Redesigning Our Future Focus Groups

2016 Focus Groups

Focus groups at the summit allow students to immerse themselves in a particular subject area and discover how their talents and passions can contribute to environmental causes.  Students will choose a focus group after being accepted into the program.

“Go Ahead: Change Your Mind” this summer.

Dr. Seth Holtzman

We will examine the psychology of change.  How do we get ourselves to change our minds?  How do we get others to change their minds?  We will examine the conditions under which minds shift, and we will examine some of the obstacles to mental change.  We have all experienced times when someone should change her mind but doesn’t, and we have all found ourselves unwilling or (seemingly) unable to change our own mind even though we know we should.  People need to be psychologically prepared to change—or often they will not change, even when faced with sufficient reasons.  Notice how many people are resisting environmental truths such as climate change.  Notice how difficult people find it to start a new habit, such as recycling.  If our culture succeeds at confronting our environmental problems, it will be due to helping people change their minds.

Read more about Dr. Seth Holtzman.


Green Reporting: Backpack Blogging for Digital Natives

Cyndi Allison Wittum

You have the technological tools to reach the world, and you have great ideas that can make a huge difference environmentally. The key is to package the messages and have a voice that will be found and heard. Green Reporting is a hands-on, collaborative project building on the strengths of all participants in a backpack journalism style with a focus on environmental stewardship. Writers, photographers, videographers, and social media enthusiasts will enjoy this interactive focus group which provides coverage of the camp experience for our global village.

Read more about Cyndi Wittum


Water Wars?

Dr. Norris Feeney

War is not often the first thing that comes to mind when studying environmental issues, but societies have turned to violence in the competition for this resource throughout history. In the past century, a combination of increased pollution and population pressure has led to water insecurity in many more regions of the world. War over water is only part of the connection between humans’ most vital resource and human societies’ most brutal form of interaction. Throughout history, water has often been central in warfare as a barrier to overcome, a strategic target in defeating the enemy, and a delivery system for armies, material, and disease (sometimes intentionally). In the “War on Terror” era, water systems have once again been viewed as a fundamental component of national security now threatened by potential biological terror attacks and cyber warfare. In our sessions, we will explore the historical role of water resources in warfare to inform our understanding of the current threats to national security and international peace posed by water security issues. We will also examine recent examples of international cooperation to reduce the likelihood that water will lead peoples to war in the near future.

Read more about Dr. Norris Feeney


Invasive Alien Plants and Animals: Friend or Foe to the Environment?

Dr. Jay F. Bolin

Alien invasive species are considered one of the top threats to biodiversity on the planet. First this focus group intends to provide an introduction to the value of organismal biodiversity, from ecosystem services to the intrinsic value provided by diverse communities of plants and animals. Then we will discuss and learn (in the field) about how invasive organisms arrive in new habitats and the negative impacts invasive species may have on native biodiversity. However the positive impacts in terms of ecosystem services (e.g. Asiatic clams filtering the water column, Kudzu serving as forage for endangered butterflies) of invasive species will also be underscored because in some environments, such as urban parks, invasive species are ubiquitous and are here to stay. We will use Kudzu (and/or Chinese Wisteria) and Asiatic Clams in the Catawba Ecological Preserve as model organisms, and more than half of the session will be spent in the preserve, quantifying the magnitude of the invasions using field sampling techniques and work to identify potential solutions or recommendations to control or use invasive species productively (as in eating Kudzu!).

Read more about Dr. Jay Bolin.


A Backbone for Conservation

Dr. Joe Poston

Vertebrates,animals with backbones, come in all shapes and sizes. And they include animals that are active at all times of day and all times of year. This variety of behavior makes it challenging to study vertebrates in the wild. In addition, many vertebrates are endangered because of human actions. Consequently, it is even more important to study wild vertebrate populations to help us make decisions about how to improve their chances of surviving. In this module, you will learn some of the techniques that scientists use to study populations of vertebrates in the wild. We will study animals that are active during the day and animals that are active at night. If you have a sense of adventure, and a willingness to get dirty, then you have a backbone for conservation.

Read more about Dr. Joe Poston.

They Paved Paradise and Put Up a Parking Lot

Dr. David Lee Fish

You will explore how music is used to support environmental causes and work collaboratively with your classmates to create a song that will be performed for all summit participants. No musical experience required.”

Read more about Dr. David Lee Fish.