Allegheny Professor Shares His Fulbright Experience

Eric Pallant photographed his share of sheep, rustic stonewalls, and vintage waterwheels during the spring 2017 semester which he spent in the United Kingdom as part of the Fulbright educational exchange program. Pallant, the Christine Scott Nelson Professor of Environmental Sustainability and chair of the Department of Environmental Science at Allegheny College, also taught students about food, sustainability and green campus initiatives at Lancaster University. And he presented his lecture, “6000 Years of Bread,” at Gresham College in London.

This was Pallant’s second Fulbright experience. In 2001 he was awarded a Fulbright to teach and conduct research at Israel’s Arava Institute for Environmental Studies.


The professor and some bison-type creature.

Having returned to campus in July from his latest Fulbright foray, the bread-baking professor shared a few observations about his semester overseas:

Is there any difference between Lancaster University students and those at Allegheny, and what might that difference be?

Because classes in the U.K. limit the amount of work that a professor can assign to a single homework per term students in the U.K. are much less swamped by weekly assignments. They have more time to read and some of them actually do the reading. While they may be very good readers, they are not nearly as practiced as Allegheny students are at applying what they learn to the kinds of real problems they will face after graduation.

What is something revolutionary you learned about making bread?

I used to think that great bread required only four ingredients: flour, water, salt, and leavening. The most important ingredient, however, is time. Giving dough a long time and being patient while it rises allows for complex flavors to develop that cannot be reproduced in bread that is rushed. Compare a homemade loaf to anything from the store, and you’ll understand what I mean. Slow rises are just as important for yeasted loaves as for sourdoughs, but sourdoughs, because they rely upon wild, rather than high-powered, commercial yeasts are inherently slower. In many ways the discovery of time as a fifth ingredient is a metaphor. Baking bread, especially slow bread made from sourdough is the antithesis and in my opinion the antidote to the high-speed, busy days most of us refer to as work and life.

Images of sourdough through a scanning electron microscope.

You had your sourdough starters analyzed — what did you learn about them from the National Collection for Yeast Cultures?

Check out the photo that the NCYC’s scanning electron microscope took of my sourdough starters. When they ran DNA analysis on my different starters, we were a little surprised to discover that they were all dominated by the same species of yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the same species, by the way, used to make beer. NCYC did not have the resources to analyze the DNA of the bacteria so different species of bacteria might be living in my starters depending upon their origins.

What are the three most significant takeaways from your second Fulbright experience?

• Having time away from one’s ordinary life and job is a gift everyone should have.
• After attending an International conference in Manchester, England last spring I reached the conclusion that Allegheny should be preparing students to assist in meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2030. I’ll be pushing that idea this upcoming year.
• After two terms at the University of Lancaster I am more convinced than ever that Allegheny’s liberal arts education is unsurpassed.

Pallant with Allegheny students who were studying in Lancaster, UK.

Did you host a European reunion of Allegheny alumni bread bakers?

Not exactly. But we did have a couple of wonderful meet-ups with the four Allegheny students studying at Lancaster this past spring. Check out the photo. The five of us are already scheming a get together for homemade Sticky-Toffee-Pudding, our favorite British dessert.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny College Student Awarded Prestigious Place on Fulbright Summer Institute to the United Kingdom

Allegheny College student Allyson Wood has received a place on a Fulbright Summer Institute at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom through one of the most prestigious and selective summer scholarship programs operating worldwide.

The U.S.-U.K. Fulbright Commission is the only bilateral, transatlantic scholarship program, offering awards and summer programs for study or research in any field at any accredited U.S. or U.K. university.

Beginning in mid-June, Wood will take an intensive four-week course in field biology in Brighton, England. The seaside town, located on the country’s southern coast, offers rich opportunities for research.  

“I hope it’s going to give me more confidence in being a scientist,” said Wood, an environmental science major and environmental writing minor. “It will be great to see how England approaches fieldwork. … The environment will likely be quite different from Meadville, which is the only place I’ve had field experience.”

Last summer, Wood conducted research on an invasive fish species in the French Creek watershed with Casey Bradshaw-Wilson, visiting assistant professor of environmental science. Bradshaw-Wilson was among three Allegheny faculty members who provided letters of recommendation and other support for Wood’s application to the Fulbright Summer Institute.

Wood’s faculty advisor, Assistant Professor of Environmental Science Benjamin Haywood, initially suggested she pursue the institute. And Patrick Jackson, nationally competitive awards advisor in the Allegheny Gateway, offered Wood guidance on the application process and feedback on her essays.

In her personal statement for the application, Wood wrote about her childhood desire to stay near her hometown of Clarence Center, New York, for the rest of her life.

“But I realized, if I actually wanted to accomplish what I wanted to do, I was going to have to branch out and go to college away from home,” she said, “and hop across the pond if I wanted to grow as a person and become a better scientist.”

Wood will begin her junior year at Allegheny in the fall, with longer-term plans to pursue a master’s degree in fishery science and a career in aquaculture. She sees the Fulbright Summer Institute as an important step along that path.

“I’m so unbelievably happy and humbled to have gotten this opportunity,” Wood said. “I’m just really thankful to everyone who helped me.”

Each year, the U.S.-U.K. Fulbright Commission supports around 60 U.K. and U.S. undergraduate students to undertake a demanding academic and cultural summer program at leading institutions in the U.S. and U.K. The commission selects participants through a rigorous application and interview process.

In making these awards, the commission looks not only for academic excellence but a focused application, a range of extracurricular and community activities, demonstrated ambassadorial skills, a desire to further the Fulbright Program and a plan to give back to the recipient’s home country upon returning.

Fulbright Summer Institutes cover all participant costs. In addition, Fulbright summer participants receive a distinctive support and cultural education program including visa processing, a comprehensive pre-departure orientation, enrichment opportunities in country, a re-entry session and the opportunity to join alumni networks.

The U.S.-U.K. Fulbright Commission is part of the Fulbright program conceived by Senator J. William Fulbright in the aftermath of World War II to promote leadership, learning and empathy between nations through educational exchange. Award recipients and summer program participants will be the future leaders for tomorrow and support the “special relationship” between the U.S. and U.K.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny College Senior Receives Prestigious Award to Study Swahili in Tanzania

Allegheny College senior Melissa Mattwig has received a prestigious Boren Award and will be a part of the African Flagship Languages Initiative (AFLI) beginning in the summer of 2017.

As a Boren Scholar, she has been selected to study Swahili in Tanzania for a year and will receive a $20,000 scholarship for her studies. Mattwig is a double major in biology and environmental science, and a double minor in French and Spanish. 

“I want to study Swahili because I would like to continue to study the ecology of lakes, particularly focusing on great lakes, both in North America and Africa, and how they are expected to change as a function of climate change,” Mattwig says. “It is in the same discipline as my comp, which studied lakes from a degradation perspective. I want to continue to study lakes, but I’d like to go more in depth on climate change-related degradation.”

Patrick Jackson, national fellowships advisor in the Allegheny Gateway, encouraged and assisted Mattwig in applying for the scholarship. “I think that Melissa’s particular strength was the coherency of her proposal — she’s got a long-term vision for studying freshwater ecology, and since much of the world’s fresh water is to be found in the East African Great Lakes, it makes a ton of sense for her to learn to speak Swahili,” Jackson says.

Once she completes the program, Mattwig intends to go to graduate school and would like to become a professor. She also will work for the federal government for at least one year as part of the Boren Award requirements. “Ideally, I will still be working with government entities that collaborate with East African scientists and communities around the African Great Lakes,” Mattwig says.

“If there’s a water catastrophe in East Africa, it will affect the stability of the entire region, which would undoubtedly have knock-on effects related to U.S. interests — military, commercial and political. If she can manage to get a handle on the language, she will be an important asset not just to the scientific community, but to the State Department as well,” says Jackson.

The Boren Awards and Scholarships were created by David L. Boren, who was the principal author of the legislation for the National Security Education Program (NSEP) that funds the program. The award is meant to increase the number of experts in underrepresented countries, whose needs and perspectives need to be more fully understood. Administered by the Institute of International Education (IIE), 194 scholarships were awarded this year to undergraduate students, and 114 to graduate students, and among them they will live in 44 countries and study 36 languages.

As one of the experts-in-training, Mattwig will begin her studies at the University of Florida, participating in the AFLI Domestic Intensive Summer Program, hosted by the Center for African Studies and the Department of Languages, Literatures and Culture. The eight-week course will have classes during the week, as well as two extra sessions with host families.

“I’m looking forward to chatting with people,” Mattwig says. “I’m going to be meeting others with life experiences and ideas completely different from mine, and I look forward to listening to those stories from all sorts of different people. I anticipate experiencing difficulty in transitioning to a different culture, but I’m more excited about everything I am going to learn and experience more than anything.”

In the fall, Mattwig will leave to study in Arusha, Tanzania, at the MS Training Center for Development Cooperation. The program has been developing extensive training in Swahili studies for 40 years, offering courses for scholars of all levels of expertise. Once the semester is over, Mattwig has chosen to extend her studies for another semester. She will spend the spring semester continuing in the Boren program, but will supplement the courses with an internship in an environmental organization nearby.

Mattwig will attend Allegheny’s 2017 Commencement ceremony on May 13 but will remain matriculated until the completion of the Boren Scholar program, officially graduating in May 2018.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny voices featured in ‘Pennsylvania Rural Health’

The Fall 2016 edition of “Pennsylvania Rural Health” published by the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health has a strong Allegheny College presence. The feature story, “Lead Exposure in Children,” features comments from Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Global Health Studies Caryl Wagget. An ongoing column, “A Medical Student’s Perspective,” chronicles the journey of Ashley Baronner ’13 through medical school.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Endowed Prize Established at Allegheny College to Address Environmental Challenges

Bing and Mary Ewalt

Many environmentalists believe that climate issues are the biggest challenges facing world leaders today, and in particular they see the availability of potable water as a major source of future concern for many nations.

“Water will most likely become the new gold,” says Henry “Bing” Ewalt, a 1962 Allegheny graduate who majored in political science. “Many won’t be able to afford water and others won’t be able to get it no matter how much they might have to spend. While we won’t be here to act on such issues, we do firmly believe that future generations of environmental leaders educated at Allegheny will be prepared to make intelligent decisions, which will address the then-current issues in reasonable ways.”

As a way to help provide incentives to solve environmental problems, Ewalt and his wife, Mary, have created the Allegheny College Environmental Prize with an endowment of $100,000. The endowment also provides support for students pursuing internships, known as Ewalt Environment Scholars.

The Ewalts were considering bestowing the endowment elsewhere, but then learned that the Allegheny Environmental Science Program was the No. 2-rated program in the nation in 2015 by “We concluded for a number of reasons that the gift would have more of an impact at Allegheny,” says Mary Ewalt. “People have a desire to be a part of, or associate with, winners and will spend to do so.”

The recipient of the prize created by the endowment will be chosen by a committee of Allegheny faculty and staff. The winner of the prize, to be awarded annually or biennially, will be brought to campus to interact with classes, deliver lectures, and have meetings individually with students interested in environmental issues. That person will have created an original environmental contribution and preferably excel in an area of research pertaining to water, hydro-geology, hydrology or environmental geology, according to the endowment terms.

“The intent of the Allegheny Environmental Prize is to focus and motivate students, potential students, faculty, the whole Allegheny family, and the public to seek creative solutions to ever-challenging environmental issues,” says Bing Ewalt. “The publicity to be generated by the prize is also intended to spread Allegheny’s excellent reputation.”

Terrence Bensel, associate provost and director of the Allegheny Gateway, says: “For almost 10 years, Allegheny has had a lot of success bringing experts and practitioners in many fields to campus for short durations. Many of these individuals have taught a three- or four-day, intensive short course on their subject of expertise with profound and lasting impacts on our students. The Allegheny College Environmental Prize from the Ewalts will ensure that we have the opportunity to continue to do that with a specific focus on critical issues related to water and sustainability.

“Issues of water supply and quality are both a significant environmental challenge of our time as well as an area that many of our students are interested in learning about and pursuing careers in. As such, the Ewalts’ prize could not have come at a better time, and we are very appreciative of their generosity,” Bensel says.

The Ewalts, who split their time between living in Pennsylvania and New Mexico, focus their charitable giving in three areas: 1) Environmental challenges and education “because it’s critical to the health of the planet and the welfare of all people,” Mary says; 2) Medical services for those who can’t afford them, “including refugees,” she says. “Without physical health, people can’t thrive and survive”; 3) Education, especially early childhood education. “We can attempt to benefit the world long after we leave it,” she adds.

“Usually we become aware of an organization doing good work in one of our areas of interest. Then we make a judgment as to whether the organization can make an impact with the limited funds we have to contribute,” says Bing Ewalt. “This, most importantly, involves determining how much of the gift hits the front lines of the need. Allegheny was attractive to us because of its long track record of escalating excellence and that none of our gift is ever used for ‘administrative costs.’”

Bing Ewalt is a retired lawyer who earned his law degree at the University of Michigan. He also is a decorated U.S. Army veteran, having been awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. Mary is a retired teacher and business manager. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Rice University and her master’s degree from Northwestern University. They have two children and two grandchildren.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny Senior Awarded Grant for Environmental Research


Allegheny College senior Alexandrea Rice has been awarded a Davey Foundation Annual Arbor Grant for her work in eco-friendly research. Rice is an environmental science major, with a focus in forest and soil science, and a geology minor.

“The award is a testament to Alex’s work as an undergraduate in (Professor) Rich Bowden’s lab on a green-industry approach to forestry and arboriculture,” says Scott Wissinger, chair of Allegheny’s Environmental Science Department.

The Davey Tree Expert Co. provides the grants yearly to about 50 college-enrolled students who focus on forestry, agriculture or another green industry. Over the past 25 years, the Davey Foundation has provided more than $500,000 of support to students for their academic work.

Rice says the $1,000 grant has allowed her to be more focused on her studies without having to take time away for a job. She is currently developing her senior comprehensive project, which investigates how acid rain affects soil’s ability to retain important forest nutrients. Bowden, her advisor, says Rice has been highly independent, praising how she “has been industrious in gathering her field soil samples and performing soil extractions.”

Rice has participated in projects outside of Allegheny as well, such as spending a semester at the Ecosystems Center in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and working as a research assistant in Alaska in the summer of 2016. She also has worked on an independent research project looking into changes in fungal communities in response to nitrogen deposition, both at the Harvard Forest and Allegheny’s Bousson Experimental Forest.

“She is passionate about forest ecosystems and has always been among the first to volunteer for fieldwork related to our climate-change studies,” Bowden says. “She brings an inquisitive personality blended with a delightful confidence, sincere humility and spunk.”

After graduation, Rice plans to attend graduate school. But she hopes first to spend the summer of 2017 conducting climate-change research on the effects of permafrost thaw on ecosystem nutrient cycling.

“Out of all the good that a person can do, I think the most a person can contribute is to the knowledge and understanding of the planet so that we can enact ways of prolonging its life,” says Rice, a Pittsburgh resident. “I am in this industry and science not just because I enjoy being outside in the forest, but because I want to educate the world about the importance and critical role that forests play in our lives. By protecting them we are providing a future for our children to grow from.”

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Senior project research leads to published paper

Mark Kirk ’11, Scott Wissinger, Brandon Goeller ’10, and Leslie Rieck ’09 of the Biology and Environmental Science Departments recently published an article titled “Covarying Impacts of Land Use and Non-native Brown Trout on Fish Communities in Small Streams” in the journal Freshwater Biology. The paper is based on research conducted through senior projects funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Federation. Kirk (lead author) is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in fisheries at the University of Wyoming, Goeller is pursuing a Ph.D. in aquatic ecology at the University of Canterbury, NZ, and Rieck is completing her Ph.D. in fisheries at Ohio State University.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Journal features work of Environmental Science professors, sustainability coordinator

Campus Sustainability Coordinator Kelly Boulton; Eric Pallant, the Christine Scott Nelson Professor of Environmental Sustainability; Beth Choate and Ian Carbone, assistant professors of Environmental Science; and Visiting Assistant Professor of Environmental Science Casey Wilson published an article in the International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, “Energy challenges: isolating results due to behavior change.”

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Allegheny College Awarded $37,500 Grant to Heat, Power Greenhouse

Copy of IMG_1720

Allegheny College has been awarded a $37,500 grant to power and heat a small-scale greenhouse using energy that would otherwise be wasted.
The E 2 Energy to Educate grant from Constellation, an Exelon company, is part of $380,000 the company awarded to 17 projects reaching more than 35,000 students, grade six through college, in 10 states. Grant funds support projects “designed to enhance students’ understanding of science and technology, and inspire them to think differently about energy.”
“The financial and institutional support provided by one of the leading energy companies in the United States will allow the environmental science department to construct a cutting-edge greenhouse at the vital juncture of sustainable energy and sustainable agriculture,” said Eric Pallant, the Christine Scott Nelson Professor of Environmental Sustainability at Allegheny College.

The greenhouse, to be built in the middle of Allegheny’s Carr Hall garden, will use innovative heating and photovoltaic systems to maintain a microclimate within the greenhouse for year-round food production, said Assistant Professor of Environmental Science Ian Carbone. The roof of the greenhouse will be composed of luminescent solar concentrators (LSCs), a novel photovoltaic technology that can generate electricity from “wasted” light. The panels capture and convert unusable wavelengths into electricity while allowing photosynthetically active light to reach the plants below. Waste vegetable oil recovered from campus dining facilities will power a heating system.
Students will be able to monitor and assess energy consumption in a state-of- the-art facility that will benefit the campus and community at large.
“The greenhouse will not only extend the growing season, helping meet campus food needs, but also teach thousands of students, visitors and community members about energy resources derived from recoverable waste,” said Kelly Boulton, the college’s sustainability coordinator.
Construction of the greenhouse is slated to start in May.
Since its inception in 2010, Constellation’s Energy to Educate grants program has provided more than $2.6 million in funding for 85 student projects that have enhanced the understanding of energy-related science and technology issues.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research

Environmental science, biology students and faculty present research

The following students and faculty in the Environmental Science and Biology departments presented research talks at the 12th annual Regional Science Consortium Research Symposium, Nov. 2-6, at the Tom Ridge Environmental Center at Presque Isle State Park in Erie.

  • Erica Moretti and Beth ChoateWild bee assemblages along a land-use gradient
  • Paige Hickman and Beth Choate – Investigating the effect of floral diversity on native bees in Meadville, PA
  • Zachary Gribik and Kristen Webb Developing an eDNA system to detect and monitor the spread of the invasive round goby in the waterways of Northwestern Pennsylvania
  • Hannah Eiseman, Allyson Wood, Casey Bradshaw-Wilson, Determining presence and effects of round gobies in the French Creek Watershed on native benthic fishes.
  • Liana Leja and Scott WissingerSeparate vs. combined effects of snails, tadpoles, and caddisflies on detritus decomposition in montane kettle ponds.
  • Liana Leja was awarded the best student talk at the symposium from among students from Mercyhurst, Gannon, Penn State Behrend, Penn State Main campus, SUNY Fredonia, Slippery Rock, and Grove City.

Source: Academics, Publications & Research