Skip to main
University-wide Navigation

2016 Sustainability Challenge Grant Recipients

Building an Inclusive Community by Empowering Youth through Sustainability Education ($27,455) Project Abstract 

Creating Tree Ambassadors Project Abstract

Establishing Native Forest on Surface Mines Project Abstract

From SEE(E)D to (S)STEM Project Abstract

Point of Departure Project Abstract

Solar Tractor Project Abstract

The Arboretums Children's Garden Patio and Wet Meadow Demonstration Area Project Abstract


2016 Project Abstracts


Building an Inclusive Community by Empowering Youth through Sustainability Education - Awarded $27,455 

The Smithtown Neighborhood of downtown Lexington has been undergoing gentrification for some time now due to the expansion of Transylvania University and establishment of multiple new small businesses and nonprofit organizations. The settling of new families in the area has contributed to a shift in the demographics of what was previously considered a low-income and impoverished community. The Breadbox, located on the corner of Jefferson Street and West 6th Street, is home to multiple nonprofit organizations that have worked effortlessly to bridge the inclusion gap that exists between the settled community and its new members. We believe that implementing a program that incorporates sustainable agriculture, experiential education, and community education could bridge the opportunity and inclusion gap that exists in the neighborhood simultaneously. The Youth Empowerment Through Sustainability Education Program will consist of three components: sustainability and sustainable agricultural education, applied community engagement through community awareness and community service, and professional development and personal succession planning of each participant. The multidisciplinary components of this program contribute simultaneously to the economic vitality, ecological integrity, and social equity pillars of sustainability. This project will increase the ecological integrity of the youth through teaching about the importance of sustainability and how to practice it regularly in their daily lives through the sustainability education component. We are contributing to economic vitality by providing personal and professional development education, connecting students with organizations that provide youth of this demographic with resources and opportunities to gain organizational involvement experience, and resources to keep students engaged and concerned with their future success and the role their actions play in them building economically sustainable futures for themselves. Lastly we are contributing to social equity by engaging youth in community awareness and service opportunities that teach them the importance of community development.

Team members: Roger Brown, Agricultural Economics; Kristina Ricketts Community and Leadership Development; Thaiieasha Beard, Agricultural Biotechnology; Xavia Gantz, Retail Management and Tourism; Bryan Haines, Community and Leadership Development.

back to top



Creating Tree Ambassadors - Awarded $32,636 

Urban trees contribute substantially to ecological, economic, and social sustainability. However, at <17% canopy cover, the UK campus has less cover than Lexington (25%) which has much less than Cincinnati (39%). Founded in September 2014 and partially funded by a Sustainability Challenge Grant, the goals of the Urban Forest Initiative are to amplify the perception, value and function of the urban forest on campus and beyond. We created an interdisciplinary and collaborative working group of on- and off-campus professionals to impact outreach, operations, and academics with relevance to urban trees; developed a website to support urban tree education and outreach; created and piloted an Adopt-a-Tree program for K-college; and developed on-campus curricular linkages to engage students.

With these successes propelling us, we propose two novel pilot projects while enhancing ongoing efforts. First, working with local schools and organizations, we will pilot a community-based program of Tree Ambassadors to enhance awareness, appreciation, and ultimately the care, of our urban trees. Second, we will use the campus tree assessment as a springboard to engage the UK community in documenting tree status, health, and planting/site conditions, providing opportunities for students and ‘citizen scientists’ to make positive contributions to our campus tree canopy. Our project enhances sustainability by engaging diverse campus and local communities in urban tree care. The success of these Tree Ambassador projects will be measured in direct involvement of K-12 and UK students and community members, collection of urban tree data linked to enhanced tree care, and engagement with outreach mechanisms.

Final Report

Team Members: Mary Arthur, Forestry; Lynne Rieske-Kinney, Entomology; Nic Williamson, Forestry; Amanda Williams, Forestry; Ellen Crocker, Forest Health Restoration and Education Center; Jerry Hart, UK Physical Plant Grounds Department.

back to top




Establishing Native Forest on Surface Mines - Awarded $18,175 

Our proposed project will establish shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata) on a portion of the surface mined tract of Robinson Forest. Reforestation provides an opportunity to sequester carbon, providing a carbon offset for the university. Shortleaf pine is a species of concern across the Southeast; the species has declined due to a combination of poor management, overharvesting, pests and pathogens. On reclaimed surface mines, native forest establishment is hindered by adaptability and colonization of non-native species. Migration and establishment of southern pine species in this region due to climate change is of particular concern on these disturbed sites. This project will help restore this species as well as provide habitat for bird, bat, and invertebrate species of concern that rely on shortleaf pine. To understand the carbon sequestration benefits of shortleaf pine, we will assess baseline carbon levels in aboveground biomass and soil. We will also examine the ability of a native pine to compete with migratory and non-native southern pine species. A long-term project goal could include wildlife utilization of shortleaf pine habitat. In addition to ecological benefits, shortleaf pine is an important timber species. This project will be a partnership of among the UK Appalachian Center, UK Department of Forestry, and Green Forests Work. Green Forests Work engages university students and students from local communities in volunteering at tree planting events, providing important outreach opportunities and a sense of accomplishment, ownership, and ecological responsibility.

Final Report

Team Members: Chris Barton, Forestry and Appalachian Center; Kenton Sena, Forestry; Michael French, Green Forests Work.

back to top




From SEE(E)D to (S)STEM - Awarded $25,184 

In this project, UK science, engineering, entrepreneurship, education & design – SEE(E)D – students, faculty and staff will work together to develop a system for the production of didactic tools to be used in outreach efforts designed to promote sustainability, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics – (S)STEM – to underserved K-12 students. This will be done utilizing as a case study a game that has been conceived and used to teach K-12 students about complex and often misunderstood energy and sustainability issues. While the science behind this game and the relationship between the latter and the K-12 curriculum are solid, the presentation can be improved to make the game more effective. We will improve the game by having educators and designers strengthen the graphical and pedagogical aspects of the game to ultimately facilitate and deepen the understanding of K-12 students of the important sustainability issues presented. In addition, this effort will be made sustainable from an economic standpoint through a business plan – to be developed by UK student entrepreneurs – in which any profits from the game constituting the case study can be reinvested in the development of additional didactic tools, thus translating this work into a sustainable model through which other tools can be developed. Notably, this work will also serve to advance social equity not only because the K-12 institutions involved have high percentages of minority and/or free and reduced lunch students, but also because minority engineering students will be involved in taking the didactic tool to be developed to these K-12 institutions.

Final Report

Team Members: Eduardo Santillian-Jimenez, UK CAER; Rebekah Radtke, College of Design-Department of Interiors; Margaret Mohr-Schoeder, College of Education-Department of STEM Education.  

back to top




Point of Departure - Awarded $49,991 

The College of Design (CoD) & The Center for Applied Energy Research (CAER) continue on a path to construct critically placed high-performance transit shelters—plugging into campus transportation to physically manifest the University of Kentucky’s sustainability and transportation agendas. Our designs integrate sustainable site strategies, context specificity, high-performance architectural skins, sustainable materials, photovoltaic systems, storm water management, high-efficiency lighting and infographic displays to reimagine what a shelter can be. This project will contribute to a “Sustainable Campus Exemplar” [1] that positions the University of Kentucky as a standard bearer for the Commonwealth’s energy infrastructure and sustainability programs.
The UKSCG Committee funded the project last year, allowing us to deliver on our stated goals – plus much more.  We analyzed the campus and integrated our analysis with the master plans, designed new graphics for the system, designed four site-specific shelters, constructed a solar mock-up, started a publication and presented this work to stakeholders and President Capilouto.  We are in dialogue with UK Administration earlier than imagined and are now in position to deliver our first constructed shelter.  While there is likely to be a budget for construction, it will not be enough to ensure all opportunities for sustainability in the design are realized.  This grant will catalyze the integration of sustainability and educational aspects within the design as it transitions toward real world implementation, leveraging the impact of campus research to engage students in a dialogue about sustainability, alternate transportation, the value of design, and the possibilities of collaborative research at UK.

Final Report

Team Members: Martin Summers, College of Design-School of Architecture; Michael Wilson, Center for Applied Energy Research; Regina Hannemann, College of Engineering-Electrical Engineering; Owen Duross, College of Design-School of Architecture; Thompson Burry, College of Design-School of Architecture.

back to top




Solar Powered Tractor - Awarded $25,000 

The end result of this project will be the ability to produce vegetables for the UK Horticulture Research Farm’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) ( program using only solar power for field machine work. Switching from fossil fuel diesel to electrical energy would greatly increase energy efficiency and would enable utilization of sustainable sources like solar. This project will require two parts: a PV solar system and a tractor capable of using this electricity.
The BAE department has constructed a small 20-horsepower diesel-electric hybrid tractor that will be switched to all electric. This tractor will be charged using energy generated from a solar system to be built on the UK Horticulture Research Farm. The CSA will use this machine to produce crops using only solar energy. Excess solar energy will be used to offset other energy demands on the farm.

Students (BAE/EE 599) will design the PV solar system. Student employees and graduate students in the BAE department will switch the tractor to all electric and install the charging system. Student apprentices (SAG397 Apprenticeship in Sustainable Agriculture) and employees on the CSA will use the tractor to produce crops. Finally, the shareholders in the CSA will have produce made using solar energy.

Success of this system can be measured by the amount of produce grown using only solar energy for field work. Other measurable outcomes include the energy production of the solar system, operating time and efficiency of an electrically powered tractor, and farm demonstration visitors.

Team Members: Joseph Dvorak, Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering; Mark Williams, Horticulture; Don Colliver, Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering.

back to top




The Arboretums Children's Garden Patio and Wet Meadow Demonstration Area - Awarded $21,000 

The Arboretum was established as a place to learn, serve the community, and demonstrate research on the environment and conservation issues for Lexington residents and beyond. As an experiential education feature of the Arboretum, the Kentucky Children’s Garden (KCG) is uniquely positioned to demonstrate these principles.

This project’s partners propose to use in-kind services, along with funding from the Sustainability Challenge Grant, to design and construct a wet meadow and permeable ADA accessible patio entrance for the newly constructed bathroom facilities near the KCG. This area will infiltrate rainwater and enhance the treatment train process already established in The Arboretum. The project will require a new landform design, seed and established plant material, tree protection, recycled pavers, and educational signage. The process for design and construction will require the expertise of multiple participants: (1) pre and post-construction data collection, design and construction detailing by students in the Landscape Architecture program; (2) technical leadership regarding hydrology and plant selection and establishment methods by faculty and staff in Landscape Architecture, Horticulture and the Arboretum; (3) propagation of plant material by the UK Horticulture Club; (4) construction by the UK Student Chapter American Society of Landscape Architects, Arboretum staff and PPD; and (5) planting and seeding by the UK-SCASLA, Horticulture Club, and Arboretum volunteers with guidance from faculty and Arboretum staff.

The result will be functional, beautiful and an educational demonstration that uses ecological principles to manage water in the landscape while creating habitat and a pleasing aesthetic.

Final Report

Christopher Sass, Landscape Architecture; Molly Davis, The Arboretum; Richard Durham, Extension Horticulture; Mark Williams, Horticulture; George Riddle, UK Physical Plant Division Grounds Department; Jesse Dahl, The Arboretum; Emma Trester-Wilson, The Arboretum; Ned Crankshaw, Landscape Architecture; Reginald Souleyrette, Civil Engineering.

back to top