Originally Posted on February 12, 2018 in @theU By Abeni Czajkowski, communications specialist, Planning Design & Construction

You don’t need to wait for the
yearly walk to report an area
you think needs to be
addressed. To report a lighting
issue, click here.

A report can be made at any
time via your phone. Simply select
the lighting condition,
describe the problem and
identify the location using
the interactive map.

The safety of all students, faculty and staff is a top priority for the University of Utah. For the past 18 years, administrators, safety experts and volunteers have worked together and focused on ensuring a well-lit and safe campus at night. At the same time, recent sustainability and environmental measures have increased focus on reducing light pollution and helping the U to become compliant with the dark sky initiative of minimizing light trespass and skyglow with specially approved light fixtures.

Walk after dark

When identifying areas of campus that are too dark or seem unsafe, it’s best to experience it first-hand. Occupational and Environmental Health and Safety (OEHS) sponsors an annual “Walk After Dark” during which participants walk every sidewalk on campus to identify areas of concern. Team members use their phones to mark exact GPS locations where they find potential safety issues with lighting.

“The walk occurs in the fall after the sun sets, the leaves are full and the moon is hidden — a night of ‘optimal darkness’” said James Stubbs, associate director of OEHS. “We also identify uneven pavement, broken light fixtures, areas of perceived darkness versus actual darkness and landscape elements that interfere with the light or could provide a potential hiding place. We then analyze the data found in order to find solutions to the problems.”

Ensuring proper lighting across campus was a priority of the Presidential Task Force on Campus Safety, which requested and received $125,000 for that purpose in this year’s budget.

Light pollution mitigation

The first steps in preventing light pollution is understanding what it is. One example of an inefficient light fixture is the “lollipop light pole,” which distributes uncontrolled light. These are being replaced with more efficient fixtures that keep campus areas brightly lit while also reducing light pollution from “sky-glow.”

“Light pollution is wasted energy in the form of artificial light that impairs one’s ability to see the night sky,” said Bill Leach, sustainability projects coordinator with Facilities Management. “It’s not as simple as just turning off the lights in a campus setting. It’s not just about getting rid of lights but it’s controlling light, working to make sure it’s going where we want it to go and not outside of its parameters.”

Light pollution not only affects the night sky but it affects our bodies as well as the surrounding environment and the inhabitants within it. Motivations to become a Dark Sky Compliant campus include health-related concerns, the environment, wildlife and sustainability efforts.

So how do you control light?

The University of Utah is replacing current fixtures with Dark Sky-Friendly LED lighting. LED light beams travel in a more linear path and therefore can be easier to control. These fixtures don’t allow the light to escape above its horizontal plane. The new fixtures help to minimize contributions to sky glow through spectrum intensity, color temperature and shielding.

“There is no black and white answer for what is adequate because light levels in a given area are perceived differently by each individual,” Leach said. “We can help people feel more safe using lighting but we cannot give it a one-size fits all answer. The night sky is there but people don’t often get to see it in an urban setting. We are working hard and will continue doing so to find a balanced solution.”


The U offers a number of resources that allow campus community members to raise concerns with lighting safety, which can be found here. Campus police also are available to escort you to a residence hall or vehicle at night, which can be arranged by calling 801-585-2677.

  • Report a light out by clicking here
  • Lighting safety information can be found here
  • SafeU website
  • Campus Police: 801-585-2677

For more campus resources on Dark Sky Compliance:

Using Time as Our Guide

By Bianca Greeff, Graduate Assistant.

Both urban and rural areas around the world rely heavily on groundwater to support agriculture, energy, residential, and industrial use. This demand for groundwater—from a global population of over seven and a half billion—combined with impacts of climate change places more stress on these systems. In order to sustainably manage these resources, we first need to quantify it.

Kip Solomon, department of Geology & Geophysics at the University of Utah, will show how understanding the age and recharge of aquifers can lead to more sustainable use at the GCSC Seminar Series on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 4-5 p.m. in 210 ASB.

“While we have a hint that we are overexploiting a number of these large regional systems,” said Solomon, “the amount of data we have to make these assessments is rather limited. Part of my pitch is that we need to make more measurements in these kinds of systems.”

Groundwater recharge is a hydrologic process where water moves from surface water to groundwater—like an aquifer—by draining through the soil. Recharge can be a slow process, especially when the body of water is deep underground. The longer it takes water to reach the aquifer, the lower the rate of recharge. This makes measuring the rate of recharge a challenging process. For Solomon, the most promising tool is dating the groundwater.

“By getting the mean age of water we can calculate the recharge,” explained Solomon. “By dating the groundwater and using the geologic information to determine the volume, we can infer the rates of replenishment to the aquifer.”

There are a few tools that can be used to date water—namely isotopes and trace atmospheric gasses. Elements can have several isotopes depending on what the element has come in contact with. In aquifers, isotopes are often generated in the subsurface. Their concentrations build up the longer the water is in contact with the subsurface rock. A higher concentration of an isotope, like Carbon-14, thus signifies older water.

For younger water, atmospheric gasses can be used to date it. Over the past few decades, gasses produced in the industrial processes—like sulfur hexafluoride—have been increasing. When exposed to the air, water absorbs concentrations of these gasses. The longer the water interacted with the gas, the greater the concentration will be. Once the water moves below the surface those concentrations of gas are essentially “locked in.” Measuring the traces of these gasses in groundwater can show how old that water might be.

Determining the recharge rate is important for both hydrologic understanding of subsurface bodies of water and for natural resource management. The recharge is a vital component of understanding the amount of water that can be extracted without overexploiting or compromising the integrity of the groundwater body.

“99 percent of unfrozen freshwater is in the ground,” explained Solomon. “As our world approaches eight billion, it is a growing question of whether or not these big regional aquifers can be sustainably exploited to support agriculture in arid and semi-arid regions.”

To learn more, attend Solomon’s lecture, “Can Groundwater Feed the World? It’s All About Time” on Tuesday, Jan. 23 at 4 p.m. in 210 ASB.


Cover photo via USGS public domain. 

Re-Imagining Relationships

Bianca Greeff, Graduate Assistant.

Climate change threatens everything about our social organization. But that shouldn’t immobilize us. Instead, Kari Norgaard, associate professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Oregon, encourages us to view climate change as an opportunity to re-envision our social, political, and economic systems.

Norgaard will show how climate change provides the opportunity to rethink our relationships to the human and other-than-human world at the GCSC Seminar Series on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 4-5 p.m. in 210 ASB.

In her seminar, Norgaard will discuss the phenomenon of socially organized denial. Norgaard suggests that it isn’t the lack of information that leads people to inaction, but rather the emotions that climate change invokes.

“Denial is a form of environmental privilege,” explained Norgaard. “People who have benefited more from the current system find it harder to grapple with the idea of very large system change and experience a lot of guilt, helplessness, fear of future and present.”

Norgaard suggests the normalization of climate change is an avoidance mechanism. While we can make daily changes in our lives to help reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, individuals alone will not be able to slow or stop climate change. There is also an urgent need to rethink many larger aspects of our current systems—like reducing our use of fossil fuels or changing cultural norms of over-consumption.

In her seminar, Norgaard will bridge her work on the social organization of climate denial with her recent work with the Karuk Tribe. The Karuk are an indigenous community in Northern California and are highly mobilized around climate change. The biggest problem they face is the increasing forest fires. Climate change has been producing warmer, dryer conditions in the region—the ideal environment for larger, hotter, and more destructive wildfires. Future mega-fires threaten local ecosystems and cultural practices.

The Karuk have used controlled burns to manage wildfire threats and cultivate traditional plants for generations, but their use of fire has continually been suppressed by management agencies. Recently, wildfire research has begun showing the importance of controlled burns for fire risk management and indigenous practices. Thus, creating an opportunity for cultural and ecological revitalization.

Re-introducing controlled burns is one example of how climate change has created a new possibility for cooperation across worldviews and communities. By incorporating elements of Norgaard’s subtitle—imagination, responsibility, and community—we can start a discourse that inspires action and moves our society to become a more socially and ecologically equitable place.

The “imagination” in Norgaard’s subtitle is defined by the idea of the sociological imagination, which generates awareness between the individual experience and society. It shows how the society we live in shapes what we understand, what we don’t understand, and influences what we think is possible. Norgaard sees that we all have a “responsibility” to be engaged in the world. Feeling overwhelmed, hopeless, or guilty doesn’t mean we should give up or disengage from climate change action. Despite these feelings, we still have a responsibility to act. Closely related is Norgaard’s third term, “community”. No one can tackle climate change on their own. Rather, we need one another. We need to know how to work together and understand each other to create a community of action.

To learn more about the opportunities to re-imagine our relationships to one another and the natural world, attend Norgaard’s seminar, “Climate Change as Strategic Opportunity: Imagination, Responsibility, and Community” on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 4-5 pm in 210 ASB.


Cover Photo: “Wildfire” by NPS via flickr. Public Domain Mark 1.0.


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.


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—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

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


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


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.


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.