Touch of Nature volunteers working on the walking trails

April 19, 2023

SIU awards grants to diverse sustainability projects in honor of Earth Day

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s commitment to sustainability has taken another step forward today (April 19) with awarding up to about $100,000 in grants for 10 unique projects in honor of Earth Day, which is Saturday.

The projects run the gamut, from nature trails to lighting improvements to sustainable farming and much more. This is the 20th round of awards since the Green Fee was instituted in 2009 as the result of a student-led initiative. In all, about $2.454 million has been awarded to about 235 projects.  

“The Office of Sustainability is ecstatic! The proposals are all unique and came from students, faculty and staff,” said Aimee Lemrise, sustainability director. “We are excited to support these projects and see them come to fruition.”

The winners were announced during an Earth Day celebration featuring guest speakers.

Grant recipients

The 2023 Green Fund grant recipients include:

  • SIU Student Sustainable Farm expansion – Rachel Miller, farm researcher, $25,000. The grant is for assorted projects geared toward the revitalization of SIU’s Sustainable Farm and compost facility to expand its use of sustainable agricultural practices and provide an environment for sustainable education within and outside of the university’s population.
  • Touch of Nature trails – Tom Brummer, assistant director of facilities and operations for Touch of Nature Outdoor Education Center, $10,000. The open access multiuse trails, in use for about three years, are very popular with students and community members. They have identified areas of the trail that need improvements to control drainage, erosion and trail flow and say this is a natural part of trail development that cannot be fully identified until after the trail has been in use, with actual wear from users and the weather. The funds will allow hiring a qualified graduate assistant to identify, coordinate and implement the needed improvements for the sustainable future use of the trail system.
  • Campus Climate Action – Justin Harrell, senior engineer, Facilities and Energy Management, $10,338. Funding will cover half of the cost of hiring a graduate research assistant, with FEM funding the remainder of the cost, to work with the office to support the completion and implementation of the first campus Climate Action Plan, which is as required by the campus’ Climate Commitment made in February 2020. The student will create a data hub and manual to streamline and institutionalize the processes required to collect, process and report greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions data on a permanent annual basis.
  • Clean electric energy from hybrid renewable energy system phase IV: machine learning-based remedial actions against cyberattacks targeting a renewable microgrid – Arash Asrari, assistant professor in the School of Electrical, Computer, and Biomedical Engineering, $5,000. As a step toward further investments for clean electric energy in Southern Illinois, the fourth phase of this project proposes a holistic remedial action scheme based on the concept of machine learning to mitigate the impacts of cyberattacks targeting renewable microgrids.
  • SIU water data analytics for building a sustainable water use culture – Sangmin Shin, assistant professor in the School of Civil, Environmental and Infrastructure Engineering $9,592. The proposed project will develop decision support models for the prediction of SIU water use and the detection of operational anomalies in the campus water systems to achieve water use sustainability through the collaborative efforts of water managers and users.
  • Craft Shop kiln update and ceramics glaze workshop – Stephanie Dukat, Craft Shop coordinator, $4,590. Plans call for updating the Craft Shop ceramics studio pottery kiln to a more energy friendly and efficient kiln. This will also help facilitate workshops.
  • Dental Hygiene Clinic paper conservation – Hannah Truax, dental hygiene student, and Katlynn Hutchcraft, assistant lecturer, $3,399.04. This project will help reduce the use of paper and toner products in the clinical setting while increasing use of technology to benefit students in the program, the patients the clinic serves and the environment.
  • SIU School of Medicine environmental and health education – Amanda Mulch, School of Medicine assistant dean of student affairs, $1,500. Medical students and some of the faculty are developing a podcast that will allow the students to learn and become educators for Southern Illinois regarding the impact of environmental changes on public health through discussing salient issue with experts and leaders in the community.
  • Surplus Gallery Lighting Renovation – Rob Lopez, director and associate professor in the School of Art and Design, $654.60. Plans call for upgrading the current halogen lighting to energy-efficient LED lighting in the School of Art and Design’s Surplus Gallery, located in the Glove Factory
  • Floatovoltaics: a novel, integrated approach to address campus sustainability goals and biosecurity – Noah Farris, undergraduate student, $30,000 with the grant awarded pending compliance with the provision of matching funds. Funds would provide an array of floating solar panels used to mitigate the presence of harmful algal blooms on Campus Lake, supply power to a large fountain being installed by the university, help meet campus sustainability goals and provide a platform for interdisciplinary research.

The Sustainability Council, which comprises students, faculty and staff, helps advise sustainability policy while the council’s Green Fund Committee selects grant winners each year. Learn more about SIU Sustainability online, call 618-453-2846 or email