EPS seniors tackle environmental improvements on campus and beyond

May 05, 2009

The 15 capstone projects in Environmental Policy and Science span a wide range of topics, with more than half targeting ways to improve McDaniel’s environmental impact on the planet.

The students approached reducing the College’s carbon footprint from various angles, including alternative energy systems such as solar, geothermal, cogeneration and wind, alternative transportation, carbon sequestration and renewable energy credit trading programs.

Other EPS majors investigated pollution removal, Maryland cover crops, residential recycling, invasive plant species and Atlantic menhaden.

Katie Lawson, who has a double major in Environmental Policy and Science and Political Science and International Studies, researched ways labor unions and environmental groups could work together for a brighter future.

“We have the opportunity to reshape the global economy into something that is sustainable not only for the environment, but for workers as well,” she said. “I learned that now is really the time to make collaboration happen.  With the stimulus package pushing for green jobs and a president who is semi-friendly toward organized labor, the time is now.”

The projects on exhibit April 22-24 reflected the versatility of McDaniel’s EPS major not only in topics, but career opportunities. Zach Hetrick, a member of the Green Terra committee that developed the campus carbon report and proposed a sustainability plan, expects to do environmental consulting before entering graduate school.

“McDaniel must make large-scale improvements to obtain the sustainability goals,” said Hetrick, who focused his senior research on a photovoltaic system to generate electricity from solar energy and thus reduce electricity consumption, which has the greatest impact on the college’s carbon footprint.

“I learned that McDaniel will not be able to generate all of their electricity through a photovoltaic panel system, but solar energy technology is a feasible option and should not be overlooked when designing the College's sustainability plan.”

Cars, trucks, campus vehicles – vehicles that run on fossil fuels – give off carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming and climate change. But Ember Fleming discovered, in the process of researching strategies to reduce carbon emissions through transportation, that the issue and solution are dependent on individual choices to carpool, ride bikes and use shuttles.

“The main realization that I came to while doing my research, however, had nothing to do with the amount of carbon emitted from the College fleet vehicles or the total amount of reduced emissions,” said Fleming, who gave up driving three years ago. “I realized that McDaniel can only do so much to encourage the community to travel more conscientiously. It is up to the individuals to make the effort to change their behavior and to slightly alter their everyday lives if we are going to see any drastic change.”

Jamie Smith took her research in a different direction – to the Chesapeake Bay and one of its inhabitants, the Atlantic menhaden.

“I learned how the health of Atlantic menhaden is affected by a change in food availability,” Smith said. Menhaden are an important food fish for striped bass, bluefish, tuna and sharks as well as birds of prey such as ospreys and eagles, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

Smith’s research was conducted at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science at the Chesapeake Biological Lab in Solomons, Md. She plans a career in either research involving the Chesapeake Bay or teaching with an outdoor education program in environmental studies.