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  • Center for the Study of Environmental Change

    Center for the Study of Environmental Change

    The Center for the Study of Environmental Change serves as a node for the coordination of educational, research and outreach activities related to the environmental effects of Earth's changing climate. By supporting the study and understanding of these effects in the local and global environment, the Center will promote a more just and sustainable society, in keeping with the Jesuit mission of Le Moyne College.

    "Mankind is not living in harmony with the world. Nature has become a mere quarry for the domain, for economic exploitation. And so our house, our body, something in us degrades. Modern civilization has in itself a biodegradable dimension."  - Pope Francis (at a Mass in Brazil in 2007)

    Climate Change and the Catholic Church

    “(In September) a working group of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, one of the oldest scientific institutes in the world, issued a sobering report on the impacts for humankind as a result of the global retreat of mountain glaciers as a result of human activity leading to climate change.

    In their declaration, the working group calls, “on all people and nations to recognize the serious and potentially irreversible impacts of global warming caused by the anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants, and by changes in forests, wetlands, grasslands, and other land uses.” They echoed Pope Benedict XVI’s 2010 World Day of Peace Message saying, “…if we want justice and peace, we must protect the habitat that sustains us.” Veerabhadran Ramanathan of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego—a member of the Pontifical Academy since 2004 and a co-chair of the working group said to ClimateWire, “I have never participated in any report in 30 years where the word 'God' is mentioned. I think the Vatican brings that moral authority.” [Independent Catholic News, May 12, 2012]

    “(Cardinal) Turkson said the pope was "compelled by the scientific evidence for climate change," and the cardinal pointed to the synthesis report of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. That study, released last November, found climate change is happening and it's almost entirely man's fault. Turkson acknowledged disagreement over the panel's findings but said "for Pope Francis, however, that is not the point." The cardinal said Francis was concerned with affirming "a truth revealed" in Genesis 2:15 on the sacred duty to till and keep the earth.  [Reported by Fox News, March 10, 2105]

    Environmental Research
    The concern over and study of global climate change has pervaded nearly all aspects of environmental research in recent years. CSEC is sponsoring projects that add important new data to our understanding of how the global environment is changing in response to climate change. In particular, Le Moyne and CSEC are proud to be founding members of the:

    Jesuit Environmental Change Network

    The Society of Jesus has recognized the imperative to address climate change for its social consequences and has advocated action: "The effects of climate change, such as those caused by natural disasters like flooding and droughts, have the greatest negative consequences for those who are the poorest, " said Fr. Jim Stormes (MAR), Secretary for Social and International Ministries for the Jesuit Conference. "And the potential solutions for reducing the changes we are making on the environment have costs associated with them that disproportionally impact those who are least able to take on the additional financial burden. When considering the possibilities to reduce climate change, the Church always tries to bring the voice of the poor to the discussion."  [Creighton News Center, April 22, 2009]


    Modern climate science is driven largely by computer modeling, in particular, the construction of General Circulation Models (GCMs), which are the basis for predictions of future climate change. While GCMs have been become increasingly refined with the ability to handle smaller grid-blocks, they do not readily predict the ecological impacts of climate change. This is because the current state of our understanding of the relationship between ecology and climate change remains rather rudimentary. At its essence, ecology is the study of the relationship between organisms and all elements of their environment, both physical and biological. Hence, a change in the physical environment that alters budding or flowering cycles, food availability, habitat area or nesting behavior, for example, can disrupt the equilibrium state (if it exists) between members of a community. Therefore, a wide variety and large quantity of detailed observations, gathered over a broad spatial range, and over an extended temporal range, will be required to properly document the global impact of climate change on the environment, in general, and ecological systems in particular. 

    This is an Invitation to Join!
    Faculty and students at Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States and across the globe can and should contribute climatologically relevant data that can be made available to researchers studying climate change. The types of observations that would be useful to this project have a ready analog in the “citizen-science” networks in the U.S., such as Project Budburst and the Audubon Society’s Annual Christmas Bird Count, both of which are successful at gathering large volumes of information across a large area. CSEC vigorously encourages all interested citizens to join these types of projects and contribute to the scientific endeavor.

    The Jesuit Environmental Change Network (JECN) will rely on recruiting a cohort of faculty and students trained specifically to collect the data. The JECN is modeled after, and will a partner organization with the National Phenology Network (USA-NPN; sponsored by the USGS) operates Nature’s Notebook, a project that uses researchers, students (and volunteers) to collect phenological (related to animal and plant life cycles) data from across the U.S. A similar network project is the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON), sponsored by the NSF, which collects a wider variety of environmental data from across North America.  In concept, the JECN described here seeks to extend worldwide the success of NEON and Nature’s Notebook, which are exclusively limited in scope to North America. The JECN also operates in partnership with the International Jesuit Ecology Project, a global ecology education and outreach endeavor sponsored by Loyola University Chicago. 


    MEMBERS (as of 08/31/13)


    Le Moyne College(Syracuse, NY) Hilary McManus ( campus

    Sherilyn Smith ( campus

    Donald McCrimmon (

    regional bird arrival data
    Boston College Colleen Hitchcock ( campus
    Fordham University J. D. Lewis, Dept. Chair ( Louis Calder Center - Biological Field Station
    Loyola University Chicago Fr. Stephen Mitten, S.J. ( Loyola University Retreat and Ecology Campus

    Step One: Join the Network and Help it Expand!

    Is your institution collecting phenological data already; are you registered with USA-NPN? Let us know so you can join the list of participants below. If not, let's get started. Go the Nature's Notebook website and "Learn How to Observe." You will find a variety of resources there to help you get started. Choose a project that you and your students can do that does not require substantial resources. It is surprisingly easy to incorporate recording seasonal changes into a variety of undergraduate biology classes, recording day to day observations for spring and fall of campus trees, nearby botanical gardens or arboretums. Register your study with Nature's Notebook and load your data through their portal. Remember, your data are only useful if they are available to researchers. Also, with some detective work, you may find dated photographs of your observation sites that allow comparisons across decadal timescales.   

    Step Two: Let's Go Global!

    Jesuit institutions are global, with almost 190 colleges and universities distributed on all continents (aside from Antarctica). Expanding the pool of climatologically useful data to incorporate observations from some of these broadly distributed institutions will aid scientific research immensely. We need our members in the United States to contact partners in other countries. True, not all of the international institutions on the map below have faculty in the natural sciences who can contribute data, and not all of the institutions are located in regions where climate change is readily observable. Nonetheless, opportunities exist. 

    A good place to start is utilizing existing connections. Many of us already have study abroad or international research sites, either free-standing or embedded in another (Jesuit or non-Jesuit) institution where data collection can be started. Many major cities around the world have arboretums or botanical gardens that serve as excellent observation posts, and some of these may already have data waiting to be mined, particularly in Europe (for example, see the website for the International Phenology Gardens). 

    For the time being, the USA-NPN site seems the most practical place to load and store data, and they are very happy to have more partners contributing data. Please note that the NPN has a list of vetted species for observations, so those of you collecting international data may need to work with the NPN to load data on non-vetted species.

    Step Three: Keep us Posted

    Let me know who you are and where you are collecting data (including any international partners), so that we can keep track of the geographic distribution of our observations.


    Le Moyne's Environmental Research

    At present, most of our research focuses on processes of soil formation, in particular, on rates of floral colonization and carbon storage, with active study sites in Iceland and Costa Rica. The environmental analysis labs at Le Moyne are equipped with a JEOL JSM-6510LV Scanning Electron Microscope, Bruker D-2 Phaser X-Ray Diffractometer and a LECO TruSpec C/N. Financial support for some of these facilities and activities has been provided by NSF and HSBC. 

    For a description of our research activities in Costa Rica, Iceland and Hawaii, please visit the CSEC Research page HERE.



    The following links may be useful for citizens and scientists alike:

    Science News
    Global Warming Action Sites
    Other Resources for Educators

    New - NOAA Climate Services Portal: this is an excellent portal-based site with links for climate data, climate news, and a variety of grade-specific educational resources and activities.

    NOAA Climate Program Office: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration maintains a site that has lots of useful information for teachers, including educational information on climate in general, hurricanes, tornadoes. They also have travel and workshop opportunities, such as arctic cruises.

    Annenberg Media's site has free educational resources for educators at every grade level in almost every discipline! I personally have used the Earth Revealed video series in my college Geology classes for years. If you haven't already, register and browse the site.

    Project Budburst: Interested in getting involved with environmental climate science? This is a nationwide volunteer effort to gather a wide variety of data. A perfect way to get students involved!


    Learn about the Environmental Science Systems major (BS degree) Learn about the new major in Environmental Studies (BS degree)

    Advisory Board

    Lawrence Tanner, Center Director, Environmental Science Systems;; Personal web page 

    Donald McCrimmon,

    Research Associate; 

    Events & Announcements

    Environmental Encyclical Pope Francis recently released his encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si'. Find out how the world's first Jesuit Pope sees the relationship of man and the planet going forward. Discover more