Summer Camping

Katie Stevens, Sustainable Utah Blog Writing Intern

Summer is finally upon us and I know we’re all itching to pack up our gear and go somewhere new. Camping is an excellent way to enjoy summer weather and get a break from the fast-paced life in the city. Here are three of my favorite camping spots perfect for summer break. As always, be sure to follow the seven principles of Leave No Trace and have fun!

Devils Kitchen – The Needles District

Devils Kitchen is, and always will be, one of my favorite camping spots. Located in the Needles District in Canyonlands National Park, this 4-spot campground offers scenic views and plenty of hiking trails right from camp. A few of the camp spots even come with their own cave, perfect for starting a day of exploring. As for hikes, a must-do is the Joint Trail, a slot canyon located in Chesler Park you can hike to straight from camp.

In order to get to Devils Kitchen, you may choose to backpack in or four-wheel-drive on Elephant Hill road, one of the most technical four-wheeling roads in the state.  If you decide to drive over Elephant Hill, be sure to have an experienced four-wheel driver who is also prepared to scratch up their car a bit.

Pack in a lot of water, as your last opportunity to get some will be in the visitor center. Be sure to get a permit in advance, which can also be picked up at the visitor center.

Amethyst Lake  

Amethyst Lake is a beautiful 13-mile round trip hike in the Uintas. You will begin your hike in Christmas Meadows, eventually turning left at the junction where you will begin your ascent to the lake. You will gain elevation very quickly, so be sure to take advantage of breaks to take in the views. Before making the final climb to the lake, there are meadows perfect for setting up camp. Amethyst Lake is the perfect destination if you love scenic views, mountain lakes, fishing, or even cliff jumping.  You may even be lucky enough to see some mountain goats.

Remember to be bear-aware when exploring this area and secure your food appropriately. Be prepared for any weather and enjoy!

Boulder Mountain

Boulder Mountain is a perfect summer destination due to its beautiful hiking and biking trails and close proximity to Capitol Reef National Park and Escalante.  Boulder Mountain has a few campgrounds to choose from, my favorite being Pleasant Creek on Boulder Top. Once you’re unpacked and settled in, I highly suggest hopping on your mountain bike and riding the Tantalus Flats trail. Tantalus Flats begins at the turnoff for Lower Bounds Reservoir at the Rosebud Trailhead. I love this trail because it starts off on Boulder Mountain and ends in Capitol Reef National Park. With that said, you will need to have a shuttle at the end of the ride, unless you are planning to bike back up the mountain.

Earth Week 2017

When we imagine the place where we live, we often think of our city, our state, or even our country. But Earth is also our home. We need the planet for more than it needs us. Activist and scientist Vandana Shiva reminds us, “You are not Atlas carrying the world on your shoulder. It is good to remember that the planet is carrying you.” In celebration of our home, the University of Utah will host Earth Week 2017 from April 10-14. The events of the week invite us to connect to our home through education and volunteerism. Join the festivities!

Earth Week is hosted by the Sustainability Office, ASUUthe Environmental and Sustainability Studies Leadership Committee, and U of U Tree Campus USA.

April 10-14

Campus Tree Tour
Monday, April 10
2-3:30 p.m.
President’s Circle

Learn more about the trees at the University of Utah—part of the State of Utah Arboretum—on a tour led by campus arborist Suzie Middleton. Meet at the flagpole on Presidents Circle.

Documentary Screening
Tuesday, April 11
6-8 p.m.
Union Theater

Watch “How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things Climate Can’t Change” by award-winning documentary filmmaker Josh Fox.

Earth Fest: Party on the Plaza
Wednesday, April 12
10 a.m.-2 p.m. 
Marriott Library Plaza

Join on- and off-campus groups whose missions focus on the three pillars of sustainability: environment, social, and economic equity.

Social Soup
Thursday, April 13
12:30-2 p.m. 
Gould Auditorium in the Marriott Library

Social Soup is a semesterly reflection on social, economic, and environmental issues surrounding food. Free soup provided by University of Utah Dining Services.

Hoop-La: Hoop House Inauguration and Last Frost Kick-Off
11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Pioneer Garden

Eat, garden, and be merry. Celebrate the beginning of spring growing season while inaugurating our new hoop house. Free lunch for volunteers at 1 p.m. by El Sillero.

ALTA SUSTAINABILITY LEADERSHIP AWARDS & SEMINAR; GOBI GRIZZLIES AND HOMEGROWN GRIZZLIES

Douglas H. Chadwick, wildlife biologist.

March 27, 2017 | 1:00 -2:00 p.m.

Gould Auditorium in the Marriott Library

Join the University community in honoring this year’s recipients of the Alta Sustainability Leadership Awards accompanied by a unique keynote lecture from wildlife biologist Douglas H. Chadwick. The Alta Sustainability Leadership Awards recognize excellence in leadership for the health of our community and planet. The awards are generously donated by Alta Ski Area.

Wildlife biologist Douglas H. Chadwick’s presentation will focus on the dustiest, thirstiest, bed-hair shaggiest—and rarest—bears in the world: Gobi grizzlies.

A heavyset Gobi bear, probably a male, captured by an automatic camera anchored to the wall in the narrowest part of a canyon. Photo: Joe Riis

They live on the outer edge of possibility, among wild camels, wild asses, ibex, wolves, and snow leopards in one of the harshest environments on Earth.

Chadwick, who studied mountain goat ecology and social behavior atop the Crown of the Continent for seven years, is a natural history journalist, producing 14 popular books and hundreds of magazine articles. Chadwick is a founding board member of the Vital Ground Foundation, a conservation land trust.

CONSCIOUS EXISTENCE IS RESISTANCE. AN INTERVIEW WITH EARTH U SPEAKER DIANA LEONG.

Conscious existence is resistance—that is the theme of the 4th Annual Earth U: Sustainability & Diversity Mentorship Dinner, which takes place on March 8 from 6-8pm in the Union Ballroom. This free dinner event aims to bring many voices to sustainability issues and develop a network of diverse people, ideas, and possibilities. Panelists from the community will join students and answer questions about their own paths, giving students the chance to interact with professionals from different backgrounds and disciplines. Sign up now at tinyurl.com/EarthU2017.

Diana Leong, assistant professor in English and Environmental Humanities, will provide the keynote address. Student sustainability ambassador Nayethzi Hernandez, the coordinator of the Earth U event, sat down with Leong to learn more about her experiences and research interests.

How do you interpret this year’s theme of “Conscious Existence is Resistance?”

The theme this year reminds me of a quote—I believe it’s either bell hooks or Audre Lorde—that says “self-care is a radical act under conditions of oppression.” The theme, I think, resonates with the idea that coming into one’s own political awareness and social awareness is not only necessary for our particular contemporary environment, especially ecologically and politically, but it’s also radically revolutionary when there are forces in the world who don’t necessarily care about your existence.

What about this event interested you in becoming our keynote speaker?

Part of what is going to sustain any sort of sustainability movement or any sort of movement that is concerned with social justice is an intergenerational dialogue. Working with people who are either younger, just entering the field, or just becoming interested in the conversation and really having those dialogues with them sustains the momentum. That momentum turns into energy, and that energy turns into action. … There are so many different concerns in the state and on campus facing our students, this event is a good way to bring those various conversations together under the banner of sustainability and diversity.

Can you provide a brief description of what will you be speaking about?

I am planning to do a meditation on the three words that are captured by the theme of our evening: “Conscious Existence is Resistance.” What does it mean to be conscious – and to be conscious of what? What does it mean to exist in a world where sometimes we are not necessarily given the tools to flourish in terms of our existence? What does it mean to resist particularly in this moment in history? … I think part of the difficulty facing us as both academics and activist members of the community is that we have a lot of political cohesion at the moment. We are coming together around a variety of issues as we should be. … We should have this political and social cohesion; however, I don’t think we have a lot of political coherence at the moment. I think that the message gets lost in the push for a sort of “blind unity.” … Usually when that happens the most vulnerable of our communities get left out. Finding ways to open dialogue to invite those members of our most vulnerable communities to become leaders in the cause as opposed to marginalizing their concerns will be explored in the talk.

What spiked your interests in ecology and African American Literature?

Growing up in Hawaii, it’s hard not to be intrinsically interested in the environment—it’s what sustains us as a community and there’s a long history of colonialism in Hawaii. Part of my responsibility as identifying as an Asian settler/colonizer is to understand the relationship that the native Hawaiians have with their community. Part of that is a deeply ecological-oriented and sustainable relationship. That’s kind of the original genesis of my interests.

The other binding together with African American Studies is that since the 15th century onward, transatlantic slavery has caused such a huge epistemological, ontological, and historical break in the way that we think about the world. It changed the way that we thought about nature. It changed the way we thought about God. It changed the way we thought about humans, about animals, about economics, about pretty much everything in the world. Understanding how the contours of our thought are indebted to this world historical event, transatlantic slavery, is crucial for understanding why we continue to have these ecological crises today. For me, there cannot be anything like sustainability without also pursuing racial justice at the same time.

What role does literature play in environmentalism?

It helps us to imagine the environment differently. The crafting of environmental narratives and stories is really important for us to understand other people’s experiences of their environment that may be different than ours. … The other thing that I think is crucial about environmental literature is that it helps us to understand the logic behind our thinking and our relationships with the environment. Not just how and why we relate to the environment in the ways we do, but how that fits into our larger concepts of the world. Helping us conceptualize our relationships to the environment alongside other major issues that may not seem, at first glance, related. For example, something like reproductive rights also being an environmental justice issue.

***

Hear more from Leong and other panelists at the Earth U: Sustainability & Diversity Mentorship Dinner on March 8. Space is limited, so sign up now at tinyurl.com/EarthU2017.

WHICH WAY WILL WE TIP?

By: Liz Ivkovich, Sustainability Office.

Tipping Point, def.: the critical point at which a change becomes unstoppable.

Earth is undergoing an alarming series of changes due to human impacts. Warming climatewater shortagesincrease in infectious diseases, and loss of biodiversity. These changes and others are converging into a rapidly approaching tipping point for Planet Earth. What individuals, groups, and policymakers do in the next 10-20 years will determine which way we will tip, and what kind of future the next generation of all Earth’s species will have.

On Tuesday, Feb. 28, 4:00-5:00 p.m., Anthony Barnosky will present on the Earth’s tipping points and their implications for political and personal action at the Global Change and Sustainability Seminar Series. The lecture will be held in 210 ASB.

With years of research on past tipping points in Earth’s ecological history, Anthony Barnosky, paleoecologist from Stanford University, focuses his efforts on activating humans to tip towards environmental sustainability.

“What I have done is use the fossil record to understand how the Earth system responds to big changes, unusual changes,” Barnosky said. “It inevitably took me into thinking about some of the big changes that people are causing to the planet today.”

It is difficult to write about Barnosky’s research without sounding apocalyptic. He agrees that this is heavy stuff; however,  he wants people to know that their individual and local actions are meaningful.

“The sorts of issues that I talk about are very weighty, global issues,” Barnosky said. “People often throw up their hands in despair. But the reason these are big issues is that 7 billion people are doing things in a certain way. So, it really does all start with the individual. The cumulative actions of 7 billion individuals are enormous.”

Barnosky hopes the tipping point for Planet Earth won’t be catastrophic change, but rather large-scale social action. In this tipping point, 7 billion people use the knowledge, technology, and resources available to act in more sustainable ways. This vision of positive social action has driven Barnosky into conversation with policymakers.

In 2012, the governor of California approachedBarnosky to turn his Nature paper on Earth’s sixth mass extinction into a scientific consensus statement. The governor was able to use the consensus statement, which was signed by more than 500 scientists, to advocate for positive action towards avoiding a tipping point.

Barnosky also had advice for other scientists about how to effectively collaborate with policymakers.

“It’s not just walking into a policy maker’s office and pronouncing what the science says,” Barnosky concluded. “Working with policymakers means actually asking what are their needs are as far as science. Developing a dialogue is very important so that you understand where they are coming from, and they understand where you are coming from.”

Learn more on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 4:00-5:00 p.m. in 210 ASB.

Cover Photo: Biodiversity by Dano, CC by 2.0 via Flickr

ALTA CALL FOR NOMINATIONS

Celebrate sustainability leadership on campus by nominating yourself or a colleague for an Alta Sustainability Leadership Award. These Awards recognize excellence in leadership in the areas of campus as a living lab, community partnership, sustainability education, and research. Thanks to the generous partnership of the Alta Ski Resort, an award of $2500 will be given to each recipient. All students, faculty, and staff eligible to participate. Submit the nomination form by February 28, 2017.

GROWING KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE THROUGH TREE PLANTING AT ALTA

By Shaun Daniel, ENVST Program Research Associate.

As skiers hit the slopes this winter, they should pause to notice the careful forest conservation efforts that Alta Ski Area is undertaking with the U’s Environmental and Sustainability Studies (ENVST) Program and other community partners. This relationship has led to the planting of over 1,200 trees and is providing students with hands-on opportunities to put their learning into practice.

Since 2013, Alta Environmental Center (AEC) has hosted a service learning project and fall orientation for ENVST 2000 Field Experience: Environment and Sustainability, a core introductory course for all ENVST students.

As an introduction to Environmental and Sustainability Studies, the course lays a foundation for the program’s mission to “foster an understanding of ecological systems and the consequences of human­-environment interactions.” This dovetails with AEC’s own efforts to improve the sustainability of Alta Ski Area’s operations, serve as a resource to the community, and foster environmental education and research.

The association between Alta and the ENVST program began after Associate Director Jennifer Watt approached Maura Olivos, sustainability coordinator for AEC.

Watt says, “For me this has been a great partnership for the field class, undergraduate research and internships. Working with Maura and the Alta staff has made it much easier to take 50 students camping overnight each semester. As our major has grown and we have so many more students, I don’t know if we would be able to maintain the core concepts of this class without the help of Maura and the Alta Environmental Center.”

Olivos concurs, saying, “Alta Ski Area values its relationship and partnership with the University of Utah because of the body of people – staff, professors and students. To work with folks that are looking to learn, share what they know, share common values in environmental science and the outdoors, and are just fun to be around makes for a great friendship. …It’s a holistic or full-circle effort when it comes to creating opportunity in learning, working and conserving with students.”

Olivos explains that AEC works with the field experience course “to collectively introduce conservation, and through hands-on activity to show the work, planning and complexities it takes to be effective, or what it means to actually work in this field if the students choose to pursue it post undergrad.”

During their field experience, ENVST students engage in such activities as nursery maintenance, tree harvesting for later transplantation, and tree planting survival studies. In the future, students also will help with trail maintenance and restoration.

Assistant Professor Jennifer Shah says, “Service learning is one of a variety of methods to meet the goals listed in our mission. It is a great way to encourage peer learning as students form community bonds. It teaches social responsibility and leadership through service. We also discuss scientific concepts that provide the context for our service projects at Alta.”

She adds, “Sometimes the experience is transformative for students, helping a student to choose a particular career path or valuing volunteerism as a regular activity.”

Anna Albertsen. Via Jennifer Shah.

Anna Albertsen is one of the students impacted by the partnership. A senior now, Albertsen had participated in the service project at Alta and wanted to contribute further. She applied for a grant from the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), which is open to all undergraduates interested in research or creative projects. Albertsen’s proposal was selected and she teamed up with Jennifer Shah and Jennifer Watt as her faculty mentors to quantitatively assess the efficacy of AEC’s tree planting project at Alta.

AEC is focused on enhancing the resilience of the forest around Alta by collecting seedlings of limber pine, Douglas fir, and Engelmann spruce. These are moved to an onsite nursery until they are planted where needed for to replace natural tree loss and support greater forest species diversity and stand diversity.

Albertsen says, “The trees that we’re planting are taken from the same habitat, and the seeds are collected from the location in order to preserve the assemblage of species found at Alta.”

Of the 1,200 trees planted by students so far, around 200 trees have data collected with regard to location, survival rates, and their growth over time. Albertsen analyzed this data to discern trends and suggest improvements.

Albertsen continues, “For the last project, we had a low survival rate, but data collection was also inconsistent. We now know to take a little more care with planting. We also noticed that if [seedlings] survived for a year, they were likely to persist. So, establishment of the plant in the first year is important.”

Now, with another award from UROP, Albertsen is studying the potential link between mycorrhizal fungi and sapling health at Alta. Fungi are increasingly understood to play a vital role in forest health, creating a biological network in which trees have greater access to water and minerals and in turn share nutrients and information with other species through this fungal “wood wide web.”

About the new research project, Albertsen says, “I’ve always been interested in the environment and environmentalism – trying to see how the world works. I found out about fungi and was really fascinated by how much they do and that there’s this stigma around them. If we want to move toward a biocentric way of being as a population, then fungi are an important part of that.”

Albertsen has already gathered tree seedlings from the slopes at Alta and collected measurements on such factors as tree height, biomass, soil moisture and water holding capacity, and root colonization by mycorrhizae. Next, she’ll run statistical analyses to determine if correlations exist between the mycorrhizae and metrics of tree health – illuminating another potential piece of the puzzle for tree planting survival at Alta.

Alta Ski Area. Via Alta Environmental Center.

After graduation, she remarks, “I’m hoping to continue researching mycology and maybe focus on a bioremedial aspect therein. By doing undergraduate research, and doing my own research and experimentation, I’m hoping it will provide me the skills I want to have for my future work, or maybe further education, such as a PhD program.”

The research and tree-planting work by Albertsen and others underscores the opportunity presented by the ENVST program’s partnership with Alta Environmental Center. Over time, this relationship has expanded to include a full-tuition sustainability scholarship offered to two students for two years in 2013, and, more recently, the Alta Sustainability Leadership Awards, awarded to exemplary students, faculty, and community members in 2015 and 2016. (Nominations for this year’s awards will open in the new year.)

As Olivos says, “We hope to stimulate a culture of education by way of example through internal efforts and investing in our future stewards.”

No doubt Albertsen and other ENVST students will be among those stewards.

Students interested in working with Alta Environmental Center can look to its internship opportunities: a winter project-based internship, a new sustainability communication internship, and a paid summer stewardship internship. Information on each is available on AEC’s website.

Shaun Daniel is a research associate with the Environmental and Sustainability Studies Program and an alumnus of the Environmental Humanities Graduate Program.