Research in Environmental Sustainability

Carter Pavlonnis '21 prepares to mount an interpretive sign along the Joffray Trail.

From creating interpretive trail signs to filming a short documentary on food waste, five Loomis Chaffee students used the campus this year as their laboratory to complete research projects in environmental sustainability.

In its third year, the Science Department’s year-long Guided Research Projects in Environmental Sustainability course was shortened to a five-week intensive program due to the school’s modified schedule this year. Guided by Jeff Dyreson, a science teacher and associate director of the Alvord Center for Global & Environmental Studies, the students worked hard to see their projects through. In November 2020, they met with Jeff to begin developing what would ultimately become their final projects, and they laid the groundwork for the projects in the months before the start of the course in Spring Term 1.

“I give a big credit to these five students,” Jeff said. “This is a unique course that we offer here. It allows students to leave the classroom and venture out into the professional realm of working, and all of them were up to the task.”

Some of the students helped to advance efforts to solve previously identified environmental concerns on campus, and others tackled new issues. Funded by Gilchrist Environmental Fellowships, the student projects were shared within the community and will continue to be highlighted in the fall.

Focusing on sustainable planting practices, senior Biani Ebie adopted a project started last year by Clare Wilbraske '20. She continued the work of planting trees and shrubs consistent with local native biodiversity around Loomis' solar energy field. Biani also began constructing a scale model of the solar energy field, spending her final days as a Loomis Chaffee senior training the underclassmen who will continue to build the model next year. 

Biani Ebie '21 planting native trees and shrubs.

Senior Carter Pavlonnis constructed interpretive trail signs and mounted them on the Joffray Trial, which borders the Connecticut River on campus. The signs feature information on river-floodplain ecology and the types of species, plants, and trees that are native to the surrounding area. In collaboration with the Nature Conservancy, Carter also created signs promoting the restoration of elm trees and their importance to our floodplains. Head of School Sheila Culbert lent her birding expertise to his final sign by sharing her photos of bald eagles, great blue herons, and other birds she has captured while exploring the trail.

Junior Ryan Fortani and senior Pedro Arellano teamed up to continue a carbon footprint analysis of Loomis Chaffee that was begun last year. With the help of the University of New Hampshire's Sustainability Indicator Management and Analysis Platform online tool, the pair expanded Loomis’ carbon footprint to include information on-campus dining services. As a senior in the fall, Ryan plans to promote the carbon footprint report.

Senior Charlie Morrison filmed and edited The Trash Documentary, a short film on food waste in the dining hall and the composting programs on campus. Through his research, Charlie found that composted food waste from Loomis eventually becomes clean energy that powers 700 homes in Southington, Conn. Ultimately, Charlie hopes that his documentary will bring the school community’s attention to the importance of sorting food into the correct bins after meals.

With an increase in student interest, the school plans to offer the Guided Research Projects in Environmental Sustainability course again next year with hopes to expand it into two sections, bumping up the course’s threshold to six to eight environmentally-minded students.