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Research Sustainability

Research Sustainability

Funding is available for faculty members to conduct sustainability research through the Sustainability Seed Fund.  Funding is available for material and supplies, professional development, and to hire student workers to assist with research.

SUNY New Paltz Sustainability Research Highlights

Kara Belinsky (Biology) studies the behavior, ecology, and conservation of songbirds. Her dissertation research focused on the evolution of plumage color and singing performance in two species of wood warblers (chestnut-sided and yellowthroat). More recently, she has studied the song repertoire of a thrush species, the veery. Veeries sing acoustically complex songs, which feature multiple frequencies sung simultaneously. In order to understand how this language works, she recorded natural veery singing behavior and conducted playback experiments to test hypotheses about the function of specific songs and calls. Kara is beginning new research here at New Paltz that aims to understand how urbanization affects songbird habitat choice and use, with the goal of learning how to create a more bird-friendly campus and village. To conduct this research, she established a network of bird feeders located in different habitats across campus including suburban, rural, and forested locations on or adjacent to campus.

Salvatore Engel-Di Mauro (Geography) has been carrying out externally funded research involving field and lab work on processes of heavy metal contamination in urban gardens in various cities. The research will be used to promote urban gardening by helping urban gardeners figure out how to avoid or mitigate contamination problems. In 2014 he published a book on soils and soil degradation. In 2011 he conducted research on soil acidification and the published results of this research is forthcoming.

Megan Ferguson (Chemistry) studies a predatory bacterium that is harmless to humans (and is present in most people’s digestive tract) but can eat a wide variety of Gram-negative bacteria, including pathogenic strains that may be resistant to conventional chemical antibiotics. She also examines the nanostructure of wings of dragonflies, damselflies, and other insects; certain nanostructures appear to have antibacterial properties.

Andrea Frank (Art – Photography) is conducting collaborative system drawing sessions with SUNY New Paltz and local area participants, addressing issues related to sustainability with the campus and town community in the context of the feed back – future feed initiative. Feed back future feed is a ongoing series of workshops that gather together students, faculty, staff, local community members, and subject matter experts to collectively envision radically sustainable and innovative systems, which integrate the interconnected concepts of food, waste, energy, habitat, transportation, data, labor, and social structures. Workshop participants are challenged to adopt a systems thinking perspective to lead to new societal paradigms.

Sarah Hsu (Economics) wrote and edited a book series on sustainable development in Asia.

Matthew Friday (Art) and Aaron Knochel are participating on a team research project that examines how people interact with physical spaces on college campuses and teh impact that physical space has on community development, education, and ecologically awareness.

Anne Galperin (Art – Graphic Design) researches the social, health, and environmental dimensions of educational and public spaces.

Eric Keeling (Biology) presented “More Intervention in Wilderness? The Case of Forests, Fire, and Climate in the Northern Rockies” at the Wilderness 50th Anniversary Conference in Albuquerque. This work challenges some common assumptions about about resilience and the need for increasing management intervention in wilderness ecosystems. With coauthors, he is working on a manuscript on this topic for publication.

With Larry McGlinn, Huicheng Chien (Geography) is researching water quality impacts of a no-mow lawn buffer vs. a mowed lawn area adjacent to the largest pond at SUNY New Paltz.

Daniel Lipson (Political Science) published “Is The Great Recession Only the Beginning? Economic Contraction in an Age of Fossil Fuel Depletion and Ecological Limits to Growth” in the December edition of New Political Science.

Kate McCoy (Education) has recently studied the historical relationship between settler colonialism in the United States, capitalist enterprise, drug cash crop agriculture (tobacco), and environmental issues.

Ro Millham (Secondary Education) studies environmental factors (including weather, run-off, tides, phases of the moon, etc.) that affect the yearly population count for glass eels in Black Creek. She assesses (1) how the Hudson River Estuary and its environs limit or promote glass eel success, (2) anthropogenic considerations relative to the health and vigor of glass eel populations, and (3) why population levels for glass eels at Black Creek often surpass those of other Hudson River tributaries in the mid-Hudson region. She also performs research in the composite material arena which is directly used in reducing vehicle weight and wind turbine blades. She works with SunStrand, LLC, a company that develops bamboo and other sustainable natural fibers for use as reinforcements in plastics (composites). Developing products to help achieve LEED certification, etc. has been a primary focus.

Brian Obach (Sociology) has written a forthcoming book on the organic agriculture movement. He has published an article on the relationship between economic systems and ecological degradation. In addition, he has written several encyclopedia entries on sustainable agriculture issues and a chapter in a textbook on environmental sociology.

Jill Parisi (Art – Printmaking) is researching strategies to reduce the carbon footprint of papermaking and increase the growth or procurement of local native plant material material to make into paper using a beater. She is also researching the possibility of upcycling paper waste generated by the campus into paper in printmaking classes. Currently, this paper is being downcycled through single-stream recycling.

Emily Puthoff (Scuplture) and Elena Sniezek traveled across the Northeast in a custom-made solar-powered teardrop trailer in the summer of 2014. Emily designed and hand-built the trailer to have conversations with people about their ideas of progress, which included dimensions of sustainability. The trailer features a large solar-powered TV with which they screen the nomadic Wayfinding Series Film Festival along with their travels. Emily Puthoff and Elena Sniezek reviewed through hours of video from an international applicant pool and curated a diversity of short videos that address the theme of progress from the Hudson Valley and across the world. Emily challenged the people she met on her journey to ask questions such as “Do you think progress is possible? If so, what does progress look like? What can be done here, now, in your own life?” What began with a deep curiosity to meet and talk with people about the notion of progress has become the Wayfinding Series, A Work in Progress.

David Richardson (Biology) and his students are assessing the effects of green infrastructure at SUNY New Paltz on water quality.

With Brian Obach, kt Tobin (CRREO / Sociology) published “Agriculture Supporting Community in the Mid Hudson Region.” She also is the Principal Investigator for “Planning and Implementing Green Infrastructure to Improve Watershed Resiliency in the Saw Mill Brook Watershed and Village of New Paltz” with funding from the Cornell NYS Water Resources Institute and NYSDEC Hudson River Estuary Program.

Lyla Yastion (Anthropology) is writing a book on ecological anthropology using her lectures/discussions in her course, her own reading and research, and student engagement in the subject matter.