The Pedagogical Pursuit of Environmental “Truth”: Mobilizing our Collective Expertise

11th Annual Conference of the Environmental Consortium

November 8, 2014 | Russell Sage College, Troy, NY


9:00 a.m. Registration
Buchman Pavilion

Continental Breakfast
Bush Memorial Hall

9:30 a.m. Welcome
Bush Memorial Hall

Susan Scrimshaw, Ph.D.
The Sage Colleges

Michelle D. Land, J.D.
Pace University Academy for Applied Environmental Studies and the Environmental Consortium of Colleges & Universities

Bush Memorial Hall
“Guilt vs. Shame in Conservation Culture”
Jennifer Jacquet, Ph.D. [biography]
Assistant Professor, Department of Environmental Studies
New York University

10:45 a.m. Coffee Break
Buchman Pavilion

11:00 a.m. Breakout Session 1
Gurley Hall

Academics and Pedagogy

Session 1a. 
Climate - It is a Dangerous Game We Are Playing
Regulating Carbon Emissions to Mitigate Climate Change: An Interdisciplinary Module Interpreting New Carbon Pollution Standards

Session 1b.
Leadership Education in the Environmental Studies Curriculum
Sustainability as Design: How not What

Session 1c.
Teaching about the natural world in the field
Place Matters: a collaborative exploration of interrelated local issues through the lenses of environment, education, labor, and punishment

Session 1d.
Indigenous Values and Environmental Decisions
Bard College Food Initiative

Session 1e.
Watershed Monitoring and Management Programs as Ideal Training Opportunities for Interdisciplinary Steward-Scientists
Respect Your Elvers! Collegiate Citizen Science and American Eel Conservation
Water Quality Testing with Students: Citizen Science in School

12:30 p.m. Lunch
Bush Memorial Hall

Presentation of The Great Work Award, in honor of Thomas Berry
Recipient: Erik Kiviat, Co-Founder, Hudsonia

1:15 p.m. Poster Session
Bush Memorial Hall
Abstract deadline October 31st

2:00 p.m. Breakout Session 2
Gurley Hall
Moving Forward, Collaborative Opportunities

3:30 p.m. Town Hall Meeting
Bush Memorial Hall
Donna Heald, Ph.D.
Russell Sage College

Congressman Paul D. Tonko (D-NY)
20th Congressional District of New York 

4:30 p.m. Adjourn  

Keynote Biography

Jennifer Jacquet is an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Studies at New York University.  She is an environmental social scientist interested in large-scale cooperation dilemmas, with specific interests in overfishing and climate change.  Her work has been published in journals such as Conservation Biology, Nature Climate Change, Biology Letters, and Biological Conservation.  Jacquet formerly wrote the guilty planet blog at Scientific American, and contributes to  Her book about the evolution, function, and future of the use of social disapproval, Is Shame Necessary?, is due out in early 2015.

Jacquet earned her B.A. in Economics and Environmental Studies from Western Washington University, her M.S. in Environmental Economics from Cornell University, and her Ph.D. in Natural Resource Management and Environmental Studies from the University of British Columbia in 2009, where she worked with Daniel Pauly’s Sea Around Us Project.

Breakout Session Descriptions

Session Ia.  

Climate - It is a Dangerous Game We Are Playing

Margie Turrin,
Education Coordinator, Marine Geology & Geophysics, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University
Jessica Brunacini, Project Manager, Columbia Climate Center at the Earth Institute

The science of climate change with numerous sensitivities system interactions, and feedbacks can be complex and challenging. The human and societal issues intersecting climate change can be overwhelming, depressing and paralyzing. To combat these challenges we have developed a suite of activities, serious games and interactives that engage students while teaching both the science and the societal impacts of a changing climate.  Three pieces we will share during this session include: a marine food-web based card game that showcases interactions, dependencies and human impacts; a local assessment of sea level rise impacts; and a new app that explores the science and local impacts behind our rising sea level.  Eco-Chains is a card game based on connections between the natural world and human influences.  Focused on the connections in a local foodweb it deals with the delicate balance of the species and the impacts of human choices such as industrialization, overfishing, green energy choices. Future Coast Local is a field based activity where students use maps to move from the water's edge through the local community, tracking and discussing the impacts of a 1.5 ft., a 5 ft. and a 10 ft sea level rise and storm surge.  They work in groups to complete a community impact assessment.  Polar Explorer is an interactive map-based Sea Level Rise App that uses questions to navigate the user through a series of layers that addresses: What is the role of the atmosphere? What is the role of the Ocean? What else influences sea level change? Where has sea level been in the past? Where is sea level changing now? Who is vulnerable? Each of these questions takes the user to a series of touch interactive data visualizations displayed on maps and supported by a few sentence introduction, a short audio explanation, and supporting webpage.

Regulating Carbon Emissions to Mitigate Climate Change: An Interdisciplinary Module Interpreting New Carbon Pollution Standards

Gautam Sethi, Ph.D.
, Associate Professor, Economics, Bard Center for Environmental Policy
Monique Segarra, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Environmental and Climate Policy, Bard Center for Environmental Policy
Sandra Penny, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Climate Science, Bard Center for Environmental Policy

Climate change is a challenge that will not be resolved without interdisciplinary understanding to support political action. Despite a widespread consensus among scientists and economists, political leaders have been slow to respond to warnings from the academic community and enact policies that will decrease GHG emissions. The future-oriented and uncertain trajectory of climate change undermines political commitment to act. In addition, the structure and rules of national political institutions have led to legislative gridlock on climate policy at the federal level. Recently, the Obama administration proposed a Clean Power Rule which enables the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to utilize the existing Clean Air Act's 111(d) to establish carbon pollution standards for existing power plants. The EPA has delegated the task of crafting regulations to the states. This delegation is intended to give states more flexibility to choose the approach they will use to establish carbon pollution standards. Policy choices made at the state level will be shaped by each state's economy, culture, political leadership, and interpretation of the underlying scientific and economic analyses. The dynamics of the unfolding carbon regulatory process presents a unique and timely opportunity to teach students about climate change and interdisciplinary problem solving.  The Bard Center for Environmental Policy faculty has developed an integrated and interdisciplinary three week teaching module in which students will learn how geoscience data and modeling can be combined with economics and political analysis to formulate state level policies responding to new carbon regulations.  The module uses New York as a key case, and students will assess both climate risks and the costs and political issues regarding varying policy options for policy makers to reduce the state's carbon output. The faculty will discuss the module experience, from development to implementation, in this breakout session.

Session Ib.

Leadership Education in the Environmental Studies Curriculum

Presenter:  Eban Goodstein, Ph.D., Director, Bard Center for Environmental Policy

This paper explores the curricular role for consideration of personal leadership in environmental studies courses. Leadership education is typically divided into two arenas: personal leadership development, and organizational leadership. I argue that the former is more critical component of an undergraduate education, as it typically revolves around an understanding of personal leadership competencies, the ability to frame and deliver a narrative, and to engage with others in a vision.  These are foundational abilities for affecting change, whether in the NGO or for-profit world, in policy or business. Indeed, these are also critical skills for career success. Given this overlap, leadership education is sometimes viewed as  and therefore, not suitable for inclusion in a liberal arts curriculum.  To this, there are two responses. The first is that leadership education was the original, primary purpose of the classical academy, and it remains embedded in the mission statements of many institutions. Done well, it is a powerful interdisciplinary exploration, with a particular focus on a typically under-served part of the curriculum: rhetoric and oral communication.  The second is to recognize that in an era of rising student personal debt, an education divorced from professional concerns is increasingly untenable for many institutions.  Shriberg and McDonald (2013) provide a survey of ESS-related programs that explicitly include leadership education, the majority of them started in the last few years. In terms of the conference theme, "the truth" is that the work that our graduates will do is of profound global and historical importance, and it is our obligation as educators as best as we can as change agents and leaders, both with a critical understanding of environmental issues, but also the ability to affect change.

Sustainability as Design: How not What

Presenter: E. Melanie DuPuis, Ph.D., Chair, Environmental Studies and Science, Pace University

If, as many argue, sustainability is a wicked problem: undefinable, emergent and transforming, and varied according to personal worldviews, how does one teach "sustainability"?  This presentation will describe a course that uses the Stanford Design School Steps, incorporated into a series of interactive on-line labs.  This course design trains students to implement effective projects that recognize and work within the wickedness of sustainability problems.

Session Ic.

Teaching About the Natural World in the Field

Presenter:  Richard S. Feldman, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Environmental Science, Marist College

Instilling a deep appreciation  conservation of the natural world requires meaningful contact and familiarity with it.This session would present and discuss methods used by faculty who teach courses primarily in the field.The focus would be on the living world, but not to the exclusion of study of non-living features, e.g. geology.  How do students gain skills in identifying various taxa?  What kinds of sites are used?  Who can collaborate with or support the courses with their expertise?  What guides and tools are essential?  How to assess student learning?

Place Matters: a collaborative exploration of interrelated local issues through the lenses of environment, education, labor, and punishment

Andrea Frank
, Assistant Professor, Head of Photography Program, Art, SUNY New Paltz
Alexandra Cox, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Sociology, SUNY New Paltz

This fall sociologist and criminologist Alexandra Cox and artist and photographer Andrea Frank are co-teaching the honors course Place Matters. This hands-on and collaborative course explores the relationship between sociological inquiry and artistic strategies as a tool for integrating exploratory and field based learning with critical and visionary engagement in a chosen site. The course uses the overarching theme of place--using New Paltz and a 50 mile radius as a case study--and its relationship to social and environmental harm on the one hand and possibilities on the other as a starting point for investigations into local and regional institutions and issues. The site will be addressed by four teams from four perspectives: environment, punishment, labor and education.The assignments for the four teams combine artistic and photographic strategies with ethnographic exploration and include documentary photography, concept mapping, interviews, field notes, and critical writing. The class and assignments are structured in two parts: the first half of the semester will be devoted to the investigation of existing social institutions and structures, and the second half of the semester will be focused on researching seeds of and envisioning alternative and even utopian communities, environments, and systems. The course will culminate in a public exhibition on campus accompanied by a small public presentation in which students present their work. The employment of artistic strategies will facilitate the students' and the community's processes of recognition and reflexivity about pernicious but underrecognized environmental and social harms, and the visualization and/or experimental initiation of new systems or structures.

Through the course we aim to point to the deep systemic nature of environmental issues and their relationship to social issues.
At the date of the conference on November 8, students will have researched and compiled documentation in the four areas in the form of four book chapters for a final larger volume, and be working on visionary proposals for exhibition as well as four further book chapters.

Session Id.

Indigenous Values and Environmental Decisions

Jack P. Manno, Ph.D., Professor, Environmental Studies, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
Ray Gutteriez, Graduate Student, SUNY ESF Center for Native Peoples and the Environment

In the pursuit of Environmental truth there may be no more important conversation than that between Indigenous knowledge holders and the those who present their truth claims via conventional "western" science. What lies behind these truth claims are contrasting value claims between Indigenous values (gratitude, reciprocity, long-term outcomes, etc.) and the dominant culture's environmental values (efficiency, accuracy, measurable outcomes). At SUNY ESF we have created the Center of Native Peoples and the environment. The Center incorporates indigenous perspectives and knowledge for the benefit of native students and works to educate mainstream students in a cross-cultural context. This break-out session will be led by a Native Graduate Student and a non-Native professor and ally, both active in the Center. Together we are teaching, for the first tlme, an upper division undergraduate course, Indigenous Values and Environmental Decisions, as part of an Undergraduate Minor in Native Peoples and the Environment. In this course we compare and contrast environmental values and explore cases of decision-making processes that have attempted, with or more less success, the knowledge and values expressed by Indigenous participants in public decision making processes that affect them. In this break out session we will explore the cases we are using and the how our own pedagogical styles are influenced both by academic pedagogical norms and Indigenous modes of instruction and communication.  We will also discuss the importance of promoting Indigenous values in the context of environmental education and the means and opportunities for doing so.

Bard College Food Initiative

Presenter:  Paul Marienthal, Ph.D., Dean for Social Action and Director of the Trustee Leader Scholar (TLS) program, Bard College

Responding to the obvious need for sustainable practices, Bard College is revamping its food system.  The unique piece is our partnership with the corporate food provider that serves the college.

Bard, in the heart of the Mid-Hudson, is surrounded by farms.  Yet, until recently, most of Bard's food arrived in sleek, stainless steel trucks.  Given the expanding consciousness about nutrition, food justice, global warming, farm labor practices (and on and on), the absence of local food at the college had become deeply disturbing.

Over the past decade Chartwells -- one of the small number of corporate giants that rule academic food services - slightly increased local food at Bard: apples, milk, some bread and chicken.  But their corporate structure isn't set up to acquire food locally.
Four years ago, energized by overwhelming student initiative, Bard and Chartwells began partnering to radically alter the way food is procured and prepared at the college.  The students raised $25,000, the college invested the remainder, a young farmer was hired, and there is now a thriving small farm on the campus (  Chartwells purchases all of the produce from the farm --this year over 30,000 pounds.

Following intensive discussions with students and administrators, Chartwells created a position that exists at no other institution in its orbit.  The Food Advocate's primary job is developing partnerships with local farmers and food hubs.  The students in turn created an extremely active oversight committee.  We meet regularly to shift the food system radically and positively.

In this sessions we will discuss the farm, the central role of students, integrating the  farm at the college, Chartwells positive response, and how the leadership development program of the college (the Trustee Leader Scholar program) figures into the bargain: everything having to do with Bard and food!

Session Ie.

Watershed Monitoring and Management Programs as Ideal Training Opportunities for Interdisciplinary Steward-Scientists

Katherine Meierdiercks, Ph.D.
, Assistant Professor, Environmental Studies and Sciences, Siena College
Emily Vail, Watershed Outreach Specialist, Hudson River Estuary Program, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation

The National Research Council has argued that in order to solve the world's complex water problems, "It is important to cultivate hydrologic scientists and engineers with intellectual breadth and disciplinary depth and graduates with enriched communication skills to enable them to easily work on interdisciplinary teams. During the education experience, periods of practical experience using the laboratory and field, exposure to new technologies, and service-minded activities () are all techniques to achieve this goal" (National Research Council [2012]). Local watershed monitoring and management programs are the ideal setting to achieve these educational goals. Watersheds can serve as , promoting place-based, experiential, and inquiry-based learning through coursework and directed research, providing both interdisciplinary breadth as well as disciplinary breadth. Yet while this type of learning can provide a solid foundation to help students learn course content while becoming engaged, active members of their communities, our ultimate goal is to prepare students as ethical and capable environmental stewards. This requires a strong understanding of science and technology, but also the ability to communicate technical solutions to the general public.

Several Colleges and Universities throughout the Hudson Valley, such as Siena College, SUNY New Paltz and others, are doing just this, using their local watersheds to train capable steward-scientists.  In this panel, we share examples of educational and research programs in which students are collecting valuable watershed data, helping to better understand hydrological processes, and engaging with their communities.

Respect Your Elvers! Collegiate Citizen Science and American Eel Conservation

Presenter: Chris Bowser, Education Coordinator, NYSDEC Hudson River Program & Cornell WRI

American eels are an important migratory species found in every tributary of the Hudson River Estuary. For many reasons they are an ideal subject for citizen science, and their life cycle allows for several ways that college students and professors can build exciting research projects, including spring time "glass eel" monitoring and may through October "eel ladder" projects. This research must be done in conjunction with NYSDEC regulations, but has a great potential to both collect valuable research on a potentially threatened fish, and provide a great learning experience for students with a wide range of academic abilities. Currently the Hudson River Estuary Program and National Estuarine Research Reserve conduct citizen science eel studies on a dozen waterways from Staten Island to near Albany, with the potential for partnership with academic and non-profit partners.

Water Quality Testing with Students: Citizen Science in School

Presenter:  Ed Helbig, Education Coordinator, Orange County Water Authority

For the past five years, our agency has continued an in-school citizen science project designed and piloted by Teresa Thornton of the Mitchell Center for the Environment at the University of Maine. Several thousand students have participated, and more than 1200 complete data sets have been collected on groundwater quality. The program is titled Groundwater Education Through Water Evaluation  Testing: GET WET for short. Here's how we describe it to potential teacher-participants:

The Problem:
One third of Orange County's population gets their drinking water from private wells. In Orange County, private well owners are not required to test or report their home's well-water quality. There is no mechanism for water scientists and resource managers to obtain water quality data from individual private wells.

The Solution: A Great Opportunity for Students!
For the past five years, students from Orange County's Middle  High Schools have joined students from seven states in this unique water-testing program: GET WET brings together Middle and High School students and their science teachers with students and faculty from local colleges to collect water samples from students' homes and test those samples in their School lab.

GET WET's Benefits: Hands-On Learning
Participating students get to complete real-world lab tests of six water quality parameters in their science classes which will tell them about their own home's water quality and at the same time contribute to our County-wide understanding of water quality.

OCWA's GET WET program engages students and collects data. But is it science?
Who will USE this data?
Can the program generate real science, or is it just a school exercise?
If the program has value, how can we enlist scholars and researchers, as well as other coordinators and teacher-participants?

Is GET WET sufficiently valuable that it could be used in other Hudson Valley communities?
Are there other in-school citizen science programs in operation in the Hudson Valley?
How are they similar? How do they differ?

Russell Sage College Pace Academy for Applied Environmental Studies