Exploring Intersections between the Environment and Human Health

13 Sep
Hello! I’m Athena Sofides, a sophomore majoring in environmental science and policy. I also hope to complete the environmental concentration in sustainable food. I’m interested in exploring and studying the intersections of the environment, nutrition and public health, something I was able to do as an intern at the Path Family Center, GPM Pediatrics, and the Healthy Path Foundation this summer.
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 The Path Family Center is an interventional, holistic health clinic for pediatric patients with chronic conditions like autism spectrum disorders and autoimmune diseases. The Center has a particular focus on the environment and nutrition in its diagnosis and treatment of its patients, many (most) of whom experience drastic developmental improvements after detoxing, removing traces of heavy metals and bad bacteria in their systems through natural, herbal, holistic measures, all the while replacing them with good bacteria and supplemented vitamins and minerals. GPM Pediatrics, the “regular” pediatrics practice off of which the Path Center is based, incorporates what is done at the Path Center into each patient’s visit, considering heavily food and environmental factors in each child’s development. I’ve also been volunteering with the Healthy Path Foundation, a nonprofit designed to establish a new standard of care in the medical field by financially supporting education, research, and expenses for families seeking alternative, interventional healthcare.
As an intern, I decided to help augment the Foundation’s mission to educate by creating the Healthy Path Blog (https://thehealthypathblog.wordpress.com/) as a potential resource of empowerment and education by and for young adults in the context of environmental/holistic health in the 21st Century. The Healthy Path Blog hopes to serve as a resource for young adults in understanding what health looks like in our modern world, why contemporary health is as it is and what we can do to improve it. HPF Blog aims to do this by sharing educational resources, improvement steps and tips, and opportunities for community engagement and empowerment with our readers. This includes everything from op-eds about new research, nutritious recipes, or reflections on specific experiences. I’ve gotten so much out of this experience so far and am excited for the HPF Blog community to grow. I hope you will take a moment and take a look at some of our posts, and even consider writing a guest post of your own!
A bit more about me:
I am excited to be living in Hopkins House this year!  In my free time, I like to crochet, listen to Queen, and continue my unending quest to find the best ice cream in NYC.

Semester Abroad in New Zealand: An Intern Update

6 Sep

IMG_1583Hi! I’m Anna George and I’m a CEEDS MacLeish Field Station Intern. In the spring semester of 2016, I had the opportunity to study abroad in New Zealand on the Frontiers Abroad Earth Systems program. With twenty-five other students, I traveled to the Cook Islands and to the North and South Islands of New Zealand before I enrolled in a semester at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch. While I was there, I had the opportunity to extensively study New Zealand’s unique focus on conservation and ecology.

In New Zealand, conservation is a necessity. The country is host to a diverse group of endemic species found nowhere else because it has been separated from all other landmasses for the last 65 million years. The unique creatures include frogs that give birth to live young and giant flightless birds. However, there is one group that is mostly absent: mammals. The only living native New Zealand land mammals are two species of bat which were likely blown over from Australia. There are no native mammalian predators, only those introduced by humans: rats, possums, weasels, and stoats. Most native species were not accustomed to persistent predation and have been in slow decline since the mammals’ introduction by Polynesians and Europeans between the 1500s and 1800s.

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However, all is not lost. The New Zealand government has been working to protect their threatened species by setting up pest-free conservation land, doing large-scale poison drops, and educating citizens on how they can get involved. The public has responded enthusiastically. Many individuals have taken it upon themselves to set up traps or hunt on their land for the invasive predators. Others work with nonprofits to protect native habitat. The concerted and united conservation efforts have been more successful for some species than others; however, I think there’s still hope for most New Zealand wildlife, in large part because of its citizens’ dedication.

Exploring New Zealand’s geology and culture was just as exciting as learning about their conservation efforts. When abroad, unlike at college or at home, I felt as if I could actually take advantage of opportunities to see the gorgeous places around me or go to exciting local events. It was my only chance to see a New Zealand rugby game or go to a Chinese lantern festival. With this in mind, I threw aside laziness or even, on occasion, homework, as excuses and enthusiastically explored the country. I visited an active volcano, hot springs, Hooker Glacier, and Mount Sunday (home of Rohan from Lord of the Rings). I stood in a hobbit hole, stayed at a Maori pa (community center), and dipped my feet in a glacial lake.  After five months, I felt as if I had done an excellent job of seeing New Zealand. There are still places I missed—Lake Wanaka, Stewart Island and others—that I would definitely visit if I ever return, but, as my plane took off from Auckland Airport, I felt satisfied with what I had seen. I was ready to go home and perhaps apply the same philosophy of seizing opportunity to more familiar places.

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Earth Friendly Move-In Guide

23 Aug

A new year means a fresh start – for you and your environmental footprint! For many of us, coming to college is the first time we’re making completely independent decisions about our space set-up, laundry, what we buy, what we throw away, food choices, and our habits at home. Here are some ways that this transition can empower us to have a gentler impact on the environment…

Packing It All In: Getting your things where they need to go

  1. Pack fragile items by wrapping them in T-shirts or newspaper – skip those packing peanuts!
  2. If you’re taking a car, pack your items in reusable bins. You’ll be moving rooms and storing stuff a lot in college, so large, portable bins are a great investment. You can also pack clothing straight into trash bags and reuse those later!
  3. If you’ll want a power strip for plugging in many things, consider buying one with a switch or a timer, so you can make sure your electronics don’t use energy while you’re out and about.
  4. If you have a roommate, check to make sure you’re not bringing duplicates of things that could be shared!

Settling Down: On-campus tips

  1. Pick up a reusable water bottle at campus events – the first week has tons of free stuff, and buying bottled water is a waste of your precious cash.
  2. It’s easy to overbuy on room stuff and school supplies at the very beginning, but keep in mind that you can always get things later, once you more fully know what you’ll need.
  3. Ask your greeters, RA, or Eco Rep to show you where the dorm recycling is – to get any cardboard clutter away sooner rather than later!
  4. There are so many alternatives to paying big bucks for new textbooks: borrow from a housemate who has taken the class, rent from the bookstore or online, buy cheap used books online, use the textbooks on reserve at the library, or share with a classmate!

Forget-Me-Nots: Things to bring

  1. Check out Smith’s “Free and For Sale” facebook page for cool stuff from cool people – buying from other students is cheaper and prevents things like furniture and clothing from going in the trash. (Be sure to turn off notifications, or you’ll get 30 notifications daily) Another source of great clothes is your house’s Free Box! Anyone can add unwanted clothes or take nice finds!
  2. Buy green for your room: There are many environmentally friendly products at a reasonable price. Everything from shampoos to recycled school supplies! Lots of these items are available at the school bookstore or downtown.
  3. Skip the mini fridge – Personal fridges make up a significant portion of energy usage on campus. Every dorm has a full-size communal fridge! If you do need a mini one, consider sharing it with a friend you trust.
  4. Make/bring/buy/share a drying rack – laundry is expensive, (the dryer costs you $1.35-1.50! That’s a slice of pizza!) and dryers are huge energy monsters. It only takes a couple of hours for clothes to dry when you hang them up!
  5. Bring Tupperware – Smith’s dining halls are usually open for only 2½ hours for each meal- if you’re in a hurry or planning on staying up late, having Tupperware makes grabbing food much easier. And they help cut down food waste!

Once you are here, don’t forget to ask staff in Campus Sustainability about how you can get involved – they’ll have a lot of great ideas for how you can continue to green your time on campus. You can find them in CEEDS, in Wright Hall 005.

-Shelby Kim ’18 and Ellen Sulser ’18
Shelby: I will be a junior this year (how did that happen?!). Sociology major! I grew up in Los Angeles. My main interest right now: ways that making & sharing things can bring about communities that are more resilient and more fair. I will be leading a backpacking orientation group and can’t wait to meet the class of 2020!
Ellen: I’m a junior in Capen house from Saint Louis, Missouri. I’m studying environmental science and policy, reading too many books and attempting to crochet. I can’t wait to study abroad in China in the spring.

Summer Student Update: Alexandra Davis ’18

10 Aug

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Hi! I’m Alexandra Davis, a rising junior and Research Intern in the Office of Campus Sustainability. This summer I decided to spend my time on the Smith campus, taking my research a step further to develop a Green Office Certification Program for faculty and staff.

I had the opportunity to network with the sustainability directors at a number of schools, including Boston University and Tufts University, and to discuss their implementation methods for their respective certification programs. Combining my ideas with some of their advice, I created a program for Smith which features a checklist across six different categories: energy, waste minimization, recycling, green meetings, purchasing and culture and learning. Those categories capture the essence of sustainability at Smith.

The program will be piloted with a number of offices this fall and my hope is that it will help faculty and staff feel included in the sustainability initiatives of the college and foster competition between offices to see how green they can be!

The best part of this project has definitely been the people I had the opportunity to meet and work with–and the fact that this program, for which I toiled in Excel for weeks, will actually come to fruition!

Plus I got to pet a Tsum Tsum and walk into Paradise Pond after the drawdown (for an experiment that other students were working on!)

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So I now have the luck of a double rainbow on my side!

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Wondering About Water

4 Aug

Water. Where does it come from? Where does it go? Those questions were the starting points for a group of Smith faculty, students, and local elementary teachers this past school year. The Water Inquiry project, sponsored by CEEDS, brought the group of educators together to share creative 1st-graders-drain-300x300.jpgclassroom activities designed to allow children to develop and improve their own questions and theories about water and to discover connections to the local community and environment.

Outdoor investigations were highlights of the water inquiry project, both for teachers and kids. Going out in a downpour, looking up at clouds, peering down storm drains and watching the river after a storm were moments that stood out for teachers. Like their students, teachers’ curiosity and sense of wonder were inspired by exploring the Botanic Garden and following water downstream from the MacLeish Field Station.

The Water Inquiry project will continue in 2016-2017. To read more about the project, check out their blog, Water Inquiry.

Summer Student Update: Sarina Vega ’19

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sarina farm.JPGEco-Rep Sarina Vega ’19 is having an incredible summer. She writes: I’m currently in Portugal volunteering my time at an organic, sustainable, no-till farm in a tiny village close to Tomar called Vila do Paço. I’ve been using WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) in Vermont for about 6 months now and decided to take the experience abroad. It’s been a humbling experience not knowing Portuguese. I’ve had to find other ways to connect with people, whether through caring for the plants and soil or through shared laughter at the dinner table as we convene over the meal our farm host prepared. Music is everywhere, conversation is abuzz, chicken and goat poop are under my shoes, and I’ve been wearing the same shirt for five days now–but who is counting?! When I left my hometown of San Diego, I left behind an internship at a community garden for the local high school, and when I return home I have another internship at a space called Art Produce, which is a community garden, art gallery, and tostada shop. I’m extremely intrigued with space and how we use it to bridge people, places, and time, and how community comes together. So far, the summer has been the most inspiring and eye-opening yet and I can’t wait to share my experiences with my friends back at Smith!

What are you doing this summer Smithies? We want to hear from you!

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Summer at the MacLeish Field Station

17 Jun

Summer work at the Ada and Archibald MacLeish Field Station is off to a great start! Interns Molly Day ’19, Casey Hecox ’19, Naomi Jahan ’18, and Rachel Moskowitz ’18 have been working on several projects to keep the Field Station at its best. These projects include maintaining the challenge course, clearing weeds around the rock walls, maintaining the apple and chestnut orchards, and installing the test permeable surface materials in the new experimental parking lot.

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Molly and Naomi treat “The Wall” challenge course element with linseed oil.

The interns have been doing a lot of work to keep the dozen elements in our Challenge Course in great condition. They have treated all of the wood surfaces with linseed oil, removed rocks from the immediate surroundings, and used those rocks to build cairns as trail markers for the paths leading to the elements.

The interns have also begun laying down several different permeable materials on the experimental parking lot at the entrance to the Field Station. The parking lot, designed last summer by then-intern Laura Krok-Horton, ’17, aims to help us learn more about which of several different permeable materials will hold up best in this particular location and to wear and tear (including snow plowing), and what possible effects a permeable surface might have (positive or negative) on storm water run-off and flow in the nearby stream.

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The first six parking spaces are covered with a permeable sheet material through which clover and other plants have already begun to grow.

 

 

One side of the parking lot is covered by a permeable plastic material through which clover and grass can grow.

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Student interns work together to lay the sectional paver material on the parking lot.

 

 

 

 

The other six parking spaces include two each of concrete pavers, gravel, and plastic pavers. The concrete and plastic pavers are being filled with soil and will eventually be seeded.

 

 

-Naomi Jahan (’18) is a geosciences major from Los Angeles, California. She lives in Wilder House and spends her time reading, singing, and looking at rocks.

Fiddles and Folks at the Field Station

16 Jun
— Somehow this post got hung up and never published. We decided to go ahead and share it belatedly anyway!
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On Saturday, April 2 there was a convergence of bluegrass music, dance, faculty, students, and local community members at the MacLeish Field Station. A friendly collection of musicians came together with their guitars, banjos, fiddles, mandolin, and stand-up bass, and jammed together (the acoustics in there – amazing) while folks scattered around the cozy Bechtel Classroom sipped tea, sang along, waltzed, and even taught each other some clogging steps!
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  A favorite song was “You are my Sunshine”. The energy was simultaneously gentle and ecstatic. The only question now is, when can we have an event like this again??
-Shelby Kim ’18 is a CEEDS Field Station intern with a love of folk dancing and driving 11-passenger vans.

Smith’s New Energy Director

8 Apr

Smith’s new energy director, Matt Pfannenstiel, was recently interviewed by the Gate. Matt will be working to reduce campus energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. Welcome, Matt!

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Paradise Pond Symposium

5 Apr

Paradise Pond—the beloved campus and community landmark—is filling with sediment. In the past, the sediment was removed every six to ten years and transported to the Northampton landfill. However, as a result of the landfill closing and concerns over sediment release during excavation, a new sluicing method was proposed. This method allows sediment to continue downstream rather than being captured and removed from the Mill River.Sediment In Pond at 1.49.03 PM

This Friday, April 8th, Smith will host a symposium on the sedimentation issue. The symposium will include a series of talks and poster presentations reporting on the current status of the project. It will also feature a keynote address by Brian Yellen, adjunct faculty at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Join us at the Smith College Conference Center, 49 College Lane, for all or part of the symposium.

Schedule:

10:00 Welcome
10:05 History of Paradise Pond and past dredging operations
10:20 Downstream monitoring: sediment and hydrology
10:40 Downstream monitoring: biology
11:00 Keynote address: Climate Change and Sediment Yield From New England Rivers: Lessons From Tropical Storm Irene
12:00 Lunch and poster presentations
1:00 Analysis of September 30, 2015 sluicing experiment
1:20 Operational plan for phase II
1:40 General discussion and concluding remarks  

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Professor Bob Newton and students Heather Upin ’16 and Emma Harnisch ’18 take sediment samples while working on the R/V Silty.