Gail Carlson, assistant professor of environmental studies, brings her long involvement in civic engagement and policymaking to bear in her new role of inaugural director of Colby’s Buck Lab for the Environment and Climate Change.
The Buck Lab, established through a gift from Trustee Sandy Buck ’78 and Sissy Buck, will connect students from many disciplines to organizations in Maine and beyond that are focused on global environmental issues. Students will conduct research on Maine’s coast, lakes, and forests, working closely with faculty to understand changes to complex systems and the far-flung effects of those changes.
“As the Buck Lab director, I am excited to do my part to share with Colby students the enthusiasm and generosity of Sandy and Sissy Buck and their commitment to environmental protection and stewardship,” Carlson said. “The Buck Lab is creating transformative experiences for students from all disciplines to explore and help solve some of our most critical environmental challenges.”
The former associate director of the Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and instructor in the Oak Institute for Human Rights has long incorporated community projects into her courses on environmental health issues. In 2015 her students focused on the public health impacts of arsenic, a common drinking water contaminant in Maine, and held a public hearing in Belgrade Lakes, Maine, to raise awareness and help distribute critical health information and water testing kits.
This month, Carlson won the 2017 Science Champion Award from the Environmental Health Strategy Center. Actively engaged in public policy debates on environmental issues in Maine, Carlson has testified at key committee hearings of the Maine Legislature and was “especially impressive as the clear winner of a debate at a committee briefing on the health impacts of flame retardants, gaining the trust and respect of legislators on both sides of the aisle,” according to a press release from the center. “I’d like to think that not only did I have science on my side, but also common sense,” Carlson said.
Already a leader in environmental education and institutional sustainability, Colby is home to one of the oldest environmental studies programs in the nation, was the first institution of its kind to declare carbon neutrality, in 2013, and has invested in partnerships to create unique opportunities for its students.
The Buck Lab will connect students and faculty from the natural sciences, social sciences, interdisciplinary studies, and humanities around multifaceted environmental issues. Students may focus, for example, on public policy implications, economic factors, or global concerns. A recent grant from the Mellon Foundation for an environmental humanities program at Colby will dovetail with the Buck Lab to create a stronger presence for students pursuing arts and humanities disciplines to connect their work to environmental sustainability issues.