Student Research Opportunities

Honors Research

Environmental Studies majors with a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.70 at the end of the January term of the junior year or with special department approval are eligible to apply for the Environmental Studies Honors Research Program.

Successful completion of the Honors Program will include an oral presentation at the Colby Undergraduate Research Symposium, a successful oral thesis defense, and an approved thesis as well as the completion of the required course work for the major. The student fulfilling these requirements will graduate “With Honors in Environmental Studies.” The decision whether or not the student will be approved to convert their fall semester seminar or independent study project to an honors project in the spring semester and continue in the ES Honors Program by enrolling in ES 484 will be made at the end of the first semester. In cases where requirements for Honors have not been fulfilled at the end of the spring semester, ES 484 (Honors Research) will revert to a graded ES 492 (Independent Study).

The Honors Program students present their research during the annual Colby Liberal Arts Symposium.

Research Assistant Positions with Faculty

During the academic year and during the summer break there are research assistant positions open to ES students.  Please review the faculty research statements below to find a link to your own research interests.

Summer or Jan Plan Internships erinlovegsaconf.jpg

Internships with non-profits, government, or private business are an essential part of education beyond the classroom.  Many of the Past Internships Held by ES Students have had a research component as part of their internship work.  This not only helps students gain real world skills but also helps the agency which is employing the students. The ES Department supports these efforts through mentoring and also through funding, which students can apply for.

Colby Digital Commons Archive of ES Research

You can view the Colby Digital Commons collection of ES research here.


Faculty and Staff Research Statements

(Student collaboration available)
List of faculty, staff and student publications
You can view some of these publications online through Colby Digital Commons.

ES Department Faculty and Staff

Environmental Studies- Assistant Professor Justin Becknell
Justin Becknell’s research is focused on the interactions among forest ecosystems, the climate system, and human activities. He uses a combination of field and remote sensing methods to study the flow of carbon and nutrients through forest ecosystems. Justin works in the tropical forests of Costa Rica and Brazil examining the ecological and biogeochemical consequences of deforestation and reforestation. In the temperate forests of New England, he studies the effects of management and climate on forest composition and function.

Environmental Studies- Associate Professor Denise Bruesewitz
Professor Denise Bruesewitz is interested in how human activities alter aquatic ecosystem function. Specifically, she studies nitrogen, phosphorus, and carbon cycling in aquatic ecosystems with the goal of understanding how ecosystem function and ecosystem services change in response to human activities. Her ongoing projects include understanding how restored oyster reefs in New York City mitigate nutrient pollution, how lakes across the globe process carbon, and determining how rivers and estuaries in south Texas respond to drought and storms. At Colby, she will build upon ongoing research in the Belgrade Lakes, as well as local streams and rivers, with a focus on carbon and nutrient cycling in these aquatic systems.

Environmental Studies – Assistant Professor
 Gail Carlson
Gail’s interests focus on the ways in which the environment impacts human health, including via climate change, extractive and polluting industrial activities, and human exposures to hazardous chemicals in the environment. She works with students on advocacy campaigns in the state of Maine to raise awareness about these issues and to advance support for legislative initiatives. Her research focuses on the role of state policy-making in advancing innovations to improve environmental health.

Environmental Studies – Environmental Studies Coordinator Lindsey Cotter-Hayes
Lindsey Cotter-Hayes, formerly the assistant director of the Oak Institute for Human Rights at Colby, joined ES as the new department coordinator in the spring of 2019. Lindsey graduated from Lesley University with a master of science and completed her undergraduate work in human ecology at College of the Atlantic. Previously, Lindsey was the deputy director at Groundwork Lawrence, a nonprofit organization focused on environmental justice, public health, environmental education, food access, and environmental improvements. She has also worked as the director of education at the Urban Ecology Institute, as adjunct faculty in the Science and Education Program at Lesley University, as a lead educator at GlobalQuest, and as the Director of Curriculum at Shackleton Schools. She is a licensed Maine Guide, has led trail crews throughout the United States and abroad, and is also currently the owner/operator of PoundSweet Farm. Lindsey completed her graduate practicum at the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice under the leadership of Lois Gibbs.

Environmental Studies Research Scientist – Manny Gimond
Manuel Gimond’s research interest lies in modeling the thermodynamic processes at the earth/atmosphere interface from a second law of thermodynamics perspective with an emphasis on exergy analysis and emergy synthesis. He is particularly interested in quantifying the influence of spatial and temporal scales on such models using GIS. While employed at the Kennedy Space Center, Manuel has worked on validating land surface thermodynamic models using data from an extensive network of meteorological and Eddy-Covariance towers. Other interests include remote sensing of aquatic systems where Manuel has developed an open source stochastic model that simulates the propagation of light in water bodies.

Environmental Studies –  Research Affiliate Loren McClenachan
A New England native, Loren first became interested in conservation growing up on an organic farm in southern Vermont. Loren was an Environmental Studies major Middlebury College, and continued to work to cross disciplines in her graduate and post-graduate research. She is deeply concerned with long-term human impacts on marine species and ecosystems, and in her research, she works to (1) assess and quantify changes in the distribution and abundance of marine species over century-long time scales and (2) determine links between social history and changing marine environments. This research crosses the disciplines of marine ecology, conservation biology, and environmental history, and is motivated by the desire to conserve and restore degraded ocean and coastal ecosystems. To this end, Loren also aims to establish more accurate baselines for marine species—on which recovery targets can be set—and to understand past human interactions with the sea so that we can more successfully manage marine resources today. Loren has worked in tropical marine environments in the Caribbean, Florida Keys, and most recently in the Hawaiian Islands.

Environmental Studies – Professor Philip Nyhus
Professor Nyhus’ interdisciplinary research bridges the natural and social sciences to address human interactions with the environment.  He is particularly interested in the policy dimensions   of human-wildlife conflict and endangered species conservation.  His current research includes developing new tools and processes for biodiversity risk assessment, GIS-based spatial models, and tiger and  large mammal conservation in the US and Asia.

Environmental Studies – Teaching Assistant Abby Pearson
Abby’s graduate research focused on assessing ecosystem functionality in a restoring salt marsh using arthropod food webs. This involved describing arthropod distribution in an affected salt marsh in relation to associated common salt marsh plants. Arthropods were collected, identified, and processed using stable isotope analysis of 13C and 15N. These data were used to describe food web structure (i.e. what arthropods are found where) and function (i.e. how carbon passed through the food web)

Environmental Studies – Research Faculty Nichole Price
Nichole Price is a benthic marine ecologist with interest in how global change phenomena, like ocean acidification and warming, can alter bottom-dwelling species interactions, community dynamics, and ecosystem function in shallow coastal regimes. Her work focuses primarily on the eco-physiology of seaweeds and calcifying invertebrates and their current and future role in dissolved inorganic carbon and nutrient cycling. Nichole utilizes state-of-the-art analytical tools including prototype autonomous oceanographic instrument packages in field campaigns, develops custom experimental aquaria in the lab, and applies emerging technological approaches (like environmental DNA) to tackle fundamental ecological research questions about population dynamics, biological feedbacks, and ecosystem services. Nichole also applies her expertise to explore mitigation strategies for coastal acidification (the ‘Halo’ effect) and climate change (e.g., blue carbon and uses of farmed seaweeds). She has focused on these topics primarily on tropical coral reefs and temperate systems and extrapolates her results from each biome to regional and global scales using statistical modelling.

Environmental Studies – Assistant Professor Stacy-ann Robinson
Professor Stacy-ann Robinson specializes in the human, social and policy dimensions of climate change adaptation in small island developing states (SIDS) across three main geographic regions: Atlantic and Indian Oceans, Caribbean, and Pacific. At the core, her work centers islands as marginalized societies with a focus on addressing inequality, securing island futures, and building a just and sustainable world. Key lines of inquiry include climate justice through government-led adaptation actions and the delivery of adaptation finance through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Her work draws on multiple theories, including world-systems theory, systems theory, and resource dependence theory. She is a qualitative dominant mixed methods researcher, combining multiple regression analyses with case studies, content and discourse analyses, focus group discussions, and semi-structured interviews.

Emeritus Faculty

Biology – Professor Emeritus. Clara C. Piper Professor of Environmental Studies David Firmage
Professor Firmage investigates problems in plant ecology. Recent studies focus on pollen viability and stigma receptivity, solar tracking of several species   in Israel, and the reproductive biology of an important endemic plant in Bulgaria. He also conducts watershed analyses to determine sources and amounts of phosphorus   additions to local lakes.

Economics – Professor Emeritus, Mitchell Family Professor of Economics Tom Tietenberg
Professor Tietenberg is  author or editor of eleven books (including Environmental and Natural Resource Economics, one of the best selling textbooks in the field, and Emissions Trading, one of the most widely cited books in the tradable permits literature) as well as over one hundred articles and essays on environmental and natural resource economics. Elected President of the Association of Environmental and Natural Resource Economists (AERE) in 1987-8, he has consulted on environmental policy with the World Bank, the InterAmerican Development Bank, the Agency for International Development and the Environmental Protection Agency as well as several state and foreign governments. Tom attended and spoke at the first Earth Summit in Rio in 1992 and has lectured on sustainable development at many international conferences. In 2006 he was designated one of six inaugural AERE Fellows and in 2010 he received the “Outstanding Public Service Though Economics” award from the Northeastern Agricultural and Resource Economics Association.

Environmental Studies – Oak Professor of Biological Sciences Russ Cole
Professor Russ Cole’s research investigates the natural history,ecology, and conservation of mammals. He also studies the impact of exotic species on the biota of the Hawaiian Islands, plant/animal interactions and their ecological implications, Maine lake water quality in relation to watershed land use patterns, and sustainable development and campus resource use.

ES Affiliated Faculty

Biology – Professor and Dr. Charles C. and Pamela W. Leighton Research Fellow Cathy Bevier
Professor Cathy Bevier’s research interests include the behavioral and physiological ecology of vertebrates, particularly how behavioral performance during reproductive and locomotor activity is correlated with physiological and biochemical characteristics of the animal. Her current work focuses on the behavior, energetics, and thermal biology of frogs using techniques such as sound recording and analysis of vocalizations, focal behavioral observations, mark-recapture census, muscle biochemistry, and respirometry.

Chemistry –  Dr. Frank and Theodora Miselis Professor of Chemistry Whitney King
Professor Whitney King recently began a study of the chemical and physical characteristics of local lakes, employing underwater mapping computer programs and chemical   analysis equipment that he developed. This project will continue for several years as different lakes within the region are investigated.

To find out more about the Belgrade Lakes Watershed Sustainability Project visit

Chemistry – Associate Professor Karena McKinney

Associate Professor Karena McKinney’s research focuses on the atmospheric chemistry of biogenic volatile organic compounds (BVOCs), hydrocarbon-based molecules synthesized and emitted by trees and other plants. These compounds play a key role in determining the chemistry and composition of the lower atmosphere by controlling the cycling of atmospheric oxidants and the production of ozone and secondary organic aerosols.

Economics – Assistant Professor Jennifer Meredith

Assistant Professor Jennifer Meredith’s research focuses on Natural resource economics, environmental economics, development economics and labor economics.

Biology – Leslie B. Arey Professor of Biological Sciences Herb Wilson
Professor Wilson research interests include the study of the impacts of climate change on the migration of Maine migratory breeding birds; winter foraging of Maine songbirds; ecology of damselflies, damselflies and butterflies.