We asked Jason Briner, UB associate professor of geology, to tell us about his work in, and thoughts on sustainability.
What are you doing to help UB become more sustainable?
The primary way in which I help UB become more sustainable is through teaching courses on climate change. Thus, my existing contribution to the UB community comes in the form of reminders about why we need to live sustainable lives. I teach about climate change in Discovery Seminars, undergraduate introductory lectures, and in upper-division classes for undergraduate and graduate students. In my current upper-division class, my students are conducting their own research project about climate change in Western New York. I hope that as students become engaged in the subject, maintaining sustainable lives becomes intuitive.
What kinds of sustainability related research/projects do you pursue at UB?
My research focus is on Arctic climate change. My students and I seek to resolve unanswered questions about climate, glaciers and sea level rise. Our work lately is focused on Greenland. We are working hard to make sense of the Greenland Ice Sheet’s response to global warming. It turns out that it isn’t totally straight-forward. The current pattern of ice sheet change is noisy, and we are working to better understand this noise. Equal parts discovering and head-scratching, I find it great fun and tremendously rewarding.
How are students involved in your sustainability work?
Students play a major role in the research that I do. Graduate students conduct their thesis work about how glaciers are responding to global climate change. Undergraduate students conduct research in my paleoclimate lab, some of whom travel to remote corners of the Arctic on my research trips. I also work to incorporate climate change research into my courses, so I reach a broader undergraduate audience.
What is the one thing you would like people to know that you do in your personal life to further sustainability?
First, I would like people to know that I can do more to further sustainability. I do my best in mostly small ways: Drive fewer days per year by commuting by bicycle, drive a fuel efficient vehicle, eat a vegetarian diet, purchase food from local sources, choose to live in an urban location to avoid dependence on car travel, air-dry laundry, etc. What I could also do is travel by airplane less, skip a conference per year, and have more meetings by Skype.
How could UB improve its sustainability efforts?
UB is doing a great job of practicing sustainability across its campuses. As a bicycle commuter to North Campus, I mostly notice areas for improvement regarding ways to get to and from campus that don’t involve a car. Along my bike commute from Buffalo, I have the luxury of being in a bike lane for much of my route. When I turn onto UB campus, however, bike lanes end. The large intersections along the Audubon Parkway do not have crosswalks. The wide parkway is a moat to those not in a car. With expanding student housing all around UB and increasing interest in encouraging renewable energy practices, I trust that UB is working hard to improve bike and pedestrian access to campus from all directions.
Learn more about Briner's research.