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chatham resettles new residents

close-up of rainbow trout
Photos courtesy Tony Miga

It was an overcast Wednesday morning, but spirits were high as Eden Hall Campus welcomed its newest residents.

Over 20 people—including reporters from KDKA and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette—were on hand to greet the newcomers: 500 rainbow trout, non-native to Pennsylvania, here to be permanently resettled in their new homes: three fiberglass tanks, each standing about five feet tall and containing 500 gallons, in Chatham’s aquaculture laboratory.

The fish were briefly retained in buckets while last-minute logistics were worked out, but soon they were released, transported to their new residences in green, traffic cone-sized nets by Aquatic Laboratory Director Roy Weitzell, PhD, and his research assistant, Master of Sustainability student Samantha Harvey ’18.

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Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), are native to the West Coast of the US. “They are relatively hardy, certainly as compared to our native brook trout,” says Weitzell. “My plan is to use the experience we gain with rainbow trout to culture the native brook trout.” Rainbow trout are stocked widely throughout the northern and eastern US, and widely used in aquaculture globally.

“You can’t ask for a more photogenic fish,” notes Sarah Hamm, Social Media Manager at Chatham University.

“Rainbow trout are one of the most widely studied aquaculture species, so we know a lot about their biology,” Weitzell continues. “We’re confident that we can successfully raise them in our system. This should open the doors for any number of research projects dealing with culture and conservation of the trout native to Western PA.”

The 5-to-6-inch collaborators, who declined requests for an interview, were delivered by Laurel Hill Trout Farm, in a hatchery truck with tanks outfitted with temperature control and supplemental oxygen. The fish had lived their whole lives at the farm.

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The aquaculture lab is used in undergraduate and graduate courses and projects led by Weitzell and colleagues at the Falk School of Sustainability & Environment, including Sustainable Aquaculture, Aquatic Ecology, and Basic Agroecology. It’s also regularly used for a variety of K-12 outreach efforts, including aquaponics workshops for students and teachers.

The Falk School of Sustainability & Environment is a wellspring for leadership and education dedicated to addressing sustainability challenges across a range of environments. Through hands-on experience, assistantships, summer immersion programs, community engagement, and a robust academic foundation, students emerge as professionals that will transform thinking in the fields that comprise sustainability. 

 

Course spotlight: Wines, Ciders, and Mead

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The Falk School of Sustainability Master of Arts in Food Studies’s course Wines, Ciders, and Mead (FST512) has some things in common with your canonical graduate seminar. The instructor—Sally Frey, MFA, Ph.D.—is eminently qualified, having worked as a master sommelier (Frey is also a chef who trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris). Five students are seated around a conference table on a brisk early winter morning, with another student at the podium, in front of, there it is—a PowerPoint presentation.

Her name is Danielle San Filippo, MAFS ’18, and she is showing photographs and reporting on a pear cider that she made. Listen:

“I wanted to let them ripen a little bit more so they’d press more juice. In retrospect it may not have been the best idea to let them get really sweet and sugary when you’re looking to get a dry cider (laughs). I took them home, and I decided to use the process Mike (Sturges, proprietor of a local cider collective, who was a guest speaker) shared with us – which is where you essentially juice the pears, right, we all had our different styles, mine was to use my juicer–and then mix the pulp back into the juice and press it again, and that way you’ll get this really concentrated flavor. That was a really bad idea, (class laughs) because I am not strong enough to press all that juice back out again. Essentially what happened was that I ended up with a really thick situation there. You guys can see all of this here, (gestures at screen) is the extra pulp that I was trying to mix back in together and press through. So in retrospect what I would do is just use the juice and sacrifice a little bit of the pear flavor. I also used a champagne yeast, but mine was a wine yeast as opposed to a beer one, because I had planned to use the champagne beer yeast that Mike gave us and luckily tried it first to get it activated and it was dead. So since I was already in the middle of this, I just grabbed what I had bought for one of my meads. That got me wondering – does that make this a pear wine now?”

“Technically no, because the alcohol content’s too low,” says Frey.

Danielle continues. “By November fifth, there was still a good bit of sediment, so I decided to go ahead and let it settle and then rack it, and it only produced those two bottles right there.”

“So there was that much sediment?” asks Frey.

“There was that much sediment. In fact, it was like pear sauce! I think overall in terms of making the cider I wanted to make, it didn’t get quite as dry as I like, but the flavor of pears definitely stands out. I think using the Eden Hall pears was a good choice, and I’m glad I tried this the way Mike said to, that we can all know not to do that (class laughs) moving forward.”

“We just don’t have the equipment to do that,” points out Frey.

“Right, right, if my juicer would have made the juice that I needed, it would have been fine. Anyway, I’m excited for you guys to try the perry (,” says Danielle.


What’s impressive is the consistent reflection: in retrospect, she says, and that got me wondering. Because as hands-on as this class is, Frey equips her students with the theoretical knowledge and collaborative spirit that effectively makes them artisans—even if just for the semester.

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According to the syllabus, FST512 “provides a detailed study of the world of wines, grape varieties, ciders and mead,” and the word world seems carefully chosen indeed. Not only does it deal with global (and local) events, trends, and implications, but for every question you might expect in a course like this—what is so special about Chateau d’Yquem?—it goes snooping into other subjects, like history (What are some of the ways that Prohibition changed the way Americans ate?), technology (What type of bottle closure is the most sustainable?), psychology (What influence would a high score in a magazine like Wine Spectator have on how you choose a wine?), and biology (According to Giovanni Ruffa, it would be ironic if the world’s vineyards managed to survive the phylloxera epidemic only to be decimated by this trend toward what he calls “homologation.” What might be the consequences for bio-diversity?)

Students discuss wine journalism; marketing; and laws related to alcohol consumption, production, and distribution. They read texts and watch documentaries. They’ve visited Apoidea Apiary and Soergel Orchards, and guest speakers included Michael Sturges, proprietor of a local cider collective; Holly Harker from Subarashii Kudamono, an Asian pear orchard; and alumnus Michael Foglia MAFS ’16, who presented research that he did for local distillery Wigle Whiskey (which has teamed up with Chatham before).

After the presentations, the class moves downstairs to the spacious lodge kitchen. One by one, students pry caps off the bottles they’ve brought in, and pour samples for Frey and their classmates.

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Students report on their ingredients (“The honey comes from Maple Valley Farms near Ross Park Mall. I called to find out more about their practices. They are not using certified naturally grown methods but they use organic practices for beekeeping.”), tasting (“I think you taste ginger in the end. I can feel that kind of burning sensation, which is a bad way to put it, but it’s good.”), their processes (“I ran into a few issues with temperature because I’m in the dorms. I wasn’t able to regulate the temperature. I wrapped my little blanket around it.”) and plans (“I’m gonna bring it home for Thanksgiving and have my family try it. They’ve never had mead!”).


Assignment: Write a 3-5-page proposal for a “Sustainable Beverage (multiple categories may be included) Tasting Fundraiser.” You will have an imaginary $400 budget to get you started and the event is to take place from 7:00 – 9:00 PM on a Saturday evening. The only requirement is that it should be “fun and educational.”  Be specific with any items that you would purchase for the event and think through all the details from a sustainability lens. You will present your concept to the group and we will debate the best concept.


The course capstone is the final, semester-long project. Students pick a research topic related to local or global cider, mead, wine, sake, or honey to be presented to the group along with an essay and photo documentation of the fermentation/production process, if applicable. The goal is for the final project to be used as a portfolio piece.

For her final project, Danielle is making four different types of mead. “Modern mead-making uses chemical-based accelerants,” she says, “but I wanted to figure out how to make dry, semi-sweet, and sweet mead just by altering the amount and type of honey and yeast.”

“Lots of classes in the Falk School focus on group work,” says Danielle, “so this class is unique in that it’s focused on individual work, but then we all come together for three hours each week and work as a group to solve problems. The structure gave me time to think through my preconceptions and then come to class and be challenged.”


Image Text: Tips for Homebrewers Students from FST512 share their secrets: 1. Taste. Make sure your ingredients taste amazing to start with. 2. Sanitize. Make sure your materials and environment are very clean, or else everything you make is going to have a funk to it. 3. Document. If you’re doing this on an at-home scale, you probably won’t be able to reproduce what you did in a given batch–but if you have notes and photographs, you can get much closer.

Chatham’s Master of Arts in Food Studies in the Falk School of Sustainability & Environment emphasizes a holistic approach to food systems, from agriculture and food production to cuisines and consumption, providing intellectual and practical experience from field to table.

 

Alumnus profile: James Snow, MSUS ’16

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This article previously appeared in Chatham’s Recorder alumni magazine.

As part of the first cohort of Chatham’s Masters of Sustainability program, James Snow loved “embracing the ‘newness’”. “It was a great opportunity to not only help craft the program, but also to be able to gain opportunities from something so new.” Snow said the faculty and curriculum ensured that the students were out in the field, having hands on, real life experiences. He said, “That is a critical element to being placed in a job after graduation.”

Snow is currently a project manager for the environmental nonprofit GTECH: Growth Through Energy + Community Health. With more than 40,000 vacant lots in Allegheny County, many of which attract crime, decrease property values and reduce community cohesion, GTECH’s work to transform these spaces cultivates the unrealized potential of people and places to improve the health of our communities is vital. Through this process, GTECH offers an opportunity for residents to take pride in their community and land. Play spaces, parks, community gardens, and storm water installations are some of the types of projects imagined by residents, meaning what once was a blighted liability, is transformed into a useful asset. “We focus of the intersection of community development and the economy while identifying community health issues and working on solutions,” Snow says proudly.  He was an intern at GTECH while at Chatham, prior to transitioning to a full time employee following graduation.

As Snow reflects upon his time at Chatham, one of his early classes stands out. “In one of our first sustainability classes we were assigned a watershed project that included three different hydrologic systems in Allegheny County. One was urban, one suburban, one rural. We were looking at how when you look at a macro problem, like water run off or storm water, you have to be able to work up and down the scale to find a solution. We had to study everything from what kind of community this was, to who lives here, to what’s the geography and terrain like.

It was so helpful to look at these large, complex problems and then break down the context, then put it back together to craft the solution. It’s not only about different groups, people and backgrounds, but it’s also about taking all those pieces and putting it back together for a final product,” he notes.

Chatham provided Snow with the opportunity to get out in the field and experience real world situations and environments. His experience working directly with people and all different social and economic backgrounds was critical in developing a holistic view of sustainability and community development. “Chatham is a big enough program to obtain resources, but it’s small enough to build really close relationships,” Snow says. This allowed Snow to truly understand the world he’d be working and making a difference in.

Chatham’s Master of Sustainability (MSUS) program prepares enterprising students with the tools necessary to be the agents of change that corporations, governments, and other organizations need to lead their sustainability initiatives. The program and its focus on real-world impact is inspired by environmental icon and Chatham alumna Rachel Carson ’29, whose own work over 50 years ago continues to impact the world.

Food Studies Student Creates Community Garden

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Leland Scales (MAFS, ’16)’s hometown of Swissvale, PA had fallen on hard times, and he wanted to give back to the community. Inspired when he began the Master of Arts in Food Studies at Chatham, Leland created the Swissvale Community Garden to both beautify a part of his community and to provide some much-needed healthy produce to those in the Swissvale area.

Funding his project through Indiegogo, Leland designed the Swissvale Community Garden as a community-based initiative that is managed and operated by volunteers of the community and overseen by Reach Up, Inc., a non-profit organization based in Swissvale. Gardeners grow various flowers, herbs, and vegetables with crops being donated to local food pantries, some given to volunteers, and the remaining items sold at a local farmers market.

Leland plans to grow the project each year, and to offer gardening workshops to teach children that with hard work and determination, even the smallest seed can grow into to something larger than life.

Located within Chatham’s Falk School of Sustainability & Environment, the Master of Arts in Food Studies emphasizes a holistic approach to food systems, from agriculture and food production to cuisines and consumption, providing intellectual and practical experience from field to table.

 

Inside the Aquaculture Lab

Roy Weitzell, PhD (back row, second from right) leads a tour of the Aquaculture Lab.
Roy Weitzell, PhD (back row, second from right) leads a tour of the Aquaculture Lab.

Aquaculture—the farming of marine organisms, including fish, shellfish, turtles, and plants—is responsible for more than half of all seafood eaten worldwide,[1] and getting bigger. It’s widely seen as the most efficient way to provide protein to the rapidly growing global population, slated to reach over 10 billion people by 2050. The rapid growth in global aquaculture production has created questions of long-term sustainability in aquaculture.

Falk School Aquatic  Lab Director Roy Weitzell, PhD is ready.

The Lab is loud. Not factory-loud, but it’s abundantly clear that things are happening. As befits Eden Hall Campus, these things are powered entirely by energy generated on campus. Water is cooled or heated on demand using the geothermal heating system, electricity is generated by solar panels, and Roy hopes to eventually use Eden Hall crops to make fish pellets. Perhaps most impressively, between 98 and 99 percent of the 5000 or so gallons of water is recycled in a continual process of filtering within the Lab (the other one to two percent is used to water plants across campus or treated in the campus sanitation system and re-infiltrated into the local aquifer).

“It’s a great example of how all these sustainable systems can come together and support serious infrastructure in a relatively small space,” says Roy. The lab is divided into three main parts: fish tanks, aquaponics and research stacks.

Aquaculture tanks
The space is dominated by three large, round fish tanks holding a total of about 1500 gallons of water. Combined, they’re able to hold around 850-1000 foot-long rainbow trout. Having three tanks allows Roy and his students to research how fish-related variables (e.g., coloration, taste, texture, size, and growth rate) are affected by environmental variables (e.g., insect-based vs. plant-based fish food, amount fed, and water source). Roy notes that the lab is able to culture a range of cold-water and warm-water species.fish

Fish from the tanks will also be used by Eden Hall Chef Chris Galarza and his team to create meals for the EHC community and special products, such as a “signature smoked trout spread.” Roy also looks forward to working with the Falk School’s Food Studies Department, mentioning an Asian fish paste as a possible initiative that the Lab could help support. 

Aquaponics
Aquaponics—a portmanteau made from aquaculture and hydroponics—refers to the mutually beneficial growing of fish and plants together in one physically interconnected system. Here’s how it works:

  1. Waste is collected from the fish tank, and pumped to the growing beds.
  2. Bacteria in the growing beds transform ammonia from the waste into nitrate, which makes an ideal plant fertilizer.
  3. Plants filter nutrients (nitrate and macronutrients) from the water, and the water is returned to the tank.

“Aquaponics has a lot of backyard hobbyists. It’s very easy to do, cost-effective, and there are a lot of resources to help,” Roy says, mentioning Pittsburgh Aquaponics as one of them. Chatham’s system was built by four students in the Falk School’s Agroecology and Sustainable Aquaculture classes.

In the growing beds, plants are embedded in a bed of expanded clay pellets. “We use these because they’re very light, easy to work with, and the porous surface provides more space for bacteria to grow,” notes Roy. Come fall, students will be using the system to grow collard greens (also chard, peppers, tomatoes, basil, etc.).

Roy estimates that the aquaponics system will be able to grow 40 tilapias from one to two inches to “plate size” in four to five months. “But that’s part of the grand experiment,” he says. “We’ll be adjusting variables to see where we get the best results.”

You’re basically recreating what nature does on its own, but could never do it at this density. Growing a lot of fish in a small space lets us feed more people.”

Eventually, Roy hopes to add insects and worms to the food they feed the fish. “They’re nutritionally dense, and their larvae are an ideal food source,” he says, adding that worms in the growing beds can also help break down organic material.

Research stacks
Toward the back of the Lab are the “research stacks” – aisles of many small tanks stacked together (“sort of like a fish condominium,” Roy says) with a recirculating system.  At the moment they’re mostly empty, but Roy plans to use them to grow and display aquatic life, such as native fishes and aquatic invertebrates. “The life cycle of fathead minnows is the perfect fit for the teaching semester,” he says, explaining that they grow from an egg to a reproducing adult in only three to four months. Roy is also interested in using the stacks to expose students to other such forms of local aquatic life, such as salamanders and fresh water shrimp. The large number of tanks allow a degree of statistical rigor that lets us expand our findings to the outside world.

This is first and foremost a teaching laboratory,” Roy says. “Education comes first; research is second.”

That’s not to say some pretty fascinating research isn’t in the cards. Inside fish ears are tiny structures called otoliths. As fish age, the otoliths lay down bands, much like rings inside tree trunks. Like rings of a tree trunk, these bands can be “read.” They can be used to determine not only the age of the fish, but also potentially abrupt chemical changes in the fish’s environment, and together with Duquesne University’s Brady Porter, PhD, that’s what Roy is interested in exploring. The plan is to start by breeding minnows in the research stacks, to minimize variables. Once the minnows are grown, they’ll be exposed to salt compounds, such as road salt, fracking brine, and acid mine drainage. The researchers anticipate that this exposure will produce telltale otolith rings that can then be used to help identify toxicity in rivers and streams.

In Spring 2017, Roy will be teaching Sustainable Aquaculture for the Falk School of Sustainability.

[1] FAO 2012. The State of the World’s Fisheries and Aquaculture. United Nations Food and Agriculture Department

congratulations Eden Hall Fellows!

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Chatham University and the Falk School of Sustainability (FSS) are proud to announce the 2016 Eden Hall Fellows.

The Eden Hall Fellows Scholarship Program is open to all FSS graduate students. Each year, five new and five returning students will receive:

  • A $10,000 per year tuition scholarship (renewable, provided students maintain eligibility requirements)
  • A $5,000 summer cash stipend to carry out their internship, in which they are expected to engage in social entrepreneurship, community service, or work with or for a non-profit business making changes in sustainability

Meredith Benek is a Master of Sustainability student from Harmony, PA with a bachelor’s degree from Slippery Rock University in Environmental Studies. Meredith has had a lifelong interest in the environment and living sustainably, working as an Environmental Health and Safety Specialist. Meredith’s summer 2016 internship is with Penn Forest Natural Burial Park, Pennsylvania’s first exclusively environmentally friendly burial ground. She will interface with all aspects of the park – from communicating with the public, understanding the environmental impacts of the area, and situating issues within the context of a socially responsible business.

Elisha (Elly) Helgen is a Master of Sustainability from Danvers, IL with a bachelor’s degree from Mercyhurst University in anthropology/archaeology. After graduating, Elly spent a year with AmeriCorps and led a project that included creating a community garden within a refugee and low-income neighborhood. There she saw the many mental, physical and spiritual benefits that come from bringing communities together around a green space. During her summer 2016 immersion experience, Elly will continue working with community gardens, and further develop her skills as they relate to sustainable and equitable community development.

Zachary J. Schmucker is a Master of Sustainability student from Lycippus, PA with a bachelor’s degree from Davis & Elkins College in Sustainability Studies and History, where he worked to bridge the gaps between the humanities and environmental science. Zachary’s summer 2016 internship is with the United States Forest Service (USFS), where he will continue his work as a trail crew leader in the Monongahela National Forest, including trail condition assessment and remediation; land use monitoring; and community outreach. Zachary has been a crew leader with the USFS in previous years, but will expand on his role this summer by working to redevelop trails with a goal towards watershed improvement.

Megan VanGorden is a Master of Arts in Food Studies student from Olivebridge, New York with a bachelor degree from Saint Michael’s College in Anthropology/Sociology and Applied Linguistics. Megan spent two years with AmeriCorps, managing volunteers and working on healthy aging programs, and serving with a community food council focused on nutrition education for families with young children. Megan’s summer 2016 internship involves two sites: At Eden Hall, she will create a community supported agriculture model that can be scaled up in future years to provide students with produce from Eden Hall. At Churchview Farm in Baldwin, PA, a small, woman-owned farm, she will assist with operations and the business side of running a farm that sells to restaurants and hosts a work-share program.

Mollie Walter is a Master of Arts in Food Studies from Summit, NJ with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh in Economics and History. For the last three years, Mollie has worked as a tax specialist for BNY Mellon. Currently, she interns for Three Rivers Grown, a regional food hub that specializes in distributing dairy within 100 miles of Pittsburgh. Mollie’s summer 2016 internship will be with The Hatchery in Chicago, a food business incubator that accelerates economic development by helping food entrepreneurs launch their companies. There, she will use and build on her business skills, doing supply chain analysis, production and distribution, business strategy development, research, reporting on food and beverage trends, and more.

Learn more about the Eden Hall Fellows Scholarship Program, including expectations of Fellows and eligibility requirements.

Urban Planning and Political Ecology (SUS 606)

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“Urban Planning and Political Ecology” course participants. © Michael Finewood

Last fall, graduate and undergraduate students in Chatham University’s sustainability program participated in Urban Planning and Political Ecology (SUS 606), taught by Dr. Michael Finewood. As part of the course, they worked in teams on a community-based project with the Borough of Millvale, producing proposals for two projects that contribute to Millvale’s goals to become more sustainable.

Project #1 – The Hillside Food Forest
Team: Carmen Adamson MBA ‘15, Cassie Guerin BA ‘15, Julie Morris MSUS ‘16, Kayla Scherr MSUS ‘15, Christopher Seamon MSUS ‘15, Ezra Welsh MSUS ‘16, ILona Weyers BS ’17.

Challenges facing Millvale include unstable hillsides, water contamination, and the fact that it is a food desert. The Hillside Food Forest team addressed these concerns through a proposal to convert a hillside into a food forest. The proposal includes a comprehensive site analysis with design scheme, property acquisition strategies, and listing of potential partners as well as information about soil types, plant orientation, and low cost/ low maintenance management. The project highlights how a food forest—designed by and for community members—can strengthen community resilience and help strengthen Millvale’s local food network. Download the final report.

Project #2 – The Bicycle Park-and-Ride Project
Team: Scott Carter, MSUS ’16; Jared Haidet, MSUS ’16; Joshua Lewis, MSUS ’16; Carla Limon, MSUS ’16; Kimberly Lucke, MSUS ’16; Jessica Tain, MSUS ’15; Joshua Zivkovich, MSUS ‘16

Pittsburgh Port Authority owns a parking lot in Millvale that has largely gone unused since the bus route was shut down. The Park-and-Ride Project team developed a proposal to convert it into a multi-use space. The three main objectives of the project were to establish green infrastructure for stormwater management, develop plans for a bike corridor that connects to the riverfront park (see map below), and create a public space that would help change community perceptions of a nearby creek, Girty’s Run, from a risk to an asset. The proposal includes site analysis with water runoff calculations, comparison of the efficacy of various types of green infrastructure, plans for implementing a bike-and-ride infrastructure, and a list of potential community partners and grant opportunities. The project highlights how green spaces can create multiple community benefits while contributing to the reduction of combined sewer overflows, a requirement of the Clean Water Act. Download the final report.

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This map illustrates the biking distance and time from Millvale to various sections of the city. The Park-and-Ride proposal articulates ways multi-modal transportation can connect Millvale to the broader region in efficient and sustainable ways. © Kim Lucke & Joshua Lewis

Natural Resources Leadership course

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Muddy Creek, part of the Cheat River watershed

Pittsburgh is a city of three rivers, in a county of 263 abandoned mine sites. If you appreciate water as a recreational resource, this is cause for celebration. If you’re savvy about pollution, it’s cause for concern.

This spring, Chatham launched a Maymester course designed to heighten both of these responses and show students ways to act on them. Natural Resource Leadership was taught by the Falk School of Sustainability‘s Michael Finewood and Sean McGreevey, Assistant Dean for Career Development. The course focused on acid mine drainage, with a side of whitewater kayaking on the Cheat River.

Acid mind drainage
An abandoned coalmine eventually fills up with groundwater. This water absorbs minerals from the coal that makes it very harmful to fish and wildlife. When it escapes the mine—and it does—it’s known as acid mine drainage or abandoned mine drainage (AMD).

After two centuries of mining in Southwestern PA and West Virginia, we sit on billions of gallons of this acidic water. The main pollutant of surface water in the Mid-Atlantic region, AMD is an enormous environmental challenge.

The process of treating AMD to make it safe is called remediation. Remediation may be active (e.g., chemical) or passive (constructed wetlands, which use natural functions of vegetation, soil, and organisms to clean the water). Both passive and active remediation are used at the Cheat River watershed.

Cheat River
The Cheat lies about two hours south of Pittsburgh, in West Virginia. In 1994, AMD buildup blew out the side of the mountain, turning the river orange for miles, killing fish as far away as 16 miles downstream.*  In response, an organization called Friends of the Cheat was formed, and has implemented fifteen remediation sites in the area.

Natural Resources Leadership (SUS 407/507)
The course met for three hours per day, four days per week, for three weeks. Here’s what happened.

Week 1:
Each day, class included lecture and discussion about leadership, water challenges including acid mine drainage, and contemporary water policy. Because whitewater kayaking is significantly more challenging than kayaking on still water, classroom time was followed by whitewater kayaking training in the pool at Chatham’s Athletic Fitness Center.

Week 2:
Students practiced their whitewater kayaking skills on Pine Creek, a tributary of the Allegheny, and spent time at two local remediation sites:

  1. Wingfield Pines in Upper St. Clair is a local park designed to filter metals out of water by circulating the drainage (which is fluorescent orange to start) through a series of ponds and into a wetland, where native plants remove the last of the sediment before the (now extremely clean) water flows into the Allegheny River. It’s a nice habitat for ducks, and for dog-walkers.
  1. The group also visited Emerald View Park, an urban park-in-progress in Mt. Washington. Emerald View is being created partly to restore the hillside after 150 years of mining, settling, vacating, and serving as a dumping ground. It’s in the early stages of becoming a site for AMD remediation, which means constant monitoring of water quality. “They need to monitor for about 1 1/2 years before they can develop the appropriate mediation techniques,” says Dr. Finewood.

Week 3:
Equipped with kayaks, sleeping bags, and a newfound understanding of water resource challenges, the group then headed to the Cheat. They met with members of Friends of the Cheat, with whom they spent mornings doing volunteer manual labor, including planting grass, rebuilding a dam, and rolling about 25 tires up a hill and out of the canyon. They also discussed acid mine drainage.

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In the afternoons, the group set societal concerns aside in favor of whitewater kayaking. The Cheat is known for tremendous kayaking, with beautiful scenery and interesting challenges for all levels. And even though each person is in his or her own boat, kayaking is very much a group experience, and requires significant skills in communication and envisioning.

One major goal of the course was to investigate how small non-profit community organizations can affect significant environmental issues. In the future, it may address issues other than water, such as ecosystems, biodiversity, and air quality. Course participants included Master of Sustainability students Josh Zivkovich, Ezra Welsh, and Kurt Lindsey, and undergraduate Chatham seniors Jennae Rekken, Erin Smith, and Nicole Werwie.

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 *Video and commentary about the blowout by bystander Randy Robinson is available here, here, and here.

EDEN HALL GEARS UP FOR FACULTY, STUDENTS, AND WINTER LEAFY GREENS

ehc_1600x645Note: This story appears in the Chatham University Spring 2015 Recorder alumni magazine. 

Two and a half years after its groundbreaking, Eden Hall Campus continues to grow into an epicenter of sustainability and culture in the North Hills. Student commons and residence halls are taking shape, and endeavors to officially move the Falk School of Sustainability from the Shadyside Campus to its new home on Ridge Road have begun to unfold.

The Lodge, once a summer vacation home for female employees of the Heinz factories, is undergoing internal reconstruction as the future home of the Falk School faculty offices. Plans were developed by veteran space and facilities planner Charles Craig, a LEED- certified architect who has worked with Chatham since 1993, and is also working with Chatham on some renovations to the Shadyside Campus.

Craig worked with Falk School of Sustainability faculty and staff to identify creative and functional ways to reinterpret the Lodge for a modern office space. The aesthetic being considered for the Lodge embraces natural light flow and the collaborative spirit of sustainability. Office furniture will be mobile and independent of surrounding architecture, allowing workspaces to be reorganized quickly based on the needs of faculty, staff, and students. These movable studio offices will encourage impromptu collaboration and promote a more flexible use of space.

The student commons and residence halls are underway in preparation for use this fall. Walter Fowler, Vice President of Finance and CFO, attends weekly walk-throughs of the construction areas, and attests to the state-of-the-art design and efficiency of the buildings. “The residence halls are being built to LEED Platinum standards and are tightly constructed” he says, “with wall insulation over twenty inches thick and unique sustainable design features such as panels that run through the ceiling and control the air temperature.”

HERE’S A CLOSER LOOK AT WHAT MAKES THE RESIDENCE HALL EXTRAORDINARY:

Electricity: All power is provided by the solar panels on the roof of the residence hall. Eden Hall has over 400 solar panels across the campus that generate over 126,000 kilowatt-hours annually, easily enough to power more than 14 homes per year.

Water: Water in the residence hall is heated by solar thermal panels on its roof, and the toilet water is recycled from the the campus on-lot wastewater system. This system treats wastewater through a series of steps including constructed wetlands, a trickling filter, and a UV filter. Some of the water is dyed blue and used in the toilets in campus buildings, with the remaining being treated for irrigation on campus. The system treats up to 6,000 gallons of wastewater per day, and water quality will meet or exceed all State of Pennsylvania water quality standards for land application of treated effluent.

Heating and cooling: The residence hall is heated and cooled by Eden Hall’s geothermal system, which consists of just under 40 geothermal wells (mapped by GPS) across campus. These wells are about six inches wide and drilled 485 feet into the earth where two connected pipes are inserted into each well. A solution consisting of 75% water and 25% food grade propylene-glycol mix (which ensures that the water doesn’t freeze or harbor bacteria) is utilized within the pipes. The geothermal system uses the Earth’s temperature and energy storage capability to heat and cool the mixture, which is then pumped across campus into the buildings. In addition, a unique “heat loop” helps balance and share energy between the buildings as needed. In the residence hall, the geothermal-powered system runs the warm or cold mixture up into the ceilings of the rooms for a unique radiant heating and cooling system – the largest installation of its kind in the country.

Smart monitoring: A system that monitors energy use sends alerts to the facilities manager when it detects a change or inefficiency – for example, if a window is left open.

final interiorThe first Eden Hall student residents will live in single-occupancy  or suite-style rooms that foster a sense of family. A Wellness Community will support students as they transition to college life, offering a wealth of community-building opportunities and nature-focused activities in the spirit of sustainability.

The centrally located commons area will be the heart of the developing campus, and Fowler shared some intriguing news about its kitchen: “Eden Hall is a net zero campus, meaning we will produce as much energy as we use – except for the kitchen, which is an energy-intensive space due to its high heat needs,” he explained. “To counter this, we plan to run the appliances with microturbines that will generate that extra electricity the kitchen needs. They’ll first be run on natural gas, then switch to biofuels like methane once farm animals are added to the campus.” Even pots and pans are specially designed for this futuristic kitchen. The cooking range makes use of inductive heating, with the ability to almost instantly heat flat-bottomed cookware without losing heat to open air the way electric and gas ranges do. “Even if you removed the pan after cooking and felt the burner, it would be cool to the touch.”

While all of these highly efficient and modern technologies are said to dramatically reduce Eden Hall’s carbon footprint, where is the evidence? The commons building will have an energy monitoring facility in the lower levels to provide proof. Using a central software system, several flat screens will show real-time energy usage (and production) from each building on campus. Visitors will be able to see how the technology reduces energy use overall and adapts to different human uses.

In addition to construction and renovations that benefit people, plants are also being given extra support – lettuce, spinach, and Chinese cabbage to be specific. The Solar Hoop House, a structure designed to support young plants through the winter season, is already nurturing new life. Leafy green winter crops have been growing there since this January, tended by Chatham’s Master of Arts in Food Studies students. Operational since November of 2014, the hoop house can remain at 80 degrees even in the middle of winter. External solar panels heat water that flows in a closed loop system beneath the floor of the structure.

Traditional hoop houses without heating capabilities have been used at Eden Hall for the past four winter growing seasons, but cannot match the growing potential of a heated hoop house. Allen Matthews, a food studies faculty member active in local farming for over 40 years, said students were unable to grow the quantities they needed using that system. Now they support dining services at the Shadyside Campus with the produce food studies students grow, year round. Matthews says students can gain a real sense of the work needed to grow and successfully sell produce on a regular basis – a perfect example of Eden Hall’s living and learning mentality.

Chatham’s Eden Hall campus brings degree programming, continuing education and professional education classes, life-long learning opportunities and cultural events to the North Hills communities and surrounding region.  In addition to Falk School of Sustainability programming, Eden Hall now offers convenient evening, weekend and online classes for undergraduate and graduate programs in business, education, psychology and nursing.

stage

Following the success of last year’s Eden Hall Summer Series, this year’s Summer Event Series is set to run June through September and feature a few similar events as well as new programing. The series kicks off June 5th with a performance by the Pittsburgh Opera. A whole day will be devoted to celebrating the creativity of children with the KidsCan Festival in June, and more musical and theatrical acts for all ages are on the docket for the amphitheater. Sustainability workshops will return to the Field Labs and examine a new range of engaging topics. The popular Harvest Tasting Dinner will close the series in September, treating guests to farm-to-table fare grown by Eden Hall students.

Eden Hall is rising quickly with support from donors and students alike. Chatham hopes to create a balance of historical beauty coupled with cutting-edge technologies that show Western Pennsylvania and the world how to transition into the next era of human achievement that respects and supports people and planet.

M.A. IN FOOD STUDIES STUDENTS PRODUCE NEW GINGER WHISKEY

product lineNote: This story appears in the Chatham University Spring 2015 Recorder alumni magazine. All photos by John Altdorfer.

Elizabeth Overholt was born in 1818. She was the fifth child of Abraham Overholt, owner of a prosperous whiskey distillery in Westmoreland County, PA. Romance did not seem to be in the cards for Elizabeth, but at 28, she fell in love and conceived a child with a man called John who worked in her father’s mill. A biographer writes: “It was a common surmise in the community at the time that Elizabeth’s parents would have preferred a more sedate and better established suitor than the impetuous, red-headed scion of the Celts and Burgundians, but as there was no withstanding her calm inflexibility, the wedding took place at the homestead on October 9th, 1847.”[1] Their second child was the industrialist, financier, and art patron Henry Clay Frick.

Three miles from the Frick Fine Arts Building and almost 200 years after Elizabeth’s birth, five M.A. in Food Studies students from the Falk School of Sustainability are gathered around a table at Wigle Whiskey, a local distillery that also offers on-site retail and tasting. With them is Wigle co-owner and Chatham adjunct faculty member, Meredith Grelli. Grelli teaches an intensive two-semester new product development course, and students have been working since the fall to develop—from ideation to market—a ginger whiskey that they plan to release around Valentine’s Day 2016. Why then? Because marketing will be tied to the love story of red-haired John (“ginger”) and distillery daughter Elizabeth (“whiskey”). The decision to pair whiskey and ginger was made before the team made the John and Elizabeth connection, but savvy marketers tell stories, and these are savvy marketers.

organic grains

The class finishes up a conference call about sourcing ingredients with a food scientist from Beam Suntory, maker of Jim Beam. Meredith asks the group—Maureen Gullen, Sam Mass, Erica Rabbin, Katie Walker, and Emily Gallivan—for their thoughts.

“The quality of ginger’s going to be really important,” says one. They had planned to source ginger from the greenhouse at the Frick Conservatory, but now they plan to grow it at Eden Hall. Grelli asks how they would deal with the lack of consistency given that they don’t know that the ginger will come from the same supplier.

The students have done their research and answer with confidence. “Consumers want consistency, but with an artisanal supplier, they’re willing to accept variation and even see it as a positive,” says Gullen.

“I think it adds to the consumer experience,” agrees Mass. “People who are into it like talking about the different deep cuts. It creates a culture and discourse that would never exist in a large company.”

The new product development course began to take shape when Grelli was approached by Food Studies Program Director Alice Julier, Ph.D, about taking on interns. “The Food Studies program sounded amazing, like a program I would want to be in,” says Grelli. “There are immense opportunities to bring education into the business of food, especially exposing students to new product development. I wanted the students to experience the whole process, starting with creating concepts, testing with focus groups, all the way through promotion,” she says. “We’re taking the path you’d take in a big food company, and jerry-rigging it for a small shop.”

Meredith2

Take a look at their first assignment, from last September: 1) visit a grocery store, liquor store, restaurant or bar, 2) identify two innovations, 3) think about what makes them “interesting, successful or flops”, and 4) create a 10 minute PowerPoint presentation on their findings. Two things jump out: The course is exceptionally thoughtful on one hand and participatory on the other. In fact, the degree to which it interpolates theory, research, and hands-on practice is extraordinary, especially considering the truncated time frame. Of course, the truncated time frame makes it an even better idea to assign such readings as “Making Group Brainstorming More Effective: Recommendations from an Associative Memory Perspective.” Everything fits together.

“We’re working together in a group in such a way that it functions like a business. Every week at least one of us presented something to the others,” says Walker. She and Gullen are co-leading production and consumer testing. Rabbin leads recipe development. Mass heads design and labeling, Gallivin is in charge of PR and planning the launch. Grelli has arranged an impressive array of speakers and visits, from a tour of the HJ Heinz Innovation Center from the director of research and development to a meeting with a Pennsylvania ginger farmer to a visit with a food journalist about how to build relationships with reporters. She calls it the new product class she wishes she had in business school.

production

The first Food Studies-Wigle new product development course was held last year, when eight students worked with Grelli to develop Pennsylvania’s first apple whiskey. They conducted a rigorous series of consumer research, worked with local grain growers, apple growers, and the Wigle production team to produce one of Wigle’s most successful releases of the year. In a textbook example of merging business and sustainability, the students made the decision that in terms of cost and marketing, it was more important that the apples be local than organic. Wigle Wayward, as the whiskey is called, is made from five kinds of apples from Soergel’s orchards in the North Hills. “The first year we started I thought “these are not business students, so I’m going to go business-lite,” laughs Grelli, who also co-facilitates the MyBusiness Startup program run by Chatham’s Center for Women and Entrepreneurship.“ But they just wanted more! So I was like, ‘all right’! We’re doing it!”

“I think Chatham is the best place to deliver this kind of program,” she continues. “It’s place-based and focused on community and entrepreneurship,” says Grelli.   “We’re thinking about how to further our partnership, perhaps collaborating on a series of seasonals. Next year’s class might do spring or summer whiskey, for example.”

“I feel like no matter what we do after this there will be an aspect of this class that will help us,” says Mass.

[1] “Henry Clay Frick the Man” by George Harvey, published 1928