This semester, the Environmental Studies program has offered its first Senior Seminar class, which is focusing on the topic of emerging contaminants in the environment. The topic suggests that a significant threat to our water quality may come from drugs and pharmaceuticals in wastewater and runoff in very small quantities and unique combinations. As all the members of the class have individual and diverse concentrations that they have established within the environmental studies program, the students were asked to develop thesis papers that meld the issue of emerging contaminants with their particular focus of their concentrations. The following are excerpts from the six students on what they chose to analyze for their theses.
Victoria Woolner, Class of 2012 – My concentration was “Sustainable Development and Costa Rica: Living with an Environmental Awareness.” For my thesis I chose to discuss the idea of sustainable development and why it has been so controversial and difficult to implement on a large scale, especially in developing countries such as Costa Rica. To tie in our senior seminar topic of emerging contaminants, I also focused on how as a society, our continued pollution of our environment makes the possibilities of living sustainably even more challenging. I also specifically focused on what emerging contaminants are threatening Costa Rica’s environment and society.
Nicole Marcotte, Class of 2012 – I have always been interested in the ways in which people perceive environmental issues through various media, and how these media affect the reaction of the public and the overall respect that they have for nature. My concentration is Environmental Advocacy: Building a Relationship with Nature because I wanted to better understand the ways to advocate for environmental awareness and how advocacy can encourage people to take action. Since the issue of emerging contaminants has only recently made its way onto the public agenda, there still is some skepticism revolving around whether or whether not the public should even be worried. For my thesis, I decided to analyze newspaper and magazine articles, books, and films that addressed the issue of emerging contaminants to understand what strategies the authors, producers, and editors used in order to shape the public’s opinion about the issue.
Colin Miller, Class of 2012 – For my concentration in the Environmental Studies program I choose to focus on Conservation Ecology and to look at how various cultures view and interact with nature. For my thesis I chose to research Wetland Wastewater Treatment facilities in various climates located around the globe to look at various types of wetland wastewater treatment facilities and the effectiveness of these facilities at removing both industrial and residential contaminants from the water. I chose this topic because not only are these facilities effective at treating wastewater sustainably and with little needed energy input, but also provide habitat for birds and aquatic animals.
Anna DiSanto, Class of 2012 – The concentration I chose within my Environmental Studies major was Marine Resources and Aquatic Ecosystems. For this, I took several courses including Tropical Marine Ecology, Ichthyology, Marine Resource Management, and an independent study monitoring the water quality of the Winooski River here in Vermont. For my senior thesis paper, I chose to study the effects of emerging contaminants on marine ecosystems. This involved an analysis of the different consequences chemical pollutants have on the physical habitats, the organisms that inhabit such areas, and the possible direct and indirect impact on humans.
Kevin O’Riordan , Class of 2012- My concentration focuses on the correct way to conserve healthy habitats by managing forests’ wildlife and vegetation, the role of human interaction with the environment and, furthermore, to understand the relationship between humans the natural environment, including the animals and ecosystems that comprise the environment. For my thesis, I decided to focus on the effects of emerging contaminants on various species of wildlife and how our human decisions are dramatically affecting vital species.
Anne Burnham, Class of 2013 – Through my experiences, I was struck by the ability of some businesses to maintain personal relationships with the customer while maintaining positive environmental practices, minimizing their impact on the planet, and still achieving economic success. At St. Michael’s, I took many classes that emphasized sustainability and living in a more harmonious manner with the Earth than humans have over the past several centuries. This interest in sustainability, conservation, alternative lifestyles, and business practices drew me towards a focus on sustainable business practices. Specifically, I became interested in how business practices are shaped by policies formulated both by the government and within corporations, as well as individual commitments to practice business and live in an environmentally friendly manner.