Fall 2020 Newsletter

News from the Living Lab…

Many exciting projects are happening at the Living Lab, even as we adjust and adapt to challenges of the pandemic. Our students have proven remarkably resilient and ready to hike or bike to the Living Lab to meet for class outside in tents despite the weather! Four courses have used the outdoor tents this semester – Sustainable Agriculture, Global Change and Sustainability, Economics to Save the Planet, and Practicum in Environmental Studies.

Students are also building a new greenhouse, creating new research opportunities along the Saddlemire Trail, and participating in agricultural research in the garden. Read on to find out more!

deer protection around new red oak seedling

Students Building Energy-Efficient Greenhouse

Students in the Practicum in Environmental Studies (ENVS 4030) with Prof. Aaron Iverson have been busy building an energy-efficient greenhouse at the Living Lab this semester. The greenhouse will be one-of-a-kind in the North Country, and relies on simple and affordable technologies to provide year-round growing conditions using purely passive solar and geothermal energy. Students in the class made the foundation and became skilled masons—laying nearly 1000 bricks to complete the bottom portion of the greenhouse this fall! Next year, students in the same course will complete the top portion. The greenhouse was designed by a student, Jesse Vining (ENVS ’20), for his Senior Year Experience at SLU.

Installing Nest Boxes Along the Saddlemire Trail

A project by Erik Sauer ’20, Eliza Gillilan ’18, Carol Cady, and Prof. Sara Ashpole

Nesting boxes are an important habitat structure for some species, as they provide a safe brood raising environment when nest sites are sparse. The project includes nesting boxes that target seven bird species, a variety of local bat species, and invertebrates. A GIS habitat suitability analysis predicted the optimal placement for the nest boxes and is based on each species nesting and habitat preference. A monitoring program to evaluate occupancy and the success of the nesting boxes will provide an opportunity for citizen science and student research. The ongoing monitoring process will allow students to map occupancy data over time and give some idea as to the makeup of species in the area. With a standardized method of monitoring, students will be able to give consistent and detailed representations of the success of each of the nesting boxes and observe the nature of inter- and intraspecies relationships. An interpretive sign along the trail provides a description of potential inhabitants of each nest box type and information on how to participate in monitoring. The nesting box project is supported in part by an Innovation Grant from St. Lawrence University that targets bat box installations on the campus.

Global Change and Sustainability

Students in Prof. Jon Rosales’ Global Change and Sustainability (ENVS 263) course building benches using black locust posts they harvested from the Living Lab woodlot.

Sustainable Agriculture

Garden Update