This semester, students, staff and Geneva community members have been able to visit a hydrofracking exhibit on display at the Finger Lakes Institute. The display was developed by students in Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Beth Kinne’s ENV 301 class, the capstone seminar for environmental studies seniors.
Fourteen students participated in the seminar including Ben Chaplin ’12, Keith Forman ’12, Chris Klevan ’12, Dan Kolinski ’12, Sam Kramer ’12, Jonathan Meyers ’12, Tim Regan ’12, Seth Schuler ’12, Katie Serock ’12, Andrew Steates ’12, Meghan VanEvera ’12, Whit Wells ’12, Jack Willis ’12 and Harald Zurakowski ’12.
The group started the semester by getting a broad view of the issues surrounding hydrofracking, examining both the benefits and the drawbacks. Then, each student was given the opportunity to pick an aspect that particularly interested them, which they researched, wrote a final research paper about as well as created a piece of art or non-verbal expression.
“I thought the art aspect of the final project would challenge students to use more effective means of communicating ideas, help them work to reach a broad audience, and inspire thought about multi-dimensional issues that are difficult to understand and yet need to be discussed,” explains Kinne, who got the idea from a Spring 2011 Association of Environmental Studies and Sciences Conference devoted to using art to communicate science. “I also wanted to give them the opportunity to produce something more lasting than a term paper. Their project will be on display for the spring semester at the Finger Lakes Institute.”
Covering very diverse topics, students researched everything from the potential for future best practices for hydrofracking to the benefits of land leasing for Amish communities.
Kolinski researched wastewater disposal. He learned that when water is fracked, it becomes polluted with metals: iron, copper and radium.
“One of the major issues right now is that the water treatment facilities don’t have the capabilities to treat the radioactive elements in the water,” he says. “It becomes a problem when they release the treated water into a river and they’re upstream from an intake facility that supplies water to thousands.”
For his non-verbal piece, Kolinski created a model that tracked the movement of water throughout the process, which he hopes will make it easier for people to understand the impact of hydrofracking.
Researching another view, Serock studied the land leases that support the Amish economy. The Amish own large tracts of land in New York state, and they typically receive $5,000 per acre to lease their land as well as royalties of 12.5 percent of the productivity, she says. “In order to protect themselves, the Amish sign contracts that keep the drill downhill from the community and away from the community’s main water source.”
Serock created a representation of how the Amish situate themselves in comparison to the drill so as to reap the most benefit, and how they use trees to obscure the view of the drilling rig.
After the success of her first student exhibit, Kinne hopes to refine the course in the future to place more emphasis on the non-verbal aspect of the students’ research.
“The students have come up with some amazing ideas,” says Kinne. “It helps that the subject matter is a highly emotional one.”
In the photo above, Dan Kolinski ’12 discusses his work on display at the Finger Lakes Institute.