Colby Tackles Climate Change with New Gift for Environment Lab

WATERVILLE, Maine — Colby College’s leadership on environmental issues got stronger this week with the announcement of a gift to support academic research, internships, and global experiences focused on environmental sustainability and climate change. The program is part of a larger plan to create funded opportunities for Colby students, giving them valuable tools to help solve the world’s most complex challenges.

Students conduct research with Professor of Chemistry Whitney King taking water samples on Great Pond in the Belgrade Lakes.

The Buck Environment and Climate Change Lab will connect students from many disciplines to organizations in Maine and beyond that are focused on these important issues. Students will conduct research on Maine’s coast, lakes, and forests, working closely with faculty to understand changes to complex systems and the far-flung effects of those changes. Their internships in organizations focused on environmental issues will be paid through the Buck Lab, and they will travel to and learn from leaders in the field. These opportunities are made possible through the generosity of Trustee Sandy Buck ’78 and Sissy Buck, whose commitment to the next generation of environmental leaders inspired them to invest in this way.

“It’s incredibly gratifying when a donor and an institution can find the perfect fit,” said Colby President David A. Greene, “and that’s exactly what happened here. With this gift Sandy and Sissy Buck make a meaningful contribution to the issues that matter most to them, and Colby is able to support students as they work to solve complex global problems and gain the experience they need to make a profound difference after they graduate.”

Already a leader in environmental education and institutional sustainability, Colby is home to one of the oldest environmental studies programs in the nation, was the first institution of its kind to declare carbon neutrality, in 2012, and has invested in partnerships to create unique opportunities for its students. The Buck Lab will allow Colby to enhance partnerships with the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, the Maine Lakes Resource Center, Herring Gut Learning Center, and Up East foundation, which manages Allen Island off the coast of Port Clyde, Maine, and to create new collaborations with organizations and institutions throughout Maine and beyond.

Allen Island, where Maine as a laboratory comes to life in Muscongus Bay.

“There has never been a more important time for innovative thinking and investment in environmental issues,” said Sandy Buck. “Having worked with Maine’s environmental organizations for a long time, I see how hungry they are for collaboration, and how much we have to do to change course and leave this planet in a better place for the next generation. I can’t think of a better way to do it than providing opportunities for young people who are passionate about this work.”

Students will engage in research in traditional labs as well as in the environment.

The Buck Environment and Climate Change Lab will connect students and faculty from the natural sciences, social sciences, interdisciplinary studies, and humanities around multifaceted environmental issues. Students may focus, for example, on public policy implications, economic factors, or global concerns. A recent grant from the Mellon Foundation for an environmental humanities program at Colby will dovetail with the Buck Lab to create a stronger presence for students pursuing arts and humanities disciplines to connect their work to environmental sustainability issues.

The Buck Lab, as well as other Colby Labs currently in development, will be supported through Colby’s new Center for Discovery, Global Impact, and Postgraduate Achievement. This innovative approach to student opportunities brings together internships, research, global opportunities, and career advising under one roof for streamlined and effective interfacing with partners.

“Colby is unique in combining multidisciplinary academic programs and funded research, internships, and global opportunities in this way,” said Provost and Dean of Faculty Lori Kletzer. “This approach to the study of the environment allows us to build on incredible relationships and scholarly strength and to truly make Maine a living laboratory for our students and faculty.”