Student Research


Assessing Pollinator Habitat at Boston College

Melissa Dangond and Connor McKnight

Recently a beehive was installed on top of Fulton Hall at Boston College. The aim of this study was to determine if the landscape around the BC campus can sustain honey and wild bee populations. Bee populations are declining globally, largely due to human activities like habitat fragmentation that frequently comes with urbanization. While urban landscapes sometimes act to disrupt pollinator habitats, they can also provide valuable resources for pollinators. Using landscaping maps of locations around campus and background information on plants, we determined that 47% of the planted area on campus was effective as foraging habitat for bees, with 81% of the total plants (trees, shrubs, ground cover, etc.) being adequate pollen providers. This along with the assessment of biodiversity and bloom months from the literature led us to the conclusion that Boston College is an adequate habitat for bee population currently. However, a few improvements could further increase the value of the landscape to pollinators. Low maintenance native perennials could effectively replace (or supplement) some of the foliage on campus that doesn’t aid in enhancing bee habitat. Either by blooming in later months to help provide a more complete foraging season or by simply providing an additional food source for foraging bees, the recommendations provided would allow for BC to become an urban landscape that could support healthy bee populations.


Boston College Ridesharing

Allison Chase and Trevor Lennox

This study aims to gain insight into the lack of ridesharing services used by Boston College (BC) faculty and staff. Although Boston College joined into a partnership with MassRIDES, a free program of Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), only five staff members have begun using this program for their daily commute. Through a survey, we examine the current commuting habits and potential for ridesharing, and specifically vanpooling, by Boston College faculty and staff. Additionally, we present research into the motivations behind a commute with automobiles, as well as the impacts on health and the environment. We perform a full cost analysis of various commuting methods on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis. We propose three solutions to improve the already- challenging parking situation at Boston College and increase the presence of ridesharing for BC faculty and staff including: a marketing campaign, a route matching program, and a BC shuttle that runs on the most populous commuting routes. 

Boston College Solar Energy Report

Austin Cortney and Paul Howard

This project analyzed the need for, feasibility of, and process by which solar (photovoltaic) energy can be used by Boston College on campus. By working with professionals both at Boston College and other organizations, we were able to collect data and information to create this report. Based on our research, solar energy is feasible for the 13 College Road properties which Boston College owns. This project is modeled after “Solar Street” at Georgetown University. There are multiple methods to secure finances for this and to organize the logistics of this process. If all goes well, within a few years, Boston College could have a reduced carbon footprint and energy cost by having multiple solar panels installed.

Communicating Climate Change to Religious Audiences

Alex Alvarado and Alexa Liccardi

In this research, we discover religious avenues of discussion on the topic of climate change. Within the topic of religion, we focused on creating specific arguments that would pertain to Catholic liberals, moderates, and conservatives. In order to do this, we utilized Jonathon Haidt’s research in The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion to establish how each Catholic subgroup made decisions in their daily lives based off  of his Moral Foundations Theory. We then scoured religious documents, such as Pope Francis’ encyclical, for ecotheology that resonates with the moral foundations of each subgroup. After collecting this research, we map out which types of environmental religious rhetoric would best speak to the moral foundations of each subgroup, in order to better convince them of the importance of environmental action. Our overall goal was to establish a tool that can be used practically to attract the disinterested or the disengaged into participating in climate change initiatives.

Energy Usage and Behavior of Students Living in Boston College Residence Halls

Zachary Muzdakis Summer Zacca

This research paper identifies energy consumption trends in Boston College campus residence halls based on student behaviors and appliance usage. The researchers chose to analyze energy consumption trends in order to direct consumer conscious as well as administrative trends towards a more energy efficient campus. Students are unaware of the amount of energy their appliances use, and act in ways that aren’t energy conscious. This paper serves as an analysis of what demographics of students are consuming the most energy, as well as what appliances and behaviors contribute the most to energy inefficient practices. The researchers engaged with students through in person surveys, online surveys, and in person energy audits to glean energy consumption information. The researchers then performed a series of statistical procedures on the collected data and reported the relevant, statistically significant data and trends. It was found that women consume more energy from appliances than men on average, and that hair dryers are the main culprit of inefficient energy practices. It is hoped that this study will be utilized by students and administrators alike to engage Boston College students and campus in energy efficient practices. 

Exploring the Aesthetic Benefits of Arbor Landscaping at Boston College

Risa Kuroda and Kjirsten Rhee

This research paper aims to generate awareness on the importance of urban forests and tree conservation especially with regard to aesthetic impact on urban populations. Urban forestry is defined as all trees on urban land, which includes a mixture of planted and naturally regenerated trees. Urban life is generally characterized as life in a city or town. The disconnect from nature that urban life causes may contribute to negative health effects and influence the decisions that people make regarding resource use. Urban forests provide important benefits including biodiversity conservation, ecosystem services, as well as psychological and social benefits for people. Additionally, urban forests increase the aesthetic value of an area. They have been shown to improve the psychological and physiological well-being of urban inhabitants. This project elucidates the established benefits of arbor aesthetics and raises awareness of the hidden benefits of the trees on Boston College’s Chestnut Hill campus. In doing so this project creates a walking tour of BC’s significant trees and provides suggestions towards turning BC into an Arbor-Day certified campus. With this project the authors hope to rekindle the vital connection with nature that community members surrounding urban campuses may be missing. 

Impact of Positive and Negative Messaging on Food Waste in Lower Dining Hall

Juliana Vaccaro, Marisa Marshalka, and Jackie Batrus

This study intended to determine the impact of positive and negative messaging on food waste habits of students at Boston College in the Corcoran Commons (Lower) Dining Hall. The International Review Board approved the research proposal and waived the need for signatures to guarantee informed consent. Surveys were given to 150 students over the course of three rounds of research. The plates of each student that completed a survey were photographed and labeled in such a way to remain connected to the survey information and carry no personal data. The photographs were taken and surveys administered while students were in the process of putting their plates on the conveyor belt to the kitchen for waste. During the first round of 50 surveys, no messaging was used in the dining hall. During the second round of 50 surveys, positive messaging was used. During the third round of 50 surveys, negative messaging was used. The photographs were studied to determine the average percent of food wasted by students and to determine the type of food that was wasted. The surveys were used to analyze other qualitative factors that affect food waste habits, such as gender and the degree of concern about climate change. The results of this project do not suggest that messaging, neither positive nor negative, has an effect on food waste habits. Certain error sources, such as the messaging posters being taken down approximately every 24 hours, may have contributed to the lack of statistical significance. With the incorporation of certain improvements to the study and recommendations offered for the dining hall, food waste could be reduced at Boston College. The problem of food waste is of national and international concern. Boston College is advised to take many more preventative measures to reducing post-consumer food waste. 

The Nexus of Climate Change Messaging and Morality at Boston College

Johnna Glover and Carolyn Townsend

Boston College as an institution teaches the importance of social responsibility, urging its students to use their degrees to solve the world’s most pressing problems. Climate change in many regards can be regarded as the largest predicament facing humankind on an ecological, moral, and ethical basis - yet action fighting this problem here at BC is not a priority to most students. The study aimed to find the morality foundations within the undergraduate study body in order to better tailor climate change messaging campaigns to target action, and to discover the overarching beliefs around the high-contested, partisan issue. A survey was distributed using the reference of Jonathan Haidt’s Morality Matrices and the Yale Six America’s Climate Study. The morality portion of our results reveal a study body with a four-foundational moral matrix largely across demographics consisting of care, fairness, oppression, and loyalty. The climate portion of our results highlights that while the vast majority of the BC student body thinks climate change is happening with much certainty and believe it will profoundly impact plants and animals as well as people in developing nations, there is a personal disconnect with the subject because the majority of the population does not think it will much affect the BC community, their family or themselves. Overall, the study reveals a morality pattern which can be used to better inform the student body’s personal disconnect from climate change as an issue, which will hopefully inspire increased action. 

The Protein Flip: An Environmental Analysis of Beef Substitution at Boston College

Dean A. Elwell and Anthony R. Ferrara

The negative environmental impacts of beef are well documented. To minimize these impacts, much of the current literature prescribes changes to production methods. Meanwhile, little attention has been paid to changing consumption patterns. In this study, a beef substitution experiment was administered in Corcoran Commons, a dining hall operated by Boston College Dining Services. In a single blind experiment, four blends of mushroom and beef meatballs were tested. Respondents recorded their evaluations of five gastronomic qualities and data produced was analyzed to determine popularity, variance, and correlation. Results indicated that while the most popular sample was the control 100% beef meatball, the majority of respondents selected a mushroom and beef blend as their top choice. These findings are salient to university dining services seeking to reduce on-campus beef consumption. This study was part of a larger initiative managed by the Menus of Change University Research Collaborative, an interscholastic organization founded by Stanford University and The Culinary Institute of America.