FARMINGTON — The University of Maine at Farmington has received a $5,000 “Campuses for Environmental Stewardship” grant from the Northern New England Campus Compact.

The goal of the grant-funded initiative is to help prepare students for a lifetime of environmental stewardship by embedding climate change or water quality community projects into their regular college coursework.

The UMF proposal includes six courses taught by UMF faculty from six disciplines: political science, anthropology, economics, geology, biology and natural sciences-secondary education. Offered during the 2013-14 academic year, these courses partner with private, nonprofit and municipal organizations to further define the role of higher education in helping to address the region’s most pressing environmental issues.

Community involvement is a major component of each course. UMF faculty and students are working with entities from Farmington, Wilson Lake, the Rangeley Region and Mt. Blue High School. Projects will investigate the connections between climate change or water quality with the outdoor recreation economy, environmental policy, local agriculture, attitudes toward carbon cycling and cultural change.

Students in a UMF geology class this fall are partnering with several high school teachers from around the state to study how carbon moves around the Earth. Taught by Doug Reusch, UMF associate professor of geology, the class featured an October field trip from Quebec City to Farmington, on which students and teachers visited geological sites that record release and sequestering of carbon, both in the past and today.

Participants then analyzed their own carbon footprint to understand the impact of individual decisions on carbon emissions, and weigh alternatives to dependence on fossil fuels. Teachers returned to their schools with new information on carbon cycling processes that will help to inspire environmental stewardship in their students.

“UMF has a long history of helping students be good environmental stewards,” said Andrew Barton, UMF professor of biology and grant project leader. “We’ve made sustainable practices a priority for over 40 years. As the consequences of climate change continue to emerge, it becomes increasingly important that we partner even more closely with the community to understand the problems we all face and to find sustainable solutions.”

To help students understand the role they can play in having an impact on public policy, Linda Beck, UMF associate professor of political science, is having her spring semester class organize a forum on current environmental policy for honors students from Mt. Blue High School. The forum will provide students with an opportunity to present competing views on pressing environmental issues, such as climate change and water pollution. Both groups of students will develop their analytical and communication skills while learning the role individual citizens can play in developing public policy.

The Northern New England Campus Compact is a coalition of nearly 60 college and university presidents from Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. It was awarded $150,000 to support the Campuses for Environmental Stewardship program from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The University of Maine at Farmington grant is one of 18 NNECC subgrants that were awarded to area campuses, including, 11 in Maine, four in New Hampshire and four in Vermont.

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