Students climbed the Rockies in search of Environmental knowledge

Wednesday, July 25, 2018


From June 22 to July 1, 2018, Cincinnati State's classroom for EVT 172, Environmental Mountain Ecology, moved to the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

This year was the ninth trip to the Rockies led by Professor Ann Gunkel, Program Chair of Environmental Engineering Technology (EVT), and the 20th anniversary of the first trip, conducted in 1998. Seven students made the trek this summer.

Ann said a primary goal of the course, which is offered every other year, is to expand students’ understanding of environmental issues and encourage them to consider careers in the field.

This year's students included several who are the first in their family to attend college, and who had never experienced an environment outside of the urban Cincinnati area.

“The course provides hands-on training in topics that students can't experience in Greater Cincinnati, and offers broad exposure to environmental careers and concerns,’’ Ann said.

The class began with an on-campus portion in Spring at the Clifton Campus. Students met for two hours per week, for 15 weeks, learning background information on mountain habitats (and hazards) as well as field sampling techniques.

This was followed by the 10-day Summer expedition to Colorado led by Dr. Gunkel, with assistance from Cincinnati State Senior Lab Technician Gail Quinlan.

The field portion of the class included these activities (visit Cincinnati State's Flickr site for more photos):

  • A ropes course incorporating team-building exercises, at Colorado State University’s (CSU) Mountain Campus located in the Roosevelt National Forest, 2 hours west of Ft. Collins; followed by a half-day hike to acclimate to high altitudes (as well as some unanticipated moose-spotting).
  • A tour of the CSU Mountain Campus’s water & wastewater facilities, where students learned about dealing with forest fires and the pine beetle infestation.
  • Vegetation, bird, mammal, geological and riparian zone studies conducted during hikes and outings along mountain trails.
  • A hike in the tundra along Trail Ridge Road (at an elevation of over 12,000 feet) and a stop at the Continental Divide.
  • Studies in Rocky Mountain National Park with Park Naturalists, including a night hike and an afternoon of water testing.
  • A tour of Three Lakes Sanitation District Sequencing Batch Reactor Wastewater Treatment Facility and discussion of water management issues in Colorado.
  • Climbing Mt. Evans (at an elevation over 14,000 feet), where students saw mountain goats, big horned sheep, marmots, and pikas; as well as Bristle Cone Pine trees over 1,000 years old.
  • A tour of mining and Superfund sites, a visit to Leadville’s National Mining Museum and a mine runoff treatment area, while learning about the benefits and detriments of mining.
  • A visit to the Leadville Fish Hatchery.

After returning to Cincinnati, the students prepared research papers and presentations for their peers at the College.

Ann said the program is designed to teach students how to apply innovative thinking to a variety of environmental issues, and how to present environmental issues and potential solutions in ways that can be understood by professionals and the public.

“Often, students return from this experience with greater motivation to participate in environmental issues and careers on a local, regional, or even global scale," Ann said.

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