Program on the Environment

  • College of the Environment
  • University of Washington

Past Capstone Projects

Student Capstone projects address pressing environmental issues. Most fall within the following topic areas. Because of the interconnected nature of Environmental Studies as a discipline, many projects address more than one topic area.

Browse the lists below for sample Capstone project summaries to give you an idea of the projects students work on as part of the Environmental Studies Capstone

If you’re interested in hosting a Capstone internship apply here .

If you are seeking more examples of Capstones in a particular category, email Sean McDonald , the Capstone instructor.

Climate Change

Communications/advocacy, conservation/restoration, environmental education, environmental justice, environmental policy, food systems, renewable energy, sustainable business, urbanization, waste management.

Georgetown University.

College of Arts & Sciences

Georgetown University.

Capstone Projects

Environmental Studies students major in a wide range of fields across campus, and their senior year Capstone Projects reflect that breadth and scope. At the end of each year, students share their capstones in a symposium-style event, where we also get to celebrate the excellent work they have done! Below is an archive of many such projects, compiled from recent years of student work.

ENST Minors 2020

This year’s graduation was unlike any other, occurring under the specter of the coronavirus pandemic and its associated implications. The Capstone Symposium was held on Zoom in April, but using that platform didn’t diminish the impact of these excellent projects!

December 2019 Grads

Melissa Zheng , a Management major in the MSB, graduated in December 2019, and for her ENST capstone participated in a research project with a faculty mentor under the auspices of the International Food Policy Research Institute.

May 2020 Grads

Title: “The Pear Tree” — Emily Arnold , who focused her studies at Georgetown on English, used her passion for words to explore how humans connect to physical space and how this shapes our perception of our environment. Her capstone project consisted of two distinct projects: “The Pear Tree”, a 52-page collection of poems; and “Tree of Letters”, a sculpture of a tree made of wire and paper mache with recycled pages (pictured above). This project succinctly captures Emily’s studies for the last four years; she reflects, “‘The Tree of Letters’ considers the relationship between trees and written language and comments on the chosen form, poems, to convey the ideas in my Thesis.”

Title: Financing the Future of Clean Energy & Technology: An Examination of the Funding Gap & An Analysis of Alternative Investment Vehicles  — Julia Choi , an Economics major in the College, wrote a paper on the world of investments and finance when it comes to clean energy technology. In her paper she outlines the challenges clean energy companies encounter in financing their projects. She then dives into potential new investment vehicles for the funding of clean energy, and examines the role of both the public and private sectors in clean energy innovation. 

Title: “Discarded Narratives” — After years of interest in the environmental impacts of medical waste, JUPS major Maddy Rice decided to do something productive with single-use medical products. Her project, “Discarded Narratives”, aims to “reclaim the discarded stories and objects of the medical industrial complex”. She worked to collect medical waste and create art that had an impact on viewers and shifted the current modes of storytelling. Her first project was a bamboo garden constructed entirely of discarded medicine bottles, and she intends to continue her work. You can learn more about “Discarded Narratives” here . 

Title: “Environmental Education through Play and Learning for Grade R Students in South Africa” — Jinia Sarkar , a Human Science major in the SFS, completed her capstone project while studying abroad in South Africa. For the community engagement portion of her program, Jinia volunteered at Ikaya Primary School, planning lessons and organizing activities for the students. Throughout her time there, she designed and painted an educational play area for the community with environmental themes.

Title: Climate Change and Environmental Degradation — Lucy Stebbins , a government major with a background in Catholicism, found inspiration from Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ and decided to delve into the environmental perspectives of the Church. She analyzed a variety of environmental challenges we face today, paying special attention to how these issues disproportionately affect marginalized communities. She also focused on the commitments the Catholic Church has made to care for the planet and how these tie into the fundamental values of the Church, and synthesized the two by selecting passages from the Pope’s encyclical: “Today, however, we have to realize that a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.” — Pope Francis, Laudato Si’ 

ENST Minors 202 1

Once again, this year’s class showed remarkable resilience and dedication to their work, concluding their studies during an unprecedented virtual year. Despite this, the culminating capstone projects were outstanding, covering a wide array of environmental issues and collectively representing a hopeful sign of transformative potential. Here are excerpts from these truly excellent projects:

Title: “Energy Grid Analysis in the European Context: The Supergrid and Microgrids” >> Zachary Allen , a Government major in the College, wrote a paper on the “European Super Grid,” a plan to develop a massive energy grid to connect participating countries. The paper explores the strengths and weaknesses of the grid, and specialization of energy sources with it. 

Title: “Climate Change, Environmental Degradation, and Refugees” >> Hallie Bereday studies Psychology in the College. For her Environmental Studies capstone project, she produced a sixty-page paper (a version is available here (new window) ) on the “multifaceted nature of displaced people in a modernized world,” focusing on the Rohingya in Myanmar and Bangladesh and the people of Tuvalu in the Pacific Islands and New Zealand. 

Title: “Profile of a Tree” >> For her capstone project, English major Kathryn Blanco undertook an ambitious and poignant profile of a single tree (which she called “Tili”), and in doing so illuminated an intricate web of histories and connections. As her study concluded, “if humans and trees are to coexist peacefully in the city, we must learn to treat our street trees as the neighbors they are.”

Title: “Global Connectivity & the Commons: An Analysis on the Relationship between Place, Identify, and the Environment” >> Melanie Diaz, a Culture and Politics major in the SFS, focused her project on the connections between people, the environment, choices, and agency. Melanie interviewed six individuals from different backgrounds about their relationship to place and the environment, and compiled common threads and teachings into an audio artifact and presentation. 

Title: “A Rose” >> For his capstone project, Alberto Espiricueta, inspired by his Environmental Studies course “Ecotopian Visions,” wrote a short story following a girl in a futuristic community that exists without policing, where the unhoused are cared for, and resources, though scarce, are shared. The story is “an ode to [his] community of Southeast Los Angeles and the environmental justice advocates who reside [there].” It envisions a world beyond capitalism and war: an ecotopia of sorts. 

Title: “Funding Relocation as an Adaptation Strategy to Coastline Erosion: Indigenous Alaskan Villages” >> Maya Gibbs wrote an academic paper analyzing climate-induced relocation of Alaskan Indigenous communities. The Arctic is warming at an alarming rate, and Maya’s paper analyzes how a just and equitable response to climate change in the region might be implemented, particularly how to fund and support relocation for coastal indigenous communities. 

Title: “Combating Climate Change Misinformation” >> Using her experience as a Government major, Charlotte McCarthy’s capstone project came in the form of a policy memo, addressed to the current EPA administrator. The memo detailed the importance of, and strategies for, combating climate change misinformation in the general public. 

Title: “The Importance of Optimism in Environmental Journalism” >> Lauren Pyjar, an International Politics major in the SFS, used her experience working at Eat.Blue, an online educational platform about ocean conservation, as the basis for her capstone project. Lauren wrote a paper describing her experience writing articles for the site, highlighting the importance of positivity and optimism in writing about environmentalism and conservation: “Change is inspired by hope, not fear.”

Title: “Protect our Waterways” >> Paul Rothrock, an Economics major, created a website about his relationship to the waterways of the Pacific Northwest, and the importance of protecting them. The site includes stunning photographs of the northwest and its water, along with information on water pollution and protection. 

Title: “Recommendation for the Passage of a Modified RECOVER Act” >> Liza Roberts studies Chinese and Government along with Environmental Studies. For her capstone project Liza wrote a paper detailing the need for comprehensive investment in and development of innovative local recycling systems to tackle the pressing issue of waste management in the United States. 

Title: “A Look Into Sustainable Investing” >> Anne Stonecipher , a student in the MSB studying Finance and Operations and Information Management, wrote a paper on the emerging world of sustainable investing, outlining its importance from an environmental and a business perspective. 

Title: “Biden in the First 100 Days” >> For his capstone project, Alandro Valdez used his studies in both Environmental Studies and Government to produce six detailed infographics outlining environmental policies enacted and planned by the Biden Administration in the first 100 days in office. The in-depth and well-designed infographics cover the international climate actions, land conservation efforts, environmental justice policies, plans to halt oil and gas extraction, and more. 

ENST Minors 202 2

We were so pleased to work with another great group of graduates, and our biggest class to date! These outstanding culminating projects covered a wide array of environmental issues from myriad perspectives, while collectively addressing the senses of challenge and possibility in these times:

December 2021 Grads

Title: The Psychological Costs of Eating Meat: Meat-related Cognitive Dissonance in the Age of Alternative Proteins and Climate Change (Jia Li Leonard, Management, December ’21)

Title: Engaging Mathematics: A Sample Algebra I and Environmental Studies Integrated Curriculum Guide (Danny Overcash, Economics, December ’21)

Title: The Power of Social Media Marketing: An Analysis of and Recommendations for the Prince George’s County Rain Check Rebate Program (Rachel Pitsenberger, Biology, December ’21)

May 2022 Grads

capstone project ideas environmental science

Capstone Workshops and Resources for the M.S. in Sustainability at CCNY

Sample Projects

capstone project ideas environmental science

Self-Designed Projects

Problem statements should be submitted for projects in this format. It is very helpful if summaries include which UN Sustainable Development Goals are addressed through the project.

See project presentations on our YouTube Channel !

Sample Capstone Project Final Reports (more available upon request)

Check the “ Semester Workshops ” pages for projects most recently offered and selected.

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Home > SAS > EES > MES Capstone Projects

Master of Environmental Studies Capstone Projects

The interaction between humans and the environment is not a purely scientific matter. Questions of politics, economics, ethics, religion and culture also come into play. Recognizing this, the Master of Environmental Studies (MES) Program offers a multidisciplinary approach to the study of the environment. Toward the end of the program, each student undertakes a Capstone Project, an independent, one-semester research exercise that demonstrates the student's mastery of the subject matter. While less comprehensive than a traditional master's thesis, the Capstone documents the student's ability to define a research question; design a protocol to address that question; acquire the data necessary to clarify, if not resolve, that question; critically assess the quality of the data acquired; draw defensible conclusions from those data; and communicate that process and those conclusions to professional colleagues with clarity and precision. More information about the Program and Capstone Project may be found here .

MES students should complete this Author Agreement and submit it with their capstone projects. Once received, the electronic version of the capstone project will then be uploaded onto this site.

Capstones from 2022 2022

Electrifying the Vehicle Fleet Within the United States, a Feasibilitiy Analysis of Environmental Impact and Technical Deployment , Bryan Cashman

Understanding Street Tree Species Composition Shifts Over Time , Emma LaNoce

Environmental Impacts of Increased Circularity in Bicycle Sharing Service , Yansong Li

Policy Actions to Improve Economic and Environmental Outcomes of Poultry Litter Management in Delmarva , Justin Fulton Maroccia

Functioning Industrial Symbiosis Model Application to Organic Waste: A Case Study of a Paper Mill Company in Cochambamba, Bolivia , Natalia Mendoza Abujder

Snag Availability and Preference of Cavity-Nesting Species in Philadelphia Urban Parks , Angelique Noëlle Raezer

A Comparison of Solar and Wind Energy Development Between Western China and the Western US , Haoge Xu

Capstones from 2021 2021

Researching the Use of Effigies as a Best Management Practice for Reducing Corvid Predation on Beach-Nesting Birds on the Southeastern Atlantic Coast , Kelly Clinton



The Circular Economy and Industrial Symbiosis Potentialof the Bicycle Industry , Yansong Li

The Fate and Persistence of Standing Dead Street Trees in Philadelphia, PA , Regan Rosemary Wilson

Capstones from 2020 2020

A Sustainability Assessment of The Solarize Philly Program , Samanvitha Danda

Middle school students and climate change: Assessing attitudes and emotions , Beth Mark

NGO and Corporate Collaboration , Rebecca Ross

Life Cycle Assessment of Hydrogen as a Transportation Fuel in the California Market , Diana S. Swidler

Benchmarking the effectiveness of united by blue and tentree’s buy-one-give-one models to traditional corporate philanthropy efforts , Charlie Wurzer

Capstones from 2019 2019

Birds as Ecological Indicators at the University of Pennsylvania , Chloe Cerwinka

The Assessment of Soundscape Quality in Urban Parks - A Case Study in Penn Park , Jiujia Guo

Solving the ‘Wicked Problem’ of China’s Environmental Future: Cautious Optimism in the Face of Unprecedented Threats , Jamison Maley

Quantifying the U.S. Coast Guard Ecological Risk Assessment on Diluted Bitumen , Eric Nielsen

Shale Gas at Ground Level: Understanding Public Health Considerations for Local and State Unconventional Natural Gas Drilling Policy Decisions in Pennsylvania , Justin Royer

Penn Park: A Study of Ecological Health in an Urban Environment , Sam Royer

An Analysis of Trends of Print Media Coverage on Climate Change in the Trump Era , Mollie Simon

Soil-less Soil Study - A Sustainable Solution for Green Infrastructure Soil Media - Part 1, Life Cycle Assessment , Anqi Zhang

Capstones from 2018 2018

Credit Downgrade Threat as a Non-regulatory Driver for Flood Risk Mitigation and Sea Level Rise Adaptation , John A. Miller

Calculating the Value of Nature & The Cost of Hurricane Harvey: Leveraging Eco-Adaptation Valuation in American Policy & Practice , Karema Mohamed Seliem

Bridging the Disclosure Gap: Investor Perspectives on Environmental, Social, & Governance (ESG) Disclosures , Visvesh Sridharan

Capstones from 2017 2017

Land Use and Water Quality in Bangladesh and Bhutan , Bryan Currinder

Improving Supplier Engagement as a Means to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions of a Global Company , Kristen Elizabeth King

Capstones from 2016 2016

Restoring Habitat in Densely-Populated Suburbs in the Northeast: A Demonstration Project , Mary A. Westervelt

Capstones from 2015 2015

The Environmental Benefits of Trees on an Urban University Campus , Corinne G. Bassett

Promoting Sustainability and Equity in WASH Service Coverage With Indicators - Proposal for UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 6 , Jessica Campo

The Presence and Functionality of Ammonia Oxidizing Bacteria in the Constructed Treatment Wetland at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge , Keith Lewy

Capstones from 2014 2014

An Adaptive Management Plan for the Natural Lands Section of Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania , Tracy Beerley

Sustainability Issues and Strategies in the Outdoor Apparel Brand Industry , John Butow

Environmental Psychology and Urban Green Space: Supporting Place-Based Conservation in Philadelphia, PA , Alicia Coleman

Invasive Plant Species Management at Gwynedd Wildlife Preserve, Ambler, PA , Nathan Hartshorne

Ensuring Sustainable Water Supply in Lagos, Nigeria , Judith Afooma Jideonwo

A Business Analytics Approach to Corporate Sustainability Analysis , Jeff Wen

Framing Climate Change in Local News Before and After Hurricane Sandy , Brian A. Werner

Capstones from 2013 2013

DNA Barcode Examination of North American Mayflies Across Their Natural Distribution Reveals Cryptic Species Complexes , Robert J. George

Sustainability Rankings: Impacts on Corporate Sustainability , Sharon Muli

The Voluntary Carbon Market and Business Innovation for Sustainable Development , David Schreiber

Capstones from 2012 2012

Understanding Tropospheric Ozone in a Montane Tropical Rainforest: An Analysis of Ozone Levels in the Luquillo Mountains of Puerto Rico , Chennery Fife

The Compost Activist: An Educational Website to Promote Composting , Paige Hasling

The Environmental Benefits of Urban Agriculture on Unused, Impermeable and Semi-Permeable Spaces in Major Cities With a Focus on Philadelphia, PA , Knizhnik L. Heather

An Analysis of Rangeland Preservation in Western States , Ian Howell

Trend Detection in Annual Temperature & Precipitation using the Mann Kendall Test – A Case Study to Assess Climate Change on Select States in the Northeastern United States , Neha Karmeshu

Environment, Energy, and Economy: Impacts of Natural Gas Pipelines in 9 Watersheds of North-Central Pennsylvania , Stephanie Leach

Management of the Urban Forest: A Zip Code Level Approach , Nykia M. Perez Kibler

The Producer-Pollinator Dilemma: Neonicotinoids and Honeybee Colony Collapse , Benjamin W. Reynard

College House RA/GA Sustainable Living Manual , Marissa Rosen

Bangkok Recycling Program: An Empirical Study of an Incentive-Based Recycling Program , Pitchayanin Sukholthaman

Green Brook Flood Control Project: Saving Bound Brook , Robin Blackstone Valinski

Distribution and Habitat Characteristics of a Freshwater Gastropod, Pleurocera Proxima, in Eastern Pennsylvania , Saras Windecker

Capstones from 2011 2011

The Recycling of Organics: Opportunities for Municipal Programs and a Case Study for Philadelphia , Emily Marie Bush

The Practical Air Quality Planning and Self-Evaluation Guide for Biomass Projects , William Dunagan

Lessons Learned from EPA's Climate Leaders Program: An Evaluation to Fortify Voluntary Environmental Initiatives , Vivian Futran

Comprehensive Stormwater Management Plans on University Campuses: Challenges and Opportunities , Steven R. Gillard

Unionville Serpentine Barrens: Analyzing the Relationship Between Soil Profiles and Forest Succession Rate , Elizabeth Haegele

Capstones from 2010 2010

Greening the Antarctic Leadership Venture: Preparing Leaders for a Sustainable Future , Kathleen Atkins

Understanding Pennsylvania's Underground Storage Tank Regulations; A Guidance Document for Storage Tank Owners and Operators , Julie Baniewicz

Environmental and Human-Health Consequences of the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster in Belarus , Valerie Frankel

Spatial Variation of Stable Carbon and Nitrogen Isotope Ratios and C:N of Perennial Plant Species in the Steppe Grassland of Northern Mongolia , Robert Goldman

The Global Development of a CSS-Based Service and Technology Market with a Focus on the US, France, and China , Cameron Rolfe McQuale

Building a Sustainable Business Community in Cherry Hill, NJ , Tony Tancini

A Study of the Irregation Water Pricing System in China , Xizi Wang

Fish Production in Streams With and Without Natural Broan Trout Populations , Scott Weisinger

Capstones from 2009 2009

Energy Efficiency Projects in Pennsylvania Small Businesses , Joseph J. Lavin

Every Drop Counts: Short Stories on Global Water and Sanitation Issues , Nalat Phanit

Capstones from 2008 2008

Compact Discard: Finding Environmentally Responsible Ways to Manage Discarded Household CDs and DVDs , Alan W. Biehn

Combining DNA Barcoding and Macroinvertebrate Sampling to Assess Water Quality , Tanya Dapkey

This Land is Our Land: Raising Awareness of Contemporary U.S. Environmental and Social Justice Issues through Folksong , Joshua Marcus Greenberg

A Glacier Runs Through It: Effects of Late Wisconsinan Glaciation on Stream Drainage Near the Terminal Moraine Boundary in North Central Pennsylvania , Krista Heinlen

Collaboratively Addressing the Growth of the Port Industry to Ensure Environmnetal Justice , Matthew T. Lee

Evaluating Strategies to Protect Open Space and Slow Sprawl in the Philadelphia Region , Paul Lumia

Community Managed Water Projects and Poverty Reduction: A Case Study from Guatemala , Sarah Martiny

Acid Mine Drainage Pollution in the West Branch Schuylkill and Upper Schuylkill River, Schuylkill County Pennsylvania: A Case Study and Recommendations for the Future , Tara Sadak

Examining Human-Elephant Conflict in Southern Africa: Causes and Options for Coexistence , M. Zoë Warner

Capstones from 2007 2007

Dog Parks: Benefits and Liabilities , Laurel Allen

Mapping Electricity Use on the University of Pennsylvania Campus , Shani Arbel

Hiking Benton MacKaye's Hike: Expanding the Appalachian Trail Experience , Julia DeGagne

Valuing water and sediment tradeoffs between forest and pasture in montane tropical environments in Puerto Rico , Elizabeth A. Gingold

Global Water Finance: Assessment of the Funding Needed to Attain the Millennium Development Goals for Water and Sanitation , Hideyuki Hiruma

A Framework for Ecosystem Services Conservation Zoning: An Integration into Land Use Planning , Joshua Kahan

Private Investment in Brownfield Redevelopment in the Greater Philadelphia Area: A Case-Study Analysis , Ryan Kraske

Ngorongoro Conservation Area: Spring of Life , Lori A. Swanson

A Quantitative Analysis of the Pennsylvania Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard: And Options for the Future , Nicholas Tichich

Sustainable Management Practices of Under Story "Brush" Species in Southern Coastal Oregon , Bill Vought

Capstones from 2006 2006

Electric Energy-Saving Education Guidelines for Senior High School Students in Honduras , José Jorge Canales Martinez

How Should Global Society Address Climate Change? - The Kyoto Protocol and Its Future , Takeshi Hamada

The Junior Ecologist Program , Katera Y. Moore

The Influence of Urban Street Characteristics on Pedestrian Heat Comfort Levels in Philadelphia , Masayoshi Oka

Evaluating The Use of Fairmount Dam Fish Passage Facility By Anadromous Fishes In The Schuylkill River, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania , Joseph A. Perillo Jr.

Trends in street tree survival, Philadelphia, PA , Lara Roman

RMP Compliance , Stephen T. Roth

The Necessity and Possibilities of Constitutional Environmental Rights , Christina Simeone

Are we preserving the right land? Recommendations to improve New Jersey farmland preservation , Lauren Wasilauski

The Status of Recycling in Philadelphia: Analysis and Recommendations for Philadelphia’s Floundering Recycling Program , Megan Wellington

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2022 Capstone Projects


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capstone project ideas environmental science

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Student Research and Senior Capstones



Explore the world with STEM majors at EMU.

Students use campus space for capstone course

Students use campus space for capstone course

For their spring environmental sustainability capstone course, six Eastern Mennonite University students and professors Jim Yoder and Jenni Holsinger focused on the 13-acre Park Woods nestled on campus.

capstone project ideas environmental science

New environmental justice minor addresses the intersections of environmentalism and social justice movements

EMU senior’s Soil Cycles business by cycle collects compost

EMU senior’s Soil Cycles business by cycle collects compost

Soil Cycles HVA – “Compost Collection on Two Wheels” – offers food scrap pick-up services to residential and business subscribers.



Earthkeepers is an EMU student group to encourage environmentally-friendly practices and exploring ideas around simplicity and sustainable lifestyles.

The capstone course centers around activities that help students reflect on their knowledge about sustainability and bring together threads from diverse disciplines to create an integrated understanding of contemporary sustainability issues. Students work as a group on a common research project. This case study gives students a concrete portfolio example of the multifaceted nature of a “real life” sustainability issue.

Research Opportunities

In addition to their capstone experience, students often collaborate with faculty on long-standing research projects, sometimes presenting research at the Virginia Academy of Sciences. Their abstracts have been published in the peer-reviewed Virginia Journal of Science.

In 2014 several professors launched a stream restoration project funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Federation . Science, peacebuilding and digital media majors are working together to document and restore streams in a rural community about 30 miles from campus.

Biology professor Doug Graber-Neufeld worked with the National Science Foundation for years to take students to Cambodia and Thailand to work alongside local scientists on issues of drinking water quality and sewage treatment. Professor Jim Yoder collaborates in-the-field with Shenandoah National Park research botanists and interested undergraduate students on studies of rare plant species in the area.

Students may compete  for Kauffman-Miller Research Awards , up to for $2500 for summer research supervised by EMU faculty. 

Recent Capstones

New municipal stormwater management policy.

A group of students in this course examined a recently adopted stormwater ordinance through ecological and sociological lenses. The students attended meetings and conducted interviews with city officials, collected data from public documents and performed analyses using GIS software. Their results were shared with the city public works department and other relevant institutional stakeholders.

Student theses completed during this course:

Proposed wilderness areas in the George Washington National Forest

Students in this capstone worked with Friends of Shenandoah Mountain to develop informational material for several proposed wilderness areas in the nearby George Washington National Forest. Much of the discussion centered on how this interacts with recent proposals for windmills on nearby ridgelines. The main outcome of this project was GIS -based informational material, which was made available to the Friends of Shenandoah Mountain.

Potential hydrofracking site in Rockingham County

Students in this course worked with a group of residents from the Bergton area of Rockingham County on the issue of hydrofracking. A site near Bergton was originally proposed as a hydrofracking site, which would have been the first hydrofracking site in the state of Virginia. Gas leases have been signed, but county permits have not been issued, and at present there is no drilling.

Students had extensive discussions with an informal coalition of Bergton area residents who were concerned about hydrofracking. From these discussions, a public viewing of the movie “Gasland” was organized. Following the movie, students facilitated an open discussion period for community members.

This project was the catalyst for a baseline water monitoring project undertaken by EMU research students in collaboration with the Shenandoah Valley Network and the Friends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River.

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2020 Capstones

Environmental Studies

Contact Information

Phone: 253-535-7776

Email: [email protected]

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2020 environmental studies capstones, tuesday, may 19th, 2020.

Welcome! We, Rose McKenney and Adela Ramos, are excited to share with you the work of the 2020 class of Environmental Studies students. It has been our distinct pleasure to teach and guide this cohort of smart and passionate students whose work, as you will see, addresses some of the most pressing questions of our time. We hope you will join us in congratulating them for completing meaningful Capstone projects and for concluding their undergraduate trajectory. Congratulations, Class of 2020!

Frankee Broer

I would like to thank specifically my mentors for this project Adela Ramos and Steve Sobeck. More broadly I would like to thank all the Professors at PLU that have supported my undergraduate career. Shout out to my family for your infinite support, energy and belief in me as a young woman. Especially you Mom, for the love you share for the arts and the Earth. A black hole of love and thanks to my dearest friends. Lastly, to the people working everyday to make this planet a more cohesive, balanced, diverse and loved place.

A Coalescing Interpretation of Biology and Storytelling On the Relationship Between: Two Ocean Megafauna, People and Plastic.

This paper interprets the environmental problem of plastics in the ocean through the lens of environmental biology and storytelling.  It addresses the biological explanation of plastic threats to biodiversity and consequent functionality of ecosystems by examining S.T. Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798) and photographic eco-art by Chris Jordan, Midway: Messages From the Gyre . These works focus on the relationship between whales and the albatross, plastics, and people. Both oceanic megafauna are endangered and featured as top ten documented species within death records of entanglement and ingestion due to plastics (CBD 15). Accordingly the project identifies individuals lacking a recognition of the self as a part of the environment and suggests the potential for recognition that both science and storytelling provide. My interpretations identify the connections and disconnections of science and storytelling, and argues that bringing them together can create positive solutions to the plastic problem. The project concludes with my own eco-poetic and artistic work.

capstone project ideas environmental science

Jasper Cantrell

Dr. Maria Chavez-Pringle, Dr. Michael Artime, Dr. Rose McKenney, Dr. Mike Rings, and Dr. Scott Rogers are all to be thanked for pushing me to this point and making sure my work is in its best possible form and always in before the deadline. I also would like to thank my family for supporting me and making this opportunity possible.

Climate Changing Attitudes: Environmental Disaster and the effect on Policy, Philosophy, and Political Opinion.

This study is concentrated around climate change and environmental disaster in the United States and the effects it is having on voters. First, the paper focuses on the history of climate change during politically charged times and how both government officials and their constituents respond to such incidents. Then, using survey data, it seeks to find connections  between those who have suffered from environmental disasters and their opinions on climate change. Finally, it develops a philosophical breakdown as to why and how we are in the situation we are in today.

capstone project ideas environmental science

Megan Daugherty

My biggest thanks to all my capstone advisors, Professor Wendy Call, Dr. Adela Ramos, Dr. Rose McKenney, Professor Mare Blocker, and all the mentors along the way, Professor Rick Barot, Professor Rona Kaufman, Professor Derek Robbins, for not only reading and responding to my work, but for helping me build, shape, and expand my creative process and functions. Because of all of you, I have learned how to write for myself and to audiences I dream of reaching. S’more huge thanks to Ben Papp, Amanda Schenzielos, Bella Diehl, Katy Rasmussen, Frankee Broer, and Daniel Hachet for giving me such beautiful ideas, times, and support. You all mean so much to my time here at PLU.

Thought Grow: Adding an Eco-Curious Mindset to a Consumptive Culture.

This project explores how consumer culture promotes habits that damage the environment.  By reflecting on consumer action through the lens of eco-curiosity, which is a desire to know more about the environment, I develop a proposal for a magazine based on ideas of action as creative input, the false corporate charge that blames the individual for environmental disaster, and sustainable thinking. The magazine is designed using creations of my own: personal essays and multimodal art that portray everyday environmental dilemmas.

capstone project ideas environmental science

Kenzie Davidson

I want to firstly thank Rose and Adela for their continuing support and guidance through this eventful and confusing Spring semester. I also want to thank my mentors Dr. Mergenthal and Dr. Behrens for assisting me in the editing, workshopping, and support they provided for my capstone. I would easily have been drowning in irrelevant literature and side tracking paragraphs without them. Lastly, I would like to thank Suzanne Nelson for bringing this complex topic to my attention during her class last Fall. This has turned out to be a perfect marrying of my two majors that I would never have had the chance to explore without her.

The One Health Approach to the Arctic: Using Climate Change, Environmental Pollution, and Inuit Relationships with Food to Evaluate Ecosystem and Human Health.

In this paper, I take a holistic health approach to the study of the Arctic called The One Health Approach. Essentially, I am exploring the effects climate change and environmental pollution have on the Arctic environment, animals, and the Inuit inhabitants of this region. I further explore the complex and intertwined connections between human health, environmental health, and animal health to examine how negative impacts propagate throughout all three.

capstone project ideas environmental science

Tyler Erickson

To start, I would like to thank my environmental studies teachers and mentors. Especially in these troubling times with the coronavirus pandemic, Adela Ramos and Rose McKenney have effectively managed class and assisted me in editing up my essay. In addition, I really appreciate all the additional work that Rebekah Mergenthal and Micheal Berhens have done to help me incorporate the disciplines of biology and history into my essay. Lastly, I would like to thank my friends and family for their support and guidance throughout the years.

Greenback Cutthroat Trout Case Study: Shifting human values from mining and exotic fish culture to and native species conservation from 1850s to present in Colorado

In this paper, I examine the troubling history of the greenback cutthroat trout, a Colorado state fish, which has has been the focus of conservation efforts from Colorado Parks and Wildlife in recent times. Drawing from the disciplines of environmental history and biology , I study the impact of the pike Peak Gold Rush, the accompanying rapid urbanization of the landscape, the influx of eastern settlers that led to a higher demand on fisheries, and the introduction of three species of non-native trout. The influx of competition pushed the population size of greenback cutthroat trout to a dangerously low level, so much so that they were falsely declared extinct in 1937. But, in 1968, greenbacks were rediscovered by Robert Behnke. For 50 years, the trout were cultured and reintroduced throughout their native range in Colorado. These efforts were so effective that their conservation status was lowered from endangered to threatened and almost delisted entirely until a morphological study in 2012 discovered disturbing evidence of the true greenback cutthroat lineage: efforts to protect and restore greenbacks years were futile as they were accidentally stocking Colorado river cutthroat trout instead of greenback cutthroat trout. The last remaining true population of greenback cutthroat trout were found in Bear Creek, and fish from this river have been introduced back into some of the rivers on the east slope of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. My paper concludes that as conservation efforts continue, greenback cutthroat trout seem to be once again making a recovery in Colorado. But this subspecies still has an uncertain future due to genetic problems and continued competition with non-native species.

capstone project ideas environmental science

Siri Fretheim

Anyone who has talked to me in the last six months has undoubtedly helped me with my project. My housemates and best friends Sami, Torrin, and Maggie have been integral to every experience I have had at PLU, and I wouldn’t have been able to finish this project without their support. I also want to thank Layne for forcing me to continually work without forgetting the importance of play. I love you all! My capstone professors Adela and Rose deserve the biggest acknowledgement for the effort and patience they have given me and all of my peers. Sending lots of love to all family and friends!!

Identity’s Impact on Relationship to Nature and Access to its Health Benefits

 In this paper, I explore and explain the link between human health and time spent in the outdoors. I will show how it could be connected to identity with help from the disciplines of Anthropology and Women’s and Gender Studies. I utilize theories of intersectionality, critical race theory, and feminist anthropology to better understand the United States’s outdoor culture and how it distinguishes who is and isn’t allowed to be considered normal for existing in that space. I go over various health benefits provided by the environment as well as the risks associated with lower nature exposure. By looking at historical representations of the outdoors in media, specifically magazines, I show how this discrimination has been a trend in the United States since its colonial inception. Statistics of park visitors will be broken down. Next I look at race and gender separately and see how they can affect the experience of the outdoors. Identity formation concerned with equal access to nature is vital to understanding how to care for yourself and how to care about the non-human world.

capstone project ideas environmental science

Ryan Gaschel

I would like to thank Professor Rose McKenney, Professor Michael Artime, and Professor Adela Ramos for their advice and guidance through this capstone process.

Transportation and Geomorphology in the Tacoma Metropolitan Area.

My capstone is a study of Pierce Transit’s Route 1 service area as an example of how improvements to the system could improve transportation equity in the system, as the route is currently undergoing a transition to a Bus Rapid Transit model. I consider currently applied public transportation systems, and how they relate to the natural and built environment and interact with the public they serve. Applying geoscience and political science disciplines, I develop a spatial analysis of the route, and demographics that the route would serve, and how this provides insights into how transportation systems can be improved to better serve the population, and benefit the environment as a byproduct of increased public transit usage. The resulting change would likely lead to higher representation of the population based on improvements to the route features and destinations themselves, while noting areas where increased community participation and feedback could lead to higher rates of usage. I conclude that improvements to this system, resulting in increased usage, can offer populations the ability to rely on public transit as their primary form of travel, resulting in less personal vehicle usage.

capstone project ideas environmental science

Khaleesi Gonzalez

Thank you so much to Dr. Naasz and Dean O’Brien for the support and guidance through this complex topic.

We Can't Burn, but We Can Earn: Calvinism as a Solution to the Atmospheric Crisis.

My paper examines how Calvinist theologies within the capitalist system in America can help reduce carbon emissions through the promotion of electric and hybrid car technology.

capstone project ideas environmental science

Daniel Hachet

I’d like to acknowledge my amazing advisors Dr. Nicola Justice and Dr. Kevin O’Brien. Both were amazing, flexible and provided me with great feedback. My capstone wouldn’t be possible without them. I’d also like to thank each catering student that helped make this project possible, as well as student life staff members.

An Application of Christian Ethics to PLU Catering Food Waste.

In this paper, I explain how PLU’s catering department functions and why it creates food waste. Using mathematical modeling, I estimate how much food waste catering generates in a given year, and how many people we could feed with that waste, as well as the amount of greenhouse gases which are produced. My project complements this mathematical analysis with an exploration of the ethics of food waste based on two religious frameworks: Creation Care and Eco-Liberation Theology. I conclude by offering possible solutions for food waste in catering using these frameworks and the work that is being done at PLU.

capstone project ideas environmental science

Sharlaine Hesira

I’d like to thank my mom and my sister for their never-ending support, especially being so far away from home. To thank my friends and co-workers that have kept me sane. To thank my mentors and professors for guiding me through this capstone. And to thank all of the opportunities that I have experienced within the past four years, both at PLU and at home.

Island Ecotourism: The Irony of Experience and Existence.

My capstone project brings together sociology and biology to argue that the demand for ecotourism activities in island communities puts pressure on the natural environments and contributes to population loss. In order to understand why there’s an increasing demand for ecotourism, I conduct a sociological examination of the role advertisements play in portraying island destinations and the role island communities play in matching their portrayal in these advertisements. Using numerical biological data about sea turtle and seabird population in island communities, I foreground the contradicting relationship in the decline of land-ocean interface species in areas and increased wildlife-watching tours.

capstone project ideas environmental science

Ea Kirkland-Woodward

I would like to thank the entire Environmental Studies Department for helping me through this process and all of my time at PLU. From my first day to my last, I have learned invaluable lessons from some of the best professors. I would also like to thank my parents and grandparents for allowing me the opportunity to attend PLU and always providing for me; I cannot thank you enough.

Environmental Degradation at the Hanford Nuclear Site.

My capstone studies the Hanford Nuclear Site in Eastern Washington. This decommissioned nuclear site is now one of the largest and most difficult environmental cleanup projects the U.S. Dept. of Energy has ever dealt with. By looking at this problem through the lenses of environmental history and chemistry, I show how these nuclear contaminants are affecting not only the local environment, but also the natural landscapes and people who live there.

capstone project ideas environmental science

Anya Nelson

I’d like to thank my capstone professors Rose & Adela, mentors Dr. Laurie-Berry and Dr. Young, and capstone classmates for all of their support, guidance and encouragement. I’d also like to thank my family and friends for just about everything! 🙂

Sulfide-ore mining and wild rice protection in Northern Minnesota: A case study on scientific rhetoric and (mis)communication.

A disconnect between scientists and the general public is all too common, and is sometimes taken advantage of by powerful corporations or political groups. In northern Minnesota, the controversy around a pair of proposed sulfide-ore mining projects and their potential effects on nearby protected ecosystems and the culturally significant wild rice offer key insight into this phenomenon. I argue that by analyzing the ways in which various stakeholders use (or ignore) scientific data to further their own interests, we can better understand how to mitigate the public’s misunderstanding or misinterpretation of science, and thus enact conservation measures.

capstone project ideas environmental science

Layne Perkins

I would like to thank my mentors, Dr. Shannon Seidel and Dr. Katherine Wiley, and my capstone professors, Dr. Rose McKenney and Dr. Adela Ramos, for their constant and incredible support and care. My paper would not be where it is today with out the insightful feedback from Dr. Seidel and Dr. Wiley, and my life would be a little less fun and informative if it were not for liveliness of the wonderful Dr. McKenney and Dr. Ramos. Finally, I would like to thank my family and friends, whose continual belief in me is what drives my passion and work in creating a world where everyone has access to environmental spaces and education.

Environmental Education: Connecting Eco-Literacy and Empathy to Promote Environmental Justice in Underserved Communities.

In this paper, I seek to draw connections between eco-literacy and empathy and how they can be applied to environmental justice efforts. The anthropological focus of my paper analyzes the disparities in environmental access and understanding in regards to race and socio-economic status. Building from this information, I explain how integrating science teaching methods that focus on developing empathy will lead to social change through increased environmental comprehension among underserved communities. My work with Wildlife Champions highlights how an environmental education program can be successful in developing these traits. With climate changes on the rise and the disproportionate way in which it impacts marginalized populations, this work is more important now than ever because it addresses the systemic racial and income inequality issues in the United States while also providing the solution of implementing more environmental education programs throughout the country.

capstone project ideas environmental science

Orion Schomber

I would like to thank my mentors, Dr. Bradford Andrews, Dr. Gregory Youtz, Dr. Rose McKenney, and Dr. Adela Ramos, for guiding me through this complicated project; Dr. Miho Takekawa, for her recommendations and encouragement; my mom and dad, for their encouragement and excitement about my research; and my partner Eric, for listening to me continuously ramble about the complicated nature of music’s impact on the environment.

Shake, Rattle, and Plastic: The Environmental and Cultural Impacts of Mass Produced Percussion Instruments .

Music is often not associated with environmental degradation. However, the adaption of mass production in the music industry has highly negative environmental impacts that we must recognize as we work to limit our personal and societal impact on the environment. Percussion instruments are one of the instrument groups that is the most environmentally harmful due to rapid production of synthetic instruments and utilization of endangered woods. Through three case studies with rattles, congas, and xylophones, I find that most percussion instruments originally held great cultural significance and were created with natural localized materials, like native woods, animal parts, and plants. However, through industrialization and popularization of these instruments, the connection between culture, environment, and instrument has dwindled; Thus, leading to heavy usage of synthetic materials. By utilizing cultural anthropology and acoustic studies, I analyzed why these cultural changes occurred. Through this and its application to ethnomusicology, I suggest the adaption of wide scale localized craftspeople to move percussion creation away from mass production and back to individual communities. While there will be challenges, I argue that this path of action will be the most musically, culturally, and environmentally friendly method to this ever growing problem.

capstone project ideas environmental science

Danielle Skibiel

I would like to acknowledge and thank my two mentors, professors Rose McKenney and Sergia Hay, for helping to guide me in creating my idea for this capstone project and for taking the time to assist me during the course of this class. Your motivation and support has kept me encouraged to finish strong! I’d also like to take a moment to say thank you to all my friends, family, and housemates for inspiring and believing in me over the course of this undergrad experience, I couldn’t be more thankful. Lastly, thank you to my Environmental Studies peers and instructors for being so awesome and supportive this past year. You are each truly inspiring, I’ll miss seeing you around!

The Ethical Use of Natural Resources: Hydroelectricity at Holden.

My Capstone project examines the use of hydropower at Holden Village. Long-term use of hydropower at Holden Village is consistent with ethical principles of virtue ethics. Through instructional and habitual action, the villagers at Holden display virtuous ethics regarding the use of hydroelectricity for power. Adaptations to actions are required throughout the year based on the seasonality of streamflow and the generation of power from the water in Copper Creek. I argue that the behavioral adaptations Holden Villagers make in regards to hydroelectricity production during winter seasons are a reflection of virtue in action with regards to the natural environment.

capstone project ideas environmental science

Austin Smith

I would like to thank Rose McKenney, Adela Ramos, Michael Artime.

Fixing Our Agriculture System.

This project looks at the detrimental effects of monoculture farming & recommends alternatives in order to reduce damages to groundwater as well as soil.

capstone project ideas environmental science

Many thanks to the Environmental Studies Department at PLU, my mentors Professor Claire Todd and Professor Rebecca Wilkin. Without the support of my friends, families, and peers, this capstone would not have been possible.

Advocating for Accessible Ecological Literacy: Cross-genre comparison of Geology and Germinal.

Environmental education developed the concept of ecological literacy to promote the comprehension of environmental issues and to promote sustainable behavior. However eco-literacy is hindered when readers are unable to access the necessary knowledge to comprehend scientific literature. Literature written for the general public (i.e. not discipline specific) has the capacity to operate as pedagogic material in support of eco-literacy. My project advocates for eco-literacy by examining É mile Zola’s novel, Germinal (1885), alongside geological publications, Guéguen et al. (2009) and Denimal et al. (2002). Through a cross-genre comparison of literature and scientific journals, I show how each genre portrays geological information (subsidence, mine-tip leaching).

capstone project ideas environmental science

The EVS curriculum culminates in the final year of the EVS program with a two-semester capstone research experience. Under the mentorship of  a UT faculty member, students bring all of their education and experience to bear on a research question or issue that is of personal interest and importance to them. This research culminates in a final report including a research abstract, as well as in the creation of a research poster, suitable for presentation at professional conferences.  Students are also eligible to submit a proposal for a Capstone Research Award; see below for more details.

NOTE : Current EVS students preparing to conduct their Capstone Research Project should review and complete a Capstone Research Contract with their faculty mentor prior to beginning their research. EVS students must submit a signed contract to the EVS Program Office by the 4th class day of the semester enrolled to avoid being dropped from EVS 271 or  EVS 371.

Students should start exploring research options early! Here are some useful resources to get started:

Helpful Links

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Environmental studies capstone.

Our environmental studies capstone is the culmination of the UMM experience for our majors.  In some years we have focused the projects on a common area of study (i.e. housing-related issues). In others, we connect student capstone projects with their previous work in classes and/or internships.

Recent capstone project titles (selected from 2012-2015) include:

An Environmental History of Landscape Change in Morris, Minnesota

An Exploration of Affordable Energy Efficient Housing Options with Reference to Morris, MN

Assessing Research Prospects: Recycling Urine for Fertilizer in Morris, Minnesota

"By Our Homes You Will Know Us": Native American Housing of Yesterday and Today

Designing affordable, energy-efficient rural housing in northern climates

Household Food Waste: Composting Policy Proposal for the City of Morris, MN

Knowledge of and Attitudes toward Multigenerational Living at Grandview Apartments

Mi casa sería tu casa pero casas no hay.  Housing shortages and language based discrimination in rural Minnesota.

Possibilities for Alternative Household Water Resource Management in Morris, MN

Recycling In Stevens County: An Audit of Student & Non-Student Residential Recycling

Stop-Drop-Sustain UMM

The Art of Reclaiming Building Materials

Utilizing Rain Gardens to Reduce Stormwater Roof Runoff in Morris, Minnesota

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UNC Institute for the Environment

What is a Capstone?

The environmental capstone course is officially ENEC 698 Capstone: Analysis and Solution of Environmental Problems, taught in the Environment, Ecology and Energy Program (E3P) with support from the Institute. The Capstone is a semester-long group project charged with tackling an environmental research question for a client. Capstones allow students to apply and hone the skills they have learned throughout their UNC career in an experiential/field-based academic experience similar to positions they might apply for after graduation, i.e. consulting firms and other private companies, non-profit organizations, and local government, or similar to an academic setting typical of graduate school. The projects are intentionally team-based and provide an opportunity for students to bring their individual skill sets to the group effort. This group experience teaches skills in working together and is critical to future employment.

The Capstone is a three credit hour experiential education course and is required of all environmental studies  (BA)  and environmental science  (BS)  majors. Students with sustainability or environmental science and studies minors are strongly encouraged to enroll. The Capstone is also a required course for students enrolled in the Sustainable Triangle Field Site in Chapel Hill as well as field sites in Morehead City , the Outer Banks , Highlands , and Thailand .   Please contact Carol Hee at E3P for more information on any of these projects or to recommend future projects.

Capstone Archive

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Spring 2019

Spring 2018

Spring 2017

Spring 2016

Spring 2015

Summer 2014

Spring 2014

Summer 2013

Spring 2013

Spring 2012

Spring 2011

Spring 2010

Summer 2009

Spring 2009

Summer 2008

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Summer 2007

Summer 2006

Summer 2005

Summer 2004


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  1. Last week at home before going back on rotations. No longer a SAHM. #bittersweet #momlife #paschool



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  1. What Is a Introduction in a Science Project?

    One of the key purposes of the introduction to a science project is setting forth or outlining the purpose of the project in a clear, concise manner. The introduction summarizes how the science project is to work or proceed from start to fi...

  2. What Are Some Easy Science Investigatory Projects?

    Some easy investigatory science project ideas include attempting to purify used cooking oil, making biodegradable plastic and increasing the shelf life of fruits and vegetables. One easy experiment is to investigate possible strategies for ...

  3. What Is the Conclusion in a Science Project?

    The conclusion in a science project summarizes the results of the experiment and either contradicts or supports the original hypothesis. It is a simple and straightforward answer to the question posed by the experiment. This section is clea...

  4. Past Capstone Projects

    Past Capstone Projects · Climate Change · Communications/Advocacy · Conservation/Restoration · Environmental Education · Environmental Justice · Environmental Policy

  5. Capstone Projects

    Capstone Projects. photo of students with bees. The Environmental Studies Capstone Project is a three credit group research project. The

  6. Capstone Projects

    Environmental Studies students major in a wide range of fields across campus, and their senior year Capstone Projects reflect that breadth and scope.

  7. Sample Projects

    Sample Projects · Investigating the Greenness of Ionic Liquids · Improving Indoor Air Quality with Plants that Capture Formaldehyde · Sea Level Rise and New York-

  8. Master of Environmental Studies Capstone Projects

    The interaction between humans and the environment is not a purely scientific matter. Questions of politics, economics, ethics, religion and culture also

  9. Past Capstone Projects

    Assessing Climate Impacts on West Nile Virus: An Interactive Vulnerability Map and a Preventative Policy Recommendation - Anais Teyton · Prototyping a Global

  10. Student Research and Senior Capstone Projects

    The capstone course centers around activities that help students reflect on their knowledge about sustainability and bring together threads from diverse

  11. 2020 Capstones

    My capstone project brings together sociology and biology to argue that the demand for ecotourism activities in island communities puts pressure

  12. Capstone Research Projects

    Mentor Research Keywords, to brainstorm ideas for your own project.

  13. Environmental Studies Capstone

    Environmental Studies Capstone · An Environmental History of Landscape Change in Morris, Minnesota · An Exploration of Affordable Energy Efficient Housing Options

  14. Capstone

    The projects are intentionally team-based