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Climate Change Research, Student Sustainability Experiences Showcased at UAlbany

Students and scientists from the ACCION project, including UAlbany Associate Professor Mathias Vuille (front right, wearing blue cap) conducted research this summer in South America on glacier melt.

ALBANY, N.Y. (October 29, 2012) – From tropical glacier melt in the Andes to flood-ravaged New Orleans, changing climate patterns have had a dramatic impact on communities all over the world. Recently, scientists and students at the University at Albany presented "a virtual field trip" to highlight their research and studies on climate change and sustainability.

"Our goal is to heighten campus awareness about the issue of climate change and its impact in other parts of the world through the eyes of our own faculty and students,” said Mary Ellen Mallia, director of the Office of Environmental Sustainability at UAlbany.

UAlbany students engaged in service learning experiences all over the world have had a first-person perspective on the effects of climate change. Mallia hopes their experiences inspire other students into action, whether it be a high engagement activity, like joining a service learning trip, or making changes in their daily routines that are more environmentally friendly, and to have a thought provoking dialogue on the importance of undertaking meaningful experiences while travelling.

Highlighting the virtual fieldtrip were slides documenting glacier retreat in the Andes. UAlbany Associate Professor of Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences Mathias Vuille shared the slides and described his current project, partnering with the Andean Climate Change Interamerican Observatory Network (ACCION) to conduct capacity building for climate change adaption in South America.

This past summer, Vuille worked in the field discussing various measurement techniques with students and glaciologists from all Andean countries: Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. The goal is to study aspects of current and future climate change and glacier retreat in the Andes, which has a direct impact on the water resources of communities throughout the region.

Vuille was accompanied UAlbany Ph.D. Oscar Chimborazo at Tuesday’s presentation. Chimborazo, who is originally from Ecuador, came to the U.S. to work with Vuille on the project. Graduate student Juan Sulca from Peru, is also working with Vuille on the ACCION Project. With Vuille’s guidance, the students will work on issues related to climate change impacts in their home countries, related to glaciers or water resources.

UAlbany students have also engaged in study abroad opportunities where they have gained greater insight into the global impact of climate change, including:

  • Clare Gaffey, a junior at UAlbany from Albany, N.Y.,  spent spring 2012 semester at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad (DIS) in Copenhagen, Demark. Gaffey also spent time in Greenland, home to 10 percent of the world's total reserves of fresh water through its 1,500-mile long ice sheet. Scientists remained concerned about impact of rising global temperatures on the massive ice sheet, second only to the Antarctic Ice Sheet.
  • Elizabeth Maxwell, a junior from Buffalo, N.Y., studied at the Paris-Sorbonne University in France during the spring 2012 semester. Maxwell spent her time learning about environmental sustainability resources abroad.
  • Christine Preble, a Ph.D. candidate in cultural anthropology from Clifton Park, N.Y., is conducting dissertation research about the social and economic sustainability of cruise ship mass tourism in Cozumel, Mexico.
  • Stephen Oby, Jr., from Niskayuna N.Y., who received his MSW from UAlbany’s School of Social Welfare in May 2012, recently completed a service learning experience in New Orleans, which is still dealing with the fallout from Hurricane Katrina in 2005.