Sustainability-Focused Courses

 

Biology of Sustainability (BIOL 209); Fall 2016

Influences of humans on the global environment has reached unprecedented levels, increasing the need for society to strive to live in a sustainable manner. Many issues facing the environment have a biological basis. Students in this course are learning about the fundamental biological principles involved with global environmental issues such as climate change, excessive nutrient loading into ecosystems, agricultural production, chemical contaminants, loss of biodiversity, and the changes expected in human diseases and disorders.

Students taking BIOL 209 are also helping the first ever carbon negative coffee company, Tiny Footprint Coffee, to become even more sustainable. During the roasting process, a product called chaff is created; the chaff is the dried skin left over from the coffee beans (see the photo below). Currently, Tiny Footprint Coffee produces a large amount of chaff and pays for it to be taken away to be composted. In small groups, students in BIOL 209 will do some research on coffee chaff and will come up with a variety of experiments that will show how coffee chaff may be useful. Perhaps it can be used as a natural pest deterrent, or even be burned to fuel their own roasters? A select group of these suggested experiments will be carried out by students taking the Urban Ecosystem Ecology course in the spring. We expect their results to lead Tiny Footprint Coffee to become an even more sustainable company. This project has been possible through UST’s Sustainability Community Partnership (https://www.stthomas.edu/gale/sustainability/sustainablecommunitiespartnership/). Please contact Maria Dahmus (medahmus@stthomas.edu) for more information.

coffee chaff

Coffee chaff

 

Aquatic Biology (BIOL 435); Fall 2016

Students taking BIOL 435 are collaborating with the City of Elk River to help better predict fecal coliform peaks in Lake Orono, which has caused beach closings in the past. Students have access to data collected on fecal coliform for the past ten years, and are trying to create a model that can predict high levels of fecal coliform at the Lake Orono public beach. If these models are successful, the City of Elk River may be able to alert the public of fecal coliform peaks in a timelier manner, which would minimize public health risks. Students may also provide insight to the limiting factors that cause the coliform peaks. This project has been possible through UST’s Sustainability Community Partnership (https://www.stthomas.edu/gale/sustainability/sustainablecommunitiespartnership/). Please contact Maria Dahmus (medahmus@stthomas.edu) for more information.

 

aquatic bio course

Aquatic Biology students analyzing their data