Environmental Science and Policy
Alex Barron and Dano Weisbord
Landscape management, Communication, Student research, Stakeholder opinion, Lawns
Traditional turf grass requires irrigation, fertilizer, herbicides, pesticides, and frequent mowing in order to maintain its professional appearance. Smith College has already begun using more diverse seed mixes, planting according to the type and frequency of land use, applying controlled release fertilizer, and developing an organic lawn care program that considers soil health. Our original project goal was to provide at least three recommendations for the new landscape master plan, based on information gathered from stakeholder interviews and analysis of past student research. We conducted two separate interviews with 10 stakeholders across different departments and positions and synthesized and compared 16 student projects from the past 15 years. Our top three findings were that 1) information on projects and their statuses is dispersed among stakeholders and access to written record of that information is inconsistent, which makes it vulnerable to changes in leadership or department restructuring; 2) there is a general perception that alumni will be resistant to landscape change, but there is no definitive evidence that confirms this; and 3) experimental landscape changes are well valued and have a higher likelihood of being implemented if they also follow the unofficial design requirements we determined from stakeholder interviews. These findings are important because each of them is capable of propelling future student research forward and increasing the efficacy of existing systems if addressed properly. Our primary recommendations are to 1) centralize record keeping and increase information accessibility by standardizing use of ScholarWorks in classes and keep project logs within departments; 2) collect survey data on student and alumni opinion about significant spaces on Smith campus as well as their response to different styles of landscape change (i.e. response to organic fertilizer use versus wildflower meadow planting); and 3) partially or fully convert one of the suggested spaces (Comstock yard, the stables, next to the roof of the Lyman plant house, or Burton lawn) from lawn to meadow as an experiment.
©2018 Sydney Noa Bobrow and Paula Ariel Martinez
Bobrow, Sydney Noa and Martinez, Paula Ariel, "Effective Student Research on Smith’s Landscape: What Worked, What Didn’t, and Where We Go From Here" (2018). Capstone, Smith College, Northampton, MA.