2015 Finger Lakes Research Conference Brings Expertise from New York and Canada to the FL Region

By Hilary R. Mosher, Coordinator of the Finger Lakes Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management at the Finger Lakes Institute

Hilary Mosher

Hilary Mosher

The Finger Lakes Institute is hosting the 2015 Finger Lakes Research Conference on November 12 at Hobart and William Smith Colleges. The lineup of presenters includes experts from New York and Canada in the field of water resources, invasive species, and contaminants while poster session topics range from exotic plant species to feeding preference of goats for invasive species management. The purpose of this year’s conference is to convey information to the public, natural resource managers, and others on what is being done locally, regionally, and across the state on issues of importance to the region.

Todd Walter

Todd Walter

This year’s keynote speaker is Todd Walter, Director of the Water Resources Institute at Cornell University. The Water Resources Institute (WRI) works to identify and develop resources to improve water quality via original research, education and outreach for said research, management of funding opportunities to the higher education community, and relationship-building with stakeholder groups and others. To that end, Todd will talk about agricultural non-point source pollution in the Finger Lakes. This topic is of keen interest to those across the region who are advocating for research and control of non-point source pollution in our Finger Lakes and beyond. The WRI currently has a competitive grant application available to address key gaps or issues of emerging importance in NY’s water resources and to bring innovative science to watershed planning, management, and policy. For more details on the application requirements, see the RFA available here.

Hydrilla found in Tinker Nature Park pond. Photo credit: Hilary Mosher.

Hydrilla found in Tinker Nature Park pond. Photo credit: Hilary Mosher.

Invasive species are represented on the docket for those with a strong interest in biological invasions and impacts. Kimberly Schulz (SUNY ESF) will document the effects of an invasive zooplankton in the food webs of the Finger Lakes and Great Lakes. Brian Weidel (USGS, Great Lakes Science Center) will make the connection between the Dreissena mussels and the round goby in Lake Ontario. Having the round goby identified in Cayuga Lake and given the potential for other lakes to be impacted, this presentation will highlight the need for further research on biological invasions in the Finger Lakes. Cathy McGlynn, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s new Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator will address the newly adopted aquatic invasive species management plan and will be available to answer the burning questions that our Finger Lakes partners have regarding AIS in our lakes. Robert Johnson will follow with an update of the research and management currently conducted in the south end of Cayuga Lake to eradicate Hydrilla verticillata. With the new infestation identified in Monroe County and the potential for new populations to be discovered, it is a timely topic for our region. Doug Wilcox, Empire Innovation Professor of Wetland Science at the College at Brockport, retiree of the USGS, and former Editor-in-Chief of the scientific journal Wetlands will provide an overview of the wetland restoration projects being conducted in Braddock Bay Wildlife Management Area of Lake Ontario.

Mercury sampling via ponar dredge on Cayuga Lake as part of the Finger Lakes Institute’s Mercury Program. Photo credit: Roxanne Razavi.

Mercury sampling via ponar dredge on Cayuga Lake as part of the Finger Lakes Institute’s Mercury Program. Photo credit: Roxanne Razavi.


Temporal trends in water quality based on chemical analysis are one of the key tools that researchers use to determine changes in ecosystem function. John Halfman, Professor of Geosciences at Hobart and William Smith Colleges will provide an update of ongoing, long-term data and research on nutrients and other water quality pararmeters in the Finger Lakes. His research provides insight into the state of our Finger Lakes and is a long-term record of changes across many lakes. Cliff Kraft, Associate Professor of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences in the Department of Natural Resources at Cornell University will document ecosystem disruptions caused by the lack of B vitamins. Karen Riva-Murray from USGS’s New York Water Science Center will talk about mercury bioaccumulation in streams across New York State. Roxanne Razavi, the Finger Lakes Institute’s Post-doctoral Research Scientist will provide an overview of the FLI’s NYSERDA-funded research project that began in 2015. Jeff Ridal, Executive Director and Chief Research Scientist for the St. Lawrence River Institute of Environmental Sciences in Canada, will discuss the Institute’s role in protecting ecosystems and engaging with stakeholders. Students and researchers in the Finger Lakes will present research posters that showcase the research being conducted in or having relation to the Finger Lakes.

The research conference is a way for everyone with a stake in the Finger Lakes region to develop a strong understanding of the research and projects being done in or those that affect our region. We welcome our guest presenters and poster presenters who will provide attendees with timely information on issues that impact the region and we encourage our attendees to ask tough questions and remain strong advocates for our region. You are what make the Finger Lakes great! We look forward to seeing you on the 12th.

Posted in November 2015: Community Development | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Keep America Beautiful- Every Community Clean, Green & Beautiful

By Stacey Rice, Development Manager at Keep America Beautiful and William Smith ’11

Stacey Rice

Stacey Rice

Keep America Beautiful (KAB), established in 1953, is a national non-profit that inspires and educates people to take action every day to improve and beautify their community environment, with the goal of ending littering, increasing recycling and beautifying America’s communities. The organization is driven by the work and passion of more than 600 community-based Keep America Beautiful affiliates located in cities, towns and counties across the United States, millions of volunteers, and the support of corporate partners, municipalities, elected officials, and individuals.

KABThrough programs and educational resources delivered via the Keep America Beautiful network of affiliates and participating organizations, KAB brings people together to transform public spaces into beautiful places – from vacant lots and neighborhood parks, to community gardens and wooded trails. The collective action of the network leads to the development of environmentally healthy, socially connected, and economically sound communities where people want to live and work, businesses thrive and neighborhoods flourish.

Each year Keep America Beautiful’s biggest program, The Great American Cleanup, makes a significant impact on communities across the country. The program provides a platform for KAB affiliates and organizations nationwide to host service-based volunteer projects. Project examples include: community cleanups, park improvements, building community gardens, shoreline restoration and recycling collection events, among many others.

Through public-private partnerships, KAB affiliates engage all stakeholders and create locally-focused Great American Cleanup programs to address the specific needs of their population, geography, and community’s demographic. This unique approach to community development helps broaden and deepen community ties, and ensures that the work being carried out is high-impact and highly-needed in the community.

In 2014 alone, KAB affiliates and organizations participating in the Great American Cleanup had the following impact:

  • 37 million pounds of litter and debris collected
  • 130,000+ acres of parks, public lands and wetlands cleaned/improved
  • 85,900 miles of streets, highways, trails, waterways and shorelines cleaned
  • 41,000 trees planted
  • 4 million volunteers and participants
  • 20,000 communities engaged

Beyond the lasting physical change and tangible results seen through the Great American Cleanup, this community development work also fosters social connections among neighbors, citizens and community leaders. Community members, who are encouraged to take individual ownership and action through KAB’s programs like the Great American Cleanup, develop a sense of purpose and attachment for the place they call home through their work to enhance it.

Keep America Beautiful is on a journey to make America a country where every community is a clean, green, and beautiful place to live and we hope you’ll join us!

Here are a few tips on how you can get involved:

  • Find a KAB affiliate – KAB has over 600 affiliates across the country, in both large cities and rural towns. Affiliates offer volunteer opportunities and run KAB program. If your community doesn’t have an affiliate, KAB offers workshops and resources on how to start one.
  • Volunteer for the Great American Cleanup or host an event in your community.
  • Check the KAB website for grant opportunities – Keep America Beautiful offers grants to affiliates and organizations to plant trees, install recycling bins to improve access to recycling and implement community improvement projects.
  • Donate – Your donation helps strengthen KAB’s national network, building a stronger foundation for program implantation and resource development to serve as the catalyst behind millions of volunteers across America.
  • Learn more at kab.org and follow KAB on social media:

Keep America Beautiful. How will you?

Posted in November 2015: Community Development | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Tools for Social Change, Changing Geneva

By Jeremy Wattles, Associate Director Center for Community Engagement & Service-Learning at Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Jeremy Wattles

Jeremy Wattles

As we enter the holiday season, charities ramp up their requests. Already many of us have been asked to donate food, clothing, toys, funds, and other fungible goods. Organizing and leading these charity efforts is well-meaning and very often necessary work, but ours is a different story—one that aims to make charity less necessary by striving towards justice. I also find it helpful to remember that there is a distinction to be made between needs-based and change-based approaches. Often we hear the saying: give someone a fish and you feed them for a day; teach someone to fish and you feed them for a lifetime. The ubiquity of this aphorism in the nonprofit world attests to its powerful imagery and sentiment. However, I would offer this amendment – what if we as a community, a nation, or a world worked to build a system whereby everyone would have the resources to access a high quality bait and tackle shop near to where they lived? It’s all well and good to teach someone how to fish, but if they have no pole, no pail, no bait, no line, no net, no boat, no oars, no life jacket…? Unfortunately, the charity model has a tendency to reproduce class structures, rather than transcend them. For example, the mother who attended Head Start as a child, and now her own child attends Head Start – that family is still stuck in generational poverty. This is not to bash a very good program that does meaningful work; it is only to say that our problems run deep, and that we must complement a needs-based approach with efforts where systemic change is the primary goal. Also, it is crucial to interrogate our assumptions about charity and service, in order to even begin to ask the questions that get us to the ground level and root level problems.

Tools for Social Change strives for this systemic, structural, change-based approach. We are a group of Geneva community members and students and staff from Hobart and William Smith Colleges, who are committed to a democratic forum of open dialogue and community building. We aim to address salient issues of race, class, gender, and other inequalities in the Geneva community. In the Fall of 2014, as many of the Black Lives Matter protests took place, Professor Rod King from the Philosophy department, Professor Khuram Hussain from the Education department, and I began discussion of how we might create a new service-learning and community dialogue initiative. The hope was to address in a constructive way some of the thorny issues that had bubbled to the surface in our campus, in Geneva, and nationwide.

Tools for Social Change, Geneva.

Tools for Social Change, Geneva.

Since February, more than 100 of us have met every single Tuesday night at Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church in Geneva’s 6th Ward (which is one of Geneva’s most segregated communities by race and class). We have participants of all ages and backgrounds, and we have begun important community building work. There are now, at the grassroots level, several vibrant all-volunteer working groups addressing political representation, food deserts and nutrition, Geneva and HWS relations, and other emerging ideas.   Specifically, we have hosted multiple candidates’ nights events during this local election season, and partnered with volunteers, farmers, and social service agencies to glean food during harvest time that we then donate to families and individuals in need. Our participants have included the Mayor, several current city councilors, citizens running for City Council, the Police Chief, staff from the Office of Neighborhood Initiatives, members of the local NAACP, and other community leaders. Our participants have diverse identities and beliefs; we are non-partisan and though it is campaign season here in Geneva, we do not endorse political candidates.

Working with HWS faculty, we will offer a course on race dialogues in Spring 2016, in partnership with the Geneva High School. Also, we are actively working with the non-partisan HWS Votes club, and are seeking connections with the Latin American Organization, Caribbean Student Association, and Sankofa. Last year, HWS students in Tools presented at CCESL’s Engaged Scholarship Forum, and will again this coming May of 2016. Furthermore, we continue to reach out to students across campus, inviting them to attend our meetings.

We have recently embarked on a new partnership with the City of Geneva Comprehensive Plan Committee, to hold and record dialogue circles community wide. These dialogue circles, called Big Talk in the Little City, will ask specific questions about residential, commercial, public, and occupational spaces and land usage in Geneva. We will ask the following broad questions, with additional follow up questions as needed:

  • What public spaces make Geneva feel like home? How does Geneva belong to us?
  • What is, or has been, a major housing issue in your time living in Geneva?
  • Tell us about your work experiences in Geneva. What made the good jobs good? What supports did you have that helped you get the good job? What made the bad jobs bad? What could have helped you get a better job?
  • If you woke up tomorrow and Geneva had the most vibrant commercial spaces you can imagine, what would be the same? What would be different?

The concerns and ideas we glean from these dialogues will inform the city comprehensive planning process, as well as the policy decisions elected leaders will make, for the next 10-15 years. Developing themes of interest and action areas from our dialogues thus far include:

  • public funding and human resources for a civil service exam tutoring and mentoring program for persons of color
  • allocation of at least 2-3 paid employment positions in city government to people of color
  • working with the City of Geneva to organize and support a city-wide tenants’/renters association to advocate for fair housing practices
  • working with the City of Geneva to organize for and support the creation of a resident owned healthy food co-op grocery store in the 6th Ward
  • working with the City of Geneva to push the Regional Transit System (RTS) to increase the number of food bags allowed on the bus from 2 to at least 3

When Khuram, Rod, and I began Tools for Social Change, we never expected this initiative to last beyond two or three months. We are humbled and astounded by the response we have had from community members and students. What has allowed us to reach this particular moment? Sometimes, you know when you are part of an idea whose time has come. Much of our ability to meet with people and continue the work rests on the particular historical and political moment we currently inhabit. The highly publicized and disproportionate violence against people of color (Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, and Trayvon Martin, to name a few) was not only a topic of national importance, but of local importance. In 2011, Geneva police killed Corey Jackson. The Department of Justice initiated a series of dialogues on race, and the creation of a community compact document, but by late last year, momentum had stalled out. Also, the opportunity for democratic participation arose, as all of Geneva’s City Council is up for election this month. These two factors – the painful push of history and the political opportunity of an election – came together and were a strong influence on community members’ desire to talk about difficult issues of representation, disenfranchisement, and inclusion. Also, we have maintained a minimal level of hierarchy to our group. We have no designated leaders. We sit in a circle each week and commit ourselves to dialogue standards of respect, inclusion, and understanding. We listen carefully to each others stories and seek to see each other as humans rather than through the lens of partisanship or social position. We spent three months of difficult dialogue focused on race, class, privilege, advantage, and more before we were ready to discuss taking action. Then, pairing the tradition of inter-group dialogue with the tradition of community organizing and building, we adopted very specific action oriented working groups.

As I reflect on how far we have come in the last nine months, I must acknowledge the possibility that we may hit a wall, or several walls for that matter. One of the themes that has come out of our dialogue is that despite our hopes for Geneva, there are many invisible walls that hold us back and separate us from our fellow human beings. When thinking about systemic change in this light, I’m often reminded of the tension between incremental vs. revolutionary improvements.

Wattles 4

I’m also reminded of the question of leverage points: the more we push on established power structures, we may find greater and greater resistance to our attempts to intervene in various systems. But our story is not yet written. Or, as Paulo Freire says: we make the road by walking. We are an evolving, all volunteer entity; we may run a short course or a longer one. We have made and will make mistakes. At some point we will need to become more organized and secure sustainable resources. Should that happen, we hope to focus in more on outreach to and dialogue with the Latino and Latina population, and go deeper on the problems of housing inequity. It is my hope that we will continue to build solidarity with all communities living in Geneva, and to retain, in an age of divisiveness and hyperpartisanship, a posture and attitude of openness, humility, and learning. This posture, and this attitude, may be the most charitable gift we can give or receive, at any moment, on any day, or in any season of the year. When we walk that road, despite its walls and its potholes, it may lead us closer to justice.

Posted in November 2015: Community Development | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Research: Moms On A Mission- Q&A With The Co-founder Of Moms Clean Air Force

By Brian Bienkowski, Environmental Health News

Dominique Browning

Dominique Browning

We’ve all heard it before—“listen to your mother.” Now an effort is underway to get Washington D.C. to follow this age-old wisdom when it comes to the issue of climate change and clean air.

The Moms Clean Air Force is a community of mothers and fathers working to tackle air pollution and climate change in order to protect children and the planet we’re leaving them. The organization is connecting the dots between air pollution, climate change, an imperiled food system, toxic products and the well-being of kids, and encouraging parents to learn and take action.

Led by co-founder (and mom) Dominique Browning, 59, the organization now has more than 570,000 parents involved, and is working at both the national and state level to organize parents to push for air pollution regulation and climate change action.

Browning and I had a phone chat this week about the group’s work, what her sons think about their mom yelling at politicians, and getting celebrities to join the cause.

(Interview has been lightly edited for brevity)

How long has the Moms Clean Air Force been around and what do you all do?

DB: We’ve been around three and a half years. We’re over half a million parents around the country demanding clean air on behalf of our children, to protect children’s health. We’re trying to protect health regulations and health laws. And we also work on the ground in 20 states doing the same thing.

I see you’ve been a writer and editor for some time. What made you want to get involved in clean air and children’s health issues?

I’m obsessed with climate change. As a magazine editor for all of my life, I was struck by how much the conversations about climate change were directed at people in the know, instead of people like me who want to know more and understand but couldn’t understand it. I wanted to change the conversation from polar bears to people, reaching out to people like me to see what we can do to make a difference, and communicate how urgent this problem is.

For example, when I first got started, while I knew some things about mercury, like don’t eat tuna sandwiches when you’re pregnant, but I had never understood it was an air pollution problem from coal-fired power plants.


All of this is interrelated, so we want to talk about climate change as a clean air issue.

Parents are busy people. Knowing this, how do you get them get involved?

I call it “naptime activism” for parents that might be too busy. It takes maybe 10 minutes to sign a petition, or read, or send something off to a senator. Some of these things don’t take a lot of time, and your voice as a citizen does matter.

And lots of parents, including me, are starting to think ‘what are we leaving behind for our children?’

With so many things to worry about when it comes to children, how do you make clean air a top priority for parents?

For one thing, I’m not really fighting against anybody’s idea of what’s most important. When you look at the polls, climate change ranks way down there on people’s concerns, and I understand, we have to pay our mortgage, work at our jobs. I’m not saying you should put climate change at the top of your list.

But I am saying recognize it’s an important part of your everyday life, by letting people know there’s a health connection, asthma connection, a food-you’re-eating connection, and to be aware of it. And there are solutions.

That brings me to my next question. What is it that you all are advocating for? What’s the goal?

Well, first off, we are non-partisan. The only place we see solutions coming from are the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). We are supporting EPA rules that are strong and good, such as the regulation of methane emissions from new sources, and we’re pushing for regulations for existing sources.

In terms of renewables, a lot of that is at state-level work, supporting the Clean Power Plan and helping people understand why their state should stay in the plan and not opt out.

We call for an end to fossil fuel subsidies … there’s no traction for that right now, but we would love that.

I see you have two sons (26 and 30). What do they think of your work as a mom for clean air?

My sons are thrilled by it. My younger son is a lawyer with an interest in environmental issues … so this is very much on his radar.

I find in general that people younger than 20-years-old, everyone wants to say they don’t care about climate change, but I don’t find that to be the case.

Some celebrities have signed on to the Moms Clean Air Force. Were any of these a particularly big deal to you?

I’d say the biggest deal was getting Julianne Moore on board. She was a friend of a friend of a friend, and it took like five phone calls, but she’s really passionate about mercury and clean air.

I wish more voices like her would jump in on climate issues.

EHN welcomes republication of our stories, but we require that publications include the author’s name and Environmental Health News at the top of the piece, along with a link back to EHN’s version.

For questions or feedback about this piece, contact Brian Bienkowski at bbienkowski@ehn.org

Republished from: http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/2015/sep/clean-air-climate-change-mothers-interview-coal

Posted in November 2015: Community Development | Tagged | Leave a comment

Sustainable Communities: Supporting Creative Efforts

By Gabriella D’Angelo, Assistant Professor of Art Architectural Studies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Gabriella D'Angelo

Gabriella D’Angelo

The City of Geneva has often been called an Urban Laboratory, ripe with optimistic ideas and many great minds to help activate them into real world manifestations. Joining the HWS community and the City a few years back, the goal for myself and for my students was to transition into this crusade, socially, politically, and environmentally charged. We want to make an impact through design, but not for impact’s sake; we want to continue to strengthen, learn from, and collaborate with our communities, bursting with positive energy and explosive creativity focused towards making Geneva a more sustainable community to grow with.

Together with the Architectural Studies majors at Hobart and William Smith Colleges and Geneva High School students, with paper, pencil, and tape measure in hand, we have worked to challenge preconceived notions of space and objects, always with the benefit of the community at the forefront. Creating innovative experiences through designed and built structures that reinvigorate public space allows for the users to be outside of “the box”; we strive to build upon the spirit of the “Uniquely Urban” and define it. These exciting and experimental projects, new and continued, throughout the campus and the City’s fabric have included Parklets for the City of Geneva, Joe’s Hots, and Lake Drum Brewing, guerilla bike lanes and bike racks on campus, Little Free Libraries for each neighborhood, and most recently a Meditation Labyrinth for Jefferson Street Park.

With the support of the Colleges and the City of Geneva, our studios have been given tangible opportunities in which to engage urbanism with a tactical methodology. Though small in scale, the hope of our approach looks for a positive, meaningful and lasting impact that inspires future ideas and developments. Taking back the pavement, supporting local business and encouraging a healthier lifestyle, the Parklet was a piloted effort this summer, creating new social gathering spaces for pedestrians in Downtown Geneva. With various levels of success, these island utopias are a missed presence for anyone looking to take a seat and relax along Exchange and Castle Street.

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Implanting temporary paths and racks for current and inspired bikers on campus lead to and expanded upon various discussions regarding pedestrianized and bike infrastructure on campus and downtown. Following this semester’s investigations, today, we have several more “permanent” bike racks on campus, a positive move towards our climate neutrality initiative encouraging a more ecologically conscious population and hopefully more bikers.

Student participants include: Mary McLoughlin, Sami Prouty, Louise Boudreau, Garth Burke, Justin DiJulio, Austen Gillen-Keeney, Emily Jones, Rick Runfola, Olivia Thalheim, JP White.

Student participants include: Mary McLoughlin, Sami Prouty, Louise Boudreau, Garth Burke, Justin DiJulio, Austen Gillen-Keeney, Emily Jones, Rick Runfola, Olivia Thalheim, JP White.

Working with the GNRC, a network of Little Free Libraries has continued to expand within our neighborhoods with the goal to encourage sharing and literacy among our youths and beyond. Designed by Geneva High School students, this initiative hoped to also create a sense of pride within these young and local designers physically and positively impacted their neighborhoods with such creative and direct authorship.

Student participants include: Imani Bryan, Deovianna Cunningham, Tyrese Evans, John Hawkins Jr., Christopher Ingram, Naja Jackson, Tonia McDaniels, Tiana McDaniels, Briana McDaniels, Angel Ochoa, Michael Olsen, Kiara Pabon, Isiah Richardson, Diana Saldana, Lydia Smith, Mark Suchewski, Amere Thomas, Ethaina Tofiga, Diana Wassouf.

Student participants include: Imani Bryan, Deovianna Cunningham, Tyrese Evans, John Hawkins Jr., Christopher Ingram, Naja Jackson, Tonia McDaniels, Tiana McDaniels, Briana McDaniels, Angel Ochoa, Michael Olsen, Kiara Pabon, Isiah Richardson, Diana Saldana, Lydia Smith, Mark Suchewski, Amere Thomas, Ethaina Tofiga, Diana Wassouf.

Open minds and good design make the world a better place. From conceptual ideas and brainstorms to built works, if we continue to push the proverbial line inside and outside of our classrooms, we can insure that our creative efforts go beyond the page, giving us and others a chance to learn and grow as concerned citizens and progressive thinkers. As many efforts and collaborations can be seen by anyone walking though the center of the Downtown, throughout each of our distinctive neighborhoods, and into the expanse of the campus, our laboratory continues to blossom in vast and exhilarating ways.

Author Bio: Gabriella began her journey at HWS in 2013 as an Assistant Professor of Architectural Studies in the Department of Art + Architecture. Her teaching and practice focus on experimental design strategies that make innovative and positive impacts locally and globally. Contact Gabriella at dangelo@hws.edu.

Posted in November 2015: Community Development | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Green Hand: Food Connects Us

By Sarah A. Meyer, Community Outreach Coordinator at the Finger Lakes Institute

Sarah A. Meyer

Sarah A. Meyer

HWS Food Week was last week but this Wednesday night was a moment that could have summed up its goal and take away message- connections. Ten first-year HWS students visited our campus farm to help close out the season. With intermittent showers and darkening skies, outdoor tasks were tabled while farmhouse chores offered redirection. Help was needed ‘husking’ our sunflower crop, picked and dried for future planting or birdseed. The herb garden, which provided arugula, basil, dill, and cilantro to Fox Run this summer, needed retiring. And, generously donated dishware needed cleaning and putting away in the farm’s kitchen.

Posse 3, a college access and youth leadership development program, students arrived with great spirit and enthusiasm to lend a hand wherever needed. None of them had been to the campus farm before and likely didn’t know what to expect from their visit. First things first, a farm tour! As I oriented the students to the Carriage House, where we store our seasonal harvest and tools, I showed them the wheelbarrow full of sunflower heads that had been picked weeks ago. With amazement, as I bent the face of the flower back and scraped the seeds with my thumb, the students quickly recognized the ‘David-brand’ looking snack and made their first realization of where sunflower seeds actually originate! The connection that was made between the farm to their plate was noticeable by their faces, verbal ‘awh’, and thrill! Although the experience offered by a farm or garden was likely a first ever for the Posse 3 students, it is that kind of connection, or realization that echoes the purpose of Food Week.

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Food Day is a national movement or celebration of healthy, sustainable, and affordable food. Hobart and William Smith Colleges maximizes the celebration by hosting an entire week of events and programs focused on food. This year, students connected with our local food system by taking what they might have learned in the classroom and applying it to our local community. Realizations of where our food comes from and the work involved in bringing food to our plates was realized as students gleaned cabbage from fields managed by Bejo Seeds and planted scallions at Clearview Farms in Palmyra. The Mt. Olive Community Garden, one of Geneva’s 13 edible gardens and member of the Geneva Community Garden Coalition, had the William Smith Volleyball team help construct and place raised beds for the upcoming growing season. The connections made ‘in the field’ by these students have the potential of sparking a deeper connection to the food we eat and the farmworkers supporting our communities. Alyssa, one of the student volunteers at Clearview Farm, was touched by the hands-on experience and is considering focusing her college studies on sustainable agriculture! On Thursday, Caeleigh White ‘16 had the opportunity to highlight the HWS Greens Growing Project and the Geneva Community Lunch Program as part of Food Week on WROC TV. Learning how to grow salad greens, realizing the tribulations of working with agriculture, and strengthening the connection between the classroom and the community is the focus of the project.

Besides bringing students out to the farms, there are opportunities for farmers, food manufacturers, producers, and food entrepreneurs to come to campus! We’ve hosted our Food Week Farmers Market since 2012 and this year we excitedly welcomed three new vendors and added music provided by WHWS Radio 105.7. The market is open to the public and invites the campus to buy local, ‘real’ food, an encouraged action by the HWS Sustainable Foods Club and Real Food Challenge Working Group. Given that HWS students used the RFC Calculator to determine that HWS Sodexo Dining Services serves 9% ‘real’ food on campus, the club and working group campaigned at the Farmers Market and throughout Food Week for an increase to 20% by 2020. The Real Food Challenge is a national campaign for increased community-based, ecologically sound, fair, and humane food sources in university budgets. To build awareness of our current food system and to encourage students to consider compassion in their personal food values, the HWS Sustainable Foods Club, led by Pascale Grossnickle ’16, arranged for HWS Food Week’s featured guest speaker Gene Baur, president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary and author of Living the Farm Sanctuary Life, who spoke about maintaining a plant-based diet, engaging mindfully with our diet, and eating plants for personal health and for the health of the earth.

It was a natural fit for Food Week to showcase the supportive partnership the campus has with HWS Dining Service (Sodexo) as well. Sodexo staff Lynn Pelkey and Mark Robinson made a concerted effort to incorporate HWS Food Week and their sustainability efforts by hosting a Pride of New York Meal accompanies by a “Food for Thought” Movie showing, an Apple Fest Taste Testing, tabling at the Farmer’s Market, and Weigh the Waste. HWS Sustainability Manager Adam Maurer consistently partners with Sodexo to track the campus progress in composting, waste management, and water and energy conservation.

During Food Week this year, we disposed of 24.2 gallons of liquid food waste and 217 lbs. of solid post-consumer food waste. What’s that mean? During our Wednesday Weigh the Waste event in our main dining hall Saga, all students emptied their leftover food waste into buckets for solids and liquids. Both waste streams were weighed throughout the day. Based on the number of students dining that day, the campus threw away approximately .014 gallons and .123 lbs. per person. Here at HWS, food waste is collected and retrieved by Cayuga Compost, where it is turned into valuable compost. However, HWs uses Weigh the Waste to demonstrate how much food, as a campus, community, and nation, is wasted on a daily basis. This awareness effort is coupled with information and discussions about food insecurity and the lack of fresh, healthy, affordable food for many people. HWS Dining Services also helped us go trayless all week, which saved approximately 2,061 gallons of water[1] that would have otherwise been used to wash the trays. Additionally, it is estimated that HWS prevented the waste of approximately 515 lbs. of food[2] because it has been proven that people take less and waste less food when they do not have a tray to pile an overabundance of food on. Food Week works to bring awareness to the need for healthier, affordable, accessible, just, sustainable food, but we can’t ignore the other sustainability-related issues that surround our food system, like use of fossil fuels, water, etc.

The connections and realizations made during HWS Food Week were numerous! From the classroom to the community, from seed to table; the campus connects with farmers, food, flavors, and our personal role and impact on the food system and environment. Visit the HWS Food Week website to see our photo contest submissions, true observations made by students!

[1] It is estimated that it takes one quart of water to wash a tray

[2] It is estimated that people waste 1 oz. less of food when they do not use a tray

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Exploration and Education: Linking Project Based Learning With Community Development Programs

By Nadia Harvieux, Education Program Manager at the Finger Lakes Institute

Nadia Harvieux

Nadia Harvieux

Project Based Learning (PBL) is an educational tool that is being adopted by teachers and school district throughout the Finger Lakes region. This teaching approach engages students in authentic learning by having students apply their knowledge to solve real-world problems. While not a new educational technique, PBL is gaining more wide-spread acceptance as an effective teaching method across all disciplines and grade levels. For students, PBL is an exciting way to apply content area knowledge and understanding, as well as critical thinking and problem-solving skills, to some of the challenging problems that exist beyond the classroom.

Project design elements for effective PBL. Photo credit: Buck Institute for Education www.bie.org).

Project design elements for effective PBL. Photo credit: Buck Institute for Education http://www.bie.org).

At the same time that teachers are incorporating PBL into their curriculum, many communities are adopting a more collaborative approach to complete projects that enhance the community. These community development projects bring together stakeholders such as municipalities, businesses and community-based organizations. Not to be overlooked, schools can also be an important stakeholder; the hands-on, experiential approach of PBL is a natural fit for community development projects.


Link with community for successful PBL. Photo credit: bie.org.

Photo credit: bie.org.

So, how do teachers connect with their community to learn about opportunities to partner on community development projects? Suzie Boss, a National Faculty member of the Buck Institute for Education, offers a number of tips for creating strong community partnerships for successful PBL:

  1. Educate your community about the benefits of PBL: PBL may be a new concept for many members of your community. Use traditional and social media to educate the general public about the benefits of PBL for both student learning and community development project stakeholders.
  1. Connect with experts in your community: Project design elements of effective PBL involve identifying a challenging question or problem and sustained inquiry. Reaching out to local experts gives students the opportunity to ask questions and gain knowledge as part of that inquiry process.
  1. Build relationships: Reach out to local municipal officials, businesses and community organizations to learn about existing community development projects and/or collaborate with stakeholders to identify new projects that would benefit your community.
  1. Promote the problem-solving capabilities of your students: Students can be an effective resource for completing various components of a community development project. Work closely with stakeholders to identify community development project components that are appropriate for your students.
  1. Share the success: Celebrate the successful completion of a PBL by inviting community partners and stakeholders to attend project presentations or project work for the public that exhibits student learning.

(Source: http://bie.org/blog/get_your_community_on_board_with_pbl )

By linking PBL with community development projects, teachers, students and community stakeholders create an exciting collaboration that strengthens student learning and skill development while benefiting the community as a whole!

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Food and Field Notes: Leftovers Are Not For Landfills- Some Thoughts On Food Waste

By Mekala Bertocci, William Smith College ’14

Mekala Bertocci

Mekala Bertocci

Food waste is all around us. If you’ve ever eaten out at a restaurant and weren’t crazy about your meal, chances are it gets thrown in the trash. If you were to open your refrigerator door right now, chances are there’s a Tupperware or two of forgotten leftovers lurking in the back corner behind the milk and eggs. If you have your own garden, you’ve likely experienced that helpless feeling of tomatoes withering on the vine, cucumbers gone by, and bolted lettuce you couldn’t keep up with. If you’ve ever worked in food service, you’ve probably seen cooks throw away countless ingredients that have passed their expiration date and are no longer fit for sale (not to mention the perfectly edible half sandwich left on a customer’s plate). I myself have been on many sides of our food system in the past several years, and whether it’s behind the deli line at Hobart and William Smith’s student Café, perusing the ‘reduced to sell’ produce section of a regional supermarket, in the fields of a small organic family farm, at a university’s agricultural research farm, or in my own garden and refrigerator, I’ve noticed that food waste is a ubiquitous but often overlooked problem. By the same token, I believe that the food waste issue presents high potential for solving some of the interrelated woes of our current food system, such as malnourishment and lack of fresh food access.

Food waste is a political act, or lack of action, that’s happening in homes, restaurants, schools, farms, and grocery stores across the country. Forty percent of food produced in the U.S. is wasted. In the production sector, millions of tons of misshapen or discolored fruit and vegetables rot in fields and orchards or are plowed over each year. After crops have been gathered from the fields, farmers tend to cull produce to make sure it meets minimum standards for size, color, and weight. “One large cucumber farmer,” a 2014 NRDC report notes, “estimated that fewer than half the vegetables he grows actually leave his farm and that 75 percent of the cucumbers culled before sale are edible.” If there’s a culprit here, it’s our high aesthetic standards in purchasing our food. In distribution centers like major retail grocery stores, the demand for stocked shelves, aesthetically pleasing produce, and fresh prepared food leaves fruits, vegetables and even entire hams and roasts to be thrown away. Last year, the USDA released a report estimating that supermarkets toss out $15 billion worth of unsold fruits and vegetables alone each year. But waste is also seen as the cost of doing business: stores would rather overstock their shelves and throw out the remainder than look empty. Supermarkets will also winnow out produce that’s in sub-par condition, since few shoppers want to buy an apple that’s all bruised up. There’s also the issue of “sell by” expiration dates. The report cites one industry estimate that each store throws out, on average, $2,300 worth of food each day because the products have neared their expiration date. Yet most of this food is still edible. In many states, it’s still perfectly legal to sell food past its expiration date. Many stores would just prefer not to — it looks bad. “Most stores, in fact, pull items 2 to 3 days before the sell-by date,” the NRDC report observes. Restaurants dump tens of thousands of tons of edible food every year, and the vast majority restaurants and eateries do not participate in food donation programs. On a residential level, discarded food represents a quarter of all waste tossed away by households across the country.


Needless to say, much has to change in how we handle food waste on farms, in restaurants, grocery stores, and households. On a national level, we may be getting one step closer with the help of Main Congresswoman Chellie Pingree. Last month she announced a plan to introduce comprehensive legislation to help stop food waste. At a time when much of the food waste conversation centers around what consumers can do to plan better and stretch their groceries further, this is the first effort to seek solutions through a national policy. Pingree hopes to fundamentally change the conversation about food waste in this country through provisions like disclaimers under manufacturer “sell by” dates, tax credits for farmers that harvest less cosmetically perfect produce, an expanded Good Samaritan law for institutions looking to donate food, and more frequent consumer awareness campaigns.

Although there seems to be some national progress taking place in changing the amount of food wasted in the US, we have a long way to go before farmers are rewarded for donating “ugly” produce to food banks and school lunch programs; where grocery stores aren’t beholden to arbitrary “sell by” dates on their packaging; and community compost bins are as ubiquitous as recycling bins.

Author’s Note:
Mekala graduated from William Smith Colleges in May 2014 with a BA in Philosophy and Environmental Studies. After spending the summer of her junior year interning with a small USDA Organic family farm in Sheffield, MA, she was hooked on growing food. Soon she became engulfed in the deep and complicated world that is our food system. She’s now the ‘permanent intern’ at the same farm she started out at in Sheffield, and is working with Berkshire Grown, an organization that links farmers in the Berkshires with the surrounding community 
through events, workshops, promotions, advocacy and education highlighting locally-grown and produced food. She plans to attend graduate school in the near future, and in the more distant future — to ease into the life of a second generation farmer in the Berkshires of MA. Contact Mekala at mekala.bertocci@gmail.com.

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FL-PRISM Update: WELCOME! The Finger Lakes Institute’s Aquatic Invasive Species Outreach Coordinator, Emily Staychock

Emily Staychock

Emily Staychock

The Finger Lakes Institute, through the EPA’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative 2015 fiscal year funding, is pleased to announce the addition of Emily Staychock as the new Aquatic Invasive Species Outreach Coordinator. Emily, who started the role in September, will work half time at the FLI while also working at Cornell Cooperative Extension in Yates County as their watershed educator. Emily will manage a watercraft steward program including supervising a summer coordinator and a seasonal field staff of stewards. She will develop a training session, develop and promote education and outreach materials appropriate to the Finger Lakes, and provide support for data analysis and reporting. Emily will also work with Finger Lakes regional watershed groups to support aquatic invasive species management through education and management of a small subcontract program. She will be responsible for recruiting and training volunteers for citizen science invasive species projects including developing education and outreach materials and establishing a monitoring network for early detection of invasive species. In addition to the above, Emily will coordinate education and outreach activities with Finger Lakes Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (FL-PRISM) and work in concert with the FL-PRISM aquatic invasive species working group. Other responsibilities will include disseminating information about Finger Lakes aquatic invasive species management efforts through social media, attending meetings, writing reports, and developing web-based materials such as newsletter articles and wikis/blogs. Emily and her role at the Finger Lakes Institute will increase the capacity of the Finger Lakes Institute and the FL-PRISM to deliver quality tools and increased capability to fight against invasive species in the region. The FL-PRISM is excited to welcome Emily to the team!

Emily is a champion of invasive species management and outreach having recently worked as the Invasive Species Outreach Coordinator for the Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Invasive Species Outreach Team. Currently, Emily works for the Cornell Cooperative Extension through a contract with the Keuka Lake Association as their aquatic invasive species and watershed program coordinator. Emily holds an MS from Colorado State in Forest Sciences and a BS in Psychology from SUNY Geneseo. We welcome the opportunity to work with Emily and look forward to the expertise and energy that she brings to the Institute.

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FLI Events

HWS_Service Learning Contest 2015Love trees? Love NY? Love Finger Lakes? Love Geneva? Love HWS? If yes to any of these, VOTE for the Arbor Day Foundation 2015 Tree Campus USA Service Learning Contest! Hobart and William Smith proposes a project that will bring food trees (fruit, nut, berry) to Geneva and campus! Polls are open November 9-13th. Individuals can vote once per day per device! Vote HERE! http://www.arborday.org/programs/treecampususa/vote/

HWS proposes establishing an intergenerational food system impacting and enhancing the people and urban forest of the East Lakeview Neighborhood Association and Brownfield Opportunity Area, a USDA-classified food desert and LMI area in Geneva, NY. Hobart and William Smith Colleges and residents will plant, monitor, and manage 100 fruit trees within Geneva and the HWS campus farm. Through cooperative service learning and training, project partners will grow and provide food for our community through edible trees.

Finger Lakes Research Conference: Threats to the Finger Lakes
 Thursday, November 12, 2015, 9am – 5pm
WHERE: Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Scandling Center, Vandervort Room, 300 Pulteney St, Geneva, NY 14456
COST: $50 through November 9
CONTACT: Hilary Mosher, mosher@hws.edu, 315.781.4385

On November 12, 2015, the Finger Lakes Institute at Hobart and William Smith Colleges will host its annual research conference on the campus of Hobart and William Smith Colleges. This conference will provide an opportunity to learn about the research being conducted in and applicable to the Finger Lakes.

POSTER SESSION: The poster session is an opportunity for attendees to learn about research and projects (active or proposed) pertaining to the Finger Lakes.

KEYNOTE: Todd Walter, Director, New York State Water Resources Institute at Cornell University and Associate Professor, Dept. of Biological and Environmental Engineering, Cornell University. Agricultural non-point source pollution in the Finger Lakes’


John Halfman, Professor, Dept. of Geoscience & Environmental Studies, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, ‘Threats to the Finger Lakes‘

Kimberly Schulz, Associate Professor, Dept. of Environmental and Forest Biology, SUNY ESF, Establishment and effects of predatory invasive zooplankton in the food webs of the Finger Lakes and Great Lakes’ (K.L. Schulz and S. Figary)

Brian Weidel, Research Fishery Biologist, USGS Great Lakes Science Center, ‘Turning Dreissena into sport fish: Round Goby’s role in the Lake Ontario food web’

Doug Wilcox, Empire Innovation Professor of Wetland Science, Dept. of Environmental Science and Biology, The College at Brockport, SUNY, ‘Wetland restoration projects in the Braddock Bay Fish and Wildlife Management Area

Catherine McGlynn, Aquatic Invasive Species Coordinator, NYS DEC, ‘A pound of prevention:  New York’s new aquatic invasive species management plan’.

Robert Johnson, Aquatic Biologist, Racine-Johnson Aquatic Ecologists, ‘Eradication of monoecious Hydrilla from southern Cayuga Lake and southern tributaries, Ithaca, NY’.

Cliff Kraft, Professor of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences in the Department of Natural Resources at Cornell University, ‘Pathogenicity and ecosystem disruption from ecological competition for B vitamins’

Roxanne Razavi, Post-doctoral Research Scientist, Finger Lakes Institute, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, ‘Mercury concentrations in Finger Lakes food webs’

Karen Riva-Murray, Research Ecologist, USGS, New York Water Sciences Center, ‘Mercury bioaccumulation in New York’s streams’

Jeff Ridal, Executive Director and Chief Research Scientist, St. Lawrence River Institute of Environmental Sciences, ‘St. Lawrence River Institute of Environmental Sciences-protecting ecosystems and engaging diverse stakeholders through scientific research and community outreach’

FLI-Aquatic Seminar Series

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