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Environmental Studies Research Video

Gettysburg College students tackled a real-world environmental challenge and presented their results to a local planning board and the Association of American Geographers (AAG).

Environmental studies Prof. Randy Wilson's senior research seminar probed ecological impacts of a 455-home development planned near campus and proposed a revised design. Students delved into Geographic Information Systems (GIS) digital mapping, land-use regulations, transportation and economic implications, drainage, and public health.

"We were expected to do a majority of the work," said environmental studies and anthropology double major Alex Bigler. "By the time we presented it at the AAG conference, we knew exactly what to say. We were the experts on our methods and the history, and people were asking us about our project--not asking Randy."

Professionals at the conference in Boston "were surprised to find out that they were still just undergraduate students," said Wilson. "That's something that we strive for--to give our students a real research experience."

Bigler presented the revised plans to the Butler Township board along with Matt Shank, an environmental studies major and biology minor. "I've learned that people can make a difference," said Shank, also a conference champion wrestler. "No matter if you're a group of ten in a senior seminar. You can have a positive influence on the community around you."

Shank credited Wilson: "He's good at keeping your attention and opening your eyes to new things."

Such "capstone" experiences are a reality for all Gettysburg students, who round out their academic careers with a research seminar, independent project, or senior thesis, all in close collaboration with faculty members.

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