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Soundscapes of the Colgate Hill

By Sustainability Office on September 28, 2017
-MaryKathryn McCann ’18

Take a few moments to think about an early summer or late spring morning. People normally think of sounds such as birds singing, crickets chirping, and early morning commuters on their daily drive. These sounds are all considered to be part of the environment’s soundscape. A soundscape is composed of the biophony, all biologically sourced sound; anthrophony, sound caused by humans; and geophony, sounds emitted by nonbiological sources of a specific location.¹ From a soundscape, information about the overall health of an ecosystem can be identified.

Recording in the woods on the Colgate Ski Hill.

Over this past summer, under the direction of Professor Ana Jimenez and Director of Sustainability John Pumilio, Erin Biggar, Karl Brown, Sydney Ziatek, and I started a longitudinal study of the soundscape of the Colgate Ski Hill. The recordings of the soundscapes focus mainly on birds. Male birds sing in order to claim territory and attract mates, but singing is very energetically costly to the birds. The collected recordings are able to provide insight into the richness and abundance of bird species in the area; these recordings are then quantified and used to calculate the change in the frequency and intensity of sounds over the breeding season and from year to year due to climate change and increased anthropogenic noise due to changes on Colgate’s campus.

The data collection of this experiment involved taking recordings of individual birds and soundscapes during most dawns and dusks for 7 weeks of the late spring and early summer. The recordings collected were analyzed using computer programs, R and Raven, to understand how the various songs produced by the birds changed over the breeding season and with changes in temperature. Our current data suggest that with continued temperature increases, the bioacoustical sound will decrease. With the increase in temperature, songbirds will be more energetically challenged to attract mates and to breed. This is because most of the energy of a bird will be used in order to keep its temperature regulated, and less energy will be allocated to singing.  As temperatures rise, it is believed that bird migration patterns will alter in response. The birds could fly north earlier and fly further north. This change could have damaging effects on the bird population. The change could create more competition for food and territory among species of birds, driving out many bird species and creating, as Rachel Carson states, a “silent spring.”

Spectrogram from an individual recording of a chestnut sided warbler from the top of the Colgate Ski Hill.

In order to understand the changes that are happening to our forests and how these may impact bird populations, we first need to look at the causes of global climate change, and the major one is human activities that release greenhouse gases. Colgate is working towards climate neutrality by 2019 and it is one way that we can help offset the negative effects of climate change. It is up to us to make sure Colgate’s goal of carbon neutrality is reached and that our own actions are environmentally conscious. Our collective actions caused global warming; therefore, our collective actions can help slow down climate change.

Visit this website to check out Colgate’s soundscape: https://colgatesoundscape.wixsite.com/colgatesoundscape


Bernie Krause, “Anatomy of the Soundscape,” Journal of the Audio Engineering Society, Vol. 56, No. 1/2, 2008 January/February

The Buzz around Colgate’s Apiary

By Sustainability Office on September 13, 2017
-Isabel Dove ’19

In the beginning of the summer, the Colgate Community Garden became home to two beehives. Since their arrival, Colgate’s new honeybees have been buzzing around the Community Garden, producing honey, and pollinating the garden’s crops.

The Office of Sustainability decided to establish an apiary, which is a collection of beehives, on campus in order to help fight against Colony Collapse Disorder, a global issue of declining bee populations, and to give students an opportunity to become actively involved in environmental stewardship.

During the Spring 2017 semester, a Beekeeping Club was founded in order to help take care of the bees. The club’s faculty adviser, Professor Ian Helfant, monitored the hives over the summer while students were off campus. Now that the fall semester is in full swing, the 30+ members of the Beekeeping Club are learning the art of beekeeping and are looking forward to a fun and productive semester. In the next year or two, the Beekeeping Club hopes to expand the apiary as well as harvest and sell honey from the hives.

Members of the Beekeeping Club before conducting a hive inspection.

Along with providing students a unique extracurricular activity, the bees have been contributing to improving the surrounding environment’s ecological health and have been especially helpful to the Colgate Community Garden. According to one of the garden’s summer interns, Camila Loke ‘19, “The flower garden is looking great. The bees love our herb garden and raspberries. They have also been spotted pollinating sweet peas in the community plots.”

Colgate’s apiary presents an exciting opportunity to support local agriculture and learn about how to take care of everybody’s favorite pollinator, so be sure to visit the hives and see what all the buzz is about!


Also ~bee~ sure to follow the Beekeeping Club on Instagram and email idove@colgate.edu if you’re interested in becoming a member!


My Experience as a Sustainability Representative

By Sustainability Office on September 8, 2017
-Cecilia Kane ’20


Green Ambassadors encouraging recycling during the homecoming tailgate last year.

As a first-year student last year, I was presented with an overwhelming number of opportunities to get involved on campus. Excited by the prospect of working with my residence hall to become better stewards of the Earth, I applied to be a Sustainability Representative, or an S-Rep. In this position, I collaborated with like-minded first-years and was mentored by interns in the Office of Sustainability to educate students on sustainable behaviors and promote sustainability events within my residence hall and across campus. While I had often found it easy to “live green” at home, where sustainability was a family value of mine, I realized that it was more difficult—if not seemingly impossible at times—to affect the actions of those with different priorities here on campus. Therefore, I was grateful to have this community to both support and challenge me as I made personal commitments to sustainability and strove to inspire members of my residence hall to do the same.


Some highlights from the program included our biweekly meetings (which were often kicked off with YouTube videos of Snoop Dogg narrating “Plizzanet Earth”); the chance to mingle with alumni as we recycled at the Homecoming and Reunion tailgates; and the overall network I created between my residence hall and the Office of Sustainability. We also helped advertise campaigns such as Colgate Unplugged and Recyclemania in an effort to spread awareness to the broader community outside of our residence halls. The friendly competition generated by these events facilitated camaraderie within my residence hall and gave us a communal goal towards which to work.

My participation in the S-Rep Program provided me with an enriching and informative introduction to sustainability at Colgate and was the primary motivator behind my decision to continue working with the Office of Sustainability. I encourage all first-year students to apply to be an S-Rep!

Why You Should Consider Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA)

By Sustainability Office on September 6, 2017
-Revée Needham ’18

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This fall marks the second season in which I have been a member of
Common Thread’s CSA. This guide will explain what CSA is and the numerous benefits of buying a CSA share, along with the specifics of being a member at Common Thread.

What is CSA?

CSA stands for Community-Supported Agriculture. CSA members buy a “share” of produce, often a full growing season’s worth, typically paying the cost upfront. This benefits farmers by ensuring a steady customer base. CSA members are then committed for the season length, regardless of weather conditions that may impact the crops. In return, members receive fresh and local produce. Most CSAs are vegetable and fruit based, but others may also include dairy products and meat. A CSA enables a much closer relationship between a farmer and the consumer. Across the US, there are estimated to be over 4,000 CSAs.

Why should I choose CSA?

Buying locally provides numerous benefits. Environmentally, the “food miles” for CSA produce, or the distance the food travelled to reach your plate, is very small. Across America, the average distance a food item travels before your home is between 4,000 and 5,000 miles. In contrast, my weekly food miles for picking up my CSA share is less than 11 miles. CSAs cut down on carbon emissions produced in the transportation process. In the Hamilton area, surrounded by so many small farms, it makes sense to support local farmers. According to researchers, around 11% of food-related carbon emissions is due to the transportation. Additionally, the food is all in-season, where the crops are harvested in line with local conditions. Another benefit is simply knowing who produces your food; in the large chain-dominated grocery store culture, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to track where your food comes from. Being a CSA member allows one to support local farmers and to develop a relationship with them. CSAs are a sustainable food option where carbon emissions are lower and many commit to treating the land, the workers, and the consumers fairly.

What has my experience with Common Thread been like?

Common Thread Farm is located about five miles away from Colgate University near Lake Moraine. This farm is run by Wendy and Asher and is committed to producing food grown according to organic practices. They offer a variety of share lengths and sizes. For my own cooking, I purchase a mini share where I receive four items per week. Even cooking a vegetarian diet, I find this size to be plentiful! To reduce costs, you and a friend can split a larger share. Common Thread allows members to pick up their items at the farm or to pick them up at delivery spots for towns further away. I’ve personally enjoyed the variety of produce I’ve encountered. Each week there are different items to choose from and many are local heritage crops that may not be otherwise found in a chain grocery store. They still have fall shares available for any interested students, staff, or community members. Check out their website to learn more and sign up today! If you’re not in the Hamilton area, you can check out https://www.localharvest.org/csa/ to find a CSA near you.

Colgate Community Garden: Fall 2017 Events

By Sustainability Office on September 4, 2017
-Luke Felty ’18

Colgate’s Community Garden (CCG) is returning to campus this fall to bring freshly harvested produce to Colgate students. Major changes have been made in the last few months with the opening of Good Nature Brewery’s farm brewery next door to the garden, and we’re thrilled to expand our relationship with the community through Colgate and Good Nature alike.

Colgate Community Garden’s farmstand will sell fresh, locally grown produce in the O’Connor Campus Center this fall. The farm stand will be open on Tuesdays from 11:15 AM to 1:00 PM beginning September 5 and ending October 31.

If you are interested in learning more about gardening or simply want to get your hands dirty, we welcome you to attend open volunteer hour at the garden every Monday from 5 to 6 PM until October 23. We will also be hosting volunteer work parties on Monday, September 18 and Monday, October 16 from 5 to 6:30 PM with snacks and refreshments. No previous gardening experience is required; we’re here to help interested students and community members learn.

We also invite you to attend our garden events this semester:

Sunday, September 24 12:30-1:30, location TBD

Cornell Cooperative Extension educational event about soil health and composting.

Monday, October 30 5-6 PM, Academic Quad

Halloween-themed pumpkin event with pumpkin carving, painting, and food samples from the garden!