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Champions for Sustainability

On Thursday, April 24th, the Pennsylvania Environmental Resource Consortium (PERC) announced the recipient’s of the 2020 Campus Sustainability Champion Award. “This award is given to students, faculty, administrators, and staff of PA colleges and universities who’ve made meaningful contributions benefiting social, economic and/or environmental sustainability on their campus, in their community, or in society at large.”

And the winners are…

Professor Mark Spiro: Professor of Biology at Bucknell

“Mark Spiro has been active in Bucknell’s sustainability efforts for two decades. In addition to teaching Biology 150, “Plants, People, and the Environment,” he co-led the Landscape group for the 2008 Campus Greening Report and co-founded the Bucknell Arboretum project, which he has co-directed since. These efforts created a highly impactful collaboration between faculty, staff, and students that has helped the campus landscape become more biodiverse and sustainable. He also played a leadership role in establishing the Lewisburg Community Garden, a university-town collaboration that, among other things, provided opportunities for local residents to have their own gardens, run a summer camp for children, co-hosted Community Harvest, a weekly hot meal program, and provided thousands of pounds of fresh produce to local food banks. More recently, Mark spearheaded an effort to establish a campus farm for teaching and campus food production. After years of planning and organizing, the farm was finally established in 2018 as a five acre living laboratory. Over 800 students in 32 classes visited the farm in its first year to learn about regenerative agriculture, soil carbon sequestration, biodiversity, and other sustainability-related topics.” ~

Professor Neil Boyd: Professor of Management at Bucknell & BCSE Faculty Steering Committee member

“Neil Boyd has been an ardent supporter of sustainability for many years.  He was the inaugural faculty sustainability director at Lycoming College, where he championed changes in campus culture, created an interdisciplinary minor in sustainability, and developed sustainable management courses in the Business Administration program.  At Bucknell, Neil is a member of the President’s Sustainability Council, and he led the process for the Freeman College of Management to become a signatory to the United Nations Principles of Responsible Management Education.  As the PRME Coordinator he led strategic sustainability planning efforts, and he continues to help stimulate environmental and social sustainability curricula and cultures within the College.  Neil serves as an advisory board member for the Bucknell Center for Sustainability and the Environment, and he helped to develop the Coal Region Field Station that promotes pedagogy, scholarship, and service for social change in several municipalities in the lower anthracite region.  Neil has supported additional efforts to grow civic engagement in the classroom and at the University, and he has published extensively on social and environmental sustainability topics in the fields of management, public management, and community psychology.” ~

Ashley Vecchio ’20: Managing for Sustainability Student & student intern for the Office of Campus Sustainability at Bucknell

“Ashley Vecchio, a senior Managing for Sustainability major, demonstrates excellent leadership, drive and commitment in coordinating students, faculty and staff involvement on campus sustainability activities. She has unwavering motivation and dedication to planning and implementing sustainability events. She was responsible for a successful “Sustainable Move Out” event that helped in the diversion of over 15 tons of solid waste from the landfill in 2019. In 2020, Ashley successfully coordinated the planning and implementation of a campus wide, student-led sustainability innovation competition, “the Green Tank,” where groups of students self-organized and used real campus data to create project pitches for promoting campus environmental sustainability. This competition was sanctioned by Bucknell University through the administration’s commitment of using capital from the Green Fund to finance the winning projects. As a senior intern with the Office of Campus Sustainability, Ashley demonstrated leadership by supporting fellow students in delivering their expected results in advocating for sustainable behaviors on campus. She is a team player that delivers on her assigned individual and collective performance targets. She is also a student member of the President’s Sustainability Council (PSC). The PSC has the overall executive leadership responsibility and oversight of sustainability at Bucknell.” ~

Each of these individuals have demonstrated, through their work, a strong dedication to advance sustainability on their campus and/or in their communities. The Bucknell Center for Sustainability & the Environment is pleased to congratulate them on their esteemed accomplishments and efforts in sustainability and look forward to their work in the future.

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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.


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Taking Action & Inspiring Change

For the second year, the Bucknell Center for Sustainability & the Environment has been fortunate to have an AmeriCorps VISTA housed in our Place Studies Program in support of the Coal Region Field Station to help take action in Coal Region communities that face food insecurity, poverty, and economic challenges.

What is the AmeriCorps VISTA Program?

AmeriCorps is a network of national service programs, made up of three primary programs that each take a different approach to improving lives and fostering civic engagement. Members commit their time to address critical community needs like increasing academic achievement, mentoring youth, fighting poverty, sustaining national parks, preparing for disasters, and more.”

Taken from the AmeriCorps website:

So What’s the Goal?

The goal of the Growing Change VISTA program is to foster healthy futures through building community capacity for initiatives that promote local food security and access in the Mount Carmel and Shamokin areas. The VISTA’s role is to develop effective strategies for building and sustaining community capacity in local food access and education initiatives that involve young people, working with the support of the Mother Maria Kaupas Center and Anthracite Region for Progress (ARP), while also creating and building upon opportunities for Bucknell faculty and student involvement in the related initiatives. Projects include supporting and growing community gardening and related partnerships, strengthening food pantry networks, and related programming, such as nutrition education, in the Mount Carmel and Shamokin areas.

Passing the Torch

Hannah Buckley, who made great strides with the Mount Carmel Community Garden, food pantries in the Coal Region, and the schools in the region, was succeeded by our newest VISTA, Mathew Santa on July 22, 2019. You can find Hannah’s work HERE.

Matt Santa and Hannah Buckley in front of the new garden beds built under Hannah’s leadership to expand the Mount Carmel Community Garden. Hannah passes the proverbial torch.

Matt is a recent graduate of Susquehanna University and hit the ground running with a tour of sites and meeting some community partners in Mount Carmel and Shamokin. Since then, Matt has done work with the Mount Carmel Community Garden, the Mount Carmel School District, and several Shamokin food pantries. Just some of the work he’s done includes:

  • Mount Carmel Community Garden
    • Working towards creating and implementing a garden committee.
    • Developing possible collaborations and projects with the Mount Carmel after-school program.
  • Mount Carmel School District
    • Collaborating with Pete Cheddar, Superintendent and former school Principal, on the possibility of applying for various recycling grants.
  • Shamokin Food Pantries
    • Following up on what Hannah established in the previous year and continuing the quarterly Shamokin/Coal Township Food Resource Collaboration Meetings, involving various organizations including food pantries, CSO (Central Susquehanna Opportunities), and the United Way to collaborate and share ideas and solutions to various issues that each organization may be facing.
    • From these meetings, a brochure was created listing information about various food resources for those in need.

In his dedication to his work, Matt Santa and Place Studies Program Director, Dr. Shaunna Barnhart attended the CCNYPA Fall Workshop at the University of Scranton on October 3rd. The Workshop brings together VISTA members, supervisors, and community partners from across Pennsylvania and New York to learn more about the breadth of projects underway and discuss ways to strengthen and grow project work going forward.  

Professor Shaunna Barnhart and Matt Santa at the CCNYPA Fall Workshop at Scranton University.

There is much more work to be done, increasing positive change and gaining traction in the coming months. With the dedication of VISTA, Matt Santa, Place Studies Program Director, Shaunna Barnhart, and our community partners and volunteers, a positive impact is sure to come and change is on the horizon.

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14th Annual Susquehanna River Symposium: Healthy Rivers, Healthy Communities

Another year of the Susquehanna River Symposium has come to a close successfully. This year’s theme, “Healthy Rivers, Healthy Communities was carefully chosen for many reasons.

Rivers provide a wide range of benefits to society. They provide jobs, and support key economic sectors, nurture social relations and spiritual well-being, and contribute to strategic goals such as food-energy-water security, poverty reduction and climate resilience.

… over-exploitation of its ecosystems disproportionately affects the livelihoods of the citizens of its many river towns, now and for future generations. Bucknell feels that academic institutions play an important role in addressing these inequalities, environmentally, economically, socially, and spiritually. That is why we chose the theme “Healthy Rivers, Healthy Communities” for this year’s River Symposium.

– Benjamin Hayes, 14th Susquehanna river symposium program with abstracts

The goals of this year’s symposium were “to cultivate knowledge, discovery, and stewardship for the benefit of the Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay and its human and natural communities.” It seems the goals were met and perhaps exceeded, with many attendees expressing their thoughts and gratitude for this event.

One patron, who has been coming to the symposium for 7 years running, said,

This is such a great event. So many great scientists and great information. It’s just really wonderful.”

Another said,

It’s great that they do all of this for free. So many conferences charge so much money to attend, it’s just not realistic. The quality of work here is amazing.”

The Greatest Minds of Now & Tomorrow

The quality of the work presented this year by students and presenters was outstanding. Their hard work and passions shined through and it made judging for awards particularly difficult this year. 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place awards were given to Undergraduate research posters and an award was given to both a Graduate and a Post Doctoral/ PhD research poster for their exemplary work.

And the winners are…

Undergraduate Awards

1st Place Winner

Awarded to William Ward, Biology student at Susquehanna University, for his poster “Lethal Effects Of Common Herbicides On An Agriculturally Important Wolf Spider (Pardosa Milvina).”

2nd Place Winner

Awarded to Laura Le, Civil & Environmental Engineering student at Bucknell University, for her poster “Implementing Precision Conservation On Turtle Creek Watershed.”

3rd Place Winner

Awarded to Kathryn S. Cantagallo, Biology Student at Bucknell University, for her poster “Carbon Storage and Sequestration On Bucknell Properties: Valuing Campus Natural Capitol.”

Graduate Award

Awarded to Michelle Herman, Environmental & Forest Biology Graduate Student at SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry, for her poster “Ongoing Restoration Of An Eastern Hellbender Population In the Upper Susquehanna River Drainage.”

PhD/Post Doctorate Award

Awarded to Mahkameh Zarekarizi, Earth & Environmental Systems Institute at Penn State University, for his poster “Decision Analysis Of Elevating A House To Manage Deeply Uncertain Flood Risks.”

We want to say congratulations to all the winners for all their hard work. We also want to thank everyone who submitted a poster or an oral presentation. We are so happy to have had you with us and your work was high quality. You should all be very proud.

The Knowledge of Many

Many inspiring speakers were invited to the symposium and it was unanimous among the attendees that they were top-notch and added so much to this year’s symposium. Invaluable information, research, and experience were shared with students, faculty, staff, community partners, and members of the community. Coming together to make a difference in such an ecologically important resource is the reason behind the River Symposium and why each year improves from what we’ve learned and how we’ve grown.

This Year’s Keynote Speaker

Ann Pesiri Swanson
Executive Director
Chesapeake Bay Commission

Keynote: “Chesapeake Bay: Lessons Learned From 40 Years of Watershed Management”

Several other speakers touched upon a wide range of subjects such as flood risk, life below water, and restoration to name a few. Speakers this year included:

  • Presenting Authors:
    Lisa Domenica Iulo
    Associate Professor of Architecture
    Penn State University
    Robert E. Nicholas
    Associate Research Professor of Atmospheric Science
    Penn State University
    Oral Presentation: “Local Resilience Related To Flood Risk in Susquehanna Region Communities.”
    Synopsis: With the increased risk of flooding in urban centers and agrarian communities which causes economic, environmental, and social stresses, the Penn State Initiative for Resilient Communities (PSIRC) launched a pilot project with the borough of Selinsgrove to use “the tools, methods, and lessons learned [] to inform decision-making for sustainability and resilience to riverine flooding in communities throughout the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and beyond.”
  • Presenting Authors:
    Geoffrey D. Smith
    Susquehanna River Biologist
    PA Fish & Boat Commission
    Megan Kepler Schall
    Assistant Professor of Biology
    Penn State Hazleton
    Oral Presentation: “Restoring Floodplains – A Regional Approach To Improve Water Quality and Community Resiliency.”
    Synopsis (from abstract): Discussion of how “a diverse set of agency and academic researchers partnered and leveraged their respective resources to confront the issue of disease-related mortality of… Smallmouth Bass and population declines in the Susquehanna River.” With an ever-growing complexity of pollutants and pathogens affecting fish health, collaborations such as this may very well become the norm or even a necessity.
  • Sid Jamieson
    Cayuga Nation Iroquois
    Bucknell University Lacrosse Coach (retired)
    Oral Presentation: “Indigenous People’s Perspective.”
    Synopsis: As a Native American of the Cayuga Nation Iroquois, member of the advisory board to the Chesapeake Bay Conservancy, and Faith-Keeper and Board of Directors member of the Greenwoods Land Conservancy, Sid was able to give us a comprehensive perspective of indigenous peoples regarding the Susquehanna River, its challenges, and its importance.
  • Presenting Authors:
    Kelly Gutshall
    Land Studies, Inc.
    Justin Spangler
    Water Resources Engineer
    Land Studies Inc.
    Oral Presentation: “Restoring Floodplains – A Regional Approach To Improve Water Quality and Community Resiliency.”
    Synopsis: “Restoration of our stream and floodplain systems with an understanding of our 200 year agricultural impact is providing answers to many of the most challenging water resource issues we are facing today… flood resiliency, water quality, and bio-diversity.” This presentation included case studies outlining challenges, benefits and returns on investment of these restoration projects.

Honoring Someone Important

A great honor was also bestowed for the first time at this year’s symposium, the title of Honorary Symposium Chair. Presented to H.W. “Skip” Wieder by Executive Director of the Foundation for PA Watersheds, John Dawes, and President of Bucknell University, John Bravman. Skip has been an integral part of the River Symposium from the very beginning, helping to create the very first River Symposium in October 2006. He’s also been responsible for securing countless dollars for faculty research and student internships concerning the Susquehanna River and its regions. He is a vital part of why so many gather together each year to share and learn in the ever growing caliber of research, knowledge and action concerning the Susquehanna River. We would like to thank Skip for his commitment to the river and its communities and congratulate him as Honorary Symposium Chair.

Getting Involved

Each year the River Symposium draws in exhibitors from state and local agencies as well as other entities in and around PA who have a role in the river’s health and its communities. This year was no exception. So many great people with a variety of experience and resources joined us on Saturday, Oct. 19th to share with attendees what they do, why they do it, and how others can get involved. We’d like to say a special thank you to those that took the time and shared their Saturday with us:

As well as Bucknell University’s Associate Professor of Environmental Studies and Sciences, Andrew Stuhl and Bachelor of Arts student, Bethany Fitch 23′.

A Step Into the Future

This year, the symposium committee looked to social media to encourage those attending to have fun and share their favorite moments with us and the world. Thus was born our hashtag, #SusquehannaRiverSymposium.

It seems many enjoyed sharing their photos within the proceedings. That many more took turns posing in our photo booth area complete with giant frame and stuffed fish friends. People really took to the idea and had fun with it and so did we.

Here are some of our personal favorites…

Thanks For Another Great Year!

Each year we put our passion, dedication, and hard work into the River Symposium to ensure we can bring this important event free and open to the public. But each year we couldn’t do it without the support of our sponsors. This year, we would like to say thank you to our sponsors, Bucknell University’s Office of the Provost, and the PA Water Resources Research Center (PAWRRC). Your sponsorship is invaluable and we thank you for your support.

To learn more about any of this year’s speakers, our Honorary Chair, or proceedings, you can view, download, and/or print the program by clicking HERE.

For general information about the symposium and this year’s theme, Healthy Rivers, Healthy Communities, visit the Susquehanna River Symposium Website.