EnviroThursday Fall 2009

Presentations take place at 12 noon, Olin-Rice Room 250

September 17, 2009

"Macalester's New Sustainability Plan"
Speaker: Suzanne Savanick Hansen, Sustainability Manager

Learn about Macalester’s new Sustainability Plan. Until now, the college has never set specific, measurable and tangible goals for sustainability that will touch every part of the institution. Macalester is one of a handful of colleges in the nation to adopt such a comprehensive, forward-looking plan. The plan incorporates the work of two Environmental Studies Senior Seminars and over 400 students, staff and faculty who engaged in a Sustainability Strategic Planning process.

September 24, 2009

"Seeing the Devastating Beauty of Our River"
Speaker: Peter L. Johnson, Artist

Peter L. Johnson will talk about the devastating beauty that he photographs as he works with the Upper Mississippi River Watershed.

Peter (www.peterljohnson.com) is an artist whose draws on his varied background as a documentary photographer, solo street performance artist, and social activist to create his series of images entitled Watershed Moments, whose lyrical, abstract photographs discover beauty amongst the devastating interaction we have with our environment.

Peter L. Johnson Top Soil

Peter L. Johnson Portrait
Active Minnesota River bank oil and topsoil erosion Peter L. Johnson at a river bank in Jordan, Minnesota.

October 1, 2009 - John B. Davis Lecture Hall, Campus Center

"Losing Resilience in the Fight Against Floods in New Orleans"
Speaker: Craig Colten, Geography Professor at Louisiana State University

The concept of resilience offers hope that communities can learn from calamities and make effective adaptations to contend with extreme circumstances. A comparative view of resiliency in New Orleans before two epic hurricanes - Betsy in 1965 and Katrina in 2005 -- underscores the importance of preserving social memory of hazardous events and drawing on that memory to maintain resiliency.

Craig Colten is the Carl O. Sauer Professor of geography at Louisiana State University. Before arriving in Louisiana in 2000, he spent a decade with the Illinois State Musuem, worked with an environmental consulting firm in Washington, DC, and taught at Texas State University. His most recent books are An Unnatural Metropolis: Wresting New Orleans from Nature (2005) and Perilous Place, Powerful Storms: Hurricane Protection in Coastal Louisiana (2009). Currently he is the editor of the Geographical Review.

Sponsored By: Environmental Studies, Geography and Mellon Curricular Pathways

October 8, 2009 - No EnviroThursday

October 15, 2009 - John B. Davis Lecture Hall, Campus Center

"Improved River Water Quality Monitoring Using Hyperspectral Remote Sensing"
Speakers: Donald Friend and Fei Yuan, Department of Geography, Minnesota State University, Mankato

Donald Friend and Fei Yuan will present results of their recent work on the highly impacted Blue Earth River where they implemented a new and innovative research methodology, airborne dynamic hyperspectral remote sensing. This research has more accurately and cost effectively identified water quality and critical sediment supply areas than previously possible through traditional monitoring or other remotes sensing technologies. The methods and results developed here can readily be applied to other watersheds.

Sponsored By: Environmental Studies, Geography and Mellon Curricular Pathways

October 22, 2009 - John B. Davis Lecture Hall, Campus Center

"Keys to Effective and Sustainable Disaster Recovery"
Speakers: Mary Halloran, Mayor, and James Prosser, City Manager, Cedar Rapids, IA

Disasters are the true “moments of truth” for governments. Not only are lives on the line during a disaster but recovery efforts often shape a community’s future. This presentation will outline the disciplines that have been applied to Cedar Rapids disaster recovery efforts, the successes to date and the challenges ahead. It will also address how Cedar Rapids has incorporated sustainability in recovery planning.

Sponsored By: Environmental Studies, Geography and Mellon Curricular Pathways

October 29, 2009 - No EnviroThursday - Fall Break

November 5, 2009

"Wind Climatology and Wind Power in Minnesota"
Speaker: Katherine Klink, Associate Professor, Dept. of Geography, University of Minnesota

The State of Minnesota has committed to having, by 2020, 20% of all electricity in the state supplied by renewable energy sources. Wind power will be a large component of the state’s renewable energy portfolio. What makes Minnesota such a good place to for wind energy? What does the wind resource look like within our state? Why aren’t wind turbines everywhere? The climatology of wind shows why (and where) wind power has been pursued within Minnesota. Climatology is not the only factor, however that determines where a wind turbine can (or will) be sited, and political and non-climatic environmental factors often are just as important for wind energy development. In this presentation I discuss the climatology of wind, some possible implications of climate change for wind energy generation, and some of the broader environmental, social, and political aspects of wind energy development.

November 12, 2009 - John B. Davis Lecture Hall, Campus Center

"War, Peace and the River Basin: Cold War Geopolitics and the Globalization of Large Dams, 1933-1975"
Speaker: Christopher Sneddon, Professor of Political Ecology, Dartmouth College

One of the lasting legacies of Cold War geopolitics, one that is frequently overlooked by scholars and policymakers, is that of the global diffusion of large dams, associated technological knowledge, and the notion of river basin planning. The primary geopolitical aim of these programs undertaken by the US Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) during the Cold War was straightforward--to contain the spread of communist regimes and ideologies by demonstrating the superiority of Western approaches to governance and economic development--yet the thinking behind and the implementation of this objective represents an enormously complex blend of political calculation, resource planning, and transfers of technology and ideology. Through case studies, Sneddon explores river basin development programs carried out by the USBR in the Middle East (the Litani River basin), East Africa (the Blue Nile basin), and Southeast Asia (the Mekong River basin) as Cold War tensions ebbed and flowed.

Sponsored By: Environmental Studies, Geography and Mellon Curricular Pathways

November 17, 2009 - EnviroTuesday, Olin Rice 250

"Past Climate Dynamics Revealed in South African Hyrax Middens"
Speaker: Lynne Quick, PhD candidate, University of Cape Town

Rock hyraxes are small herbivorous mammals that despite being rodent-like belong to the super order Paenungulata and are more closely related to sea-cows, aardvarks and elephants. Rock hyraxes have a very wide distribution, living in close colonies of 10 – 40 individuals in rocky outcrops throughout much of the southern, eastern and Sahelian Africa. As an important prey animal with poor thermoregulatory capabilities, the hyrax spends as much as 95% of its time amongst the protective cover of rocky outcrops and cliffs basking in, or sheltering from, the sun. A by-product of their communal habits and the amount of time they spend in or near their shelters, hyraxes defecate in the same location for many generations. These locations, often in caves or under rock overhangs, become covered in faecal pellets, hair, and dust, all of which becomes sealed in accumulations of dried urine, known as ‘hyraceum’, this process can form extensive middens. These middens contain a variety of palaeoenvironmental proxies including microbotanical remains (such as pollen, phytoliths and charcoal) and stable isotope records which are protected from microbial decay and mechanical disruption by being sealed in hyraceum and can therefore be preserved for many thousands of years. As hyrax middens are deposited in successive layers over time, it is possible to create stratigraphic proxy records of environmental change. The refinement of sampling techniques have led to the discovery that hyrax middens are very finely laminated, with recent work generating high resolution records able to explore decadal to millennial scale climate change in southern Africa.

Lynne Quick is currently working on her PhD in Quaternary Science at the University of Cape Town under the supervision of Prof. M.E. Meadows and Dr B.M. Chase. Prior to this, she was awarded an MSc (with distinction) in Environmental Sciences, a BSc honours (with distinction) in the same field and a BSc in Environmental and Geographical Science and Ocean and Atmospheric Science from the University of Cape Town.

November 19, 2009 - No EnviroThursday

November 26, 2009 - No EnviroThursday - Thanksgiving

December 3, 2009

"Mapping the Katharine Ordway Natural History Study Area"
Speakers: Macalester's GIS: Concepts and Applications Class

This fall the Advanced GIS class (GIS: Concepts and Applications), in partnership with members of the Macalester Biology Department, has been busy mapping features from the Katharine Ordway Natural History Study Area. This talk will provide an overview of the data collected and GIS analyses completed by the class. Students will offer preliminary recommendations on further data analyses and potential programs or projects to be considered for the ongoing long term planning process at Ordway.