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Upstate Research Symposium features faculty and student work

By Upstate Institute on April 1, 2012
Presenter addresses an audience.

Research Symposium Features Faculty & Student Work

The Upstate Institute hosted a series of presentations by several faculty members who have conducted projects funded by the Upstate Institute Faculty Research Program at the Colgate Bookstore on March 31. The Upstate Institute encourages faculty scholarship on or pertaining to the Upstate region by providing for the costs of research. Faculty submit proposals each January for research on topics related to the broad region of upstate New York.

Associate Professor Economics and Gretchen Hoadley Burke ’81 Endowed Chair in Regional Studies Nicole Simpson discussed the impact of the Earned Income Tax Credit on households in Madison County. The EITC is the nation’s largest anti-poverty program, and though 23% of Americans qualify for the program, very few people know about it, or understand its impact. According to Simpson, 56% of those who qualify fall below the poverty line, and the EITC lowers that rate to 49%. She has used ten years of data on the tax credit to create a profile of a typical resident in Madison County that qualifies for the credit, and has learned that the average Madison County resident that qualifies for the program receives an annual tax refund of $3,400, and two-thirds of that refund comes from the EITC.

Joscelyn Godwin, Professor of Music, discussed his recent publication on the Spirit House in Georgetown, New York. The house has much architectural and historical significance, and was built by spiritualist Tim Brown in approximately 1860, based on plans that came to him during visions from the spirit world. The house is still standing, and was recently available for sale, which allowed Professor Godwin the gain access to the property to conduct his research. His research on the Spirit House is a part of a larger project on nineteenth-century spiritualism in Upstate New York.

Beth Parks, Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy, discussed the development and assessment of a simple tool that will help homeowners measure the insulation in their walls. According to Parks, most homeowners don’t know what type or amount of insulation exists in their homes, and there is no inexpensive way to measure this, aside from using an infrared camera or hiring an energy auditor. Parks hopes that a simple theromocoupler tool will encourage homeowners to measure their home insulation in order to take advantage of programs that will assist homeowners in making energy-saving improvements.

Associate Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies Tim McCay discussed the distribution of invasive and native species of earthworms in Upstate New York. Because earthworms are effective at digesting leaf litter and contribute to the health of the soil, they are an important part of the region’s ecosystem. Because native earthworm species are slow dispersers, they have been surpassed by invasive species coming in from Europe and Asia, including the common nightcrawler, and more recently the Asian crazy worm. These species have very active metabolisms, and have a very strong ability to influence the ecosystem. Professor McCay’s research involves using a spicy mustard mixture to bring worms to the surface for study in fifty plots of mature sugar maples in Upstate New York.

Charles (Pete) Banner-Haley, Professor of History and Africana and Latin American Studies, discussed his ongoing research on gender relations among Upstate African Americans during the period1890-1950. His research focused on the tradition of providing strong discipline for daughters, while doting on sons, and the result of that different treatment in adulthood. Professor Banner-Haley’s is a continuation of research he has conducted on nineteenth and twentieth century social and cultural movements.

Colgate students also shared details of the projects they have conducted on the region in the last year, as part of coursework in various disciplines. Groups of students currently in the Environmental Studies 390 course presented their preliminary findings on transporation options in the region, and on a study of local trees, and students from last semester’s ENST 390 course discussed their project on Colgate’s potential use of natural gas.

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