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2018 Sustainability Challenge Grant Recipients

Sustainability Guidelines for Historic Campus Buildings Project Abstract

Engaging Elementary Students in Horticulture Project Abstract

Developing a KY Master Naturalist Program Project Abstract

Root to Branches Project Abstract

S.KYBLUE at the UK Organic Unit Project Abstract

Teaching Sustainability + Teaching Sustainably Project Abstract 


2018 Project Abstracts



Sustainability Guidelines for Historic Campus Buildings ($32,715)

This project will direct College of Design faculty expertise to Facilities Management’s concerns with the historic buildings in campus’ core through detailed analyses of six buildings. The subject buildings will be determined through consultation with facilities staff before work begins. Based on conversations University Architect Warren Denny, they are likely to include Lafferty Hall, McVey Hall, Kastle Hall, Scovell Hall, Miller Hall, and the Margaret I. King Memorial Library. All are expected to undergo substantial renovations in the near future. Investigations will generate: (1) guidelines concerning treatment, maintenance, and upkeep; (2) recommendations regarding potential improvements to reduce energy costs, comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and achieve more efficient usage; (3) identification of near‐ and long‐term needs; and (4) a database of comparable buildings that have been rehabilitated to serve modern needs and that meet sustainability standards. Recommendations will based on detailed historical and case study research; assessment of current conditions; and the collection and analysis of data reflecting environmental conditions and energy use. This project will provide information Facilities Management personnel needs to make informed decisions about maintenance, operations, and adaptive design. Keeping existing buildings operational and maintaining their historical character meets several sustainability goals. “Recycling” this existing infrastructure, increases efficiency, reduces operating costs, and avoids the costly, carbon‐intensive sequence associated with demolition and new construction. Historic buildings possess a quality of construction generally not seen in new buildings. Moreover, they are markers of tradition, evidencing institutional longevity and growth, and underscoring UK’s role as the Commonwealth’s flagship higher education institution.

Team members: Julie Riesenweber, Daniel Vivian, Doug Appler and Robert Travis Rose from Historic Preservation; Chris Birkentall, Interiors; Brent Sturlaugson, Architecture

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Engaging Elementary Students in Horticulture ($19,272) 

The UKREC Botanical Garden is a 5-acre setting located at the University of Kentucky-Research and Education Center, Princeton. It was created in 1980 to evaluate and select superior environmentally sustainable plants for enhancing Kentucky's environments and landscapes. The garden is visited by master gardeners, extension county agents, students and residents of nearby communities. Being an enclave in a rural region, with limited resources; the garden has the potential as a learning center to teach science based knowledge and outreach. This project will offer hands-on activities for fourth and fifth grade students of Caldwell County and Lyon County Schools. Teaching will be focused on plant diversity in different categories (natives, invasive, ornamentals, small-fruit crops, and vegetables), insect-plant and plant-soil interactions, and the importance of environmental protection for a sustainable future. Science teachers will work with us to prepare, organize and deliver planned activities. These events will be scheduled in March- May, and August-October to coincide with the school year. The students will be aware of how plants affect their lives and vice versa. Extension agents and master gardeners will collaborate during the students’ visits. Also, training classes will be offered to enhance Master Gardeners’ knowledge. The botanical garden scenery offers students an open classroom to learn through a direct contact with the different stages of plant development and interactions with its surrounding. We expect to foster scientific interest and curiosity in elementary students’ minds to explore and protect their environments and be active executor of demonstration gardens in their schools. 

Team members: Zenaida Viloria, Winston Dunwell, and Daniel Becker from Horticulture; Ric Bessin and Raul Villanueva, Entomology; Edwin Ritchey, Plant and Soil Science; Amanda Martin, Regulatory Services

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KY Master Naturalist Program

We propose piloting a Master Naturalist program for Kentucky with UK students that will then be expanded across the state. The mission of the Kentucky Master Naturalist (KNM) program will be to develop a community of well-informed citizen-volunteers to advance education, research, and outreach efforts dedicated to the conservation and management of Kentucky’s natural resources and areas. Kentucky is one of only five states without such a program and the creation of the KNMs will help fulfill a sustainability need.

Specifically, this project will:

1. Develop the KMN curriculum

2. Develop a KMN website and social media presence

3. Train two cohorts of KMNs (one UK student, one UK students and community)

4. Develop a statewide network for the KMN program that helps connect trained citizen-volunteers with communities and organizations in need

We envision training two cohorts in this initial phase of the proposed KMN program. Individuals in each cohort will attend 40 hours of classroom and field instruction, 40 hours of approved volunteer service, and 8 hours of advanced training. The first cohort will consist of UK students participating through a for-credit course. The second cohort will target community members as well as students, and will be open to all, regardless of prior science or environmental training, with diversity sought out and encouraged. Modeled after the highly successful Master Gardener program, the KMN program will utilize the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service (UK CES) network to gain and maintain a presence at the county-level. 

Team members: Carmen Agouridis and Donald Stamper, Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering; Ellen Crocker, Laurie Thomas, and Matt Springer, Forestry; Wayne Sanderson, Public Health; Amanda Gumbert, Agriculture and Natural Resources; Chris Barton, Appalachian Center/Forestry; Corinne Belton, Shelby County Extension Service; Wayne Long, Jefferson County Extension Service

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Roots to Branches

Urban trees provide a key vehicle for addressing sustainability issues in cities, but only if people champion and build on those connections. UFI has successfully raised awareness of the connections between sustainability and urban trees through outreach, education, research, and service, working collaboratively with UK students, staff, and faculty to engage campus and Lexington communities. UFI’s success is evident in signs that urban forestry is increasingly embedded on campus, including the development of student organizations, sustained collaborations through service learning events, and the incorporation of urban forestry content into UK courses. Here we propose three new projects that build on these successes with new, substantive, and potentially transformative programs:

  • Re-envision UK as a living-laboratory by training students to serve on a Collegiate Arborist Team (TreeCATs) to conduct campus tree care and mapping, extended to local neighborhoods and a KY town, thus enhancing tree-based ecosystem services.
  • Extend the self-guided mindfulness tree walks into a series of in-person mindfulness programs in partnership with UK Integrative Medicine and Health (IMH) and Nursing for faculty, staff, students and patients on campus and K-12 schools.
  •  Develop and replicate UFI tree campus models for successful urban forestry programming to college/university and K-12 campuses through development of a Tree Campus Toolkit coupled with direct collaboration with individual campuses.

Successes will be measured in direct involvement of UK students (TreeCATs) and community members (mindfulness programs), increased awareness of UK’s Tree Campus USA status, and the replication of successful UFI programming by other campuses and communities. 

Mary Arthur, Nic Williamson, and Grace Coy, Forestry and Natural Resources; Lynne Rieske-Kinney, Entomology; Brianna Damron, Nursing; Ellen Crocker, Forest Health Resource and Education Center; Stacy Borden, PPD Grounds; Connie Jennings and Ann Powell, Integrative Medicine

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S.KYBLUE at UK Organic Unit

This multidisciplinary project will relocate the blue Solar House from its Farm Road campus site to the Organic Farming Unit (OFU) on the SW corner of Nicholasville and Man O War Roads. The award-winning blue house ( was built to compete in the 2009 Solar Decathlon International Competition in Washington DC. blue is optimized for

energy and water efficiency ( Since its inception, blue has been used as the visitor’s center for the FEI World Equestrian Games, and as a learning laboratory to study energy generation. Once relocated and all utilities are connected and grid-tied, the house will substantially contribute to the reduction of the carbon footprint of the farm through its 13-kW photovoltaic system, and be used to combine learning with living. This integration will demonstrate how technological solutions can be used to optimize efficiency in home design, and will

directly embrace the three pillars of sustainability by: reducing energy costs through solar power and geothermal climate control; reducing negative environmental impacts by embracing alternative and environmentally sound technologies; and by expanding awareness of these technologies through student educational activities and extension programming. Area stakeholder and student participation will be woven into each part of this project and will include classes from Architecture,

Landscape Architecture, Biosystems and Agriculture Engineering, and Sustainable Agriculture, working collaboratively under the direction of the Challenge-funded faculty team. Measurable outcomes will include: lower electric bills, student and stakeholder learning, and a robust data set documenting the functionality of each house component.

Team members: Mark Williams, Horticulture; Greg Luhan, Architecture; Joe Dvorak, Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering; Carolina Segura, Landscape Architecture

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Teaching Sustainability + Teaching Sustainably

In November 2016, Provost Tracy created the Faculty Sustainability Council (FSC) and gave it a three-fold charge: (1) review sustainability related academic policies and culture at our benchmarks, (2) identify our areas of strength and weakness relative to the academic aspects of sustainability, and (3) propose short, medium and long run goals. The proposal for this project stems from these three charges. While the University of Kentucky has made great strides to increase campus sustainability in its operations, the advances on the curricular front are murkier. The FSC has discovered there is little awareness amongst UK faculty about sustainability curricula at UK, who is teaching such curricula, or how this is taught. A need exists for the creation of a network of faculty which can harness the native wealth of talent and information throughout the University and which can facilitate the exchange of ideas and practices about sustainability. Aiming to untap this potential, this project will create a sustainability pedagogies workshop of participating faculty from across the University and at a variety of scales across campus. This workshop will be both interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary. However, beyond merely teaching about sustainability,

the workshop will attempt to push the needle by focusing on the ways which faculty can implement sustainable methods of teaching into their curricula. Hence the aim is to maximize understanding of sustainability by modelling it at the classroom level through a network of faculty to act as agents of change by transforming educational practices across the colleges. Accepting applications through February 12, 2018.

Team members: Helen Turner, Interiors; Bob Sandmeyer, Philosophy 

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