Environmental Studies Newsletter

A Publication of Macalester’s Environmental Studies Department
November 2015

Letter From the Chair

Dear Friends of Environmental Studies,

Last year was a great year for the ES Department.  Of special note is that Louisa Bradtmiller was granted tenure at Macalester and promoted to Associate Professor.  For those of you who don’t know Louisa, she is a climate scientist and has brought great energy to the department.  Besides teaching courses about climate science, she has been instrumental in developing collaborations with faculty in the social sciences to examine climate issues from an interdisciplinary point of view.  We were fortunate to recruit Louisa and even more fortunate to have her continue on as a permanent member of the department. I want to thank all of those who took the time and effort to supply thoughtful comments on her teaching and service that allowed the College to award her tenure.

We had 14 students graduate in May 2015, up 1 from 2014 but down a few from our 5-year average (19).  Of the 2015 graduates, 10 had disciplinary emphases and 4 had interdisciplinary emphases.  Among the disciplinary emphases 7 were from the social sciences and 3 from the sciences.  A recent accounting from the Registrar’s office lists 41 majors and 16 minors with 14 of the majors slated to graduate in May 2016.  I encourage you to look at the department’s website where you will be able to view the latest assessment report which includes information on the senior survey given to the 2015 graduates.  Next year we will have a department review, and if you are an alum, you may be asked to fill out a survey about how your ES major has impacted you. Please help us improve our department by filling out the survey when you receive it!

Graduating seniors, Samantha Burlager, Britta Dornfeld and Gabrielle Queenan were acknowledged by the department for their contributions to the department over their 4 years at Macalester. Britta was awarded the Environmental Studies Scholarship Award.  Britta came to Macalester from Owatonna, MN.  Like many Minnesotans, her love for the environment stems in part from many summers spent in the Boundary Waters and surrounding area.  Britta studied abroad in Jordan, and returned to Jordan on a prestigious U.S. State Department Critical Language Scholarship to continue her study of Arabic during the summer following graduation.  Britta has been putting her Environmental Studies skills to work since her return, doing environmental community outreach and water research with AmeriCorps Cape Cod.

Samantha Burlager and Gabrielle Queenan shared the Environmental Studies Citizenship Award.  Sam Burlager, majored in Environmental Studies and minored in Political Science. During her time at Macalester, she participated in numerous student organizations focused on sustainability issues, and served as the co-chair for the Macalester Conservation and Renewable Energy Society.  Along with Li Guan and Courtney Olson, Sam was the recipient of an Action Fund grant, and helped plan a carrotmob in cooperation with the Latino Economic Development Center and Lake Street Council at El Norteño Restaurant in Minneapolis. Sam worked at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency on environmental justice issues, and assisted in facilitating the Eco Experience exhibit at the State Fair. Along with Gabby Queenan, Sam worked with Professor Christie Manning and Professor Roopali Phadke on the Community Climate Change Conversations project.  Sam is currently working in Saint Cloud, Minnesota, as a Minnesota GreenCorps member at the Stearns History Museum.  She is working on developing new interactive programming for their environmental history exhibit, as well as creating environmental education curriculum for the local Boys and Girls Club.

Gabby Queenan, majored in Environmental Studies and Political Science at Macalester.  During her time at Macalester, she served as a Chapter Coordinator for Rising Minds, a non-profit organization based in both the U.S. and Guatemala that focuses on cultivating sustainable development initiatives in rural Guatemalan communities.  At the University of Maryland School of Law, she worked with Macalester alum Professor Robert Percival as a research fellow in environmental law and participated in the 2013 International Union for Conservation of Nature in New Zealand. In addition to serving as one of the campus coordinators for the Zero Waste initiative and the Sustainability Student Network, she worked with Professor Christie Manning and Professor Roopali Phadke on the Community Climate Change Conversations project.  Working with the City of St. Paul and the Science Museum of Minnesota, they developed a model for community deliberation that engages a racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse group of citizens to consider how residents can participate in climate change adaptation planning.  Gabby is currently working as an Ecology Educator in Saco, Maine, with The Ecology School.  This non-profit focuses on fostering a sense of stewardship for the Earth by educating youth in the science of ecology and the practice of sustainability.

Dan Hornbach
Chair, Environmental Studies

Environmental Studies Student Award Winners

2015 Environmental Studies Award Winners

The 2015 Environmental Studies Student Award winners are:

Environmental Studies Citizenship Award:
  Samantha Burlager and Gabby Queenan

Environmental Studies Scholarship Award:
      Britta Dornfled

Prof. Louisa Bradtmiller Receives Tenure

Congratulations to Prof. Louisa Bradtmiller who has been granted tenure.  Louisa is a climate scientist and started in the Environmental Studies Department in 2009.  She teaches the following courses:  The Earth’s Climate System; Climate and Society; Climate Change: Science, Economics and Policy; Paleoclimate; Modeling Earth Systems; and the Senior Seminar in Environmental Studies.

Water And Power Class Field Trip Science and Citizenship Class Field Trip
Environmental Leadership Practicum Poster Fair Environmental Leadership Practicum Poster Fair

Sustainability Update

Greetings from the Sustainability Office!  The Sustainability Advisory Committee is revising the college-wide Sustainability Plan.  You can still add your comments if you act quickly.  Check out the draft language and comment form here: macalester.edu/sustainability.

Urban sustainability is now a part of the college strategic plan and the Sustainability Office is using urban sustainability as a theme for this year.  Vivian Mitnick, our new Minnesota GreenCorp member in our office, is helping us research what urban sustainability could mean for Macalester. If you have expertise in this area to share, please let us know by sending a note to shansen2@macalester.edu.

In addition, Sustainability Manager, Suzanne Savanick Hansen, is working with Roopali Phadke’s class that will attend the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris this fall.  Suzanne is also continuing an effort to use the campus as a living laboratory for sustainability education.  She recently revised a web module to help schools use their campus as a teaching tool (serc.carleton.edu/introgeo/campusbased/index.html).  The Environmental Studies Senior Seminar that developed the college’s first greenhouse gas emissions report is listed in the exemplary teaching activities collection (serc.carleton.edu/introgeo/campusbased/examples/greenhouseinv.html).


There were 18 EnviroThursday presentations during the 2014-15 school with with over 575 in attendance.

  • “A Carrot or a Stick?  Defining and Implementing a Carrotmob at El Norteño” by Samantha Burlager ’15 and Li Guan ’15
  • “Helping Forests Adapt to a Changing Climate” by Leslie Brandt, Climate Change Specialist, Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science and the USDA Forest Service
  • “How Business Can be Part of the Environmental Solution” by Kevin Wilhelm ’95, CEO, Sustainable Business Consulting
  • “Bridging the Gap:  New Approaches to Integrating Environmental Science and Public Health in Urban Areas” by Gabriel Filippelli, Professor of Earth Sciences, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
  • “Barriers and Bridges to Building Restorative New Cities” by Molly Van Avery, Artist Organizer for The Cornerstone Group
  • “Saving Tigers in the 21st Century” by Robert Rose, Hubert H. Humphrey Visiting Professor in Geography and Environmental Studies
  • “Pests in the City” by Dawn Biehler, Geographer, University of Maryland-Baltimore County
  • “Foreclosing the Future:  The World Bank and the Politics of Environmental Destructionby Bruce Rich, Visiting Scholar, Environmental Law Institute
  • “Learn About How You Can Pollinate Minnesota” by Erin Rupp ’04, Pollinate Minnesota
  • “Why Organic Can’t Compete with Conventional Agriculture and What We’re Going to Do About It” by Paul Burkhouse, owner of Foxtail Farm, a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
  • “Macalester’s EcoHouse” by EcoHouse Residents Kayla Walsh, Kaelyn Lemon and Kyoko Sakai
  • “Toxic Taters:  People, Pesticides, and Potatoes” by Macalester Students Rachel Lieberman ’18 and Millie Varley ’18
  • “Sustainable Saint Paul:  Greening the Capital City” by Sustainable Saint Paul Team
  • “Addressing Disparities:  MPCA’s Environmental Justice Framework” by Catherine Neuschler ’02, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
  • “The Pioneer Rhetoric of Control in North Dakota” by Brenda K. Marshall, Novelist
  • “Paddle to DC:  Protecting Our Precious Waters” by Dave and Amy Freeman ’04, Executive Director and Director of Development of the Wilderness Classroom
  • “Environmental Studies Senior Seminar Capstone Presentation” by Environmental Studies Senior Seminar Students
  • “Fighting Big Oil in Italy” by Maria D’Orsogna, Associate Professor of Mathematics at California State University, Northridge

You can read more about these presentations at www.macalester.edu/academics/environmentalstudies/envirothursday and click on the Fall 2014 and Spring 2015 links. EnviroThursdays take place every Thursday during the school year in Olin-Rice 250 at 12 noon.

Environmental Studies Faculty News

Prof. Dan HornbachProf. Dan Hornbach, Chair

The past year was good one for the ES Department and Dan.  He continues to chair the ES department and the College’s Resources and Planning Committee.  He finds both of these tasks enjoyable because of the great interactions he has with faculty and staff colleagues.  Dan also continues to teach Aquatic Ecology and Environmental Science.  He was especially proud of my 2014 Aquatic Ecology class.  They carried out a research project as part of the class which resulted in a published paper – Hornbach, D.J., R. Beckel*, E.N. Hustad*, D.P. McAdam*, I.M. Roen*, and A.J. Wareham*. 2015.  The influence of riparian vegetation and season on stream metabolism of Valley Creek, Minnesota. Journal of Freshwater Ecology (Taylor and Francis publishers) http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02705060.2015.1063096 (the names with asterisks are the students).  Since global climate change is resulting in the warming of freshwater systems, one adaptation proposal is to increase riparian vegetation.  They asked what would happen to the production of plants within streams that are shaded.

Kelly Macgregor and Dan, along with two researchers at the St. Anthony Falls Lab (SAFL) of the UMN, received a grant totaling $350,000 (of which $177,000 goes to Macalester) from the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund.  This project will be examining the impact of suspended sediment in the MN River on native mussel populations.  They had 4 Macalester students working with them this past summer (Maya Agata, Clara Friedman, Molly Guiney, and Brooke Hunter).  View their blog at mnmusselsatmac.blogspot.com.  They had great fun and got some interesting results.  The students did presentations at the St. Croix River Research Rendezvous, a meeting sponsored by the Science Museum of Minnesota.

Dan was also appointed to the John S. Holl Chair at Macalester.  This was a great honor for him.  David Lanegran who retired last year from Geography, was the inaugural holder of this chair, and to follow him is humbling.  He appreciates the College’s acknowledgement of his work and especially thanks President Brian Rosenberg and Provost and Dean of the Faculty Karine Moe for this honor.

Prof. Louisa BradtmillerProf. Louisa Bradtmiller

Louisa taught a new course in fall 2014 on Climate Change: Science, Economics, and Policy in collaboration with Sarah West, Professor of Economics.  This interdisciplinary course was based on state of the art Integrated Assessment Models used by leaders in Environmental Economics, and was an intense and stimulating experience for the faculty and students alike.  They hope to repeat the course in fall 2016; funding for course development came from the Fund for the Advancement of Collaborative Teaching, administered by the Provost.  Louisa continues to teach a variety of other climate-related courses geared at majors as well as non-majors.

Louisa continues to conduct research with students over the summer.  During summer 2015 she worked with a Biochemistry major on sediments from a core in the North Pacific ocean to examine the effects of dust input from Asia on biological productivity at the sea surface over the last ~4 million years, and show that productivity relates to changes in climate over that same interval.  She remains involved with student projects on lake sediment cores from Glacier National Park, primarily supervised by Kelly MacGregor, Professor of Geology.

Finally, Louisa is thrilled to have received tenure at the college, and looks forward to many productive years of collaboration with her fantastic colleagues in ES and across campus. 

Prof. Roopali PhadkeProf. Roopali Phadke

Roopali and Christie Manning continued their research on climate adaptation with the City of Saint Paul this past summer with the help of three ES students.  This work will continue in partnership with the City of Minneapolis next year.  With support from a NSF grant, this year Roopali also launched a new project on rare earth mining.  This research will focus on Minnesota, the American West, and some European locations.  She has is teaching two new courses in 2015-2016, including a Fall semester course on climate negotiations which includes a trip to the UNFCCC meeting in Paris for all ten students.  She will also co-teach the new Sustainability Seminar which includes summer collaborative research for students working in small groups.

Prof. Chris WelllsProf. Chris Wells

On the research front, Chris is finishing a co-edited book with George Vrtis (Carleton College), Two Cities, One Hinterland: An Environmental History of the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota, and has begun work on a new edited documents collection, Unequal Burdens: Environmental Inequalities and the Pursuit of Environmental Justice in American History.  He continues his work as the Associate Director of the Center for Scholarship and Teaching, and in January began an appointment directing Macalester’s Digital Liberal Arts initiative.  Last spring, Chris taught the ES Senior Seminar, which acted as consultants for the local group Community Power, producing a series of short videos to help expand their client’s ability to educate a broader audience about how municipal energy utilities work and how everyday citizens can conceive and push for constructive change.  He also co-taught a new course, The Politics of Architecture and the Built Environment, with Patrick Schmidt (Political Science).  This year he is teaching American Environmental History, Imperial Nature: The US and the Global Environment, and the ES Senior Seminar. 

Prof. Jerald DoschProf. Jerald Dosch

This fall Jerald is starting his 12th year at Macalester with continuing roles in both the Environmental Studies and Biology Departments.  In addition to continuing to serve as Director of Macalester’s Ordway Field Station, his 2015-16 teaching schedule will include an expanded, 4-credit course in Outdoor Environmental Education in Theory, Policy and Practice, as well as Ecology, and Environmental Science.  This past summer Jerald again spent nine weeks working at Ordway conducting ecological research with a wonderful group of Macalester students and faculty.  Their studies involved plant communities and birds.  The student-faculty collaboration published a paper on earlier research.  Along with department chair Dan Hornbach, Jerald also continued his involvement in the National Science Foundation (NSF) funded Ecological Research as Education Network (EREN).  With EREN colleagues they co-presented research at the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America and the St. Croix River Research Rendezvous. 

Prof. Margot Higgins
Prof. Margot Higgins

Margot is a visiting professor for the 2015-2016 school her.  She completed her PhD from UC Berkeley in 2015. Her research examines the history and politics of national park establishment under the Alaska National Lands Conservation Act in 1980.  This congressional Act legally required the continuation of “traditional livelihoods” for “Native and non-native Alaskans.”  She has lived in her field site within Wrangell-St. Alias National Park on and off for the last decade. This semester Margot is teaching Americans and the Global Parks and Wilderness and Cycling the Urban Landscape.  For the spring semester, she will be teaching Environmental Politics and Policy, American Environmental History, and another session of Cycling the Urban Landscape. 

Prof. Christie Manning
Prof. Christie Manning

Christie is returning to the ES department again this year to teach Psychology of Sustainable Behavior in the fall and Environmental Classics in the spring. In addition to her two courses, Christie will work with EcoHouse residents on this year’s exciting plans and projects – a fall networking event at the AASHE conference in October and a spring project to revive the graduation pledge.  When not in Olin-Rice or the EcoHouse, Christie can be found in Markim Hall working with the IGC on the many facets of Educating Sustainability Ambassadors, an ongoing Macalester initiative to infuse sustainability throughout the curriculum and co-curricular student experience.

Christie had a busy summer of travel and research.  She spent much of June in Copenhagen, preparing for faculty development seminar planned for 2016.  She also collaborated with Roopali Phadke and three ES students (Jared Sousa, Ivy Bardaglio, and Kira Liu) on “Ready and Resilient”, a summer research project exploring community-level climate change adaptation action.  Finally, Christie is proud to announce the official publication of Psychology for Sustainability, a new psychology textbook for which she is a co-author.

Prof. Marianne MilliganProf. Marianne Milligan

Marianne continues to teach in both the linguistics department and Environmental Studies. Her course, 100 Words for Snow: Language and Nature, was chosen as one of Macalester’s “coolest” classes by Macalester Today. In that class,   students learn about some of the ways that language and the natural world are linked.  These include examining the theory that language impacts the way we see the world, using critical discourse analysis to analyze the language used in “Greenspeak,” and learning about how stories are used to pass on indigenous knowledge.