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Sustainability Student Research Fund offers $5000 Alumni grant

Solar panels installed outside Eco House on East Street, part of the College’s current sustainability efforts. Photo by Minh Tran

The Environmental Studies Concentration Committee recently announced the opportunity for students to apply for a summer research grant of up to $5,000 through the Sustainability Student Research Fund. Enabled by the donation from Board of Trustees members Kathryn Mohrman ’67, Edward Senn ’79 and Michael Kahn ’74, the fund will support a project that focuses on sustainability in either the natural or social science fields. This is the second year this grant has been awarded.

The Sustainability Student Research Fund has a central aim of supporting discovery and initiative in the field through faculty-student collaboration. The Environmental Studies Concentration Committee, chaired by Professor Keith Brouhle, will be reviewing applications and distributing the award.

The application is similar to that of a Mentored Advanced Project (MAP), including a project description in which students formally ask their research question and present preliminary research based on existing literature. Students will also need to describe how they would approach their question in their research. The research experience is expected to take place over an eight to ten week period in a learning endeavor which will be guided and supported by a faculty sponsor.

“There was desire in the funding agreement that it be faculty-directed and approved, so I think the board members wanted to empower students to engage with this research but also wanted them to do so in a mentored environment … in a supported way,” said Brouhle.

Last year’s grant recipient used geospatial data and mapping to explore the role of agriculture in Iowa and the environment at large. The research examined the interaction between farming practices and natural processes and resources, concerning issues such as soil and water contamination. It also studied the relationship between agriculture and the town. Finally, given the changing farm structure and new patterns of agriculture, the recipient sought to conceptualize a more sustainable town and college and evaluated what resources Grinnell has to prepare for such a future.

The committee is not only looking for proposals that will integrate knowledge from coursework at the College and also addresses the “question of long-term sustainability and a broad impact makes one application stand out over another,” Brouhle said.

The grant expands existing on-campus opportunities to engage with sustainability. Student groups such as Student Environmental Committee and Eco-Campus promote sustainability on campus, and the College has both standing and ad hoc committees comprised of faculty and administration members to ensure environmental vigilance in its policies and practices. The College also offers science courses that integrate fieldwork into the curriculum, particularly with visits to Conard Environmental Research Area, as well as numerous off-campus study and internship opportunities.

Solar panels installed outside Eco House on East Street, part of the College’s current sustainability efforts.
Photo by Minh Tran
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