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Scholars present research to increase sustainability

<p class="p1">Rebecca Cook, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences senior, presents her research findings about transportation sustainability at the George H. Cook Honor Scholars program held yesterday at the Cook/Douglass lecture hall.</p>

Rebecca Cook, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences senior, presents her research findings about transportation sustainability at the George H. Cook Honor Scholars program held yesterday at the Cook/Douglass lecture hall.

Students worked for three semesters to conduct original scientific research, much of which is related to ways Rutgers can be made more environmentally friendly.

Funded by the Department of Landscape Architecture, the G.H. Cook Scholars program is a three-semester independent research project conducted by the George H. Cook committee, according to the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences website. The research is conducted with the guidance of faculty. 

Students presented their research findings yesterday at the Cook/ Douglass lecture hall. They prepare and plan their projects during the second semester of their junior year and continue to work on it during the summer and throughout their senior year.

The three students, all School of Environmental and Biological Sciences seniors, had to create a plan to make the Cook/Douglass campus more sustainable and usable. Rebecca Cook focused on storm water, Jessie Woods focused on transportation and Michelle Hartmann focused on social space.

The program is designed to develop interest in scientific research or other independent and creative studies, according to the website. 

Holly Nelson, an instructor in the Department of Landscape Architecture, said the program includes a weekly lecture by three of the George H. Cook Scholars Program undergraduate thesis students. 

“They are working on three strands of a Cook/Douglass campus sustainability plan — storm water, transportation and social space design,” she said.

 Hartmann and Cook presented their findings yesterday.

With the constant running of buses, inevitable environmental problems crop up, Cook said. Transportation is a major use of energy and burns petroleum, which is a main cause of air pollution and major contributor to global warming. 

Cook said she conducted her thesis on transportation sustainability. 

Her project discussed how to make better use of transportation around Cook/Douglass. Her premise combined the basic needs of individual safety, human usability and ecosystem health. 

“Sustainability must be affordable and combine all the basic needs of social, environmental, and economical aspects of Rutgers campus life,” she said.

Her findings united different premises of Rutgers transportation on campus, she said.

She completed an in-depth study of the classification and usage of roads based on traffic, biking and human interaction. Cook found that the most used areas on the Cook/Douglass campus could be reached by a five-minute walk, eliminating the need for inter-campus busing.

Instead of changing the physical transportation system at Rutgers, Cook would rather see a cultural shift, where students want to walk.

“Yes, the buses will always be available, but walking is more efficient than taking a bus when maneuvering around Cook/Douglass,” she said.

Hartmann introduced her presentation with the question of whether social space can increase the sustainability of the Rutgers campus.

She said all students make use of different aspects of the Cook/Douglass campus, and Hartmann said those aspects could be improved.

Her studies found that 97 percent of student hot spots, or the most used areas of the campus, were outside. She found that Passion Puddle is the social space most used by students.

She conducted the rest of her research to discover why that is and how other spaces can be made to be more useful. 

“Making and designing spaces compatible for all students with very different lives is important,” Hartmann said. 

The challenging aspect of her research is the fact that Cook/Douglass is an old campus and thus hard to change, she said.

The scholars hope their research can influence the campus. 

“Cook/Douglas is set in their ways,” Hartmann said. “Remember when the F bus a few years back changed route and did not go to Red Oak Lane? The students were in uproar, even though it is quicker and more efficient to just walk from another stop.”

A previous version of this article did not indicate that School of Environmental and Biological Sciences senior Jessie Woods was a student scholar.

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