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2020 Student Symposium on the Environment winners announced

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Posted on Monday, December 7, 2020

Winners of the 2020 Student Symposium on the Environment, an annual event hosted by Westminster College and co-organized with the Slippery Rock Watershed Coalition, were announced during a virtual presentation and award ceremony on Thursday, Dec. 3.

The annual symposium—which highlights environmental study, research, artistic expression and service work being done by students in the region—is typically held in person with student poster presentations, displays and oral presentations, but due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the event moved to a virtual format this year.

To portray their work, students created short videos which were showcased on the Symposium’s YouTube channel from Nov. 30 to Dec. 2. Forty-seven students representing Westminster College, University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg, Saint Vincent College, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Chatham University, Duquesne University and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center participated in the video showcase.

Environmental and other professionals judged the videos in three different categories: Ecosystem Investigations; Environmental Education; and Business, Policy and Society of the Environment. Viewers’ choice awards were also granted for videos with the most engagement.

This year’s winners and honorable mentions are:

Ecosystem Investigations Best Video: “Stream Health Assessment of the Buffalo Creek Watershed through Macroinvertebrate Sampling" by Nicholas Leo and Gena Carter, Chatham University. Adviser: Dr. Ryan Utz

Ecosystem Investigations Honorable Mention: “The Effects of Heavy Metals on Soil Macroinvertebrates at an Abandoned Pittsburgh Steel Mill" by Erin Ward, Blaine Sorrick, Taylor Williams, Grace Snyder, Victoria Lisbon and John Cybak, Westminster College. Advisers: Dr. Patrick Krantz and Dr. Diana Ortiz  

Environmental Education Best Video: “Lawrence County Community Action Partnership Ag Lab Internship" by Taylor Williams, Westminster College. Adviser: Dr. Kerri Duerr

Environmental Education Honorable Mention: “Little Sewickley Creek Methods to Measure Sediment Instructional Video" by Zoe Husnick, Duquesne University. Advisers: Dr. Brady Porter and Dr. Elizabeth Dakin

Business, Policy, Society of the Environment Best Video: “BEE Westminster" by Nicole Mackenstein, Dan Ritter, Zach Ramfos and Michaela Hays, Westminster College. Advisers: Dr. Helen Boylan, Brian Petrus and Dr. Alison DuBois

Business, Policy, Society of the Environment Honorable Mention: “College Woods Maple Syrup" by Gabbey Cionni, Hannah Pursel, Sean Davis and Brock Barrett, Westminster College. Advisers: Dr. Helen Boylan, Brian Petrus and Dr. Alison DuBois

Viewers’ Choice Award Best Video: “Diatom Diversity, Abundance, and Richness Variation among Four Different Habitat Types" by Sierra Earle, Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Adviser: Dr. Holly Travis

Viewers’ Choice Award Honorable Mention: “Effects and Recovery of Sewickley Creek Watershed from Acid Mine Drainage" by Erika Caldro, University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg. Adviser: Dr. Timothy Savisky

Top awardees in all categories earned cash prizes thanks to the generosity of the environmental consulting company BioMost, Inc.

Also featured on the Symposium’s YouTube channel is a fireside chat with renowned environmentalist and Westminster College alumnus Dr. David W. Orr ’65. Orr, the Oberlin College Paul Sears Distinguished Professor of Environmental Studies and Politics Emeritus, is the author of eight books, including “Dangerous Years: Climate Change and the Long Emergency” and “Down to the Wire: Confronting Climate Collapse.”

A link to the Symposium’s YouTube channel which now features the award winners in a playlist can be found at

For more information about the Symposium, please contact Dr. Helen Boylan, director of the Center for the Environment at Westminster and event organizer, at or 724-946-6293.