By addressing large-scale problems we're cultivating stronger communities and better lives. Students selected for this program work side-by-side world-class researchers in the field of sustainability, and shape the future—for themselves and the environment.
Description of the video:
Abby Zieliski: I had absolutely no idea that I wanted to do anything with sustainability, but I thought it was important to reach out and figure out what I could do and this opportunity arose and I definitely took it. I've learned so much so far and it's definitely interesting.
We're studying the quality of the Jordan river and we're using physical, chemical, and biological indiciators to determine that. We're seeing how campus infrastructure and student population affects the quality of the river.
Thomas Simon: 2020 Sustainability scholarships is really meant to advance scholarship and education and research for undergraduates. The main idea is really to help focus applied questions, to really start figure out what we talk about in the classroom can be used on the ground and how this actually becomes a career field and career pathway for the students.
Ecological health is such an important component, especially the Jordan river being such an iconic river in the middle of campus, everybody's aware of it. So, to make sure we have ecological health was, I thought, very important. So that's the approach I wanted to take advantage of.
Abby Zieliski speaking: Dr.Simon selected me to be his undergraduate researcher for the 2020 sustainability program. The other people in the lab are in SPEA and sustainability work. It's so much fun to interact with other colleges and the students there and Dr. Simon. His history is so extensive on what he's done with water quality and collections of bugs and fish. It's amazing to work with someone that knows so much about what I'm just beginning to learn about.
Thomas Simon: To be able to get to work hand in hand directly for a period of time, if it's just one semester. That really opens their eyes to how much other things are involved and what more they can do.
Abby Zieliski: It just important to be able to work outside the classroom, in a lab, in the field, working with other people and working independently. I feel like it's a very diverse process that allows you to grow as a person and as a scientist. I think it's just a fantastic opportunity to do it now.
Redefine Your Classroom
Students selected as Sustainability Scholars will receive a $500 scholarship each semester, based on successful work with their assigned mentor. Students are required to:
Engage in 8-10 hours per week of research with their assigned mentor.
Attend the Sustainability Scholars orientation.
Begin meeting with their mentor mid-fall semester through the end of the spring semester.
Create an approved research work plan in collaboration with an assigned faculty mentor by the conclusion of the fall term.
Enroll in the 2-credit hour Sustainability Scholars course for the spring semester.
Applications for the 2022-2023 cohort will open in August 2022.
Can our locally grown algae based biofertilizer (created from the emission stacks of IU’s Central Heating Plant) provide the necessary nutrients to grow healthy crops on IU’s Campus Farm and help the Campus Farm achieve organic certification?
Invaders or Homecomers: Toward a Nuanced Approach to Non-Native Plants in Landscape Design on Campus and in Adjacent Neighborhoods
2021 Research Project Details
Faculty Mentor: Rodrigo X. Armijos MD, DSc. Associate Professor, Department of Environmental & Occupational Health, SPH, IU- Bloomington
Project Description: Drinking water pollution is a growing worldwide threat specially affecting low-income communities. In America, minority populations and rural communities are receiving a direct detrimental impact of heavy metals, pesticides, and other chemicals contaminating their drinking water. This situation will become even more critical as climate change progress and intensify. Currently, more frequent torrential rains, flooding, wildfires, hurricanes are spreading through water and air chemicals loose from farm, homes, industrial waste that could lead to long-term negative health and environmental consequences. To evaluate the current situation related to water insecurity including having access to safe, reliable, and affordable drinking water of peri-urban and rural households of the Greene County, we are collecting information about perception and practices related to their household water, participant’s blood pressure, anthropometry, and health status. The data generated from this project will be the bases to understand the current situation of drinking water in peri-urban and rural community in Greene County. This pilot data will support future related research.
The undergraduate research assistant (RA) will be part of a multidisciplinary research group and will participate in various research activities including collecting data applying the health status interview, data entry. The RA will also assist during data analyses. RA will be able to present a poster with preliminary data by Spring 2022.
Desired skills: The prospective RA need to be knowledgeable of basic environmental sciences, RA needs to have natural curiosity and be eager to learning research methodologies and follow commands. The research team will offer adequate training.
Faculty mentor: Angela Babb Assistant Research Scientist, Ostrom Workshop
Project Description: Research Questions 1. How are Indiana institutions (i.e., schools, hospitals, correctional facilities) defining local food? 2. How much local and sustainable food are Indiana institutions purchasing, and what is the opportunity for them to purchase more? 3. What are the barriers and motivations for purchasing local and sustainable food among Indiana institutions? Our current industrial food system is unjust and unsustainable. Institutions have tremendous buying power to support local farmers and food businesses and shift to a more localized, sustainable food system, while providing fresher, more nutritious food to Hoosiers accessing food at institutions such as K-12 schools, colleges and universities, hospitals, nursing homes, and correctional facilities. Sustainable Food Systems Science, with the help of a previous Sustainability Scholar, conducted a survey of over 600 Indiana institutions in 2018-2019 about their local food purchasing behaviors, barriers, and motivations. Now it is time to further analyze the data and build and disseminate a final report.
Key tasks for this project include statistical analysis of survey data, visualization of data (using Excel and ArcGIS to create charts, graphs, and maps), and writing data results to create a final report. The goal for Spring 2022 is to disseminate a report statewide to farmers, food business, institutions, and policy makers.
Desired skills: Dedicated, hardworking and detail oriented. Experience with Excel is required. Experience with R, Stata or other statistical software is desired. Experience with ArcGIS is preferred but not required. Strong interest in sustainability and food systems is desired. Some knowledge regarding sustainable food systems is preferred.
Faculty Mentor: Sanya Carley and David Konisky, | Professors, O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs
Project Description This project focuses on the equity and justice dimensions of the clean energy transition in the United States. Within this domain, we have published articles on the conditions facing frontline communities, how to measure and identify vulnerable populations, a taxonomy
of energy justice programs, and what an expanded view of a just transition means, as well as other studies described on our website. Most recently, we have studied one particularly acute energy justice challenge: households that face energy insecurity, either through difficulty paying their energy bills or being disconnected from their service provider. Over the past year, we have tracked over 1,000 low-income households through online surveys, and measured the degree to which they experienced energy insecurity, and with what consequences, over this time. We are also currently studying equity dimensions of electric vehicles, both on the production side as auto manufacturers alter their production lines to incorporate electric vehicles (in collaboration with the Roosevelt Project), and on the consumption side as organizations seek to extend electric vehicles and associated charging infrastructure toward low-income and disadvantaged communities.
The selected student will assist with several of these projects, with an expected focus on collecting, organizing, and analyzing data on trends in employment and firms in the energy sector. The student will join a large research team that includes Carley and Konisky and several graduate students, and will gain valuable experience and knowledge about an important area of economic and public policy.
Desired skills and interests Interest in energy, environment, and climate change. Interest and/or experience with social science research. Interest and/or experience working with quantitative data, including visualization. Excellent writing skills.
Faculty mentor: Jon Eldon, Lecturer, O'Neill SPEA
Project Description Trees are an integral part of the IU Bloomington campus and provide important environmental, economic, and aesthetic services to the IU community. A growing appreciation for campus trees has led to numerous recent projects, including a tree inventory of the full campus, targeted tree health treatments, and risk assessments associated with invasive species and climate change. However, despite this interest in preparing for the future, we have a limited understanding of the past and how historical forces and events have shaped the present campus landscape. This project will digitize a recently unearthed campus tree map from the 1930’s and use other historical documentation, such as aerial photography, to better understand how the campus landscape and the campus trees in particular have changed over the past century.
Desired skills This project will require a wide variety of skills, and the selected student will be expected to be comfortable around computers and capable of working independently and learning new skills and programs as necessary.
Faculty mentor: Brian Forist, Ph.D. Lecturer—Parks, Recreation, & the Outdoors Department of Health & Wellness Design School of Public Health-Bloomington
Project Description: The Friends of Beck’s Mill manage a 19th century gristmill and 80 acres of mixed woodland/karst landscape near Salem in Washington County Indiana. They are a small community organization with a large set of responsibilities to sustain and interpret the historic mill and the adjoining lands. Beck’s Mill is seen by the organization and the broader community as a critical asset in the economic and ecological sustainability of this part of rural southern Indiana. Dr. Forist has been co-leading a small team focused on site interpretation and outreach. That team is one of nine from Indiana University (IU) under the direction of the IU Arts & Humanities “Engineering the Past, Present, and Future at Beck’s Mill” project that is working with the organization to help envision a sustainable future. For this Sustainability Project project, the Sustainability Scholar will complement work done to date and assist in the process of analyzing data collected from Friends of Beck’s Mill board members, community partners, other IU teams, and area residents leading to the creation of a Site Interpretation Plan for Beck’s Mill and the Adjoining Landscape. The Sustainability Scholar will become familiar with qualitative research methods and the analysis of qualitative data from interviews, focus groups, surveys, community conversations, and other similar sources. In addition, the Sustainability Scholar will conduct literature-based research on planning for interpretation and sustainability of analogous small, community-based historic sites and protected areas. The product of this project will be delivery of a draft Site Interpretation Plan for Beck’s Mill and the Adjoining Landscape to the Friends of Beck’s Mill toward the end of spring semester, 2022. The Sustainability Scholar will work closely with Dr. Forist including occasional site visits to Beck’s Mill to become familiar with the historic site, the protected ecosystems, community partners, and a variety of assets, opportunities, and challenges.
Desired Interests and Skills Ideally, the Sustainability Scholar working on this project would be interested in nature, history, heritage, and protected areas; sustainability of community organizations, historic resources, and adjoining landscapes; and qualitative research and data analysis. The Sustainability Scholar would have the ability to carefully read and summarize academic literature. They would also be flexible and creative, sharing what they learn through data analysis, literature-based research, and site observations freely.
Faculty mentor: Jacqueline MacDonald Gibson, Professor and Chair, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health
Project Description Lead (Pb) is a potent neurotoxin, and there is no safe level of exposure, especially for young children. Prior research has demonstrated that early-childhood exposure to Pb can lead to decreased educational performance as exposed children mature. However, no prior research has investigated the extent to which Pb in drinking water contributes to these potential damaging effects. In this project, we will use a unique, curated data set built by Dr. Gibson and her previous students to quantify the degree to which Pb in drinking water affects end-of-grade test results, advancement through K–12 grades, and high school graduation. The data set links individual blood Pb measurements for nearly 60,000 young children to information about their drinking water, other sources of Pb exposure, demographic characteristics, and educational performance. By the conclusion of the project, the student will be able to create a poster with preliminary results showing whether children exposed to drinking water with higher Pb at an early age have significantly lower school test scores, are less likely to advance to the next grade, and are less likely to graduate from high school than those with lower Pb levels in their drinking water.
Desired Skills Interest in data analysis; strong math skills or prior experience with probability and statistics/
Faculty mentor: Stephen “Chip” Glaholt Research Faculty and Adjunct Lecturer O’Neill SPEA
Project Description I’m looking for an engaged student to research ways to maximize the utility of our campus algae bioreactor. The campus algae bioreactor is designed to convert harmful GHG (e.g. CO2) into algal biomass which can have various utilities. For example, we currently use the algae as an environmentally friendly fertilizer on flower beds to reduce the use of harmful synthetic chemical fertilizers on campus. Key tasks will include, but are not limited to: 1) experimentation to maximize production of the algae bioreactor, 2) engaging students and community organizations to measure interest in the campus algae bioreactor, and 3) research potential collaborations with various IU entities (e.g. Campus Farm), as well as outside IU entities (e.g. local certified organic farms, aquaponic farms, etc).
Desired skills No research experience necessary. I’m looking for a student who is enthusiastic about reducing local/campus GHG emissions, has a strong desire to engage students and community members about ways IU is or could reduce its carbon footprint and is excited to explore creative options to enhance the utility of the campus algae bioreactor.
Faculty mentors: Michael Hamburger, Professor, Earth & Atmospheric Sciences Anna Nowicki Jessee, Lecturer, Earth Sciences, IUPUI
Project Description Earthquake-triggered landslides are prominent secondary effects of major earthquakes that can result in large numbers of fatalities and extensive economic damage. Over the past 200 years, these landslides have claimed over 200,000 lives. The sustainability scholar(s) involved in this project will help us investigate the patterns of landslide occurrence following major earthquakes around the globe and their relation to models of landslide triggering. We will make use of recently compiled global data bases on earthquake-triggered landslides and their impacts. An important component of this research will involve application of “scenario earthquake modeling” which involves the prediction of earthquake shaking caused by a future anticipated earthquake, as well as the impacts of secondary effects triggered by these events. The student’s research can build on existing scenario earthquake studies from Costa Rica, Mexico, and the Central U.S.
Desired Skills This project would be ideally suited for an earth science or environmental science major, ideally with some previous coursework in earth and environmental sciences, comfort with computer data analysis, spreadsheets and graphics skill, GIS and statistical analysis tools a plus.
Faculty mentor: Alex Jahn, Research Scientist
Project Description We are studying the migration of American Robins, most of which spend the summer in Bloomington, then migrate to areas near the Gulf of Mexico to overwinter. Other robins do not migrate, spending the entire year in Bloomington. We study why some robins migrate and why some do not, and what the consequences of migrating or not are for a robin's ability to host and disperse disease. The intern will learn how capture, collect and analyze data from robins in Bloomington. Tasks will include handling birds, taking measurements, and preparing blood slides. By the end of the spring 2022 semester, the intern will know how to collect and analyze data from captured birds and have studied how bird behavior and physiology changes over time.
Desired Skills The intern should be comfortable with working early in the morning (including weekends), have an eye for detail and be willing to work outdoors in various conditions, including heat, rain and cold.
Faculty mentors: Ben Kravitz, Assistant Professor
Project Description As climate change worsens, people are becoming increasingly interested in geoengineering, or the deliberate modification of the climate to temporarily reduce the harms of climate change. These ideas often take the form of reflecting more sunlight back to space by creating layers of aerosols (microscopic droplets) in the atmosphere. Sea salt aerosols have been explored for their ability to brighten clouds, but few studies have looked at the reflective ability of the sea salt aerosols themselves. To address this question, I have conducted several thousand radiative transfer simulations (how sunlight passes through the atmosphere, including an idealized layer of sea salt aerosols) in which I varied the size of the sea salt aerosols and how much water they have taken up - these parameters affect the reflective properties of the aerosols. I need help making sense of these simulations - which combination of parameters results in the most reflection? The student will be paired with another student working on this project so they can collaborate and help each other when they get stuck without having to wait for me to answer my email. I expect that this effort will culminate in a submitted peer- reviewed publication by the conclusion of the spring 2022 semester.
Desired Skills A student working on this project would need some experience in python (although some specifics can be learned during the research process), and some math/statistics skills would be useful (for example, regressions and error bars). Experience writing would be helpful but not necessary.
Faculty mentor: Rebecca Lave, Professor, Geography
Project Description The goal of this project is to gather evidence of past floods and flood management techniques through archival analysis of articles in historical newspapers. The newspapers have been digitized already, allowing us to search for key terms related to flooding, erosion, and the ways people tried to manage them. Our analysis will focus on the time period from the late 1800s through the 1950s in two geographical areas: the Driftless Region in southwestern Wisconsin and the Grand Kankakee System in northern Indiana and Illinois. Once we find all relevant articles, we will analyze them using Atlas.ti, a widely used program for analyzing qualitative data. Based on our analysis, we will produce 1) a database of flood dates and locations in both regions and 2) a written description of flood management and erosion prevention techniques, and how they have changed over time.
Desired Skills I am looking for an undergraduate interested in environmental history and/or flooding. No previous experience with archival research is needed, but you do need to be meticulous (because this data should be usable in hydrological models and analysis), and able to think creatively about what we can learn from historical newspaper articles.
Faculty mentor: Julio Postigo, Assistant Professor, Department of Geography
Project Description There is an increasing number of publications arguing for “sustainability transformations” to advance towards sustainable futures. The goal of this proposal is to understand this new and growing branch of sustainability research by analyzing a subset of the most cited papers. This analysis will be guided by three research questions: 1. How is “sustainability transformations” defined? 2. Why is “sustainable transformations” needed (i.e., causes); 3. What kinds of transformations are needed or proposed? Answering these questions will contribute to understand what “sustainability transformations” is about, its potential, and limitations. Key tasks of the project are: 1. Searching papers using Web of Science and Google Scholar; 2. Carefully reading and coding papers; 3. Conducting preliminary qualitative analysis; 4. Drafting research memos; 5. Outlining preliminary results of analysis. Data will be collected through coding the content of selected papers. Expected outcome is a significant contribution (recognized by a co-authorship) in one manuscript for submission to a journal.
Desired Skills The skills of an ideal undergraduate researcher are: 1. Proficient use of Web of Science and Google Scholar, Nvivo (or other software for qualitative analysis); 2. To have some research experience; 3. To write clearly; 4. To be responsible and self-motivated. These skills might be complemented by an interest in critically think about sustainability.
Mentors: Dr. Heather Reynolds, Associate Professor, Biology Hannah Gregory, Associate Researcher, Environmental Resilience Institute
Project Description Today’s cities both drive environmental change and are highly vulnerable to it. By working with nature, tomorrow’s cities can be literally greener, cleaner and economically more vibrant places, designed to minimize environmental impact and maximize resilience to environmental change. “Urban green infrastructure” (UGI) refers to biodiverse green spaces that are integrated into our built environments from streetscape to rooftop. UGI is a growing strategy for designing cities that are more energy- and resource-efficient and also more livable, economically vital, and resilient to adversity. The Prepared for Environmental Change Urban Green Infrastructure Working Group developed the Indiana Green City Mapper, a GIS-based planning tool for climate change resilience that enables cities to map and analyze their UGI for climate change resilience and overall quality of urban life.
This Sustainability Scholar research project will (1) add data to the Indiana Green City Mapper’s City of Bloomington urban green roof layer, and (2) employ the Indiana Green City Mapper’s tools to build on prior green roof resilience analyses. Scholar activities may include identifying and photographing green roofs and walls and potentially other UGI sites, adding data on site biophysical and social variables (e.g., plant species composition, stewardship groups) to an excel database, employing ArcGIS software to spatially map site locations, and building on a resilience analysis of the sites and an associated Story Map. Training will be provided in conducting field observations, use of geotagged photos, database curation, mapping and analysis.
Desired Skills Attention to detail, good self-motivation, excellent writing skills, GIS skills/interests, and experience with plant identification. Interests in environment, community resilience and climate change, and enjoyment of field work as well as data processing and analysis.
Mentors: James Shanahan, Professor, Media School at Indiana University. Ellen Ketterson, Distinguished Professor, Biology, Science Advisor and Founding Director, Environmental Resilience Institute
Project Description We are starting a multi-part series of radio/audio documentaries on environmental issues related to birds in Indiana. Potential topics include window strikes, the effect of cats on songbirds, myths and realities about black vultures, sandhill crane migrations, and the role of Indiana as a migratory flyway.
Talking about birds represents an important way to communicate with individuals about environmental and climate issues. People can observe bird behavior on a year-to-year basis, and many are concerned with their welfare. Millions of people consider bird-watching to be an important part of their life, and many of these participate in efforts to track birds, or to protect them.
Birds mark the changing seasons and their numbers indicate the health of the ecosystems they inhabit. Birds also hold great cultural, ecological, and economic importance—providing valuable services to natural and agricultural systems. And birds are in steep decline. A study published in Science in 2019 found that North American bird populations have declined by an alarming 3 billion individuals since 1970, a loss of nearly 30% of all birds. To stop the staggering loss of birds, we must identify the causes of their decline, recommend solutions in conservation practice and policy, and broaden awareness of the need for an urgent response.
This project would begin gathering research and audio material for the series. The series would eventually collaborate with the In This Climate podcast, and other audio outlets in Indiana. We estimate that 2-3 episodes of the series could be completed by the end of the academic year.
Desired Skills This project would be suited for students majoring in Biology and/or Media. Those with experience in audio production would be desired.
Faculty mentor: Devraj Singh, Environmental Resilience Institute; Biology department
Project Description Animals living in a periodic environment sync their phenology in an annual time frame which reflect a strong innate seasonal recurrence of biological periodic activities associated with physiology of migration, reproduction, and molt (Gwinner 1986; Helm et al., 2009). These seasonal phenologies are known to be heavily influenced by changing photoperiod across a year. To address this question, we propose to study the attributes of endogenous rhythms in dark- eyed junco populations that breed and develop at different latitudes (Nolan et al., 2002; Fudickar et al., 2017). Recent studies on the dark-eyed junco, a temperate-zone bird population, suggest that birds respond directly to seasonal changes in day length, and those that breed at lower latitudes where climate is milder respond earlier in the year when days are shorter, as compared to birds that breed at higher latitudes that require longer days (Singh et al. 2021). Juncos from higher latitudes delayed reproduction, spent less time in breeding, and molted earlier than those breeding at lower latitude. That do not migrate (Singh et al., 2019). How they would compare under constant dim light is entirely unknown. We propose the following hypothesis: Migratory and resident populations will exhibit endogenous annual rhythms but the period of the rhythm will differ. To address this question we will measure behavioral (activity rhythms) and physiological (body mass, cloacal protuberance a reproductive measure, testosterone hormone levels) parameters to understand how reproductive phenology changes over a period of year in the absence of any external time giver such as photoperiod. Key tasks for potential student include bird feeding, care weekly, helping experimenters in physiological data collection every month, analyzing locomotor activity data, helping experimenters in running hormone assays, and data analysis.
Desired Skills We are searching for applicants for the activity data analysis or running hormone assays, and data analysis. Applicants for the activity data analysis should have basic knowledge of computers, should enjoy analyzing activity data. Potential tasks in the experiment include assisting in bird care and feeding, physiological data collection every month, and analysis of activity data. Sustainability scholar in past have developed small projects based on their experience in the lab and were able to write and secure independent undergraduate research fellowships.
Faculty mentor: Shellye Suttles, Assistant Professor
Project Description This project examines farmland access and ownership in urban and peri-urban counties of Minnesota, given that Minnesota offers beginning farm tax credits that aid in the rent or sale of farm land or a variety of farm assets to beginning farmers. This project is a part of a USDA- funded research project on “Incentivizing Land Access For Small, Beginning And Socially Disadvantaged Farmers And Ranchers: Research, Extension And Community Of Practice.” The Sustainability Scholar will conduct a brief literature review on beginning farmer tax credits, collect applicable data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Census, and compile summary statistics on the collected data. If time permits, the Scholar will assist in the statistical analysis of the data. The Scholar will search the 2017 Census of Agriculture and the 2017 American Community Survey for county-level data on farmland leases, farmland ownership, farm operator characteristics, county demographics, agricultural input use, and agricultural production. We expect to find variations in farmland access and ownership, agricultural input use, and agricultural production across Minnesota’s counties depending on the degree of urbanicity.
Desired Skills Important skills for this research position include good communication, critical thinking, attention to detail, word processing in Word, data management and the use of summary functions in Excel, as well as familiarity with data collection in general.
Mentors: Kurt Waldman, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Geography Jordan Blekking, PhD Candidate, Dept. of Geography
Project Description The rapid increase in the number of supermarkets and market share of supermarkets, often referred to as supermarketization, is rapidly changing the food systems of African cities, with implications for the food security of urban residents. In this project we are studying their growth and impacts on food security by assessing current research on supermarket development in Africa, as well mapping the historical development and expansion of international supermarket chains in the region. The Sustainability Scholar will assist in this process by researching the development of specific store locations, geolocating them and contributing to the development of maps of their locations in Lusaka, Zambia and other cities around the country. As a final project, the scholar will produce a report about their findings, featuring information collected from the literature they read and maps they helped to create. This work is in coordination with the Sustainable Food System Science program at IU and allows the scholar to interact with a larger community of scholars working in this area.
Desired Skills The ideal candidate will have previous exposure to GIS software (such as adding points in Google Maps or waypoints on a GPS) although this is not required. More important is a willingness to learn the mapping software and collaborate with other researchers.