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2019 Sustainability Challenge Grant Recipients

Improving Bicycle Infrastructure Using SPIN Bike-Share Trip Data Project Abstract

Nature Playscape and Native Landscape at the Child Development Center of the Bluegrass Project Abstract

Just Food: Engaging UK in Racially Equitable Food Systems Development Project Abstract

Tree CATS Project Abstract

Sustainability Module for First Year Experience Project Abstract

Organic Waste Composting Pilot Project  Project Abstract 

Kentucky Integrated Biorefinery Project Abstract 


2019 Project Abstracts



Improving BIcycle Infrastructure Using Spin Bike Data ($27,500)

Bicycles as a transport mode experienced an increase in the US recently, both as the number of bicycle trips taken and on their modal share of total trips. It has been speculated, that the availability of bicycle-friendly infrastructure is one of the factors to stimulate  cycling. Transportation agencies are promoting bicycling as a serious alternative transportation option, since it provides health benefits and reduces carbon emissions and congestion. Reduced infrastructure funds and smaller transportation budgets of today have challenged transportation agencies to justify investments especially when they attempt to increase bicycling as transportation mode. It is therefore imperative to develop an understanding of bicycle travel demand in order to allow agencies to identify where improvements are needed and develop a systematic priority list of enhancements that could improve bicycling conditions. The recent partnering of the University of Kentucky (UK) with the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government (LFUCG) in bringing a bike-share program to Lexington provides a unique opportunity to examine travel patterns and identify bicycle travel demand in the vicinity of the UK campus. The proposed study will examine available travel log data to identify bicycle travel demand and identify  redominant routes that cyclists use with a goal of comparing this demand to current infrastructure to identify needs in order to increase bicycling as a transportation mode. The anticipated outcome will be an infrastructure priority list for improving the existing bicycle network. Students from Civil Engineering and Landscape Architecture will work closely in a studio course as part of this program.

Team members: Nic Stamatiadis - Civil Engineering, Carolina Segura Bell - Landscape Architecture, Eric Green - KY Transportation Center

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Nature Playscape and Native Landscape at the Child Development Center of the Bluegrass ($36,000)

This project builds upon a student’s (Thomas McKinley, BLA 2018) capstone studio project completed in the spring of 2018 that engaged stakeholders from the Child Development Center of the Bluegrass (CDCB) in a participatory design process for a nature playscape. CDCB is located at 290 Alumni Drive, west of the intersection between Alumni and Commonwealth Way. The current team is comprised of CDCB, UK’s Colleges of Agriculture, Food and Environment, Education, Design, Arboretum and Physical Plant Division, and the Children at Play Network. This team will engage a network of nature play stakeholders, develop a plan for CDCB’s nature playscape, diversify plantings on the CDCB site, coordinate volunteer-driven construction and planting efforts, and conduct research to evaluate the impact of the project on connections with nature, levels of physical activity, and CDCB’s child development assessment measures.

This project will expand CDCB’s spatial capacity to support accessible, engaging and sensory-rich play, a key component of healthy child development, and increase physical activity. At the same time, it will increase CDCB’s ‘natural’ capacity with a native landscape that supports richer play and more diverse opportunities for physical activity while increasing connections between children, staff and nature. Replacing lawn areas with native plants will reduce maintenance requirements while improving the ecological integrity and functioning of the site. The project will complement existing outdoor play spaces at CDCB, enhance connections with nature for tomorrow’s environmental stewards, and could be a model of more sustainable planting and maintenance approaches for other parts of UK’s campus.

Team members: ​Jordan Phemister, Adina Cox, Ned Crankshaw, and Chris Sass from Landscape Architecture; Rick Durham and Robert Geneve - Horticulture; Maureen Dreckman - Facilities Information Services; Heather Erwin and Marilyn Campbell- Kinesiology and Health Promotion; Alicia Fedewa - Psychology; Jackie Gallimore - Arboretum; Jerry Hart - PPD Grounds; Melissa Rue and Claude Stephens - Children at Play Network; Jason Scroggin - Architecture; Nikki Sexton and Heather Shaw - Child Development Center of the Bluegrass

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Just Food: Engaging UK in Racially Equitable Food Systems Development ($34,648)

A truly sustainable food system must be racially equitable from farm to fork. Structural racism impacts our current food system in myriad ways, profoundly affecting land ownership, distribution, and access and affordability. A growing body of research suggests that in order to effect racially-­‐equitable food systems change, this racialized inequality must be addressed head on. 

“Just Food” will offer a semester-­‐long series of programs, integrating undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and community members, to create space on UK’s campus for better understanding and interdisciplinary discussions of racialized inequality in our food system: 

  1.  A one-­‐day tour of farmer-­‐of-­‐color owned farms within the Commonwealth culminating in a farm-­‐to-­‐table dinner sourced from farmers of color.
  2.  A panel featuring farmers of color to highlight the diversity of local farmers involved in sustainable food systems work, and to provide space for discussion of racialized challenges in agriculture.
  3. A cooking demonstration and roundtable discussion with the authors of “Decolonize Your Diet,” who will discuss food justice and cultural knowledge of diet and health.
  4. Three summer mini-­‐grants for undergraduate students and faculty mentors to conduct research into racially-­‐equitable food systems development.
  5. A one-­‐day research symposium. Invited speakers (including mini-­‐grant awardees) will discuss the challenges and opportunities in creating racially equitable and sustainable food systems from the perspectives of production, distribution, and food access.

“Just Food” events will foment interdisciplinary discussion on UK’s campus about racialized inequality in our food system, and help generate strategies for racially-­‐equitable, sustainable, food systems development. 

Team members: ​Chhaya Kolavalli - Center for Equality and Social Justice; Christia Spears Brown - Psychology; Sarah Lyon - Anthropology; Lilian Brislen - Food Connection; Rosalind Harris and Karen Rignall - Community Leadership Development; Priscilla McCutcheon - Geography; Mia Farrell - Diversity and Cooperative Extension HR; Ashley Holt - Diversity; Auyanna Wright - MANNRS

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Tree CATS ($19,871)

Climate change is the most important environmental issue in a time when 83% of Americans live in cities.  Trees can serve as a stop-gap measure for limiting impacts while we move to a fossil-free future (Woods Hole Research Center). The Urban Forest Initiative (UFI) works to enhance the presence of urban trees and appreciation for their benefits. Here we build on successes previously funded through the SCG. Our 2019 project will train collegiate arborist teams, TreeCATs, to expand the reach of urban and community forestry (UCF) to engage new constituencies and landscapes. Campus engagement: UFI engages UK students and campus community in support of the urban tree canopy and awareness of sustainability benefits trees provide. We propose to train a new cohort of TreeCATs to conduct campus and community tree mapping focused on estimation of tree benefits. Tree mapping to quantify tree benefits: With UFI’s expertise with tree mapping, we will build connections between trees and environmental sustainability, quantitatively connecting mapped trees to reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. We propose to extend tree mapping to quantify connections to sustainability at several scales:  on campus, for Lexington street trees and greenspaces in collaboration with LFUCG Urban Forestry, in low-canopy neighborhoods in North Lexington, and farm trees at the urban-rural interface.

Tree Campus Toolkit: An UFI-created toolkit for UCF is being piloted in K-16 schools (2018 SCG). Here we propose creating tree mapping resources for K-12 Fayette County Public Schools (FCPS) that will promote outdoor learning and tree planting, and extend the Toolkit.

Team members: Mary Arthur, Nic Williamson, and Mikayla Rogers - Forestry; Lynne Rieske-Kinney - Entomology; Bryan Kist - NRES; Brianna Damron - Nursing; Stacy Borden - Arboriculture; Ellen Crocker - Forest Health Research Center

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Sustainability Module for First Year Experience ($11,000)

This project will develop a Sustainability module that can be utilized by instructors of UK 101 (~117 sections), GEN100 (~21 sections), HON101 and other first-semester courses. The module will use an active learning approach in introducing how to use the concept of Sustainability as a tool to examine a range of processes. Simple implementation will be a priority so as to make this module especially attractive to busy instructors. Development of the module will happen over the winter, with testing in the Spring semester, training for potential instructors over the summer, and full implementation in-class in the Fall 2019 semester. Success will be determined by instructor use of the module, instructor feedback, by the number of students impacted, and by a short comprehension quiz that will be administered at the end of the module.

Team members: Ali Rossi - Community Leadership Development; Helen Turner - Interiors; Ryan Voogt - History

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Organic Waste Composting Pilot Project ($36,094)

The College of Agriculture, Food and the Environment (CAFE) will partner with UK Dining and UK Physical Plant (Waste, Recycling, & Grounds) to begin composting cafeteria waste (both pre & post-consumer waste) for volume reduction and beneficial reuse at the existing livestock waste/mortality composting facility on the Little Research Center (LRC/Woodford County Farm). This pilot project will evaluate logistics, scaling, and the operational plan needed to develop a composting operation on the North Farm in approximately two years. The composting management team will determine equipment needs, personnel procedures, and specific logistics recommendations from this pilot project. 

The overarching goal for this project is to improve campus food system sustainability through a partnership between campus and the Central Kentucky Farms. Compost generated from cafeteria waste will be utilized as a land-applied soil amendment to meet crop nutrient demand and build soil health based on soil samples taken as a part of the farm’s nutrient management plan.

An additional deliverable will be the development of least one publication. This scholarly paper will share findings related to the logistics, scaling, and operational plan, as well as community and social considerations by describing the types of campus relationships and outreach/education needed to develop a project of this scale.

Team members: Steve Higgins - Animal and Environmental Compliance; Lee Moser - Cooperative Extension; Joanna Ashford - Recycling; Carolyn Gahn - UK Dining

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Kentucky Integrated Biorefinery ($34,887)

This interdisciplinary project will demonstrate an integrated approach to replace coal and petroleum-generated products with sustainable, biomass-based products. We will exhaustively utilize agricultural residues (corn stover and spent grains) generated by Kentucky’s bourbon industry and produce value-added products. First, the corn stover will be fractionated into cellulose and lignin using a technique developed by Jian Shi in Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering (BAE). The cellulose fraction will be transformed by Sue Nokes (BAE) via saccharification and fermentation into alcohol-based biofuels. The lignin component will be used by Mark Crocker (CAER) and Justin Mobley (Chemistry) for further oxidative depolymerization using a state-of-the-art catalyst system capable of producing high levels of monomeric products suitable for petroleum-based fine-chemical replacements. Residual oligomeric and polymeric materials will be used by Mark Meier (Chemistry) and Matt Weisenberger (CAER) for the production of high-value resins and carbon fibers/activated carbons, respectively. The grain fraction (harvested prior to delignification) of the biomass will be utilized by Buffalo Trace Distillery and distilled into bourbon. Prebiotic arabinoxylan oligosaccharides will be enzymatically isolated from the spent distiller’s grains by Rachel Schendel (Food Science), and the residual grains used as animal feed. This work will be completed as part of a series of capstone projects by a crew of undergraduate researchers from the Honors College, Food Science, and KY-WV LSAMP. Thus, a cradle-to-grave approach will be demonstrated with the potential to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, decrease our carbon footprint, and add economic value to under-utilized waste streams in Kentucky.

Team members: Justin Mobley, Mark Crocker, Bert Lynn, and Mark Meier - Chemistry; Rachel Schendel - Food Science; Seth Debolt - Horticulture; Sue Nokes and Jian Shi - Biosystems and Ag Engineering; Matt Weisenberger - CAER; Michelle Schardein - Business Officer

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