Author: Amy Spahn

SS Talk: Fred Quivik on Deepwater Horizon Trial: U.S. vs. BP

quivik April 244:00 P.M. on Friday, April 24th in AOB 201.

Professor Fred Quivik will present “The Deepwater Horizon Trial: United States v. BP,  under the Clean Water Act”.

Professor Quivik will present an overview of the Deepwater Horizon disaster and the nature of the trial under the Clean Water Act, a summary of his testimony and the role that the United States hopes it will have played at trial, and a description of how he came to develop the expertise he used in the Deepwater Horizon case and some reflections on what that means for General Education at Michigan Technological University.

Boyer Ontl on Tool-Assisted Hunting in Chimpanzees

KellyKelly Boyer Ontl co-authored a paper, New evidence on the tool-assisted hunting exhibited by chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) in a savannah habitat at Fongoli, Senegal published in the Royal Society Open Science,

was summarized in numerous news articles highlighting the team’s chimpanzee research including Chimps that Hunt Offer a New View on Evolution from the New York Times, Women are better at DIY (in chimps at least):  Female primates can master and use tools more easily than males from Daily Mailand Female Chimps More Likely Than Males to Hunt With Tools from Smithsonian.


For anthropologists, meat eating by primates like chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) warrants examination given the emphasis on hunting in human evolutionary history. As referential models, apes provide insight into the evolution of hominin hunting, given their phylogenetic relatedness and challenges reconstructing extinct hominin behaviour from palaeoanthropological evidence. Among chimpanzees, adult males are usually the main hunters, capturing vertebrate prey by hand. Savannah chimpanzees (P. t. verus) at Fongoli, Sénégal are the only known non-human population that systematically hunts vertebrate prey with tools, making them an important source for hypotheses of early hominin behaviour based on analogy. Here, we test the hypothesis that sex and age patterns in tool-assisted hunting (n=308 cases) at Fongoli occur and differ from chimpanzees elsewhere, and we compare tool-assisted hunting to the overall hunting pattern. Males accounted for 70% of all captures but hunted with tools less than expected based on their representation on hunting days. Females accounted for most tool-assisted hunting. We propose that social tolerance at Fongoli, along with the tool-assisted hunting method, permits individuals other than adult males to capture and retain control of prey, which is uncommon for chimpanzees. We assert that tool-assisted hunting could have similarly been important for early hominins.



SS Talk: Kelly Boyer Ontl on “Chimpanzees in the Island of Gold”

BoyerOntl12:00 noon on Friday, April 17th in AOB 201.

Kelly Boyer Ontl will present: “CHIMPANZEES IN THE ISLAND OF GOLD:  Impacts of artisanal small-scale gold mining on chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus) in Fongoli, Senegal”.


 Artisanal small-scale gold mining (ASGM) has a long history in West Africa, supplementing agricultural livelihoods and helping to fuel West African empires, ancient Egypt, and medieval Europe via extensive trade routes. ASGM continues today but has taken on different dimensions through the influence of globalization and mechanization. The widespread practice now threatens the habitat, health and future of West African wildlife including endangered West African chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes verus). In this talk I will be discussing the socio-ecological impacts of ASGM activity on chimpanzee behavior and resource use at the Fongoli field site in southeastern Senegal. The surge in gold prices over the past 10 years has intensified gold mining in Senegal, increasing transnational migration, human population, and environmental degradation, and consequently altering how chimpanzees use the landscape. The impacts of ASGM are now considered among the species’ largest threat in Senegal, and conservation efforts are underway to protect the country’s remaining chimpanzee population last estimated at 500 individuals.

MTU’s Mine Water Geothermal Team Wins Awards in DC

MTU Mine Water Geothermal Energy Team at DC
Edward Louie, David Anna, Andrew Garrod, Dana Savage, Melissa Michaelson, Krista Blumberg, Nicolette Slagle, and Theresa Tran

Michigan Tech’s Mine Water Geothermal team won 2 awards at the EPA’s National Sustainable Design Expo in Washington DC this weekend (April 10-13). The team won an EPA Honorable Mention Award and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers’ (AIChE)s Youth Council on Sustainable Science and Technology (YCOSST) Award.

The Honorable Mention Award signifies that the EPA believes the project deserves strong merit for funding and that they would have loved to fund the project for Phase II ($75,000) had funds been available for more teams. The AIChE’s YCOSST award for $1,000 goes to the team which best meets the criteria of award which include: interdisciplinary collaboration, work products which are accessible to people without significant financial ability, and the inclusion of youth in the implementation.

Lafreniere on Mapping Time-Space in GIS

From Tech Today:Lafreniere

Assistant Professor Don Lafreniere (SS) co-authored a paper, “All the World’s a Stage: A GIS Framework for Recreating Personal Time-Space from Qualitative and Quantitative Sources,” in Transactions in GIS, Vol. 19, no. 2, pp. 225-246.


This article presents a methodological model for the study of the space-time patterns of everyday life. The framework utilizes a wide range of qualitative and quantitative sources to create two environmental stages, social and built, which place and contextualize the daily mobilities of individuals as they traverse urban environments. Additionally, this study outlines a procedure to fully integrate narrative sources in a GIS. By placing qualitative sources, such as narratives, within a stage-based GIS, researchers can begin to tell rich spatial stories about the lived experiences of segregation, social interaction, and environmental exposure. The article concludes with a case study utilizing the diary of a postal clerk to outline the wide applicability of this model for space-time GIS research.

SS Talk: Jessica Smith Rolston on “Undoing Gender in Macho Industries: Ethnographic Perspectives on Women, Men and Mining in Wyoming”

Rolston 2015-2As part of the Visiting Women and Minority Lecture Series (VWMLS), the Social Sciences Department, and a grant from the Office of Institutional Equity from the State of Michigan’s King-Chavez Parks’ Initiative, Jessica Smith Rolston, Hennebach Assistant Professor of Energy Policy a the Colorado School of Mines will present: Undoing Gender in Macho Industries: Ethnographic Perspectives on Women, Men and Mining in Wyoming– based on her recent book, “Mining Coal and Undermining Gender.”
Dr. Rolston has extensive experience both researching and working in the coal mining industry.  The talk will be at noon in AOB 201 on Monday, April 13th.
While mining is popularly perceived as an exceptionally masculine industry, women constitute an average of twenty to twenty-five percent of production crews and at least half of engineering teams in northeastern Wyoming¹s surface coal mines. These mines produce a majority of the country¹s coal with fewer fatalities and accidents than other sectors of the industry. In this talk, Dr. Rolston draws on her experiences working and conducting research in the mines to argue that coal miners and engineers both construct and undo gender differences in their everyday working lives. The ethnographic materials show that even in an industry infamous for gender difference and discrimination, particular historical, cultural, and institutional factors open up spaces for men and women miners alike to debate, discuss and attempt to unmoor their understandings of work ethic from dominant masculinities and femininities. At the same time, she explores the limits of the miners¹ gender-neutral ideals by investigating the cultural notions and material conditions that make it differently difficult for men and women to embody the expectations crews hold for ‘hard work.’

SS Talk: Erin Pischke on “Forms and Justifications of Fracking-Related Collective Action in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale Play”

Erin Pischke-112:00 noon on Friday, April 10th in AOB 201.

Erin Pischke, Environmental and Energy Policy PhD student,  will present on “Forms and Justifications of Fracking-Related Collective Action in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale Play“. This work considers the complex relationships between formal and informal advocacy organizations with hydraulic fracturing by examining two different, but related, forms of organizing:  participation in established non-governmental organizations and involvement in nascent anti-fracking organizations.

Tapping into Mine Water Geothermal

Old mine tunnels, like ones under this hoist, are filled with water, which may be a valuable geothermal resource. Credit: Edward Louie

From Tech Today:

by Allison Mills, science and technology writer

The water filling abandoned mine tunnels could be a major geothermal resource, both on the Keweenaw Peninsula and across the United States.

Student researchers at Michigan Tech have put together the first comprehensive guidebook communities can use to explore the feasibility of using mine water for geothermal energy to heat and cool buildings. While there is great potential for this resource, there are less than 30 active mine water geothermal systems in the world. One is at Michigan Tech’s Keweenaw Research Center just north of Houghton.

The research team will present their work to the public in Calumet on April 6 in the atrium of the CLK School from 7 to 9 p.m. Community members can interact with a tabletop model showing how mine water geothermal works, calculate the distance from their own home to the nearest mine shaft and make approximate cost calculations for installation and pay-back using a calculator tool. People of all ages are welcome.

Next week they travel to Washington D.C. to present their work at the Sustainable Design Expo, funded by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Learn more about how mine water geothermal works in the full article here.

See additional articles published on and Hydrogen Fuel News.

Winkler Published in Policy Journal


Professor Richelle Winkler co-authored the article Recreational Housing and Community Development:  A Triple Bottom Line Approach published in the journal Growth and Change: A Journal of Urban and Regional Policy.


In this study, we explore the impact of recreational housing on community development within a triple bottom line (economic, social, environmental) framework. We empirically assess the relationships between recreational housing and social, environmental, and economic conditions in nonmetropolitan counties and explicitly model spatial relationships, considering the potential for indirect spillover effects of recreational housing presence in one county to be associated with social, environmental, and economic conditions in neighboring counties. We employ a spatial Bayesian model averaging method to determine the set of control variables and find that higher concentrations of recreational homes are associated with lower levels of economic well-being, but somewhat higher levels of environmental quality.

Solomon: In Print


From Tech Today:

Professor Barry Solomon (SS) published a paper, “Socioeconomic Analysis Options for Pesticides Management in Developing Countries: A Review,” in Environmental Practice, Vol. 17, No. 1 (March 2015), pp. 57-68.


Professor Barry Solomon (Social Sciences) published a review of Nadesan, M., et l., eds. Fukushima: Dispossession or Denuclearization? (The Dispossession Publishing Group, 2014). In Energy Research and Social Science, Vol. 6 (April 2015), pp. 161-162. To read the review, visit the ScienceDirect site.