The William & Mary Committee on Sustainability has announced the spring 2024 Green Fee awards.

This semester, 13 proposals were approved to receive a total of $211,019 in grants. These projects will advance W&M’s sustainability through academic research, educational opportunities and improved technologies and operational systems.  

“The Green Fee is a valuable tool,” said Calandra Waters Lake, sustainability consultant. “It creates space for testing new ideas, student creativity and furthering environmental, social and economic sustainability.”  

In 2008, William & Mary students voted to create the Green Fee fund, financed by undergraduate and graduate student fees. Any member of the W&M community — student, faculty or staff — may apply to have their sustainable projects funded. Green Fee funded projects directly translate the innovative ideas of the W&M community into tangible progress on the university’s sustainability goals.  

Read more about this spring’s funded projects in excerpts from their proposals below.

The West 1 Permeable Pathway Project 

$60,000 to Cedrick Dimaranan ‘27 and advisor Randy Chambers, Professor of Biology and Director of the Keck Environmental Field Lab 

In addition to new residential and dining complexes, the West 1 Housing & Dining Development project will create a new pedestrian walkway by fall 2025. The new walkway will include a land-based footpath and bridge to connect the West 1 development (formerly Yates Hall) to the Sadler Center and surrounding area. The West 1 Permeable Pathway Project uses Green Fee funds to upgrade the footpath to permeable pavement, a more environmentally sustainable alternative. Green Fee funds will also be used to procure an educational sign about permeable pavement’s benefits and sustainability at William & Mary. This project will reduce the West 1 pathway’s environmental footprint, increase on-campus sustainability literacy and serve as a prominent example of the university’s commitment to sustainability. 

A rendering shows a bridge leading to a brightly lit building
A rendering of the pedestrian bridge that will connect the West 1 development to the Sadler Center and surrounding area.

VIMS Composting Program 

$4,963 to Jennifer Dreyer, VIMS Assistant Research Scientist, and Kaite Cisz and Mara Walters, VIMS Graduate Students 

In an extension of the successful composting initiative started on William & Mary’s main campus, the Green Fee will fund a pilot composting program at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS). Two compost bins will be installed outside the VIMS Community Garden and individual compost buckets will be supplied to members of the VIMS community to facilitate increased participation in composting on campus and at home. This program aims to significantly reduce the amount of food and landscaping waste going to local landfills and increase the sustainability of VIMS’ campus. 

Osprey Cam 

$3,040 to Randy Chambers, Professor of Biology and Director of the Keck Environmental Field Lab 

A screenshot from the Osprey Cam

A pair of ospreys have begun building a nest atop one of the light towers surrounding Zable Stadium. A live-stream camera will be purchased and installed to view the nesting activities of the ospreys. This will provide teaching opportunities for biology and ENSP classes and opportunities for the broader W&M community to appreciate these beautiful raptors up close and personal. Ospreys feed almost exclusively on fish and use Lake Matoaka to hunt their prey. The presence of ospreys as top predators in a college landscape currently overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of construction is a gentle reminder of the natural resources W&M strives to sustain as an integral part of the campus environment.  

Safe Wildlife Crossing 

$1,389 to Randy Chambers, Professor of Biology and Director of the Keck Environmental Field Lab, and Tony Orband Associate Director of Grounds & Gardens, Facilities Management 

The spillway from Lake Matoaka discharges water downstream to College Creek. For some aquatic organisms like turtles, making the transit between lake and creek is challenging, as they must cross Jamestown Road and avoid vehicular traffic. Alas, some don’t make it. This Green Fee project will install “Wildlife Crossing” signs on Jamestown Road to alert drivers to the possible presence of aquatic animals in their path. With the recent establishment of a river otter family in Lake Matoaka, the project will also attempt to create a “thruway” underneath Jamestown Road at the spillway. The thruway will provide otters a safe transit path between lake and stream, thereby protecting and sustaining the native aquatic biodiversity on campus. 

Incorporating Commercial Electric Mowers on Campus 

$28,760 to Tony Orband, Associate Director of Grounds & Gardens, Facilities Management, and Carl Brady ‘24, Grounds Student Worker 

The W&M Facilities Management (FM) Grounds & Gardens Turf Department operates commercial production-grade lawnmowers that use petroleum-based fuels. Using Green Fee funding, grounds will purchase its first commercial electric mower. Past test drives have shown the electric mower’s capacity to greatly reduce noise and air pollution which helps further sustainability and improve environmental quality at W&M. Once proven as a viable alternative to petroleum-based mowers, the future fleet of W&M FM mowers could be modeled after this purchase. 

A Major Step Towards Reducing Pesticide Usage on Campus 

$32,500 to Tony Orband, Associate Director of Grounds & Gardens, Facilities Management 

Operating and maintaining any large landscape and turf area in the modern age has required heavy reliance on the use of pesticides.  Patented technology, using a form of regulated hot water and steam, is available which provides a water-based alternative. With this Green Fee award, W&M can take a large step towards reducing petrochemical based pesticide usage on campus to support a sustainable local environment. 

Exploration in the Crim Dell Ecosystem: Community Engagement and Jellyfish Blooms 

$8,175 to Nicholas Elsberg ‘24, Martha Young ‘24 and advisor Jonathan Allen, Associate Professor of Biology 

Although the Crim Dell is a treasured landmark on campus, not much is known about the pond’s diverse ecosystem. To address this discrepancy, the Crim Dell aquatic invertebrate community will be photographed and identified. A website and social media profile will then be developed to showcase the findings and educate the public about this unique ecosystem. Additionally, this research plans to answer questions about the reproduction and ecological role of the Crim Dell’s population of invasive jellyfish, Craspedacusta sowerbii, by continuously monitoring water quality conditions and comparing these data trends to observed jellyfish production. The goal of this project is to understand the impact of this species on native ecosystems, as well as to persuade students to utilize the Crim Dell as a local resource for research and ecosystem education. 

Photochemical Reactions of Chlorophyll: Health and Environmental Impacts 

$15,000 to Lisa M. Landino, Professor of Chemistry 

Landino’s undergraduate research team explores light-dependent reactions of chlorophyll that occur outside the confines of photosynthesis. Chlorophyll from green plants we eat and free chlorophyll in aquatic ecosystems can perform chemical reactions when exposed to red light. The research team will continue work involving the connection between dietary chlorophyll, antioxidants and reactive oxygen species. The lab-based research on chlorophyll reactions will be extended to aquatic systems where free chlorophyll derived from algae and phytoplankton is abundant. This project has both health and environmental components that will be shared with the W&M community. 

The Impacts of Environmental & Anthropogenic Factors on Salamander Populations 

$6,428 to Alexa Busby ‘25, and advisor Matthias Leu, Professor of Biology 

Amphibians are facing major declines, with 33% of species considered globally threatened and 43% of species experiencing some level of population decline. To prevent the extinction of amphibians, it is important to better understand how environmental conditions and human presence impact their abundance and diversity to inform effective conservation strategies. This project will investigate the population abundance of larval salamanders, a key component of functional forest ecosystems, under differing environmental conditions and human disturbance levels. Through data collection in William & Mary’s College Woods and greenspaces throughout Williamsburg, this project will determine how both aspects influence the size and composition of larval salamander populations. The results will be used to inform conservation strategies to prevent declines in salamander populations and biodiversity throughout the eastern United States. 

William & Mary Global Innovation Challenge Flagship Event  

$3,000 to Elizabeth Marcus ’26, Justin Eng ’26, Dylan Gurl ’25 and George Hage ’25 of the William & Mary Global Innovation Challenge (WMGIC), and advisor Heidi LeMaster, Assistant Director of Financial Operations at the Whole of Government Center of Excellence.   

The William & Mary Global Innovation Challenge’s (WMGIC) Flagship Event is an annual case competition in which interdisciplinary student teams collaborate with peers, faculty and industry professionals to create innovative solutions to current issues in sustainable development. The Green Fee Fund will allow WMGIC to pursue its primary goal of providing educational and experiential sustainability opportunities through hosting industry professionals on campus during the competition, enabling in-person mentorship, networking, and collaboration. The event is expected to educate students on best practices in sustainable development, build connections between professionals, and bring the sustainable development field to W&M. The Green Fee Fund will go to housing and travel costs to host five-10 industry professionals on campus who participate in the in-person competition and networking session.  

College Woods Trail Restoration and Improvements Project 

$25,000 to Rosie Gilbride ‘26, Joshua Ryan ‘27, Dylan Gurl ‘25 and advisor Tony Orband, Associate Director of Grounds and Gardens 

The Student Trail Crew spent its first year implementing trail improvement projects to restore and reclaim eroded sections of over 10 miles of trails in the College Woods. Following this, the Green Fee funds will be utilized to increase the scope and size of such trail interventions. Sustainable interventions will create durable treadways and erosion mitigation elements that ensure the trails can be used by W&M students and members of the public who enjoy opportunities for low-impact recreation. The Student Trail Crew is excited to involve students interested in conservation and outdoor recreation as restoration projects progress. 

Solar Panels for Charging VIMS First Electric Vehicle 

$5,000 to Field Research Manager David Stanhope, GIS Analyst Evan Hill and Graduate Student Natalie Klesch 

Solar power is a clean, renewable energy source that reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Solar panels will be installed to charge VIMS’ electric car, which will help reduce VIMS campus’ carbon footprint. The solar panels should collect about 8KWh daily. Once the car is charged, the solar panels will feed back into the grid to reduce VIMS’s overall power consumption on campus. The facilities department will set up a meter to monitor the energy produced by the panels. This project has far-reaching social impacts, ranging from environmental benefits, technological advancement, education, and community engagement. It contributes to a more sustainable and resilient future while fostering a sense of responsibility towards the environment. 

How to Reduce Bird Window Collisions at W&M: Testing Methodologies and Implementing Solutions  

$17,763 to Biology Professor John Swaddle and Postdoctoral Research Associate Pallabi Kundu from the Institute for Integrative Conservation 

The beautiful, leafy W&M campus attracts thousands of birds each year. Unfortunately, many birds die on campus from hitting windows. Nationally, hundreds of millions of birds die from such collisions each year, making window collisions the second largest direct killer of birds. In this project, new technologies for detecting and understanding why bird-window collisions happen will be developed and tested. Window treatments will be deployed at some of the most problematic locations on campus and assess their effectiveness. Graduate and undergraduate students will be involved throughout the project.