The Center for Sustainability and the Environment encourages students to engage in original research. At its best, research is a team effort that builds on previous work, supports future work, and is directed toward solving real problems. It is also intellectually stimulating and, in simpler language, just plain fun! The Center has funds to provide stipends to support students who engage in summer research and service projects.
In our Rice Creek Project, the Center for Sustainability and the Environment collaborated with citizens groups and county agencies. Bringing backgrounds from political science, chemistry, biology and geology to the project, over the course of several summers, the students developed a broad understanding of the aquatic system. Several classes and individual faculty and students continue to study the creek an improve our understanding of it.
Another group project is the E-House, a living-learning experience for students interested in the important issue of sustainability. Established in 2005, this typical Midwestern small town house is home to six students who are working to demonstrate how such dwellings can be improved to decrease their environmental footprint. The students in the house are active in reaching out to the community and campus.
Other research efforts have been directed toward developing an ecological inventory of the upper branches of the Kalamazoo River, and using this as a basis for encouraging sustainable uses and practices along this river. This stretch of river is largely groundwater fed, and is one of the cleanest, unspoiled stretches of river in the lower half of Michigan's southern peninsula. Pure research projects will support service projects, such as developing sustainable recreational opportunities and educational programs based using the river.
We also have abundant opportunities for students to work on independent projects on and off campus. Students have worked on campus on projects such as avian ecology and surface chemistry. Another student, with medical as well as environmental interests, completed a research internship on toxicology at Henry Ford Hospital, and others have worked on problems such as coal gasification and mercury contamination at the Oak Ridge National Laboratories. Biology students have worked with Albion faculty on Ornithology in the College's nature center, Sharks in the Florida Keys, tropical plants in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and marine invertebrates in the Bay of Fundy.
Student research in the Center for Sustainability and the Environment is supported by a campus-wide interest in integrating research into education. Our Albion Foundation for Undergraduate Research provides students with stipends for summer work and funds for supplies, expenses and travel to professional meetings. Additionally, the foundation works with faculty to develop research as a way of teaching. Modest research projects are becoming an integral part of courses at all levels on our campus. Our well-equipped laboratories provide the opportunity to do state of the art research in biology, chemistry, and geology. Our annual Elkin Isaacs Student Research Symposium celebrates student achievement, and many students also present their results off campus at professional meetings.