UC Davis graduate student Kelly Garbach recently won a $10,000 grant from the Brita FilterForGood Ecochallenge to increase awareness about the importance of conserving the natural habitats within farmlands.
Garbach’s project focuses on community education about the importance of forests.
“The project centers around conserving remnant trees and patches of forest habitat in farm lands,” Garbach said in an e-mail interview. She is currently in Costa Rica conducting research and hosting environmental workshops as part of the grant project and her dissertation research.
Ecochallenge is an extension of the Brita FilterForGood campaign, which encourages people to use reusable water bottles rather than bottled water.
The goal of the Ecochallenge was to challenge students to make their campuses greener and more environmentally friendly, said Becky Verhey, a spokesperson for Brita in an e-mail interview.
“We were hoping to challenge college students to develop programs to make campus life more sustainable,” said Drew McGowan, senior group manager at Brita.
Proposals from graduate and undergraduate applicants were judged on creativity, benefit to the environment, educational impact, diversity of ideas, feasibility and effective use of time and budget, Verhey said.
Garbach wrote an extensive grant proposal and competed against 100 other applicants – five winners total received $10,000 to implement their proposals.
She said the workshops attract a range of individuals in Costa Rica from elementary school groups to research scientists and policy makers.
“Everyone relies on the services provided by farms and areas of natural habitats,” Garbach said. “The diverse project participants reflect different ways the community members recognize and have become involved.”
Garbach‘s project is both long-term and short-term. While her community presentations are continuing through this year, she hopes to do a follow up study on the UC Davis farm next year.
She also plans on continuing to collaborate in Davis with the Agricultural Sustainability Institute as well as the Center for Tropical Agriculture Research and Education in Costa Rica, which focuses on long-term ecological monitoring and conservation in Costa Rica.
When not educating the world about the environment, Garbach is a Ph.D. candidate in the Graduate Group in Ecology. The grant is supporting her fieldwork and is helping toward large long-term research projects.
“I love getting to work with people from all over the world to address stewardship of our shared natural resources” Garbach said.
The Ecochallenge grant program is on its first year, but McGowen said that he hopes it will continue to expand in coming years.
“The hope is that by spurring these ideas and discussions that college students across the country will do more and more,” McGowen said. “This starts with five colleges and it will increase each year.“
KELLY KRAG ARNOLD can be reached at email@example.com.