As a residential liberal arts college, Luther places its primary emphasis on teaching, not research. Thus climate change and sustainability research has not been a primary emphasis in our climate action planning. We do, however, place significant emphasis on involving undergraduates in research and must work to increase opportunities for student and faculty research related to sustainability. What follows are several ways Luther College will promote more research related to sustainability and climate change:
Grants: The College must use internal and external resources to increase support for sustainability research. Specifically, Luther should support at least two summer research projects related to environmental sustainability, as was done in the past. Past research projects have contributed to at least two books and multiple articles, posters, and scholarly presentations. Luther will also aggressively seek external grants to support faculty pursuing research in this area.
Faculty Development: In addition to promoting greater integration of sustainability within the curriculum, faculty development should also stimulate interest in new research opportunities. For example, The Oneota Project, a summer faculty development program focused on place and sustainability, should serve as a catalyst for promoting sustainability research as well as new approaches to teaching.
Environmental Studies: More than 20 faculty from across the disciplines are affiliated with Luther’s interdisciplinary environmental studies program. Many of these faculty are actively engaged in research related to climate change and sustainability. The College will continue to investigate ways to encourage and support research in environmental studies, including following through on plans to fund an endowed chair in environmental studies.
Center for Sustainable Communities: This Center will promote opportunities for faculty in business, political science, economics, and other disciplines to engage in research focused on fostering a move toward sustainability within our region. The Center will nurture partnerships between students and faculty on campus and organizations in the region to encourage applied sustainability research with direct relevance to our region.
Natural Lands: Luther’s 1,000 acre campus includes hundreds of acres of natural lands that provide a plethora of research opportunities for students and faculty in biology, environmental studies, and other disciplines. The College recently placed 130 acres of floodplain land along the Upper Iowa River into a permanent conservation easement. This move not only preserves this key habitat but also provides unique opportunities for research on ecological restoration and carbon sequestration.