Inaugural Edition: May 19, 2009
In this newsletter, you will read about several of our ongoing projects and initiatives. I would like to make a special mention of the Solar Decathlon project, a Department of Energy-sponsored competition in which Tufts undergraduates and graduates, together with students from the Boston Architectural College, will design and build an efficient solar-powered house. If you have time, please visit the students’ website where you will see the vast effort the students have already invested into this project.
I am also especially proud to report that two undergraduate students affiliated with TIE, Matt Thoms and Mara Gittleman, have received prestigious awards from external organizations, and that four of this year’s Arts, Sciences & Engineering Graduate Award recipients have been supported by TIE fellowships or grants.
TIE’s mandate is to support environmental and interdisciplinary teaching and research at all of Tufts’ schools. Because TIE is not school-affiliated, it is uniquely positioned to achieve this goal. However, in order to do so, we need input from alumni like you. I truly hope that this newsletter and the upcoming alumni meeting in September (details forthcoming) will allow each of you to get involved in environmental efforts at Tufts. If you like what you see here, feel free to forward the link to any of your friends who are interested in environmental topics but might not have graduated from an environmental program at Tufts.
Everything you read in this inaugural issue of the TEA newsletter was put together for you by a group of very dedicated students. Please enjoy, and let us know if you have any feedback!
Have a wonderful summer,
Tufts Institute of the Environment
By Nathan Rawding G’10
This March, seven Tufts graduate students spent their spring break getting some hands-on experience testing for water pollution in coastal waters off the Bahamas. These students, hailing from the Schools of Engineering, Arts & Sciences, and Veterinary Medicine, were completing the practicum requirement of the university’s interdisciplinary Water: Systems, Science, and Society (WSSS) certificate program.
|Led by Engineering Professors Paul Kirshen and John Durant and Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning Professor Rusty Russell, the research team traveled to Elbow Cay in the Abaco Islands of the Bahamas to conduct their investigation. The trip, sponsored by Tufts alumnus John Foster ’52, allowed the students to study the effects of human wastewater on the coastal marine environment.|
|Partnering with researchers from the College of the Bahamas, participants collected water samples from several of the harbors on the island to test for bacteria and nutrients found in wastewater. The team also conducted interviews with members of the community to understand local beliefs and perspectives on wastewater disposal and contamination.|
|The students are currently writing a research paper based on their trip, and are working with Friends of the Environment, a non-profit environmental education organization in the Bahamas, to create an on-going water quality sampling program for the Elbow Cay community, which will involve children from the local school.||
This trip was the last WSSS practicum lead by Professor Paul Kirshen, who has directed the program since co-founding it with Professor Beatrice Rogers of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. Professor Kirshen is joining Battelle in Lexington, Massachusetts this summer to help lead its new climate change management initiative. Click here for more information on the WSSS program.
By Ben Steinberg G’09
Team Boston, a consortium between Tufts University and the Boston Architectural College (BAC), will compete this fall in the 2009 Solar Decathlon contest in Washington, D.C. Tufts and the BAC will compete with 19 other schools from around the world to build an 800-square foot home powered exclusively by solar energy. The house will be displayed to hundreds of thousands of people on the National Mall this coming October. To learn more about the competition, please visit: www.solardecathlon.org.
After a year and a half of planning and designing the house, Team Boston broke ground on Earth Day! Alumni, students, faculty and community members came to celebrate this occasion.
|The event was headlined by speeches from: Michael McGlynn, Mayor of Medford; Bill Moomaw, Professor of international environmental policy at the Fletcher School, and Jeff Stein, Dean of Students, and Head of the Architectural School at the BAC.|
|Team Boston’s goal is to inspire and empower people of all socioeconomic backgrounds to live sustainably. The house has been designed to promote curiosity and exploration of sustainable living; its interactive features provide feedback about resource consumption and environmental impacts. Additionally, Team Boston is dedicated to ongoing community outreach and education initiatives which provide knowledge and tools for green living to broad and diverse audiences beyond the competition.|
|Team Boston’s advisors, sponsors, and participants create a powerful network that foster professional relationships and provide extensive research and applied learning opportunities for those involved. The Team welcomes any and all interested parties to join the effort and contribute to the project.|
|To learn more, please visit the team website at: www.livecurio.us. If you would like to get involved but cannot attend the groundbreaking event, please contact the Project Coordinator, Colin Booth, at: firstname.lastname@example.org.|
|By Abby Lindsay MA/MALD ’09, 2009 TIE FellowAs I reflect upon my experience at Tufts, the TIE Graduate Research Fellowship stands out as a defining factor that enabled me to carry my research beyond the classroom. My research interests lie at the intersection of international climate policy and its implementation on the local scale. The TIE grant allowed me to conduct field interviews with stakeholders to augment my analysis of the barriers to implementing Clean Development Mechanism projects in Central America.|
The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is one of several flexibility mechanisms in the Kyoto Protocol designed to help Annex 1 (developed) countries meet their emission reduction targets. Through the CDM, non-Annex 1 (developing) countries implement emission reduction projects. The project developers receive credits for these reductions, which Annex I countries can apply toward their Kyoto targets. My fellowship project involved studying the decision-making process behind the implementation CDM projects. I focused specifically on renewable energy projects, and chose Costa Rica and Honduras because these countries have received less attention from researchers than other Central American countries.
One of the CDM projects I studied in Honduras was a 13 MW hydropower plant nestled up in the mountains. The challenges that this plant faces are common ones in Central America: the plant operators have lost several generators because the electricity transmission lines are poorly maintained; they have had to contend with river surges after hurricanes; they had difficulty securing a loan without collateral. Additionally, they have found the paperwork involved in the CDM certification process incredibly complex, the environmental permitting process slow and inefficient, the government’s price for electricity woefully inadequate, and its calculation process non-transparent.
I also conducted stakeholder interviews with government officials to understand the impact of national policy on the fate of CDM projects in these countries. I initially hypothesized that I would find that the CDM provided the impetus to implement renewable energy instead of fossil fuel-based electricity, but it was more often the case that domestic policies were the driving force. The governments of these countries are making progress in many areas, but there are still policies and institutional barriers that favor fossil fuels over renewable energy, either directly or indirectly. Renewable energy project developers, like those proposing a 100 MW wind farm in southern Honduras, often struggle to secure government contracts even when they offer much-needed power and substantial community benefits.
My TIE-funded field experience gave me valuable new perspectives on the issue of CDM project implementation in ways that would have been impossible had I not traveled to Central America. The fellowship gave me the opportunity to reach out to a wide variety of stakeholders, to hear about their experiences and challenges, and to see how the CDM is impacting their decisions. Furthermore, I gained a first-hand perspective on the future of energy generation in the region, and learned more about the impact of policy decisions. Many challenges remain to be addressed, but there is also reason for hope. As I go on to future work in international climate, energy, and environment policy, I will remember the challenges that I observed first-hand in Costa Rica and Honduras, and the lessons that I learned from talking to project developers, plant operators, government officials and community members. This project has deepened my understanding of the issues surrounding CDM project implementation, and reminded me of the importance of hearing from all stakeholders on issues like renewable energy production, which hold so much significance for the community, the government, and the environment.
|By Kiersten von Trapp G’10
Jesse Gossett earned a BA from Tufts in Environmental Science in 2008. Since graduating, Jesse has followed his interests in renewable energy and sustainability into the professional world.
Emergent Energy Group, located in Boston, Massachusetts, plans, designs, and facilitates renewable energy projects. The company strategy states: “Through an open and transparent community-based development process, we find holistic energy and sustainability solutions that overcome your technical, environmental, and community challenges.” Emergent Energy Group is a young company with five energetic employees, four of whom are recent Tufts graduates.
Jesse joined Emergent in September 2007 and has since become Director of Community Affairs where he focuses his efforts on developing new ways to help clients and facilitate project management. Jesse has helped shape Emergent Energy Group into a leader in the field of renewable energy in New England and beyond. In this interview, Jesse talks about his Tufts experience, Emergent, and the future.
How did your Tufts experience lead you to where you are today?
Tufts provided us with a forum to learn all about the energy industry. Many of our classes and extracurricular activities revolved around energy, and there was often overlap between professional and academic interest. Also, the contacts and relationships we made while at Tufts continue to serve us to this day, and we hope to eventually be able to give back in the same way.
Which Tufts programs helped you the most?
The Energy Security Initiative, now the Tufts Energy Forum, was the most formative for us. Through ESI we were able to travel all over the world, from Belgium and the Netherlands to the United Arab Emirates. The trips were completely self-driven research projects on topics like the EU carbon trading program, Middle Eastern oil politics and the future of energy. For me, personally, the best part was giving a small presentation at the first annual World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi in January 2008.
What was your relationship to the Tufts Institute of the Environment as an undergraduate?
TIE supported us both financially and by providing contacts for our various activities, including on-campus events and our various research trips.
How did the trips and conferences you attended lead to where you are now?
Through traveling the world, we started so see some dark sides to the way we use energy. Environmentally, socially, economically, and spiritually, it’s just not sustainable. After seeing this dark side, we were moved to form a company around ideals and goals which could change the status quo of energy use and energy development.
How did your company, Emergent Energy Group, come to be?
Greg Hering, Jared Rodriguez and Jayson Uppal initially met over two years ago at Tufts and started to create the knowledge foundation for Emergent. They did some pro bono work, attended a lot of conferences and made some contacts in the industry. When I came on at the beginning of my senior year, we almost immediately had a decision to make. There were now three seniors around the table. Could we actually do this full-time when we graduated? Could we make money doing it? It’s now apparent that we can.
What is Emergent Energy Group?
We at Emergent Energy Group are planners, designers and facilitators of renewable energy projects. So far we have been very successful with in the wind and solar power sectors. We’re starting to explore further opportunities in the non-profit sector, other renewable energy technologies, and other types of local development. And we’ve managed to stayed true to our values of idealism and creativity while moving our company forward.
What is the next step for Emergent Energy Group?
We recently partnered with a Fortune 100 company to provide wind services for their New England operations. This will hopefully provide a really solid foundation for us, allowing Emergent to expand into some of the other sectors which interest us. We are also participating in a few federal which could provide us with another long-term base to grow off of.
Where do you see yourself in the future, professionally?
Emergent Energy Group is so broad that we could theoretically spend our entire lives building it. At some point grad school may be in order as well.
Learn more about Emergent Energy Group at www.emergentenergygroup.com
By Jessica Soule G’10
|Jonathan Kenny and the Tufts Institute of the Environment are planning the Tufts Environmental Literacy Institute, a four-day faculty development workshop. Running from May 18-21, 2009, participants will be recruited from a range of departments across Tufts. While the immediate goal is to enhance faculty literacy on climate change and climate justice, the ultimate goal is to increase the ability of all Tufts students to engage with the issues that will shape their generation.|
||As part of the institute, participants commit to incorporate the institute’s themes into an existing course, or to create a new course. Throughout the week participants will have the opportunity to interact with experts from various fields, be introduced to a range of resources including on-campus support, and take part in a field-based learning experience.|
These unique experiences and tools will help participants be prepared to incorporate these themes into existing or new courses.
Another major goal of TELI is to increase interdisciplinary collaboration and communication. A five-year run of TELI in the 1990’s proved that TELI had a substantial impact on research and interdisciplinary collaboration. Collaborations in grant proposals and interdisciplinary teaching were reported by 58% of Tufts’ earlier TELI participants. 
The earlier TELI experience also proved that faculty are committed to the institute’s goals. Many past participants went beyond the original commitment to change one course; half of those surveyed changed more than one course, and some changed as many as four. Since many of these courses are foundational courses required for all students, the impact is enhanced. 
There is the hope that the current TELI institute will have an even greater an impact on faculty collaboration and student learning. The 2009 institute’s providers also hope that it is only the second of another five-year run for TELI.
||Interested individuals may visit the TELI website to learn more or to register for the institute.
 Peggy F. Barlett and Ann Rappaport. Long -term Impacts of Faculty Development Programs: The Experience of TELI and Piedmont College Teaching. Publication forthcoming.
||Solar Decathlon Student Director Matt Thoms A’10Tufts University student Matthew W. Thoms has been named a Morris K. Udall Scholar for 2009. Thoms, a junior studying mechanical engineering in the School of Engineering, was one of 80 students selected from 515 nominees nationwide. Thoms will receive a $5,000 scholarship and attend the Udall Scholars orientation in Tucson, Ariz., August 5-9. There, he and other scholars will meet environmental policy makers and past scholarship recipients. Read more >>|
By Zoe Harris G’10
Launched in Fall 2006, the Energy and Climate Forum was conceived as a means of gauging interest in the topics of climate and energy, an area identified as being particularly promising for development as a cross-university effort. Sponsored by the Department of Economics, the Tufts Institute of the Environment (TIE), and the Fletcher School’s Center for International Environment and Resource Policy (CIERP), it consists of monthly seminars featuring both internal and external speakers addressing critical issues surrounding energy and climate. Topics include science, engineering, economics, health and the environment, and resources policy and politics.
Spring 2009 speakers have included such notable figures as Dan Schrag, director of Harvard University’s Center for the Environment, Rohit Aggarwala, director of New York City’s Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Tufts Economics professor Frank Ackerman, who discussed his latest book, Can We Afford the Future?: The Economics of a Warming World.
The Tufts Energy and Climate Forum will continue in fall 2009.
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