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Meet the Fall 2017-Spring 2018 Interns!

By Sustainability Office on August 29, 2017

Maggie Dunn ‘19

Maggie Dunn comes to us from Greensboro, North Carolina and is majoring in Environmental Geography with a minor in Philosophy. In her free time, she enjoys hanging out with friends, reading, finding new music, cooking, and playing sports. When asked what aspects of sustainability she is most interested in, she replied, “I’m very passionate about water, specifically water conservation, contamination, and ocean health.”


Chaveli Miles ‘19

Chaveli Miles, a passionate Shelburne, Vermonter, first joined us as a Summer 2017 sustainability intern and will be staying on for her first full year with the Office this 2017-2018 academic year. Chaveli enjoys rock climbing, hiking, and following track and field (Usain Bolt is always a fair topic for conversation). Her passions include dogs, coffee, reggae music, the Natural Sciences, and Japanese, Scandinavian, and sustainability-focused interior design.


MaryKathryn McCann ‘18

In a group of already academically diverse students, MaryKathryn McCann, from Chester, New Jersey, stands out above the rest with a major in Biology and a minor in Economics. In her free time, MaryKathryn enjoys going on bike rides, watching sporting events, and going to trivia nights on campus. Her favorite scientific focuses include pharmacological studies and water security.


Seamus Crowley ‘18

Seamus Crowley from Aspen, Colorado, like many of our sustainability interns, majors in Geology and minors in Environmental Studies. He enjoys maintaining an active and engaging lifestyle in his free time, which means running, skiing, and reading are always fair game. As you might guess, Seamus claims environmental advocacy and outdoor sports as some of his greatest passions.


Cecilia Kane ‘20

As one of the youngest of our new interns, Cecilia Kane has not yet declared a major or minor, but has expressed interest in Geography, Spanish, and English as possible fields of study. Cecilia comes to us from Alexandria, Virginia and enjoys playing the piano, practicing photography, painting, and hanging out with her dog and three sisters (specifically in that order). She is passionate about her faith, her family, social justice, and sustainability and the environment.


Chloe Matonis ‘18

Chloe Matonis comes to us from Greenwich, Connecticut and is an Environmental Studies and Chinese double major. In her free time, Chloe likes to spend her time running, reading, cooking, playing ultimate frisbee, and expanding her comedy repertoire. “I am incredibly passionate about environmental protection, of course,” she said. “I would have to say that my ‘hot button’ environmental issue is sustainable agriculture and food security, partially due to the fact that I have been vegetarian since I was 8 years old. I am also very passionate about comedy and making people laugh, which corresponds with my love for languages and meeting new people. I guess all in all, I am a people person looking to help the planet.”


Kimberly Duncan ‘18

Kimberly Duncan, from Charlotte, North Carolina, double majors in Environmental Studies and Studio Art. In her free time, she can usually be found drawing, watching Food Network, working out, eating popcorn, or taking long walks on the beach. Her passions include “communication of environmental issues through visual/artistic aids, environmental education, urban farming, food, my two dogs, and playing volleyball.”


Ashlea Raemer ‘18

Ashlea Raemer comes from Troy, New York and is double majoring in Environmental Studies and Biology. She enjoys crocheting/knitting, shopping second-hand, traipsing around Upstate New York, watching reality TV, and making her own graphic tees. Ashlea proclaims an admirable range of personal passions, including sustainable food systems, conservation, environmental education, naps in the ENST study room, and the search for the perfect french fry.


Isabel Dove ‘19

A Geology major from Collegeville, Pennsylvania, Isabel Dove often loves to hike, play tennis, and knit. She recently took up beekeeping and is president of Colgate’s new Beekeeping Club. Isabel is interested in studying climate change and spent the summer working in a micropaleontology lab. Her passions include learning new things and expanding her horizons by traveling to new places.


Revée Needham ‘18

An Environmental Studies and Geography double major, Revée Needham comes to us from Elko, Minnesota. In her free time, she enjoys reading, dancing, doing yoga, learning to cook new vegan and vegetarian recipes, and laughing at relatable maps. Her interests as they relate to sustainability are often focused on “changing the industrial agricultural system in America to be a more inclusive, diverse, and humane system to the workers, animals, and land. Generally, I’m also interested in making sustainable lifestyles more accessible to all.”


Dana Chan ‘19

All the way from Manila, Philippines, Dana Chan is a junior planning to double major in Neuroscience and Biology. She often enjoys teaching herself to cook new traditional dishes, reading, drawing, and Skyping her dog back home. She is self proclaimed to be *very* passionate about guinea pigs and her doggo, Garfield. “I also like sleeping and anything about neuroscience,” she says. “In terms of sustainability, the topics that interest me the most are sustainable urban planning and food security.”


Delaney Pals ‘18

Delaney Pals, from Wilmette, Illinois, pursues a major in Geography and minor in Economics. She can often be found outdoors partaking in any number of activities, including skiing, running, hiking, or reading. Accordingly, she is very passionate about the outdoors and all aspects of sustainability.


Matthew Froelich ‘19

Matthew Froelich, from Seminole, Oklahoma, has planned an academic career majoring in Geography and minoring in Economics. In his free time, he enjoys keeping active and outdoorsy with activities such as hiking, skiing, and rock climbing. Apart from enjoying the great outdoors, Matthew loves to take long road trips, play piano, and binge-watch Parks and Rec.


Madison Smith ‘19

Madison Smith comes to us from the quiet streets of New Boston, New Hampshire, and plans to focus her time here at Colgate studying Environmental Studies and Economics. Some of her favorite pastimes include hiking, kayaking, bike riding, working out, reading, and enjoying a good meal. Madison is a passionate defender of sustainable lifestyles and has an interest in many aspects of sustainability; she is a firm defender of animal rights, vegetarian/vegan diets, environmental justice for marginalized groups around the world, and pushing for sustainable, consumer-friendly alternatives in the corporate sphere.


Julia Feikens ‘18

Julia Feikens hails from West Nyack, New York and is majoring in Environmental Geography. She often can be found taking a few laps in the gym pool, enjoying a nature walk on one of Colgate’s many beautiful trails, or sketching the scenery around her. Her greatest passions include marine ecosystems, geography, music, and art.


Dana Monz ‘18

An Environmental Studies major and Political Science minor, Dana Monz joins us this year from North Haven, Connecticut. One of Dana’s greatest passions is the outdoors; during her free time she enjoys running, skiing, enjoying her natural surroundings, and spending time with her dog, Bryce.


Makenna Bridge ‘20

One of our youngest members, Makenna Bridge is a long-time local, hailing from Madison, New York. She plans to focus her studies here at Colgate on a diverse variety of fields of study, with the ultimate goal of double majoring in Spanish and Environmental Studies. In her free time, Mak enjoys spending as much time outdoors as she can manage: hiking, gardening, exploring Colgate’s forests, and spending time with her dog (one of her greatest passions). With regards to sustainability, Mak is interested in environmental conservation and advocacy as well as food and agriculture.


Miranda Gilgore ‘18

Another relative local, Miranda Gilgore joins us from Scotia, New York, where she enjoys getting outside, visiting new places, researching sustainable living practices, and trying out new and exciting recipes. She is pursuing a double major in Environmental Geography and German, which she intends to put to use in exploring her passions, landfill waste management and advocacy.


Shawn Palmer ’20

A sophomore from Skaneateles, NY, Shawn Palmer is in charge of managing the Office of Sustainability’s Green Bikes program. Shawn has not yet declared a major, but is interested in Environmental Studies. Consistent with his positions the Green Bikes intern, Shawn loves to ride all things 2-wheeled and is passionate about the great outdoors.


Foundations of Sustainability: Staff, Students & Faculty in Dialogue

By Sustainability Office on August 7, 2017
-Annaliese Clauze ’20
Summer 2017 Foundations of Sustainability Participants.

Summer 2017 Foundations of Sustainability Participants.

As the summer draws to the end, so too does the third annual summer session of Foundations of Sustainability, organized and led by the Office of Sustainability.

During the six-week discussion-based course, twenty staff, faculty, and students from departments across campus came together each week over a sustainably-sourced lunch to facilitate an open discussion about personal, university, and national sustainability practices and policies.

Each week of the course focused on a different theme of sustainability, from ecological limits to food and food systems to Colgate’s own sustainable policies and goals, and presented literature relevant to the topic to the participants. The resulting discussions hoped to start an interdepartmental conversation on campus regarding personal and institutional responsibility for one’s actions and resource consumption. These discussions ventured not only into the impact of human consumption on the planet and the environment, but also to the long-term consequences of the current, continued trajectory for humanity itself.

Many graduates of the course found the discussions and contributions from varied perspectives to be an illuminating experience.

This course is invaluable on many levels.  It brought employees and students together and provided a means to meet others and share and learn in a comfortable environment.  It supports sustainability on-campus.  It was just an amazing opportunity,” one participant responded in a follow-up assessment.

Others noted that the course brought to their attention areas for personal change and growth and inspired additional conscientiousness on their parts. For example, one participant mentioned, “sustainability in everyday life is possible. With all the information I have learned, I have definitely been thinking twice before making purchases. The whole cycle of consumerism was very eye-opening and really made me look at myself and how I had been contributing to that.”

It is just these types of self-reflections and behavior changes that Foundations of Sustainability works to inspire.

Foundations of Sustainability and other sustainability-oriented classes will be offered to staff and faculty in the upcoming year as a part of a new Sustainability Passport Program. Stay tuned throughout the fall semester to find out more as information becomes available!

It’s the Little Things

By Sustainability Office on August 1, 2017
-Dana Chan ’19

Cultural knowledge, having withstood the test of time, has proven itself right again. The saying, “you are what you eat” has never become truer than today as the scientific community is learning more and more about the microbes in our gut. What we eat influences the population of beneficial bacteria residing in our stomach and could potentially impact overall health and wellbeing.

Humans have ten times more microbial cells than human cells, and the collection of these microbes in our bodies is called the microbiota. These microbes are linked to important functions of our body, from training our immune system to identify harmful and beneficial microorganisms to sending neurochemicals up to the brain to affect brain development and activity [Source, Source]. While most studies have yet to establish causation, there has been a steady positive correlation between a diverse microbial population and health.

A depiction of microbiota. Photo: Katie Scott

Researchers noticed that as societies mature to resemble developed nations, many key species of microbes disappear and higher incidents of chronic diseases are observed [Source]. To understand this trend, researchers have been looking into the so-called “Western diet”, which is rich in animal meat and low in fiber. More and more studies are showing that the features of a meat-intensive diet may not be compatible with the microbes in our body and may even alter the microbiota in ways that are harmful to us.

Industrialized nations tend to eat high portions of meat, which contains a compound called carnitine (with red meat especially having high levels of carnitine). Through the activity of our gut microbiota, a chemical compound called TMAO is produced from carnitine. TMAO is associated with plaque buildup in artery walls and is considered a marker for cardiovascular disease. One major factor associated with TMAO production is previous dietary habits. In one study, long-term vegans and vegetarians (after consenting to eating red meat) showed significantly less TMAO formation compared to omnivores. More importantly, vegans and vegetarians have a different microbiota composition than meat eaters, leading to the hypothesis that increased levels of carnitine from consuming red meat alters the gut microbiota so that species involved in TMAO production dominate [Source].

By eating a diet heavy on animal products, we are only allowing a small group of microbes to thrive in our digestive system. It is recommended that humans should have a diverse microbiota but the trend leans towards the disappearance of more and more key species from the human gut. When we are eating, we are not only feeding ourselves but also the trillions of microbes within us. What would a diet that keeps our gut microbes happy, healthy and diverse look like? The answer seems to be in increased fiber consumption.

Dietary fibers are long chains of sugar molecules that are hard to break down. Fiber-fermenting microbes in our gut are capable of breaking it down to short-chain fatty acids that maintain the lining of our digestive system. When we don’t feed our fiber-loving microbes and they starve off and disappear (such as in the case of replacing microbes that break down fibers with microbes that break down carnitine in meat-heavy diets), the lining breaks down due to the lack of short-chain fatty acids and harmful microbial substances called endotoxins leak into the bloodstream. This initiates chronic inflammation that is associated with many diseases [Source]. While many processed foods claim to be infused with fiber, they only contain a single kind of fiber. However, different microbes have different fiber preferences [Source]. To address this issue, we have to move towards a fiber-rich and plant-based diet. Not only will this help bring back some of the fiber-fermenting microbes that promote good health, but eating lots of grains, vegetables and fruits also supplies a wide variety of fiber that can nourish a diverse set of microbes.

Keeping our microbes happy is just one of the many benefits of adopting a plant-based diet. Shifting to a diet rich in plant material is also advantageous to the planet! According to Drawdown, a program that ranks climate solutions based on effectiveness, changing to a plant-based diet is one of the most impactful ways a person can combat climate change. The livestock industry ranks high in terms of emissions, and this is fueled largely by the demand for meat products as the Western diet gains in popularity in other nations. Drawdown defines a plant-rich diet as one that involves a) restricting to 2500 kilocalories per day, b) reducing consumption of red meat and other meat-based proteins, and c) purchasing local products when possible. It was estimated that a total of 66 gigatons of CO2 emissions will be reduced by 2050 even if only half of the global population shifts to this kind of diet [Source]. Most of the emissions being reduced come from decreased deforestation. Cattle is the most resource-intensive livestock, demanding large amounts of feed and pasture land. As a result, forests are being cleared at an alarming rate so that more land is available for these livestock [Source].

Eating right is one of the simplest yet most powerful ways to care for ourselves and the planet. There are many reasons why we should seriously start considering a plant-based diet. There is a large amount of data out there that asserts that a plant-based diet is one of the top ways that we can reduce our carbon footprint. To get even more personal, making conscious food choices will nourish the population of microbes that thrive in us and help us. Our gut microbiota will thank us generously when we feed them their favorite foods!