The Capstone Project
The MA in Environmental Resource Policy includes a capstone project during the final semester of the program. During the project, students engage in research and apply the multi-disciplinary knowledge they have acquired during their program of study to a real-world environmental or resource policy question. Students work in small teams on a project sponsored and mentored by an external client, such as a government agency or not-for-profit group. These projects result in a written report and a formal presentation of research results to both the external client and faculty.
Goals of the Capstone Project
- Provide a real world problem identification and solution driven experience
- Provide an opportunity to work collaboratively with other students and relevant members of the client agency
- Integrate skills and knowledge gained from previous courses and experiences
- Practice the full complement of communication skills, including written reports and oral presentations
The capstone team’s role is similar to that of an external consultant. Using specifications and guidance from an external agency or not-for-profit group, the team will clarify project goals and identify who on the team will be responsible for each assignment. The team will self-manage the project and the team members are free to choose a student manager or work as a group. The team will submit a final report to the client agency and to ENRP faculty by the end of the spring semester. All members of the team will be equally responsible for the success of the project. Each project will be graded and each team member will receive the same grade.
Students in the class of 2013 are applying their skills and knowledge to four different capstone projects:
- Environment America, CAFOs and the Clean Water Act
Researching the effects of confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) on water quality in seven different states. The study surveyed attitudes of different agricultural stakeholders around the country to gain perspectives on how CAFOs affect water quality.
- Environment America, Quantifying the Value of the National Park System
Engaging in a comprehensive valuation of the US National Park Service system, focusing on economic, environmental, educational, and recreational/tourism value. The project includes trips to national parks and ultimately shows that the parks return much more value than the resources required to maintain them.
- Department of Energy, Uranium Contamination on the Wind River Reservation
Auditing DOE's remediation and communications plan on a former uranium tailings pile on the Wind River Reservation in Riverton, WY. They traveled to the site and met with members of the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes to discuss comprehensive communications strategies and necessary environmental improvements for the site and the community.
- Environmental Protection Agency, Toxic Release Inventory
Identifying potential roadblocks for combining global data on toxic chemicals released into the environment. This project gauges the difficulty of tracking two major pollutants—mercury and benzene—through the world's six largest pollutant release and transfer registries.
Capstone 2012: Durango, Colorado
This capstone project took students to Durango, Colorado to inspect, research, and provide policy suggestions for managing 120 acres of land once used for uranium milling in the Bodo Canyon area. Working closely with the Department of Energy's Office of Legacy Management and the town of Durango, students recommended a plan to install a photovoltaic energy system. After visiting Durango and meeting with town officials, ENRP students collaborated on a long report with DOE to lay out a plan for generating enough solar electricity to power 1,000 homes (~4.5 megawatts). DOE reached an agreement with a solar provider, American Capital Energy, in the fall of 2012 and plans to have the system up and running within the next 3 years.
Capstone 2012: EPA Toxic Release Inventory University Challenge
The two student groups that participated in EPA's TRI Challenge focused on:
- Developing recommendations to make TRI data more meaningful and easier for communities to use and
- Analyzing global TRI systems and identifying areas for cooperation.
Recommendations included identifying chemical classes and industry sectors to compare across countries with existing programs similar to TRI, as well as standard guidelines for countries to develop their own toxic programs.
Learn more about the projects.
Capstone 2010: Navajo Nation, Arizona
One capstone project involved research into the environmental justice issues associated with former uranium milling sites within the Navajo Nation and on federal lands held by the Department of Energy (DOE). The project culminated in a 140-page final report prepared by five capstone students with recommendations for the DOE Office of Legacy Management. The students presented their findings at the National Environmental Justice in America Conference held in Washington, D.C. in May 2010.
Learn more about the project.