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Forests, Learning, and Carbon Neutrality


As part of its effort to cut campus greenhouse gas emissions and remove carbon from the atmosphere, Hamilton is developing a land stewardship plan that also creates opportunities for experiential learning and research.

Hamilton sustainability coordinators already have worked to reforest portions of a former golf course, install pollinator gardens, and promote student and faculty research in College forests. The plan, being developed by a subcommittee of the College Sustainability Working Group, will take such efforts to a new level.  To help with the plan, the College has partnered with forester Steven Bick, who worked with Colgate University to achieve carbon neutrality in 2019. 

Under Bick’s supervision, the first land-management project got underway earlier this month, at Hamilton’s 236-acre Reservoir Forest, a half mile from campus. It’s an effort to restore the forest’s health and increase its ability to sequester carbon, growing out of a detailed detailed carbon assessment Bick did in 2017. Pines planted in the 1930s dominate the tract, and its health and carbon-sequestration potential are in decline. Invasive species such as European buckthorn and Asiatic bittersweet also compromise the forest.

Faculty and students are already finding ways to be involved in the project. Assistant Professor of Biology Andrea Townsend is working with Bick to design and implement deer fencing and reforestation strategies to promote the regrowth of native hardwoods. She and her students will compare tree community structure, invasive plant encroachment, and deer browsing pressure in plots with and without deer exclusion fences.

Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Aaron Strong and students will work with his students and with Beck to track carbon storage in wood products that are being harvested at the site. Strong’s first-year course on carbon footprints will track detailed information on where the logs are sold, how they will be used, and what fraction will go to biomass for energy.

Here is a full update on the efforts of the Sustainability Working Group, which is committed to advancing climate action and sustainability. 

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