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Kalamazoo College
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Research

Independent Study Courses

In Spring 2013, after the cafeteria pig composting program was suspended, two K students conducted an independent study to address Kalamazoo College’s need for a composting system to divert cafeteria food waste from the landfill. Under the advising of Dr. Binney Girdler, Samantha Jolly '15 and Alicia Pettys '13 researched potential compost methods and other institutions' compost programs in order to make a proposal as to the most feasible compost solution for Kalamazoo College. Their research and proposal are available online. Read more>>>

Senior Seminar Research

Dr. Binney Girdler's Senior Seminar spent the winter quarter of 2009 studying local environmental issues to contribute to the Southwest Michigan Regional Sustainability Covenant.  Kalamazoo College signed the covenant along with other regional leaders, including Kalamazoo County.  The Senior Seminar students decided to develop a Kalamazoo Sustainability Atlas, a map that can be used to track progress on various sustainability indicators.   Read more>>>

Climate Research Fellowships

Since the summer of 2009, the College has funded Climate Research Fellowships to research and develop work that could directly or indirectly lead to reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at the College. The work of the fellows are funding by the Climate Commitment Planning Committee’s Climate Research Fellowships. “The fellowships provide an on-campus opportunity for students interested in sustainability research,” says committee chair Paul Manstrom. “In the past, these students would have had to find an internship on the outside.”

Past Fellows:

Summer 2010

Based on Smith and Cooper's (2009) work, Trace Redmond '13 created a baseline measurement of the carbon stored in the arboretum’s soil. Trace took at least twenty soil samples in each land cover area (pines, prairie, hardwoods etc.) to a depth of 30 cm using a soil corer. He then measured carbon content of the samples, using these values to extrapolate the carbon stored in the soil of the arboretum. Visit the arb's website for more on this carbon sequestration project.

Summer 2009

Ellen Smith ’10 and Ben Cooper ’11 researched the potential for the College to use the Lillian Anderson Arboretum biomass to sequester some of the GHG emissions the College must report as part of the Presidents Climate Commitment. “They made great progress,” says Manstrom, “and the College is a leader in developing methods for calculating the sequestering potential of areas like the Arboretum.”

Adam Smith ’11 tested the potential for LED lighting on campus. He has discovered a number of potential applications, and, if testing goes well, the energy savings (and GHG reduction) will be significant. As a direct result of his research, the College replaced the lighting in Biggby's with LED lights.  Chris Hutchinson ’10 used infrared camera technology to calculate heat loss in the College’s steam distribution system. He also is working on a plan with Residential Life to concentrate student occupancy during the December break. Both projects will help the College calculate, implement, and administer energy savings.

Amanda Lawrence ’10 spent the summer of 2009 trying to discern the barriers to bicycle use at K.  She began by researching commuter habits, which she integrated into her Senior Individualized Project..  works half-time for facilities management (Recycling and the campus group, Helping Understand Bicycles). The rest of her time is spent on a Senior Individualized Project, researching ways to encourage more bicycle use at “K.” “Her research makes use of Geographical Information Systems,” says Manstrom, “a powerful software based on GPS data.” Evan Anderson ’09 is working for facilities management to write code for software that will automatically retrieve data from College energy meters and publicly display current and historical energy use. “This ‘energy dashboard’ concept is a feature on several U.S. college websites,” says Manstrom. “But we’re one of the first to install it ourselves.”

Finally, Nick Kelly ’09 conducted research into strategies to reduce emissions for the purpose of the Presidents Climate Commitment. He was commissioned by the Board of Trustees to produce a document that lists board member travel options that will offset GHG emissions.