2013 Faculty Sustainability Research Fellows

Tami Blumenfield
, Asian Studies - Resilience in Mountainous Southwest China: Adopting a Socio-Ecological Approach to Community Change

Now that the word ‘sustainability’ is firmly ensconced in the consciousness of many academics, universities and the broader public, some scholars of socio-ecological theory are questioning whether sustainability is the most appropriate goal. With ecological and social systems in constant flux, they argue that resilience, not sustainability, provides a more effective model for understanding how contemporary societies can maintain healthy relationships with their environments (however those may be defined). Resilience also provides a window to reflect how communities themselves can adapt to a rapidly changing set of political, economic, and social circumstances.

To examine how changing economic opportunities and increased involvement of state actors have affected social and ecological resilience, the researcher will visit southwest China, which offers an opportunity to explore resilience on personal, household, and village-wide levels. These communities offer excellent spaces for investigating how people have adapted to changing state policies and opportunities, for better or for worse from a socio-ecological perspective. By studying the particularities of how these adaptations have occurred, we may better understand how policies can encourage resilience without mandating a particular, inflexible course of action.

Min-Ken Liao
, Biology - Assessing the soil bacterial diversity in Furman Farm

This research will characterize the soil bacterial community in Furman Farm. This hypothesis‐generating, descriptive study will lead to at least three future research projects: (1) continuous monitoring the succession of soil bacterial community in the farm to assess the underground diversity and productivity, (2) comparing the soil bacterial communities in the farm with those in the nearby conventionally fertilized lawns, and (3) applying the techniques developed for this project to study the impacts of land use changes on the soil bacterial communities in Upstate, South Carolina.


Kate Kaup, Asian Studies/Political Science - Promoting Study of the Asian Environment across Disciplines at Furman

Over the summer of 2013, the researcher will be focusing on developing the Furman LIASE Faculty Fellows curriculum and writing the Luce grant due in early August. This project will bring 14 faculty members from seven disciplines (6 natural scientists and 8 social science/humanities specialists) together for an intensive LIASE Faculty Fellows Workshop followed by a two-week study tour in China.


Jeanine Stratton, Business & Accounting - Greenwashing: A Trend Analysis of “Green” Products and Retail Practices

The purpose of the research is to explore the role of retailer point-of-purchase advertising functions on the purchase of “green” products. The research agenda will explore various categories of consumer goods sold in the South Carolina Upstate region to review promotional strategies and identify any occurrence of greenwashing. The impact of products using labels with or without verifiable evidence of “greenness” will be assessed. Implications for consumers,manufacturers, and suppliers involved in such labeling practices and consumer demand of goods will be discussed. The proposed study will advance knowledge in a variety of fields, including marketing, economics, psychology, and sustainability science, fostering subsequent future research in those complementary areas.

2012 Sustainability Faculty Research Fellows

Brannon Andersen, Earth and Environmental Sciences – Organic matter sequestration in intensively grazed pastures: A source of fertility and sink for atmospheric CO2?

Student Research Assistant: Claire Campbell ’13

This research examined the amount of soil organic matter in soils from two “sustainable” farms, Greenbrier Farms and 12 Aprils Dairy, in the upstate that focus on intensive grazing methods, no-till farming practices, and the elimination of chemical additives, making the soils more fertile. Soil samples were collected from each farm, and an upper limit to soil organic matter is being established from this work. The results of this research will have impacts on soil management for other farms in the upstate, and Dr. Andersen developed two new laboratory exercises for his Environmental Science and Environmental Systems classes based on this data.

Omar Carmenates
, Music - The Gaia Theory: A Recording Project Featuring Solo Ecoacoustic Percussion Music

The idea of music relating to the natural environment is nothing new. However, there is a small yet rapidly growing force of composers and performers that are finding innovative ways to blend contemporary performance techniques and the environment into one synergistic musical experience. For this fellowship, percussionist Dr. Carmenates recorded an album titled The Gaia Theory, produced by Rattle Records, New Zealand’s preeminent label for new music. The Gaia Theory is a significant addition to the recordings of ecoacoustic artists, as it includes works by John Luther Adams, Christopher Adler, Matthew Burtner, and Steven Schick. Students in Dr. Carmenates’ percussion studio have been exposed to the ecoacoustic genre through this fellowship, and are learning and performing pieces on this recording.

Weston Dripps
, Earth and Environmental Sciences – A Comparative Analysis of Consumer and Farmer Profiles among Farmers’ Markets across the Upstate of South Carolina

Student Research Assistant: Mary Soike ’13

In this research, a comprehensive and comparative analysis of consumer and farmer profiles (demographics, attitudes, practices) was performed among a selection of different farmers’ markets across the Upstate of South Carolina. The assessment of these profiles provides a better understanding of the state of the local foods movement here in the Upstate, but also perhaps, as importantly, helps identify underrepresented local demographic groups within these marketplaces. The results of this study are being integrated into three courses: Sustainability of Natural Resources, Introduction to Environmental Sciences, and Introduction to Sustainability Science, all of which have an extensive section on agro-ecosystems that covers among other topics the local foods movement.

Mary Alice Kirkpatrick, English – Tréme Ecologies: Land and Literature in New Orleans

Places and their identities, as cultural geographers have taught us, are characterized by remarkable fluidity. Perhaps nowhere is the fluid, interactive sense of place and its interchanges made more evident than in New Orleans, Louisiana. And it is precisely here, in this variable, flowing location that African American poet Brenda Marie Osbey insistently places herself and her poetry. For her fellowship, Dr. Kirkpatrick traveled to New Orleans to study the rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Katrina, a topic on which Osbey has written and spoken widely. Dr. Kirkpatrick is using her work as to design the capstone for Black Cultures in the Americas, which is an interdisciplinary course focused on New Orleans and sustainability.

David Shaner, Philosophy - Experiencing CONNECTION: The Place of Peace and Sustainability

The Place of Peace at Furman University is an authentic Japanese Buddhist temple that has been completely dismantled piece by piece and reconstructed outside Japan. This has never been done before, and in this fellowship, Dr. Shaner set out to document the history and story of this unlikely project at Furman. In his book, Living with the Wind at your Back, Dr. Shaner will articulate the uses of The Place of Peace to foster the experience of deep connection with the environment, and how a monistic, nature-centered world view (ecocentrism) is related to the topics of 1) sustainability, 2) environmental stewardship, and 3) personal/spiritual development. Dr. Shaner uses the documented history in his classes, as they all visit the Place of Peace throughout the semester.

Joni Tevis, English - Stuffed Turkeys and Wax Flowers: Southern Appalachia in dialogue with the American Museum of Natural History

In her fellowship, Dr. Tevis researched the techniques and methods used by artists in the creation of dioramas, or habitat displays, and visited them at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. She then visited some of the field sites upon which those dioramas were based, evaluating the differences in the site as represented a century ago. Culminating in an essay, which appears in Dr. Tevis’ new book manuscript, she unravels the connections between dioramas and the natural world that they represent. Dr. Tevis will use her fellowship experiences to continue to create innovative field assignments for her writing courses.

2011 Faculty Sustainability Research Fellows

Bruce Clemens, Business and Accounting - Relationships among investments in potable water and sustainability, economic development and health in the developing world

Student Research Assistant: Stuart Smith ’13

Building on research that students in Dr. Clemens’ May Experience course in Guatemala began, this study investigated drivers of international organizations to choose to work in certain communities and ways of managing sustainability investments so that rural communities benefit both economically and in terms of public health.

Brandon Inabinet, Communications Studies
Sustainable Citizenship and Advocacy Education

In teaching Furman’s Advocacy course, Dr. Inabinet realized a gap in the literature–sustainable advocacy and how to teach it. The Sustainable Citizenship project takes concepts from Communication Studies regarding civic education and retools them to fit a philosophy of sustainability. The final research and article examines the results of teaching students civic advocacy centered on sustainability, testing especially students’ attitudes toward sustainability.

Laura Thompson, Biology
Use of Invasive Plant Species for Natural Dyes, and Establishment of an Economic Botany Garden at Furman University

Student Research Assistant: Sarah Lyons ’13

The idea for this project originated from Dr. Thompson’s Applied Plant Science course, as she was constantly seeking plant material to create dyes and fiber for her students to use. This project identified invasive species for plant dyes in order to aid in protection of native plants and help control local invasive species. The project also established an economic botany garden in front of the greenhouse on campus, adjacent to Townes Center for Science. This garden is used by students in the Biology department with special emphasis in the Biology 401: Applied Plant Science class.


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