Students at Lafayette have the opportunity to engage with faculty members in collaborative research projects on environmental topics.
Students may conduct research in environmental science and studies for academic credit (i.e., EVST 380 or independent study or honors thesis), as an Excel Scholar, and through Tech Clinic. Environmental students can also choose to pursue a dual honors thesis that integrates topics from two majors. If you are interested in pursuing any of these research opportunities, talk with your academic advisor within the Environmental Programs for information on getting started or the faculty member with whom you would like to study.
The following are brief descriptions of some recent student research projects – take notice of how many of these students became interested in a project through course-based research or Excel research and then developed their interests through EVST 380 or honors thesis.
Katie Kavanagh completed a multidisciplinary honors thesis under the direction of Professors Megan Rothenberger, Andrea Armstrong, and Mike Butler that combined her interests in environmental science and policy. The objective of her research was to use two invasive crab species in the Hudson-Raritan Bay as case studies to evaluate what is being done, what is missing, and what ought to be done to improve management responses to marine invasive species. Katie presented her research at the Pennsylvania Academy of Sciences and the Lehigh Valley Ecology & Evolution Symposium in April 2021.
After participating in an EVST 400 (Environmental Capstone) project related to cultivating diversity, equity, and inclusion in the Environmental Programs in fall of his senior year, Oscar became committed to helping with the development of a peer mentoring program for environmental majors. Initial research in EVST 400 led him and other students to believe that a peer mentorship program would provide majors with both academic and social support and retain more students, particularly from underrepresented groups, in the majors. Oscar was able to continue his work toward this initiative as an Sustainability Intern (EVST 380) during the spring semester under the mentorship of Delicia Nahman and Megan Rothenberger. The Environmental Programs advisory board will be piloting a peer mentoring program in the upcoming year following Oscar’s recommendations.
Jen began work at LaFarm and with local food organizations from the moment she got to Lafayette. Her classroom studies in food justice and practical involvement with regional food systems (including the Vegetables in the Community Excel research program) ultimately led to an honors thesis that explored how different aspects of food justice theory are operationalized through organizational practice. The study investigated how community groups in Easton work toward the goals of justice, inclusion, and nutrition under their varying missions and structures. She now works for the Pittsburgh Food Policy Council to help enact similar goals in western Pennsylvania.
Sarah Heins conducted a double Environmental Studies and Anthropology & Sociology honors thesis on diversity and accessibility in environmental museums of New York City. Her project involved observing how museum patrons interacted with climate change exhibits, and analyzed how the museums could reach a wide range of visitors. Her interests in museums and public outreach led her to pursue a Master’s degree in environmental education at New York University.
After a summer of Excel research, Will developed an honors thesis to investigate an emerging area of concern in wildlife conservation: artificial light at night (ALAN). He built upon an ongoing amphibian conservation project in Dr. Rothenberger’s lab by quantifying ALAN at vernal pools, replicating those ALAN measurements in a laboratory study, and generating a regression model to better predict skyglow (a prominent form of ALAN). Read more about his research in this STEM Stars article. Will is now working on his Ph.D. in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at UMASS Amherst.
Caroline Bottega ’19, an Environmental Science major with a focus in restoration ecology, completed an honors thesis under the guidance of Professors Megan Rothenberger, Dru Germanoski, and John Wilson. The objective of her interdisciplinary research is to characterize environmental benefits and assess risks associated with removal of small dams along Bushkill Creek, a tributary to Delaware River. Her methods and results can be applied to stream restoration projects in other similar systems. Her thesis is available through the Lafayette Library catalog.
Jenna and Professor Andrea Armstrong partnered with the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor (D&L) to implement a trail monitoring system on the Karl Stirner Arts Trail, and to conduct a trail user survey that assessed diversity and inclusion, policy preferences, and trail-related expenditures. Jenna developed statistical models to monitor and estimate trail usage. After a summer of Excel research, Jenna is currently expanding on her work through a dual honors thesis in Environmental Studies and Economics involving an intercept survey about user willingness to pay for the creation, protection, and improvement of riparian buffers along multi-use trails. Her thesis is available through the Lafayette Library catalog.