A Publication of Macalester’s
Environmental Studies Department
October 2018

Letter From the Chair

Dear Friends of Environmental Studies,

We had a great year last year in ES. The department had an external review in 2016-2017 and based on that review, we updated the curriculum in the department, changing some of the requirements for the major. We now require Ecology and the Earth’s Climate System, along with US Environmental History, Environmental Policy and Politics and Environmental Classics as the core courses in the major. We also did away with the Senior Seminar and shifted the Environmental Leadership Practicum and Seminar from Junior year to Senior year, now making it the capstone for the major. We eliminated the need for an additional course in environmental science, humanities and social sciences to give students more flexibility in their schedules. Finally, we reviewed the emphases in the major and added a required research course in each emphasis. We are hoping that this responds to some concerns we heard from students that there was not enough “depth” in the major. Hopefully these changes will improve students’ experience in the major.

The Biology Department and the ES Department conducted a joint search for two new ecologists in their departments. These positions are replacements for Mark Davis in Biology and me in ES. These two people will teach a new Ecology and the Environment class which will replace Ecology in the Biology Department and Environmental Science in ES. Mark’s replacement, Dr. Mary Heskel, started this year in Biology. Dr. Heskel researches how plants cycle and store carbon in ecosystems experiencing the impact of climate change, including warming, higher levels of soil nitrogen, and increased drought, among others. Her research has taken place in northern MN and beyond the Arctic Circle on the North Slope of Alaska. She held postdoctoral positions at the Australian National University, the University of Minnesota, and the Ecosystems Center of Marine Biological Laboratory. Dr. Christine O’Connell will be taking my place in ES. Her research focuses on the impacts of global change on tropical nutrient cycling. She is  currently investigating the drivers of soil greenhouse gas emissions in a Puerto Rican wet tropical forest and asking questions about the impacts of climate change on belowground nutrient cycling. She has also done research on the impacts of agricultural production on Amazonian landscapes, using a combination of statistical modeling and field work in Mato Grosso, Brazil. Dr. O’Connell will join us in the fall of 2019 after she completes her post-doctoral work in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at Berkeley.

We had 22 students graduate in May 2018,  up from our 5-year average (17). Of the 2018 graduates, 17 had interdisciplinary emphases and 5 had disciplinary emphases. This is a big shift in the department when we generally had more disciplinary emphasizers than interdisciplinary. We think part of this is a shift of students to 2 new interdisciplinary emphases; Climate Science and Policy and Food Systems.  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 2018 graduates. I want to say thanks to all of the alums that filled out the survey that was sent. We had a great response.

Graduating seniors, Katie Lund and Maya M. Swope were acknowledged by the department for their contributions to the department over their four years at Macalester. Maya was awarded the Environmental Studies Citizenship Award and Katie was awarded the Environmental Scholarship Award. Katie is from Wisconsin, a double major in German Studies and ES and traveled with Roopali to the UN Summit in Bonn. She headed to Alaska to work at an environmental learning center and spent time in Alaska in the past. Maya who hails from New Hampshire, was the Environment and Sustainability Issue Area Coordinator for the Civic Engagement Center since 2015 and maintained relationships with many community organizations. She is also a talented and committed dancer who has performed in many dance concerts here on campus. She also received the Minnesota Campus Compact’s Presidents’ Student Leadership Award.

Once again, we had a great graduating class that has now gone on to join a group of outstanding ES alums. Since this is my last full-time year in the department, this is my last Chair’s letter. Next year Roopali Phadke will take over as chair. You can look forward to hearing from her in the future.

Dan Hornbach
Chair, Environmental Studies

Environmental Studies Student Award Winners

The 2018 Environmental Studies Student Award winners are:

ES Award Winners Maya Swope and Katie LundEnvironmental Studies Citizenship Award winner Maya Swope
and Environmental Studies Scholarship winner Katie Lund

Year in Photos

Sustainability Update

by Suzanne Savanick Hansen, Sustainability Manager

The Sustainability Office is officially 10 years old!   Last winter we celebrated our 10 year anniversary with a poster presentation and award ceremony.  We also published our second Sustainability Plan Progress Report that details how close we are to our sustainability goals.  This summer, we developed the new “Pollinator Path” with eight signs on campus that designate pollinator friendly habitat.  This education effort stems from 2016 when Macalester was the first higher education institution in MN to become “Bee Protective”. This summer the Sustainability Office also hosted a retreat for the Sustainability Advisory Committee to discuss the recommendations from a campus-wide outside review of sustainability.  The committee will finish their discussion in October. In addition, I recently joined the board of the US Partnership for Sustainable Development Education as I continue to connect the work we do on campus with international sustainability goals.


There were 17 EnviroThursday presentations during the 2017-18 school year with with over 750 in attendance.

  • “Black Rice:  The African Origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas” by Judith Carney, Dept. of Geography, UCLA
  • “Avoiding Air Pollution in Early Modern London” by  Dr. Will Cavert, Assistant Professor, History Dept., University of St. Thomas
  • “Developing Utility Scale Renewables” by Pete Sullivan, Longroad Energy
  • “Global Engineering for a Small Planet:  A Vision of Success” by Dr. Bernard Amadei, Professor of Civil Engineering, Univ. of Colorado-Boulder
  • “Migrating Targets:  Conserving Freshwater Space for Species that Change Place” by Dr. Emily Schilling, Environmental Studies/Biology Ecology Candidate
  • “Life History Traits at Species Range Limits” by Dr. Emily Dangremond, Environmental Studies/Biology Ecology Candidate
  • Trophic Cascades in Agricultural Landscapes:  Indirect Effects of Landscape Composition on Plant Biomass” by Dr. Tania Kim, Environmental Studies/Biology Ecology Candidate
  • “Changing Canopies and Future Fluxes:  Tracking Physiology From Leaf to Ecosystem in a Warming World” by Dr. Mary Heskel, Environmental Studies/Biology Ecology Candidate
  • “Wins and Losses in Forest Ecology” by Dr. Christa Anderson, Environmental Studies/Biology Ecology Candidate
  • “Terrestrial Landscapes in a Changing World:  Global Change Impacts on Ecosystem Ecology” by Dr. Christine O’Connell, Environmental Studies/Biology Ecology Candidate
  • “From Silent Spring to Silent Night:  A Tale of Toads and Men” by Dr. Tyrone B. Hayes, Professor of Integrative Biology, University of California, Berkeley
  • “Health, Climate, and Development:  Investigating Birth Weight, Temperature, and Precipitation in Africa” by Dr. Kathryn Grace, Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, Environment, and Society, University of Minnesota
  • “Engineering ‘Conscious Capitalism’: Exploring the Environmental Ethics of Engineers in the Extractive Industries” by Dr. Jessica Smith ’03, Assoc. Professor, Colorado School of Mines
  • “Advocating for Energy Consumers” by Annie Levenson-Falk, Executive Director of the Citizens Utility Board of Minnesota
  • “Plant-Based Diet for Health, Performance, and Your Pocketbook” by Dr. Sara Shuger Fox, Assistant Professor of Exercise Science, Central College
  • “Zero Waste: From Individual Action to Systematic Change” by Alyssa Erding ’17
  • “On Stage:  Creating a Community Dialogue Around Live Theater – The Lorax” by Lucas Erickson, Maria Asp, and Dario Tangelson

You can read more about these presentations at www.macalester.edu/academics/environmentalstudies/envirothursday and click on the Fall 2017 and Spring 2018 links. EnviroThursdays take place every Thursday during the school year in Olin-Rice 250 at 12 noon.

Environmental Studies Faculty News

Prof. Dan Hornbach, Chair

Last year was a productive and fun year for me. I taught Aquatic Ecology, Environmental Science, and Lakes, Streams and Rivers, and continued chairing the department. As I alluded to in my Chair’s letter, this is my last full-time year in the Department. The College has a program that allows faculty to move to a half-time position for a few years at the end of their career. I’ll spend my time working with the DNR and MN PCA to examine trends in mussel populations across MN. Both of these institutions have large amounts of data detailing the distribution and abundance of mussels, their fish hosts, and water quality measures. In addition, there are data available on land use practices across the state. I hope to integrate data from these sources to get a better picture of the “health” of mussel communities.

Last year, a number of students and I continued our research comparing mussel communities in the St. Croix River drainage (a National Wild and Scenic River) and the Minnesota River Basin (greatly influenced by agricultural inputs). We are in the process of submitting a number of publications from this work. Collaborators from the St. Anthony Falls Lab at the UMN and from the USGS have participated in the work. It’s been great fun.

One of my hopes during my reduced schedule at Mac over the next few years is to be able to spend more time visiting my grandchildren. I have 1 in Chicago and 3 in North Carolina (with another on the way!).

Prof. Louisa Bradtmiller

In the summer of 2017 Louisa participated in an interdisciplinary ACM seminar entitled “Wilderness in the Anthropocene”, held in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area of northern Minnesota. Louisa, Roopali Phadke and Devavani Chatterjea (Biology) joined faculty from other ACM schools to consider what wilderness means in the modern era, and how we might use these concepts to inform our teaching about the environment. Louisa continues to teach courses on The Earth’s Climate System, and Climate and Society, and in spring 2018, she was able to offer a course on Oceanography for the first time. The course is a broad survey of physical, chemical, and biological oceanography, with a focus on using available oceanographic datasets to learn about different properties and processes.

Louisa continues to pursue paleoceanographic research with Macalester students, most recently working on cores from the Southern Ocean, the northwest Pacific Ocean, and the northwest African margin. These different projects all explore aspects of changes in the strength of wind-driven upwelling, which supplies nutrients to organisms in the surface ocean and therefore affects the cycling of carbon between the atmosphere and ocean on very long timescales (tens to hundreds of thousands of years). She has been busy writing papers and submitted an NSF grant in July with a collaborator at the University of Delaware. Fingers crossed!

Prof. Roopali PhadkeProf. Roopali Phadke

Roopali continued her work this past year on a NSF funded project on the politics of rare earth mining. This past summer’s research focused on studying urban mining as an alternative to “virgin” mining. The research team included Ari Lutze-Jahiel ’19 and Becky Schein ’19.  More information about the project is available at www.macalester.edu/miningfutures.

She and Christie Manning also received the 2018 Presidents’ Civic Engagement Steward Award for advancing Macalester’s distinctive civic mission by forming strong partnerships, supporting others’ civic engagement, and working to institutionalize a culture and practice of engagement. They were recognized for their community-based research that brings together citizens, government leaders, and students to support resilience and sustainable development in the Twin Cities.

Another highlight from 2017 was attending the Bonn COP23 climate summit meeting with five Macalester students.  Students dispatched from Bonn, as well as presented their research and experience upon return.  Roopali also taught and supervised the Environmental Leadership Practicum, Environmental Policy and Politics, Sustainable Development, and a new co-taught course with Devavani Chatterjea in Biology called “Environment, Health and Society”.

Roopali will be on sabbatical in 2018-19.

Prof. Chris Wells

Chris published his second book, Environmental Justice in Postwar America: A Documentary Reader, this past summer with the University of Washington Press, and is working to complete a co-edited book with George Vrtis (Carleton College), Nature’s Crossroads: An Environmental History of the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota. He continues his work as the Associate Director of the Center for Scholarship and Teaching, where he directs Macalester’s Digital Liberal Arts initiative.  Last spring, Chris taught Imperial Nature, and this year he is teaching US Urban Environmental History and multiple sections of American Environmental History.

Prof. Jerald Dosch

This fall Jerald is starting his 15th year at Macalester with continuing roles in both the Environmental Studies and Biology Departments as well as continuing to serve as Director of Macalester’s Ordway Field Station.  His 2018-19 teaching schedule includes Outdoor Environmental Education (co-taught with Ruthanne Kurth-Schai in Educational Studies), Ecology and the labs for Environmental Science.

Jerald spent this past summer working at Ordway conducting ecological research and land management activities with a wonderful group of Macalester students, faculty and staff.  They submitted another manuscript for publication on which multiple students from different summers serve as co-authors.

Jerald also continued his involvement as a board member of the national Ecological Research as Education Network (EREN).  With EREN colleagues, Jerald published a paper on how urbanization may be impacting the population structure of freshwater turtles across the United States. Some of the research for that paper was conducted at Ordway with Macalester students. He has two more manuscripts for publication nearing completion with EREN co-authors.

Prof. Christie Manning

Christie just celebrated 10 years in the ES department.  She is teaching her usual fall courses (Psychology of Sustainable Behavior and Environmental Classics) as well as facilitating the Environmental Leadership Practicum while Roopali is away on sabbatical.  Christie’s spring courses include another section of Environmental Classics and Environmental Justice.

Over the summer Christie completed a two year writing project with her colleague Susan Clayton (College of Wooster).  Their co-edited book, Psychology and Climate Change: Human Perceptions, Impacts, and Responses, was just published by Elsevier.  She is excited to see it in print.