Chris Renschler, UB associate professor of geography.
What are you doing to help UB become more
My course "Introduction to Soil Science" (Geo352) features
topics like integrated soil, water and nutrient management, and
household composting. Over the past few years, a small group of
interested undergraduate and graduate students in this course led
an independent effort to establish a community garden on the UB
North Campus. This year, the students' dream became a reality.
A very dedicated group is currently taking soil samples and
developing a strategy to manage several small garden plots just
north of the Student Union. This will be a great opportunity to
interact with students, faculty, Campus Dining and Shops, community
gardening associations and state agencies- like the US Department
of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, while
managing e natural resources first hand. I look forward to taking
students in my soils course to the gardens, having them present
their experiences and discuss their questions in class.
What kinds of sustainability related research/projects do you
pursue at UB?
My integrated research, learning and stakeholder outreach
activities with students, faculty, and local, US and international
collaborators are coordinated through the Landscape-based
Environmental System Analysis & Modeling (LESAM) laboratory. I
designed LESAM when I joined UB in 2001 to bring geoecological
research, teaching and outreach to the University at Buffalo, the
WNY region, and frankly to the US. Over the years, it has
established itself as a unique university-wide, multi-disciplinary
and cross-disciplinary, intellectual networking laboratory to
develop and implement integrated, user-friendly analysis and
modeling techniques to collaborate with international partners and
stakeholders using GIScience, Remote Sensing, and Environmental
Modeling to support rapid, practical and effective decision-making
in sustainably managing natural resources and extreme events.
My interdisciplinary research agenda is geared towards bridging
the existing gap between natural resources managers who understand
and deal with natural processes and their variability on a
day-to-day-basis, and disaster managers who need to manage rapidly
unfolding situations and human behavior often without appropriate
process understanding. Both of these “environmental
managers” can learn from each other and combine core
principles - such as “sustainability” and
“resilience”. The qualitative and quantitative
techniques and modeling tools of both environmental managers can
potentially be used (with some modifications) for any time
assessment and decision-making, including those in times of slow-
and fast-onset extreme events and related unfolding disasters (e.g.
climate change/sea level rise and hurricanes or floods,
respectively). This is a tremendous advantage to avoid
miscommunication and mistrust before, during and in the aftermath
of disasters in the realm of Human-Environmental Interaction.
How are students involved in your sustainability
Undergraduate and graduate students have worked alongside me and
the LESAM collaborators in different cultural settings with top
leaders in natural resources and extreme events management. In
fact, in all of the research projects that I have worked in over
the years, I was able to successfully propose, design and lead
research, teaching and implementation initiatives that changed the
perception and status quo of research in geography, natural
resources management, geohazards, and disaster management. Students
are able to not only participate, but also to initiate their own
research ideas and look for potential sources of funding for their
research. I really have to acknowledge my own Masters and PhD
advisors in Germany and the US that opened my eyes and encouraged
me to operate that way.
What is the one thing you would like people to know that you
do in your personal life to further sustainability?
If things break, I try to fix them before putting them into the
garbage. This practice often results in science experiments with my
kids to discover how things work, and how to
–sometimes- successfully repair items and keep using
them for their original purpose, or how to create something new and
exciting. Recycling and gardening are also great passions in my
family. Even with a small garden (or even without a garden when I
lived in a student house), composting and observing the short-term
and long-term benefits of nutrient recycling as organic matter, and
later humus, is very exciting and rewarding. Gardening is our
own science lab at home ... with the outcome being delicious
strawberries, peppers, pumpkins and other vegetables or fruits.
How could UB improve its sustainability efforts?
There is a lot of energy saving that can be done at UB. I
would like to see energy studies conducted to evaluate the wide
scale installation of motion detectors in every class room and
hallway to power down lights, computers and projectors after a
period of inactivity. I would also like to see more bicycle
related services on campus. Installing more racks and storage
sheds on campus would be a great first step. However, a station to
fix a flat, sign out tools or pump up tire would be nice. The
trend of using the bicycle has been catching on with students,
staff and faculty and should be further promoted. I lived and
studied and in the Netherlands and they really have figured it out
the way of integrate bicycles and public transport.
Learn more about Renschler's research.