Virtual showcase highlights student sustainability research

A computer showing the website for the virtual sustainability showcase
Image Credit: Valerie Hendrickson

From honey bees to wildfires, students in Grand Valley's environmental and sustainability studies department tackled timely topics for this semester's virtual sustainability showcase. 

Students from nine classes will have their research projects available for viewing in the showcase, which will be presented virtually the week of November 16.

"The initial transition to a virtual showcase format in the Winter 2020 semester was a challenge, but the flexibility and adaptability of students made the switch successful," said Amy McFarland, assistant professor of food and agricultural studies in the Frederik Meijer Honors College. 

For Emily Hermann, a senior majoring in biology, creating a group project virtually was difficult at times. Coordinating meeting times and pulling together resources with everyone's varied schedules was challenging, but in the end it was worth it for Hermann. 

"The most rewarding part has been that we've come up with solutions that we think could actually work on the GVSU campus in trying to address food insecurity," said Hermann. "I don't think any of us went into this project thinking that we could brainstorm and develop something that could potentially impact the lives of people we don't know."

When selecting topics for their projects, students were given the flexibility to explore what was most interesting to them. 

Integrated studies major Kilian Roach's group concentrated on the intersection of spirituality and farming, and how traditional indigenous farming methods can be a model for current sustainable practices.

For a real-world application, Roach said his group proposed an implementation plan for Grand Valley's Sustainable Agriculture Project that includes adopting some of the indigenous methods to better connect to local farmland. 

McFarland said the showcase helps motivate students to strive for a higher standard in their work, knowing it will be on display to their peers and the Grand Rapids sustainability community. 

"Seeing the finished website after over a month of pulling together the project was exciting," said Khayci Bryant, a geography major. "It’s definitely rewarding to see what all of our hard work created." 

The showcase can be viewed online through November 21 at