Land & Environment

Aggie Students Probe 'The Real Story' on Sustainability

The word ‘sustainability’ is bandied about a lot these days in the media and conservation, but what does it really mean? Throughout the fall, Utah State University students in WATS 1200 ? Biodiversity and Sustainability tackled this very question and came up with interesting, and sometimes surprising, answers.

Challenged by instructor Bryan Laub, postdoctoral fellow in USU’s Department of Watershed Sciences, the students explored varied sides of chosen sustainability topics and generated ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ about the use of such products as bottled water, light bulbs and electric cars to such practices as fish farming and sustainable construction. The students presented their findings in a public poster session, “WATS the Story on….?,” in the Natural Resources Building atrium Nov. 25.

“You hear a lot of talk about global warming, but I really didn’t know much about it,” says freshman Jacquelyn McGarry, an undeclared major.

With classmates Logan Thackeray, Michaela Coburn and Jakob Ambuehl, McGarry took on the benefits and drawbacks of bottled water. On the plus side, grabbing a pre-prepared plastic bottle of tasty water is über-handy for busy people. But that convenience has a cost, the students discovered.

“We learned bottled water is expensive compared to tap water, generates an enormous amount of plastic waste and releases thousands of chemicals into the environment,” says Ambuehl, a religious studies major.

Students Mickaila Rigby, Caitlin Allyse and Jordan Costel explored the advantages and disadvantages of fish farming.

“Fish farming reduces stress on native populations,” says Rigby, a biology major. “Traditional methods of fishing, such as line and net, endanger marine mammals such as sea lions.”

She points out traditional fishing also endangers humans, as depicted on the wildly popular “Deadliest Catch” television series.

But fish farms have their downsides. Most of these, Rigby says, have to do with poor management.

“Crowding can be a problem, along with improper waste disposal,” she says. “But many of those issues are being addressed and some farms, including salmon farms in the Pacific Northwest, now have (the Monterey Bay Aquarium) Seafood Watch recommendation.”

Classmates Walden Hollingshouse, Chloe Hansen and Damion Hobbs put varied kinds of light bulbs to the sustainability test. They concluded compact fluorescent lamps ? known as “CFLs” are versatile and appropriate for most applications, but consumers should also take a look at LED (light emitting diode) lamps.

“LEDs are energy efficient and durable,” Hansen says.

Hollingshouse adds many are concerned about disposal of CFLs, but what many people may not know is such bulbs are recyclable.

“People worry about the mercury in CFLs,” says the undeclared major. “But it can be reused. You can take used CFLs back to major retailers for recycling. Even the glass can be recycled.”

Related links:

Contact: Brian Laub, 301-395-1567,

Writer: Mary-Ann Muffoletto, 435-797-3517,

students presented their sustainability project in the NR building atrium

Aggies gathered in the Natural Resources building atrium Nov. 25 to view posters presented by Watershed Sciences instructor Brian Laub's Biodiversity and Sustainability class.

NR WATS 1200 students with their poster display

From left, WATS 1200 students Damion Hobbs, Walden Hollingshouse and Chloe Hansen display their poster comparing types of light bulbs. The class challenged students to investigate sustainable products and practices.


Student Life 140stories Environment 128stories Sustainability 98stories

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