19 has curbed climate change would be ill-informed. Living with the idea that there is no hope to make a change is self-fulfilling. We have to find a common ground of awareness and knowledge as humans and be willing to make the big changes it’s going to take to secure a future for ourselves and our children. Scholars all over the world are shouting out what those changes must be and that there is hope. We just have to listen and take action.

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The Weight of Green Initiatives on a Prospective Student’s College Choice

Prospective college students have a plethora of options in choosing a their higher education institution and there are many factors that weigh in on that decision. The most basic of these are of course probability of acceptance based on their grades, the availability of chosen programs and majors, and of course an ever-increasing worry of cost. But how do students factor in an institution’s commitment to green initiatives, if at all?

The Need for Green

The world’s climate and sustainability issues have steadily been coming to light. Awareness of these issues and the need for solutions is increasing each year. With corporate conglomerates, small businesses, and government entities making changes toward being “green”, it’s obvious that higher education would need to adapt as well. In 2006, Arizona State University opened the first School of Sustainability in the country, offering Undergraduate and Graduate degrees in Sustainability-related career fields. Many colleges and universities followed suit and began not only offering sustainability career choices, but making strides toward a greener campus. In 2007, Green Mountain College in Poultney, VT was the first college in the nation to be named an EPA Energy Star campus. As per their Sustainability 2020 plan, they are also aiming to “adopt 100% renewable energy and reach climate neutrality by the end of the decade.”

Each generation of high school seniors is more aware of the issues at hand and being part of the solution has become a trending core value. Among the many factors weighed in their choice of college, a college’s commitment to sustainability and green initiatives has become one of them. But just how much has this affected their choice?

Just the Facts

Since 2003, The Princeton Review’s College Hopes & Worries Survey has been vital in gathering information annually to identify the main hopes and concerns about college from students and parents alike. In 2008, The Princeton Review found the need to also identify the impact of green initiatives on college decisions and so added an additional question: “If you (your child) had a way to compare colleges based on their commitment to environmental “green” issues (e.g. practices concerning energy use, recycling, etc., or academic offerings), how much would this contribute to your (your child’s) decision to apply to or attend a school?“.

In that year, they surveyed a total of 10,388 people (8,776 students and 1,612 parents). A whopping 63% said they would “value having information regarding a college’s commitment to the environment and that it might impact their decision to apply to or attend the school.” Of that 63%, 23% said “this information would “strongly” or “very much” contribute to decisions about which schools to apply to or attend.”

Fast forward to the 2019 Survey and the trend is clearly increasing. Although they surveyed less people compared to 2008 (11,900 total/ 9,282 students/ 2,618 parents) the numbers showed that this is an important factor in the decision of what college to go to.

A majority (64%) of respondents said having information about a college’s commitment to environmental issues would contribute to their application decisions with 23% indicating it would contribute Strongly.

The Princeton Review’s 2019 College Hopes & Worries Survey Report

Numbers don’t lie and it’s obvious that green initiatives in relation to college choice is at a steady incline. I predict that it will only continue to climb in the next 10 years as colleges and universities start delivering on their carbon neutrality and sustainability plans and as more sustainable technology becomes available with a better return on investment.