Rain barrels outside Greek houses to cut stream pollution and conserve water. A study to determine how on-campus forests contribute to the University of Maryland’s carbon neutrality goal. A plan for more sustainability education in UMD’s curriculum.

These are among the nine projects that have been awarded nearly $200,000 in Sustainability Fund grants this academic year by the Office of Sustainability to improve the environmental performance of the campus, develop opportunities for students to learn about sustainability and spur research to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create healthier local ecosystems. 

Since 2011, the Sustainability Fund, supported by student fees, has granted $2.8 million to 146 sustainability projects, averaging nearly $350,000 in grants in recent years. This year’s total was lower because half the Student Sustainability Fee, or $83,433, was refunded to students in Spring 2020 as part of the COVID-19 pandemic response. 

“The Sustainability Fund has been an invaluable resource to support student learning, research and operational improvements across the campus,” said Scott Lupin, director of the Office of Sustainability, “From learning about sustainable agriculture at Terp Farm, to better understanding water quality issues, as demonstrated by two of this year’s recipients, the fund has created new opportunities for students, faculty and staff to be part of a green university.”

One of the current year’s projects will monitor water quality improvements from the recently completed restoration of Campus Creek. The project’s leader, Associate Professor of Geology Sujay Kaushal, said that in addition to teaching students about environmental monitoring, it will provide a natural laboratory to learn about geology, chemistry and a range of other disciplines. 

“Working in these campus streams allows students to get their feet wet with science when they're deciding career paths,” he said. “They can also learn how we apply science and research to better manage water quantity and quality issues in the real world."

Two projects focus on trees on campus: one to help reforestation efforts for the campus arboretum, and another that will use the latest satellite remote sensing techniques to estimate and include land-based carbon sequestration into UMD's greenhouse gas inventory.

"The UMD Sustainability grant has provided our undergraduates students with the opportunity to further develop their skills in forest carbon science, remote sensing and GIS data processing, stakeholder engagement and science communication, among others,” said Rachel Lamb, a Ph.D. candidate and Flagship Fellow in the Department of Geographical Sciences. “And, as we partner with the Office of Sustainability and other relevant entities on and off campus, these students are gaining valuable experience in creating and advancing decision-relevant science.”

The following grants were approved for funding by the Student Sustainability Fund Review Committee and the University Sustainability Council: