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Allegheny Wins French Creek Watershed Cleanup Prize

Allegheny College is being recognized once again for its efforts to clean up the French Creek Watershed.

Allegheny students were among the more than 700 people who banded together to pull 26,305 pounds of trash — more than 13 tons — from the French Creek watershed on Sept. 10. For the second year in a row, Allegheny won the $1,000 prize granted to an educational institution with the most participants in the annual French Creek Watershed Cleanup.

One hundred thirty-four Allegheny students, faculty and staff participated in the one-day event organized by the French Creek Valley Conservancy, said Wendy Kedzierski, director of Creek Connections, a watershed educational outreach program of Allegheny. Among the groups that participated were several fraternities, the Outing Club, the women’s rugby team, the Beta Beta Beta Biological Honor Society and Students for Environmental Action. Some students canoed French Creek, picking up floating debris as they went. (more…)

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DeHart Dinner, Market to Showcase Local Foods

Lamb stew.

Roasted root vegetables.

Apple crisp made from locally grown apples, topped with fresh maple ice cream.

This might just be the tastiest event on the Allegheny College campus.

The DeHart Local Foods Dinner will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 21, in Schultz Banquet Hall, featuring a full menu of vegetables, proteins, dairy, honey, fruit and other products from local farms, as well as produce grown in Allegheny’s Carr Hall garden, the Carrden. (more…)

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Allegheny College researchers find potential new species while researching bee diversity

Pity the poor honeybee: Populations of one of the world’s leading pollinators are plummeting, the result of urbanization, pesticide use and disease.

There were 2.59 million honeybee colonies on January 1, 2016, down 8 percent from the 2.82 million present a year earlier for operations with five or more colonies, according to a new USDA estimate. That steep drop is a threat to global agriculture that has the attention of everyone from small farmers to directors of federal government agencies.

But what of Halictus ligatus or the tiny, shiny Augochlorella aurata, two of the more than 4,000 species of bees that, unlike honeybees, are native to the United States?

As honeybees decline, those native bees are increasingly important to pollination. But they’re not grabbing headlines.

“We know a lot about honeybees, but we know relatively little about native species,” said Sam Droege, a wildlife biologist who runs the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Bee Inventory & Monitoring Lab in Beltsville, Md.

Two Allegheny students are changing that.

Senior Paige Hickman and sophomore Kaye Moyer, working under the direction of Assistant Professor of Environmental Science Beth Choate, this summer trapped and catalogued native bees from 17 sites on campus and in Meadville in an attempt to get a handle on the abundance and diversity of native bees in the area.

The work, a continuation of research by other students in 2014 and 2015, is the first such survey of its kind in the region. In May and June alone Hickman and Moyer collected 577 native bees, including something that’s potentially new: a species not yet described by scientists.

Before talking about why anyone would want to spend a summer break collecting insects, here’s a primer on the difference between honeybees and native bees: Honeybees were introduced to North America by European settlers. Native bees are just that — native to the continent — but, unlike honeybees, are solitary. They don’t live in hives, and they don’t make honey. They build nests in the ground and in wood.

Like honeybees, though, native bees are significant pollinators — and that, in a nutshell, is why Hickman and Moyer took up their cause.

“Bees really have a niche in the environment and without them the (ecosystem) would be out of balance,” Moyer said.

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Research @ Allegheny – The Buzz on Native Bees

On a recent summer afternoon on the Allegheny campus, the environmental science majors worked as a tag team in a Carr Hall lab — Moyer using a strainer to wash the dead bees of dirt and debris, Hickman drying them with a small handheld dryer. (Fun fact: Drying bees makes their hair fluffy, which is cute if you’re a bee-lover and useful if you’re a scientist trying to identify features on a bee’s face and body.)

In addition to simply cataloguing the number and types of bees collected, Moyer and Hickman also want to look at where they were trapped and determine what role land use plays in bee abundance and diversity.

“Where there is more concrete, there is less nesting space available and fewer flowers that they rely on as a food source,” Hickman said. “At Robertson (Athletic Complex, one of the collection sites), there are all naturally occurring flowers compared to downtown where the flowers are mostly in people’s gardens and more ornamental and hybrid species that wouldn’t necessarily be found in nature.”

Earlier in the summer, Hickman, Moyer and Choate visited Droege’s lab. They’d sent him the mystery bee Hickman and Moyer found and Droege — a man with 500 bee species at his fingertips and access to thousands more — said he’d never seen anything like it before. It’s now in the hands of a University of Michigan specialist who will determine if it is indeed a new species.

Droege is easy to talk to and not stingy when it comes to sharing his expertise. He routinely hosts students at the lab, but most, he said, are graduate students.

“The fact that they’re working at that level as undergraduates impresses me immensely,” Droege said of Hickman and Moyer. “Looking back on myself being an undergraduate, I wouldn’t have necessarily taken the initiative. I wouldn’t have even known where to get involved with working on insects, and I would have been too shy” to reach out to experts.

The entire project was a unique opportunity to do hands-on research that could have lasting implications, Choate said.

“What I hope they get out of it is how to think critically about a situation and how to problem-solve,” Choate said. “When you do research you learn how to ask questions and you learn how to get the data you need to answer those questions.”

Choate is working to help Moyer and Hickman publish the work. But the overall goal of the project, both students said, is to effect change. Knowing what types of native bees are here is the first step to helping municipalities and residents know how to attract and support them.

 

Photo of bumblebee on flower courtesy of Kaye Moyer.

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U.S. News & World Report Ranks Allegheny Among Best National Liberal Arts Colleges

Allegheny College has been named one of the top 100 national liberal arts colleges by U.S. News & World Report in its annual rankings released today, the latest in a string of accolades for the college.

“We are very pleased to once again be included among the best liberal arts colleges in the United States, a honor that comes on the heels of being named the No. 1 baccalaureate college for undergraduate research by the Council on Undergraduate Research,” said James H. Mullen, Jr., the college’s president. “These and other recent accolades reflect Allegheny’s growing national prominence and unmatched reputation as an institution that fosters creativity and innovation and empowers students to make a difference.” (more…)

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Allegheny Partners with Zipcar to Offer Car Sharing

No taxi?

No problem.

Zipcar has arrived on campus.

Allegheny College on Tuesday will launch a new partnership with Zipcar, the world’s leading car sharing network, to offer a Zipcar car sharing program on campus for students, faculty and staff ages 18 and older.

Allegheny members can join the on-demand car sharing program for $15 this year; rates for the Zipcars start as low as $7.50 per hour and $69 a day. After the first year, members will pay an annual membership fee of $25. Gas, insurance, and up to 180 miles of driving per day are included in the rates, and cars can be reserved for as little as an hour or for multiple days. Allegheny students, faculty and staff can join Zipcar at www.zipcar.com/allegheny. (more…)

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Playshop Theatre Opens 87th Season with ‘Rejoice!’

The Playshop Theatre at Allegheny College opens its 87th season Friday with “Rejoice!”— an original production written and performed by Dan Crozier and directed by Roberta Levine. Performances will be held at 8 p.m. on Sept. 9 and 10 in the Gladys Mullenix Black Theatre in the Vukovich Center for Communication Arts.

The 2016–17 lineup also includes “A Civil War Christmas: An American Musical Celebration,” written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel and directed by Beth Watkins, on Nov. 17–20; “Luna Gale,” written by Rebecca Gilman and directed by Mark Cosdon, Feb. 23–26; and “Baby with the Bathwater,” written by Tony award-winning author Christopher Durang and directed by Crozier, April 20–23. (more…)

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Allegheny Celebrates Year of Mindfulness

This is a hectic time and we are a hectic people, rushing through overscheduled lives that leave little time for reflection and peace.

“We’re always busy, busy, busy,” said Jennifer Hellwarth, associate professor of English and women’s, gender and sexuality studies at Allegheny College. “It seemed really important to offer an opportunity to stop and engage in a mindfulness practice.”

Enter the Year of Mindfulness, this year’s campus-wide theme at Allegheny.

The lineup of events includes visits by several speakers, including Buddhist practitioners, poets and a neurologist; Middle Eastern music and dance performances; art exhibitions; and the creation of a sand mandala by Tibetan monks.

Buddhist writer and teacher Lodro Rinzler will kick off the year with a free, public talk called “The Buddha Walks Into a Bar: Meditation and Saving the World” on Thursday, Sept. 8, at 7 p.m. in Ford Chapel. He will also conduct a workshop, “Becoming Who You Want to Be: Meditation and Living a Life of Meaning,” on Saturday, Sept. 10, from 9:30 to noon in Montgomery Gym. The workshop will look at the relationship between meditation and setting an intention around career aspirations based on cultivating who you want to be. To participate, register here. The full schedule of events can be viewed on the Year of Mindfulness website. (more…)

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Sierra Club Again Counts Allegheny College Among America’s “Coolest Schools”

The Sierra Club, the nation’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, has again listed Allegheny College among the top colleges and universities in the nation for green initiatives, institutions that the Sierra Club calls “America’s coolest schools.” Allegheny ranked No. 50 on this year’s list, rising from No. 67 in 2015 and No. 110 in 2014.

The Sierra Club rankings are based on more than 60 factors, including the presence of a student sustainability group on campus, sustainability-focused courses, faculty research, innovations, use of renewable energy sources, waste reduction and a strategic plan that includes high-level sustainability.

Allegheny is also included in The Princeton Review’s most recent “Guide to 353 Green Colleges” and is ranked among the nation’s top five “Best Colleges Advocating Environmental Science” by EnvironmentalScience.org, a website dedicated to environmental science education and careers. (more…)

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Allegheny Featured in Princeton Review’s “Best 381 Colleges”

Allegheny College is one of the nation’s best institutions for undergraduate education, according to The Princeton Review. The education services company features the school in the new 2017 edition of its flagship college guide, “The Best 381 Colleges.”

Only about 15% of America’s 2,500 four-year colleges are profiled in the book, which includes detailed profiles of the colleges.

In its profile on Allegheny, The Princeton Review quotes extensively from students the company surveyed for the book. Among their comments: Allegheny is a school “where people exude passion about what they’re involved in” and the curriculum is “all about applying your knowledge to your experiences.” (more…)

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Allegheny Ranks Among Washington Monthly’s Top 30 Liberal Arts Colleges in the Nation

Allegheny College has been named one of the Top 30 Best Liberal Arts Colleges in the nation in Washington Monthly’s college rankings, released today. Also listed among the top 30 are Amherst, Wellesley College, Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr.

The Washington Monthly rankings are unique in that they recognize not only what colleges do for their students but what colleges are doing for the country. The rankings rate top liberal arts colleges in the nation based on three broad categories: social mobility (recruiting and graduating low-income students), research (producing cutting-edge scholarship and PhDs) and service (encouraging students to give something back to society).

“For more than 200 years, Allegheny and our faculty have prepared students for lives not only of success but of meaning,” said James H. Mullen, Jr., president of Allegheny College. “We are deeply honored by Washington Monthly’s recognition of the important role that Allegheny plays in advancing innovative research, difference-making service and access to an affordable, outstanding education. At the heart of our mission is an unflagging commitment to strengthening the communities and nations that our students, alumni and their families call home.”

This marks the fourth consecutive year Allegheny has been recognized among the best liberal arts colleges in the nation by Washington Monthly.