In January 2020, the Tech Forward Initiative on Sustainability and Resilience held a Listening Session to learn more about the concerns, priorities, and visions shared by campus and community members for the future of sustainability at Michigan Tech. The summary of that session is available here. Additional comments can still be submitted here.
The Tech Forward Initiative on Sustainability and Resilience recently held a campus-wide listening session to hear from more voices across campus. The event was focused on small-group discussions about what Michigan Tech does well, and what can be done differently when it comes to research, education, and campus life issues related to sustainability. Roughly 70 people showed up for a two-hour event on a weeknight, which is a really great indication of just how many people feel strongly about this topic! The folks working within the Tech Forward group are still accepting feedback, so if you did not get a chance to attend the event, please go to this Google Form and share your thoughts about how research, education, or campus life could be improved in regards to sustainability issues – or, feel free to tell us what we are doing that is already going well!
The latest Humans of Michigan Tech story features Sydney, an undergrad who lives in an ambulance turned tiny home. The story barely touches the surface of the environmental, economic, and personal benefits that can come from tiny home living. Tiny homes are a great example of how environmentally responsible living is also economically beneficial – Sydney doesn’t have to pay rent or utility bills and can take advantage of the shared systems like showers and internet provided by the college campus. Sydney is not the first MTU student to live in a tiny home while completing a degree here – a student who built a tiny home on a trailer used to live in my yard, before she graduated and moved away from Houghton. There have even been discussions of developing a community of tiny houses on campus! Sydney and other students who have lived in tiny homes demonstrate that it’s possible, even in the cold snowy climate of the UP. Her story makes me wonder – How many students would live like this, if provided the opportunity to try? How can we teach more students about this possibility? What are the barriers in our way of making more environmentally and economically sound investments for qualify living through tiny homes and access to shared systems? We’re proud of you, Sydney!
Have you ever used solar energy to charge your laptop or cellphone? Have you ever had the chance to watch a battery’s charging meter go up as it takes in power from the sun? Would you like to learn more about the efficiency and potential of solar electric technology?
A study is about to begin on campus involving solar energy technology. Goal Zero is a leader in portable solar equipment technology, and eight of their systems are now here on campus. Two of these systems are meant for larger scale use (for a family or group housing situation); six of them are smaller, relatively portable, and meant for individual usage. A collaborative project between Dr. Joshua Pearce’s lab and Dr. Chelsea Schelly of the Department of Social Sciences, the goal of the project is to temporarily install these systems into Greek housing, shared student houses, dorms rooms and university apartments so that students can get firsthand experience using solar energy technology. After they’ve spent some time living with solar electricity, participants will be asked about their energy behaviors – how they use and think about energy. This project was recently discussed in the Lode.
Solar electric technology provides one means of decreasing our reliance on fossil fuels and localizing energy production. Participating in this study will provide students with exposure to the latest in portable and small scale solar electricity generation, and will provide researchers with information regarding how technology impacts our energy behaviors and attitudes. If you live in Greek organization housing, share a house with other students, or would be interested in participating as an individual, we’d love to hear from you! Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the end of July, I had the opportunity to sit in on a workshop on open-source 3D printing technologies happening here on Tech’s campus. Sponsored the Square One Educational Network, this workshop brought teachers from across the state of Michigan to campus to learn about desktop 3D printers and, most importantly, gave them the opportunity to build their own printer that they took back to their classrooms and students.
Researchers here on campus have shown that open-source 3D printing technologies allow individuals to make necessary things for a fraction of the cost required to buy them; this is incredibly exciting for those of us interested in economic resiliency as well as social equity. Nevertheless, 3D printing technologies have also received a lot of negative attention. In response to the negative media attention 3D printing technologies have received, A “3D Printers of Peace” contest was launched here at Tech (there’s still time to enter!) to encourage 3D printing innovation that is socially beneficial. This is a great way to bring positive attention to this emerging technology. For me, these mixed reports on the potentials of 3D printing technology raise the question: what’s the future of these technologies, and what role can they play in creating a more sustainable society?
After watching teachers build their own printers, observing their interactions with one another throughout the workshop, and talking with them about why they attended the workshop, my tentative answer is this: 3D printing technologies have the potential to empower us to build, shape, and create our own worlds. As students and as humans, we have become used to living in a world where we can’t fix the machines we use everyday or make simple things that we use to live. 3D printers allow us to make things (from replacement parts for your snow blower to a complete chess set) less expensively, and without the carbon required to get most plastic things from point of production to point of consumption. More importantly, they empower us to become makers of things, which has the potential to radically transform the economic and social arrangements in society. A second thing I learned from the 3D printing workshop is this: the technologies we use in society are embedded in the fabric of that society, they ways we think about and use technologies are shaped by society, and it is important to think about, talk about, and constantly refine our own ideas about technology as we work to apply them to the creation of a more sustainable future .
If you have ever been interested about the medicinal properties of plants (note that the billion dollar pharmaceutical industry is!), there will be several classes offered in mid-September at the Marsin Nature Retreat Center just outside of Houghton; see the “Keweenaw Peninsula: Plants, People and Planetary Healing” section on the “Special Events – Classes” page.
Also note that the Houghton & Keweenaw Chapter of the group Herbalists Without Borders will be having a potluck at Marsin on the evening of September 17th.
From the email:
Just a reminder about tonight’s Global City presentation Tuesday, March 5th, 6:00-7:00 pm in the U. J. Noblet Forestry Building G002, Michigan Tech (please note the room change for our regular members!). We welcome Isle Royale National Park employees Seth DePasqual (Cultural Resource Manager), Mark Romanski (Biological Science Technician) and Lucas Westcott, (West District Interpreter) to give the following presentation:
Of Marten and Men:
Implications of Spatial Analysis in Cultural and Natural Resource Research at Isle Royale National Park
Over its history, the isolation of Isle Royale has made it a premiere location for research on cultural and natural history. A variety of spatial analysis technologies are helping current National Park Service researchers examine diverse park resources in new ways. Come join NPS staff for a discussion about how spatial analysis is playing a role in research on Isle Royale’s genetically distinct pine marten population, as well helping identifying potential historic and prehistoric archeological sites. (For more detailed abstracts please see below.)
Pizza and pop provided, please bring your own mug to minimize waste!
Looking forward to seeing you there!
Seth DePasqual, Cultural Resource Manager
These efforts resulted in the location of many previously undiscovered site features including historic roads, prospect trenches, and diamond-drill coring stations. With regard to prehistoric features, archaeologists targeted the island’s relict shorelines as a means to site discovery.These features (including those not yet discovered) improve our understanding of significant island prehistories/histories and lend themselves to informed decisions regarding future management actions, public interpretation and the relevance of cultural resources in Wilderness.
Although traditional survey methods are sometimes adequate for discovery of these types of features, the time and personnel necessary are typically in short supply. LiDAR allows researchers to ballpark, if not pinpoint certain anomalies that are compatible with certain island cultural themes. Related methods streamline federal survey efforts allowing more time for actual site examination and documentation. Without LiDAR, a great deal of time and expense would be committed to searching for such features as opposed to documenting them.
Mark Romanski , Biological Science Technician
Isle Royale National Park contains the only insular population of American marten in the contiguous United States. Marten at the park likely experienced a population and genetic bottleneck during the early 20th century and after a 60-year apparent absence, their presence has been reconfirmed. Investigations of genetic isolation and relative distribution suggest abundance of marten at the park is very low, approximate 30 individuals, and that this population is genetically distinct from its likely source population. There is considerable concern that the park could lose this rare population of forest mesocarnivores without further information to assess this population’s status. This situation is exacerbated as natural colonization from the mainland is virtually impossible. Given ISRO martens are likely their own genetically distinct subspecies, equivalent to the only other known subspecies of marten found on the island of Newfoundland, no known genetically similar source population exists if augmenting the population was warranted. As such, park researchers and their collaborators are conducting research designed to address the most salient aspects of this population’s natural history to help preserve this unique, insular population of marten.
From Prof. Susan Martin:
“Ken Meter will present a program on Thurs Feb 14 from 6:30-8 in MEEM 112 “The Value of Local Food: How Local Food Systems are Revitalizing Economies and Communities.” Mr. Meter is an economist and national expert on the economic impact of local food production, and he is the president of the Crossroads Resource Center. His presentation is free and open to the public.
If you are interested in the linked topics of environmental impacts of global food systems, the impoverishment of local producers, and wider issues of healthy diets and enhancing local food security, there’ll be something for you in this presentation.”
Here is the schedule (copied and pasted here) for the 2013 Green Film Series at Michigan Tech. All movies are shown in G002 Hesterberg Hall, Michigan Tech Forestry Building, and start at 7pm. Coffee, dessert, and a facilitated discussion occur in the Atrium (just outside the room) after the event. The cost is free and open to the public, although a $3 donation is suggested. Teachers may earn 0.6 SB-CEU’s for attending four of the five films.
January 17th: River Planet – explores the very different environmental, cultural and social issues around how humans and wildlife interact with six major rivers on our planet. Run time: 29 minutes. Discussion Facilitator: Evan McDonald, Keweenaw Land Trust, will discuss local efforts to protect and steward the Pilgrim River Watershed – a local area highly vulnerable to unchecked future urban development.
February 21st: Last Call at the Oasis – Be it through consumption or contamination, water is becoming more scarce globally, including in the United States. Run time: 108 minutes. Discussion Facilitator: Dr. Alex Mayer, MTU Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering.
March 14th: The Strange Disappearance of the Bees – Across the globe, the disturbing mass death of bees has more than just beekeepers worried – at least 1/3rd of the world’s food relies on bee pollination. Run time: 58 minutes. Discussion Facilitator: Melissa Hronkin, Apiarist and Proprietor of Algomah Acres Honey Farm.
April 18th: Switch – Join energy visionary Dr. Scott Tinker as he explores the world’s leading energy sites, from coal to solar, oil to biofuels, many highly restricted and never before seen on film. Run time: 98 minutes. Discussion Facilitator: Dr. Wayne Pennington, MTU Dept. of Geological Mining Sciences Engineering.
May 9th: Chasing Ice – Acclaimed environmental photographer James Balog ventures to the Arctic to document the melting of ice mountains using state-of-the-are time lapse photography. Chasing Ice depicts a photographer trying to deliver evidence and hope to our carbon-powered planet. Run time: 76 minutes. Discussion Facilitator: Dr. Sarah Green, MTU Dept. of Chemistry.
The film series is co-sponsored by the Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative, Michigan Tech Center for Water & Society, Keweenaw Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, and Keweenaw Land Trust.
Hosted by Michigan Tech’s Global City student organization: