The Environmental Studies Program prides itself on its abundance of student research opportunities. As an ES student, not only will you partake in research during your senior seminar course, but you will also have the ability to conduct independent research with your professors, through internships, or even while studying abroad!
Research at IWU provides opportunities for you to go above and beyond the normal limits of the classroom,
and it provides valuable experience to stand out to future employers and graduate
From non-profit and environmental health internships to ecological research, the career development-exposure I received was tremendous!
- Ojaswee Shrestha ‘18 IWU Major Environmental Studies-Ecology; Minor Biology
Below are some ES student research highlights.
The Environmental Studies Senior Seminar (ENST 480) acts as the culmination of knowledge and skills gained from your first three years in the ES program. A project-oriented course, you will conduct professional research and writing to tackle a real-world environmental challenge in our community or with an overseas partner. Seminar students in the past have worked as both individuals and in teams, and findings are presented to the public at the end of the semester.
Check out a sampling of previous Senior Seminar projects below!
“Historic and Contemporary Environmental Injustice in West Bloomington, Illinois”
Leah Bieniak ‘21, Refugio Moreno ‘21, John Nairn ‘21, Riley Rooney ‘21
To address observed disparities in quality of life and land use between the east and west sides of town, students identified how patterns of economic and industrial development in Bloomington from 1850 to the present led to cases of environmental injustice on the West Side. Using current health and demographic data, the students considered how the injustices may have contributed to higher rates of health concerns in West Bloomington residents as compared to the East Side.
“Expanding the Environmental Justice Area Under Illinois Solar for All: The Case of
West Bloomington, Illinois”
Leah Carter ‘20, Annika Fuller ‘21, Emily Schirmacher ‘21
Using statistical analyses, case study comparisons, and a wealth of collected data, students made the argument for expanding the environmental justice designation in West Bloomington under the Illinois Solar for All Act. Illinois Solar for All (ISfA) is a program funded through the Future Energy Jobs Act that focuses on increasing access to solar energy for low income and environmental justice communities. With the expanded designation, more West Bloomington residents would have access to solar energy and its environmental and economic benefits.
“Vietnam Today: Addressing the Challenges to Sustainable Development”
Emily Asselmeier ‘20, Chloe Bell ‘18, Katherine Henebry ‘19, Tom Hillebrand ‘20, Laura Kindle ‘19, Kelsey Knodel ‘19, Tera Wilson ‘20, Samantha Yoest ‘19
In May of 2018, eight ES students and two ES faculty spent two weeks in Vietnam conducting field studies of agricultural and urban ecosystems in the Mekong River Delta and Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC). While there, they partnered with students and faculty at Ho Chi Minh University of Natural Resources and Environment (HCMUNRE) and jointly developed a research project on means of achieving a more sustainable transportation system in HCMC. That fall, the students followed up by investigating the health and environmental impacts of traffic emissions in HCMC and how to reduce them; the flooding situation there and ecological means of addressing it; and commuter behavior in the city. In December 2018, the 12 HCMUNRE student and faculty partners came to IWU, where ES seniors and their Vietnamese collaborators presented their research findings in a public forum. Read more here.
“Illinois Wesleyan Greenhouse Gas Inventory”
Briana Bacigalupo ‘18, Kiersten Bergquist ‘18, Katie Cevaal ‘18, Stephanie Gerace ‘18, Laurence Henderson ‘18, Jacob Morris ‘18, Ojaswee Shrestha ‘18, and Tony Wu ‘18
In 2017, at the request of then President Jensen, ES seniors conducted IWU’s first Greenhouse Gas inventory. Students followed the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) guidelines, which require institutions to account for all emissions from purchased electricity; heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC); university vehicles and other university-related travel; and other sources. They also chose to measure the GHG impact of IWU food and paper use. Through data collection and calculations, the students estimated that IWU’s 2017 emissions were 36,970 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, which was notably higher than comparable universities at the time. The students proposed recommendations for the IWU to reduce its carbon footprint, including creating a Climate Action Plan, establishing funds for GHG reduction efforts, and developing a clean energy portfolio.
"Lessons from Scandinavia: Developing Sustainable Transportation Systems in Illinois”
Amanda Best ‘20
"Exploring Environmental Values Based on Age Demographics and Landscape Type Differences"
Hannah Horn ‘20
“Perceptions and Attitudes Regarding Stream Restoration Efforts”
Carina Silva ‘19
"Using Satellite Imagery to Assess Dominant Bankside Vegetation Along Sugar Creek
in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois"
Samantha Bidlack ‘19
“Are You Close to Caring? An Analysis of Pro-Environmental Behavior and Concern on
Proximity to Environmental Degradation”
Cameron McKee ‘17
“Determining the Feasibility of Reducing Bird Mortality on the Campuses of Illinois
State University and Illinois Wesleyan University”
Alexander Mueller ‘16
“Exploring Vegetarian Menu Options and Strategies to Increase Student Consumption
of Vegetarian Options at Illinois Wesleyan University”
Stephanie Huber ‘15
“Exploring Strategies to Gain Student Involvement at the Illinois Wesleyan University
Amanda King ‘15
“Assessing the Biodiversity and Susceptibility of Trees in Maxwell Park to Future
Invasive Tree Pest Outbreaks”
Jinny Alexander ‘14
“Determining the Feasibility of Universal Access to Bus Transportation for Illinois
Wesleyan University Students”
Liz Kuehn ‘13
“Determining the Feasibility of Implementing a Beekeeping Cooperative in the Bloomington-Normal,
Courtney Luensman ‘12
“Bringing the Endangered Barn Owl Back to McLeah County, Illinois: Implementing a
Local Nest Box Program”
“Anna Groves Funk ‘11
“Growing Food Justice in West Bloomington, Illinois”
Daniel Burke ‘09
As an ES student at IWU, you will also have ample opportunity to conduct independent research with the guidance of a faculty advisor. This research can be in a specific area of focus or interdisciplinary, and you may even get to work with a student research partner from a different major! Explore the past independent projects below to see what kind of research you could perform:
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John Wesley Powell Conference
Each spring, IWU hosts The John Wesley Powell Research Conference, a distinguished event that provides a unique opportunity for IWU students to present their independent research to their peers, professors, and the community. Below are examples of ES student abstracts from past years.