Project Descriptions

Loren Ahonen

The Western Solar Project: Foundational Research and Policy Development for Mid-Scale Solar Deployment

The Western Solar Project is a stakeholder driven process for finding mid-scale renewable energy solutions for Western Colorado University. Specifically, this entailed establishing consensus and foundational policy for consequential on-site, solar photovoltaic deployment.


Cathleen Anthony

Growing in Higher Education: The Case to Expand Western Colorado University's On-Campus Gardens & Greenhouse

An on-campus expansion of gardens and a greenhouse here at Western would help put our university at the forefront of not only environmental and sustainability efforts, but also foster a more holistic and relevant education for students of higher learning. Case studies have shown that food production as part of a college curriculum can help lead to a more effective education, increase student retention at an institution, develop and grow student leadership, bridge cultural gaps, and foster civic responsibility.


Christian Arel

SEED: Sustainability Education Equity and Diversity

SEED is an education equity initiative with Coldharbour Institute that employs Western undergraduates to work with K-12 students to implement sustainability and social justice projects in the Gunnison Valley and at Coldharbour Ranch.


Taylor Asao

Marketing Sustainable Fisheries

My passion and dedication towards supporting coastal communities led to the creation of a business that sought to increase online effectiveness of marketing for socially-conscious businesses whose fisheries practices are environmentally and economically just. DEZCOOL LLC has partnered up with a community supported fishery and a direct marketer of sustainable salmon to strengthen their online presence. Through website development, webmaster support, and digital marketing, I was able to support fishermen using sustainable fishing practices.


Ian Basco

Mentoring Sustainability Leaders

This project is an attempt to bring collective action around shared goals into the sustainable development field. Specifically, it seeks to address the issues of waste management by mentoring sustainability leaders in the US and Puerto Rico through hands-on-investigations in our own communities, sparking their curiosity and interest in science.


Carissa Callison

Awakening a Desert Land Ethic: Creating a “Resource and Recreation Messaging Plan” for the Bureau of Land Management’s Moab Field Office

Rapid visitation growth in the Moab area (2.5 million visitors/year) has corresponded with increases in recreation-related resource damage. This new type of management plan addresses these issues through branding, tailored messaging, and resource interpretation.


Jake Courkamp

Soil Health and Carbon Sequestration on a Working Landscape in the Gunnison Valley

This producer-inspired project investigated the soil effects of innovative grazing management in the Gunnison Valley. By evaluating the soil and vegetation effects of supplemental feeding and establishing a baseline of soil carbon, the project sought to better inform the efforts of livestock producers to adapt to and mitigate future climate change in the context of local land-use. 


Carlo Demma

A Case Study of Mining Impacts to Water Quality, Dry Valley Mine, ID 

This study assesses actual surface and groundwater quality monitoring results in regard to predicted water quality impacts at the Dry Valley Mine South Extension Project in southeastern Idaho. By analyzing these 20 years of data, this study aims to illuminate aspects of mine management such as compliance with federally enforced permitting and regulatory procedures  for large scale industrial mining projects in the southeast Idaho Phosphate District.  


Jodi Elam

Containment of Leafy Spurge on the Yampa River

This project examines the local history, awareness, and management practices of landowners with the invasive weed, leafy spurge. This information, along with results from previous studies, was used to design an experimental biological control program to be implemented along the Yampa River for spurge containment. Various government agencies and organizations were involved with the common goal of eradication and control of leafy spurge. 


Lucy Flores

Cultivating Consciousness

Cultivating Consciousness is a project that aims to educate and empower the communities of Añasco and Maricao in Puerto Rico. I did this by coordinating and connecting like-minded community leaders and organizations to start projects, then stimulating and promoting resilience through direct contact with nature. Finally, a needs assessment was completed, as well as community follow-up to assess future needs. 


Aurora Flynn

A Sustainability Climate Action Plan for Western Colorado University 

To honor and achieve Western's commitment to carbon neutrality by 2050, a highly integrated and effective Sustainability Climate Action Plan must be created, one that focuses on mitigation as well as community and climate resiliency. This plan will be designed, developed, and achieved collectively by our Western community by addressing our GHG emissions footprint, assessing climate vulnerabilities, and by monitoring and actively tending our community's health and wellbeing. 


Pryce Hadley

Crossing the Divide: What Mountain Communities Can Learn from Open Space Programs on the Urban-Interface. 

This project used a case study approach to understand how best management practices from Open Space programs on the urban-interface of the intermountain-West can be adapted to help the Pitkin County Open Space & Trails ranger program more safely and effectively provide for resource protection and public safety.


Phillip Keim

Accompaniment in Colombia: Nonviolent Resistance as a Tool for Social Change

This project focused on storytelling in the form of digital media, in partnership with Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) Colombia. Phillip spent six months as an intern with CPT Colombia as they accompanied organizations and communities working to live a more sustainable, just, and peaceful way of life. The project produced a number of independent projects and consulted on media campaigns to build solidarity and networks within and outside of the CPT Colombia online presence.


Lance Kittel

Alternative Building Demonstration and Guide: Coldharbour Institute

Using current techniques and strategies, an alternative building demonstration plan was developed for use at Coldharbour Institute. The multi-use building plan was developed using earthship principles, shipping containers and biotecture to achieve a carbon-neutral building style congruent with stakeholder needs and global inspiration.


Ashley Kumburis

Land and Resource Management at Coldharbour Ranch

This project implemented and monitored regenerative land conservation practices through education and collaboration in the Gunnison Valley. The project brought community members and science together one ranch at a time. By developing environmental management and educational plans this project advanced the strategic plan for Coldharbour and increased scientific opportunities in the Gunnison Valley.


Marissa Markus

Effects of Spring Development on Macroinvertebrate Assemblages

Springs provide otherwise limited biological and hydrological functions in the arid sage-steppe habitat of the Upper Gunnison Basin, but surveys indicate that many springs are developed, unprotected, and vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The purpose of this project was to evaluate the current condition of springs by assessing their macroinvertebrate community assemblages and provide that information to the Bureau of Land Management to help inform their management decisions within grazing allotments.


Lukas Mattson

Timber Salvage Effects on Understory Vegetation and Surface Fuel Loads in Spruce-Fir Forests Impacted by Spruce Bark Beetle 

Recent spruce beetle infestations in southwest Colorado have caused extensive mortality in sub-alpine forests, prompting forest managers to respond with several salvage harvests in the Gunnison National Forest. Our study examined the effects of these salvage harvests on surface fuels and understory vegetation. We found that salvage harvests significantly altered many surface fuel parameters as well as vegetative composition and cover.


Francis Mitalo

The Gunnison County Home Energy Efficiency and Automation Project

My project's objectives are to install internet connected devices in selected Gunnison County homes to create residential energy automation, improve energy efficiency and reduce on-peak electricity demand. 


Sam Newman

Wildlife Use of Restored Wet Meadows in the Gunnison Basin: Year 2

This project measures the effectiveness of watershed restoration treatments in the Gunnison Basin located in Gunnison Sage-grouse critical habitat. The effectiveness of each restoration treatment was measured by quantifying wildlife usage at 32 camera sites. This intent is to understand how restoration is influencing wildlife use of restored ecosystems.


Jessica Noelke

Conceptual Design with Indagatrix Group

This project translated business and science to the public through graphic design, environmental consulting, and creative problem-solving. Partnering with several groups in the Gunnison Basin, the Indagatrix Group assisted Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District with education and outreach, developed a composting program at Crested Butte Mountain Resort, and formed a more cohesive department within LEAD Sustainability. Through dynamic problem solving and research, Indagatrix Group changed how people view sustainability and turned it into a money and environment saving adaptation. 


Erin Norton

North Fork Coal Mine Methane Working Group

Coal mining processes emit methane gas which is 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. This working group is dedicated to exploring capture, mitigation, and economic utilization of coal mine methane in an area home to several abandoned and one active coal mine. Representatives from Gunnison and Delta Counties, mines, environmental groups, electricity providers, and public agencies bring diverse perspectives to the table to create a strategy that is both economically feasible and better for the environment. 


Hedda Peterson

An Analysis of the Barriers and Opportunities Impacting Southwestern Land Trusts Ability to Implement Climate-Inclusive Conservation

Over 56 million acres across the U.S. have been protected by land trusts, but climate change has tasked the conservation community with new management challenges. In partnership with the Land Trust Alliance, a multi-phase survey was used to identify internal and external trends impacting southwestern land trust’s ability to implement climate-inclusive conservation through stewardship and acquisition planning


Matt Quinn

Wilderness Character Monitoring in the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forest

Working with regional Forest Service Districts, I implemented an updated interagency strategy to monitor trends in wilderness character across the National Wilderness Preservation System.


Julie Russell

Empowering Women in Rural Paraguay

In this project, I created the infrastructure to educate and unite women in a traditional Paraguayan community, by promoting local sustainable and economic development. This was achieved by forming a women's commission that focused on projects, such as household gardens.


Cameron Ruyle

The Rexroat Prairie Initiative Project

This project benefited Friends of Rexroat Prairie, a non-project organization, by completing baseline scientific research and expanding educational opportunities of their prairie restoration site in Illinois.


Douglas Shaw

Monitoring and Analyzing Backcountry Access in the Upper Gunnison Valley

Located at the north end of the Gunnison Valley, Crested Butte, Colo., is bordered almost entirely by public lands managed by the National Forest Service (NFS).  In 2015 the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) published an official requirement for the “designation of roads, trails, and areas on NFS lands to provide for over-snow vehicle (OSV) use.”  The objective of this project was to create a comprehensive log of all backcountry users organized by defining characteristics (e.g., day/date, trailhead use, mode of travel).  Data collected during the study will be provided to the USFS in order to help them design winter recreation plans. 


Richard Stromberg

Nunavut Clean Energy Initiative

This project included energy resource modeling and community engagement with two Inuit hamlets in far northern Canada to develop a road map off fossil fuels toward plentiful renewable energy sources and energy efficiency. 


James Trudell

Restoring Midwest Ecology: An Ecological Restoration Business Startup & Prairie Restoration Project.

The first part of the project included creating and filing business forms, creating advertising materials, and launching a website. In addition to business planning, I conducted a market analysis, established business contacts and contacted potential clients, and completed bids. The second part of the project was conducting a prairie restoration project for my first client. This included treating invasive species, restoring sections of degraded land, prairie seeding and burning, erosion control methods, grant writing, land history analysis, soil sampling, and developing a management plan.


Amanda Turner

Cradle to Cradle CertifiedTM Education

Sustainable business is needed for a healthy, sustainable future. This project drove towards this goal by educating student and professional designers in the Cradle to Cradle Product Design Challenge, and designing and presenting a lecture entitled ‘Certifications that Make a Difference’ to the undergraduate sociology class, Social Inequalities, at Western Colorado University.  


Ryan Walker

The Patches that Persisted: Characterizing Wildfire Refugia to Inform Management Interventions and Adaptive Planning

Post-fire mosaics can include large regions of high severity fire effects interspersed with surviving forest remnants, known as fire refugia. Refugia support surviving legacies that may be critical to subsequent recovery of the forest ecosystem, yet little is known about their abundance and distribution in burn interiors due to the limitations of commonly used satellite indices. We developed a novel high-resolution mapping technique for characterizing the spatial patterns of refugia, in order to inform adaptive management strategies that integrate the resilience-enhancing capacity of these critical forest remnants.


Alexa Weiand

The Coldharbour Regenerative Network: Building a Hub for Regenerative Agriculture

Holistic management and regenerative practices are revolutionizing the way we manage agricultural landscapes and businesses, creating enduring returns for people, environments, and economies. Learn how Coldharbour Institute, a local Gunnison nonprofit, has developed this movement right here in the Valley.


Darius West

Implementing Sustainability Into Organizations and Businesses

In this project I worked with three groups who utilized my expertise in collaboration, community engagement, and education in order to implement organizational changes or make strategic plans which increased their longevity and/ or reduced their waste. I worked with a non-profit, a federally funded program, and a cannabis dispensary business to build on a multi-layered perspective of how implementation occurs and what forms are deemed valuable to each. 


Ali Yeates

Restoring and Preserving Diverse Habitats in the Rapidly Urbanizing West: Management Through Collaboration, Connection, and Community

Urbanization is increasingly at the forefront of land management conversations in the West. As human population density pressures our natural systems, restoration and preservation are keys to retaining ecosystem services and ecological resilience. Inclusive, meaningful engagement and collaboration with the community is necessary for these efforts to succeed. Working alongside Forterra on riparian restoration along the Cedar River and as the Restoration and Education Manager at SHADOW Lake Nature Preserve, my project tied together community engagement, urban public lands, and collaborative partnerships.