ENVST Student Projects
The student projects outlined here include Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund (SCIF) Projects, Capstone projects, Community-Engaged Learning (CEL) projects, and other projects.
The Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund (SCIF) is the University of Utah’s green grant program. Students, faculty, and staff from all disciplines are invited to propose projects that enhance the sustainability of our campus and community. SCIF encourages ideas that operate at the crossroads of academics and operations and work to facilitate collaborative efforts among diverse members of the campus community.
Increased Acccess to Air Filtration Masks
Sydney Boogaard (Dr. Jennifer Watt) 2019-2020
Throughout the winter the Wasatch Front experiences some of the worst air quality in the country. Unfortunately, many citizens do not have the means to protect themselves from this harmful air. Therefore, a Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund (SCIF) grant was proposed to purchase reusable air filtration masks from Vogmask for the University of Utah Community. Vogmask graciously provided a generous discount and with the funds from SCIF these masks were sold for five dollars. Additionally, all proceeds went back to purchase more masks. The ultimate goal of the project was to spread awareness and increase accessibility to air filtration masks. Overall, this project was a success and we were able to provide 801 masks to individuals across the University campus.
Students majoring in Environmental & Sustainability Studies must complete a Capstone Course in their senior year. This Capstone requirement is separate from doing an internship, research, and/or thesis.
ENVST5555 - Capstone in Land Management, Conservation, and Sense of Place
The course will emphasize and critique prevailing theories and models of environmental and sustainability issues, specifically related to land management, conservation and sense of place. Students will also have the opportunity to brainstorm and network as to how to apply concepts and theories and discuss the relevance to their education, their role as responsible citizens, and the job market. Finally students will complete a project that utilizes their conceptual skills and what they have learned in their courses.
ENVST5556 - Environmental and Sustainability Initiatives Capstone
ENVST5557 - Capstone: Teaching for Sustainability Literacy
ENVST5558 - Capstone: Food for Justice, Health, and Sustainability
ENVST5559 - Capstone: Air, Water, & Health Sustainability
Botany Bins: Green Infrastructure Lesson Plan & Story Map
Air, Water, Health - 2023
This project had two components: refinement of a Botany Bin 5th grade lesson plan about flood risks and how they can be mitigated by green infrastructure and an ArcGIS Story Map about the Landscape Lab, a green infrastructure research facility on the campus of the University of Utah. These products are related to an ongoing research project funded by the National Science Foundation.
Partner: Red Butte Garden
Freeze Creek Beaver Dam Analogs (BDA) Monitoring
Air, Water, Health - 2023
Beaver dam analogs (BDAs) will be installed by Sageland Collaborative in Freeze Creek, a tributary to Emigration Creek, in Spring 2023. Sageland Collaborative wants to establish 4 photo points to monitor the evolution of changes to the creek after the BDAs have been installed. Capstone students in Fall 2022 and Spring 2023 helped to identify photo point locations and develop a citizen science-based photo monitoring program. In the future, students also may help with installation of BDAs by Sageland Collaborative and Level 3 geomorphology surveying conducted by Salt Lake County Watershed Planning and Restoration. Level 3 surveying will establish a robust baseline for comparison of future surveys conducted by the county over subsequent years.
Air, Water, Health - 2023
In recent years, cities and states have been creating Clean Air Rooms to provide the public with a space to retreat to during periods of acute air pollution exposure. In this project, students collaborated with the EJ SPARC Lab and U of U faculty to study indoor air quality and Eccles Health Science Library patron perceptions to air quality and air purification systems in Clean Air Rooms. This project was supported by two Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund grants awarded to capstone students in Fall 2022 and Spring 2023.
Good Grief Circles & Climate Anxiety Surveys
Air, Water Health - 2023
A team of faculty began a new research project on climate anxiety / grief amongst undergraduate students and offering 'Good Grief Circles' (informal group discussion on coping with emotions surrounding the climate crisis using an approach developed by the Good Grief Network). Capstone students helped plan, advertise, and implement 4 events between December 2022 and April 2023. Students also helped distribute surveys to event participants and analyze survey results to better understand the efficacy of Good Grief Circles.
The City of Cottonwood Heights is in the final stages of adopting an ordinance related to riparian zone protections. Riparian areas are considered one type of sensitive lands managed by municipalities in Utah. To date, Salt Lake City is the only municipality in the Salt Lake Valley with an adopted ordinance related to conservation of riparian areas. In part, this is due to the complexity of issues related to drafting a riparian ordinance. Capstone students collaborated with the City of Cottonwood Heights to learn which agencies and other resources need to be consulted in the process of drafting a riparian ordinance and packaged this information into a ‘toolkit’ document in hopes the toolkit can be of use to other city planners around the state.
Partner: City of Cottonwood Heights
Air, Water, Health - 2023
Populations of unsheltered people are increasing in the Salt Lake Valley. Many are utilizing the Jordan River Parkway for housing (i.e., tents). Some encampments are far from restroom facilities, which also are closed in the winter as they lack weatherizing. As a result, access to safe disposal of human waste is a problem and fecal matter sometimes is dumped into the Jordan River, which already is impaired by abundant E. coli populations that come from effluent inputs (but E. coli abundance in effluent has yet to be measured), avian populations, and other non-point sources of pollution. Poor water quality, in turn, is a health risk to unsheltered populations. Furthermore, unmanaged camping in the riparian corridor impairs plant communities and exacerbates erosion, leading to bank destabilization and high levels of total suspended sediments. A diversity of stakeholders in the community want to address these water quality and erosion problems in an equitable manner. Students interviewed stakeholders to understand myriad perspectives and determine the scope of possible components to address these challenges. Students also created a pamphlet describing ways to minimize impacts on the Jordan River corridor and services available to people experiencing homeless. This pamphlet is being distributed by River Rangers working with Salt Lake City
Social Media Campaign: Active Transport
Mikayla Howitz, Erika Melville, & Uyen Hoang (Dr. Jennifer Follstad Shah) 2019-2020
Mikayla Howitz, Erika Melville, & Uyen Hoang created a social media campagin to educate about the physical and environmental benefits to utlizing active transport. See the full social media campagin in the ENVST instragram highlights.
This project created a Sustainability Pledge that graduating seniors and University faculty and staff have the opportunity to commit to. The pledge asks signatories to explore and take into account the social and environmental consequences of their individual and workplace decisions and to urge them to work towards improving these aspects to the best of their ability. Individuals who commit to this pledge will be provided a green cord to wear at graduation to signify the commitment they have made to environmental and social responsibility and sustainability. Additionally, during the College of Social & Behavioral Sciences’ convocation the Dean, Dr. Cynthia Berg will recognize all those who committed to this pledge. Lastly, these cords are returned to the Environmental & Sustainability Studies (ENVST) program to be used in the future graduation ceremonies.
University of Utah Football Game Carbon Footprint
Abby Ghent & Sam Bagge (Dr. Jennifer Follstad Shah) 2019-2020
Water Filtration Devices
Carrie Marsh, Amanda Pearl-Orantes, Tessa Scheffler, & Molly Sheridan (Dr. Jennifer Follstad Shah)
Earth Tones Journal
Shaela Adams, Aubrilyn Guevara, Hannah Nelson, & Madison Skinner (Dr. Jennifer Follstad Shah)
Four ENVST Capstone students, Shaela Adams, Aubrilyn Guevara, Hannah Nelson, and Madison Skinner created a literary journal, Earth Tones Journal devoted to the human experience within Utah's diverse landscapes and environments.
Lighting Retrofit for Special Collections section of the Marriott Library
Sierra Govett, Yinhuan Huang, & Dillon Seglem (Dr. Jennifer Follstad Shah) 2018-2019
Sierra Govett, Dillon Seglem and Yinhuan Huang secured a Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund (SCIF) revolving loan to retrofit the lighting in the Special Collections section of the Marriott Library. The loan was for $40,000, which paid for the installation of the new lighting system over the summer. The loan fund is specifically used for energy and money saving ideas proposed by students, faculty and staff for energy conservation, renewable energy production and water conservation projects. A Rocky Mountain Power wattsmart incentive grant helped off-set some of the project’s cost. The library will repay the loan over 13 years, using money from utility cost savings. But the impact — both monetary and in preservation of its collections — will be ongoing. Ultimately, this project will save the university $56,000 in energy costs and 600 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions over twenty-two years, while extending the lifespan of priceless archives.
Citizen Lobbying Video
Matt Woodman, Alex Veilleux, Connor Estes, Nick Litizzette, Alyssa Jains, & Ian McMillan (Dr. Adrienne Cachelin) 2017-2018
Matt Woodman, Alex Veilleux, Connor Estes, Nick Litizzette, Alyssa Jains, and Ian McMillan created this video to introduce individuals to citizen lobbying. This video is a great source for all those that want to get involved but are not sure where to begin. This was a community engaged learning project accomplished with the assistance of HEAL Utah.
Climate Change Video
Sierra Govett & Raquell Lyman 2016-2017
This Video focuses on Climate Change in the world today. Choreographed by Sierra Govett and filmed by Raquell Lyman. Sierra is currently completing an internship this summer in Boulder, Colorado at NOAA.
Wildlife tracking project in Centennial Valley
ENVST Capstone 2016-2017
Students in an ENVST capstone put together a video highlighting their work for a wildlife tracking project in Centennial Valley.
Daily Utah Chronicle
Jonathan Park 2014-2015
Jonathan Park interned with the Daily Utah Chronicle to develop and promote Environmental Issues.
Living Plant Wall
ENVST Capstone (Dr. Jennifer Follstad Shah) 2014-2015
The Living Wall grew out of the Fall 2014 Environmental and Sustainability Studies Capstone Course at the University of Utah. A group of students sharing the common interest of green infrastructure and air quality improvement got together to build a vertical garden on campus. After receiving a grant through the Sustainable Campus Initiative Fund, they were able to make it happen. The Living Wall will serve as a symbol of sustainability for years to come, and we hope this project will inspire students to continue making progress toward a more sustainable future.
Community-Engaged Learning (CEL) Projects
CEL involves students, faculty and community partners working together to apply knowledge in authentic settings in order to address community needs while also meeting instructional objectives. CEL enhances and deepens students' understanding of an academic discipline by facilitating the integration of theory and practice. This high impact teaching method provides students with experiences that develop life skills, with opportunities to engage in critical reflection, and with the intellectual space to understand and contribute to the public purpose of their chosen major or discipline. It is a strategy, a process, an experience that involves both action and reflection.
University of Utah Campus Food Initiatives
Food Access is an issue on university campuses across the country, including the U of U. In this project, students examine food access issues through a variety of lenses. We partner with the Edible Gardens to cultivate and harvest a wide variety of vegetables and greens to donate to the FeedU Pantry. Students also volunteer with Waste Less Solutions, an organization which diverts food from the landfill and distributes it to those who are food insecure. Lastly, students study Pouring Rights campaigns, in an effort to critically examine university contracts with food and beverage companies.
International Rescue Committee (IRC) New Roots Farm
New Roots is a project of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), and seeks to build a healthier community through the development of small scale, urban farms and community gardens in Salt Lake City. New Roots aims to provide communities with access to fresh, local, affordable, and culturally appropriate food. In this project, students assist in various agricultural activities, including volunteering at the New Roots Farm, organizing seeds for small-scale community farmers, and assisting with informational resources for program participants.
DIY Air Purifiers
In this project, students work with those living in Salt Lake City’s westside to build Corsi-Rosenthal Boxes, which are DIY air purifiers constructed from MERV-13 air filters, duct tape, and a box fan. These DIY Air Purifiers cost roughly $60-$90, and are provided to community members for free. These devices have comparable performance to professional-grade air purifiers at a fraction of the cost, doing five to six air changes per hour in a standard-sized room. To date, students have produced 50 Corsi-Rosenthal Boxes with students and community members from the westside by partnering with the Breathe Clean Festival at the Glendale Library, the YouthCity after school program, and Glendale Middle School.
Air Quality Sensor Education
Air quality sensors are devices used to measure particulate matter and other pollution concentrations. In Salt Lake County, these sensors are unevenly distributed such that localized data are not accessible to residents in marginalized communities. Each semester, students visit 6-7th grade classrooms to provide a short presentation about air quality and to conduct a hands-on activity assisting students as they build air quality sensors using Lego building blocks. This lesson plan was originally created by Drs. Kerry Kelly and Anthony Butterfield from the Chemical Engineering Dept.
Volunteering is a great way to hone new skills, get a little dirty, meet cool cycling folk, and have a direct positive impact on our community. Students who volunteer at the Bicycle Collective help fix up kid and adult bikes for future giveaways, and help to keep the shop clean and organized.
Local and State Environmental Policy
The Utah Legislative Session runs from January 17th to March 3rd, during which hundreds of bills are introduced, debated, and passed. In this CEL project, students track environmental legislation and lobby in-person with HEAL Utah at the Utah State Capitol once a week. When the legislative session concludes, students identify and attend city and county council meetings, or other municipal government meetings that pertain to environmental issues. This is a valuable opportunity to become well-versed in local and state political processes.