Sat, 19 Oct 2013 15:45:00 CDT — by: Joanna Parkman, C'14, Sustainability Undergraduate Fellow
On September 24, Dr. Deborah McGrath, Joanna Parkman (’14), and Grace Saunders (’14) traveled to Chattanooga for the 2013 Water Education Summit. They were joined by co-presenter Laurie Fowler, Associate Dean of the University of Georgia's Odum School of Ecology.
The Summit offered presentations and posters on a wide array of topics, ranging from youth water education and agricultural management to watershed planning and ecosystem restoration. Representatives from the EPA, USDA, and the Tennessee Aquarium, as well as numerous sea grant consortiums, river alliances, and universities throughout the southeast, were in attendance.
Sewanee was represented in two oral presentations during the conference. On Wednesday morning, McGrath offered an overview of the history of community-wide teaching and research initiatives in Sewanee related to wastewater treatment, entitled "Taps, Toilets and Trees: A Collaborative Partnership for Community-Engageed Learning about Water Resource Management between the Sewanee Utility District (SUD) and the University of the South." She described how student-faculty research projects have been driven by community needs, including those of the SUD and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) and further demonstrated the ways in which similar collaborations can be scaled and adapted for use in other communities.
In the following presentation, Fowler, Parkman, and Saunders specifically discussed the pilot constructed wetlands project, a research partnership between the SUD, UGA graduate students in the Odum School of Ecology and School of Law, and Sewanee undergraduates in the Environmental Studies, Biology, and Forestry and Geology Departments. The talk, entitled, "Collaborating across Universities to Increase Learning and Wastewater Capacity," highlighted various stages of the potential wastewater treatment project, including development of conceptual engineering plans, a feasible budget, and a social media campaign, in addition to a public perception survey and biological and chemical monitoring program.
On Thursday, Parkman attended a sustainability tour examining low impact development in Chattanooga. Visits to diverse green infrastructure projects, including the East Main Street Community Garden,the Chattanooga Area Food Bank, Hamilton County Riverpark, Main Terrain Art Park, and parking lots designed with pervious pavement, rain gardens, and other features to reduce stormwater runoff, offered just a sampling of the City of Chattanooga's recent sustainability initiatives. Highlights included meeting with Joel Tippens of Fair Share Sustainable Urban Agriculture Project at the Main Street Farmers Market and touring The Crash Pad, a LEED Platinum certified boutique hostel. Throughout the tour, city officials and stormwater professionals offered perspectives on how low impact development and stream restoration have successfully become priorities in local metropolitan planning programs.
Unable to attend the conference was key collaborator Dr. Scott Torreano of Sewanee's Forestry and Geology Department.