First Person: Gathering Plant Data and Research Experience on my Venture Grant to Bolivia


By Leah Veldhuisen ’19

Although many students choose to pursue Keller Venture Grants that are not directly related to their majors, my Venture Grant in Bolivia provided the first set of data for my senior thesis with the Department of Organismal Biology and Ecology.

The idea first came from Assistant Professor Rachel Jabaily when she heard I would be travelling in Bolivia before my semester abroad program in Chile. There is a species of plant in Bolivia that is endangered, but not well studied, she explained. The species, Puya raimondii, lives at high elevations (11,000 to 14,000 feet) in the Andes Mountains of Peru and Bolivia. She suggested that I could gain unique and valuable field research experience by collecting basic data from these plants.

After a little background research and a few emails to Jabaily’s Bolivian colleagues, I decided I would spend a few days of my independent travel time collecting size and reproductive category data on P. raimondii. One day of data collection would be with my dad, who was travelling with me for two weeks, and the other four days I would be accompanied by Bolivian botanist Carolina García Linowho studied P. raimondiifor her undergraduate thesis.

My dad and I travelled around southern Peru and Bolivia for almost two weeks before starting on the data collection, which ended up providing valuable acclimatization time. Hiking off-trail across rocky hills at 13,000 feet was not easy, even after those two weeks. The first data day took place a few hours outside of La Paz, where we easily found the P. raimondiiwith the help of Bolivian graduate students. Fueled by llama chicharrones (fried llama meat) and cookies, I was able to collect data from 40 individual plants.

A week after the first data day, my dad returned home, and I travelled to Cochabamba to convene with García Linoand her husband and new baby. We met in a hotel to plan our data collection and decided to rent a car and stay overnight in the little towns in the area known to have P. raimondii. Although I had a list of GPS coordinates of Puya locations, we spent the first day driving, searching for plants, and not finding any. The area was very rural with patchy cell phone coverage, and locals were suspicious of outsiders. After a day and a half of driving and not seeing a single Puya, we finally found ourselves in the Municipalidad de Vacas, where Bolivia’s largest Puya population lives. Data collection went smoothly from there, despite the rainy weather. After a day and a half of measuring Puya, I had enough data to head back to Cochabamba. Working in Bolivia was quite successful, but there is always room for improvement with methods, and a potential to have more data. In October, I will travel to Colombia, this time with Jabaily, to collect the same types of data in different species of Puya, with the goal of comparing reproductive data for the different species.

Lostroh and Udis-Kessler Release Third Album

Rejoice: Songs and Hymns

By Leah Veldhuisen ’19

Although Associate Professor of Chemistry Phoebe Lostroh and Director of Assessment and Program Review Amanda Udis-Kessler have been a couple since 1997, they were making music together long before.

They recently released their third album, “Rejoice: Songs and Hymns” under the band name EverySoul. The album contains 15 original songs and liberal religious hymns written by Udis-Kessler. The idea for the album started when Udis-Kessler was preparing for liver cancer treatment and wanted to compose at least one more album.

About the music, Lostroh says, “I want to help make the world a better place by encouraging people who value social justice,” and, “to make music that will help sustain activists in times of trouble and make us feel less alone.” The duo hopes to have the album included in the Unitarian Universalist Church’s music, which Lostroh says is quite remarkable.

“There are almost no other out queer women writers in U.S. church hymnals — Amanda is one of the very few, with a song in the Unitarian Universalist hymnal,” she explains. Since the release of the album, Udis-Kessler has already submitted a hymn for inclusion in a Methodist hymnal, and written a few new songs, which Lostroh says she is always happy to sing.

“Rejoice: Songs and Hymns”  is available on Spotify, and anyone who wants a free copy of the CD can contact Amanda Udis-Kessler via email:


Matt Rosen ’21 Connects with the Human Condition in First Book

By Leah Veldhuisen ’19

Matt Rosen ’21 has an exciting spring coming up: His book “Speculative Annihilationism: The Intersection of Archaeology and Extinction”will be published by Zero Books in June. The book is about philosophy, a topic Rosen has been interested in for a long time. His curiosity stems from watching a cartoon version of “The Hobbit” at the age of four, which he says was “the first time that I realized that I too must die, that in being born I had been given no choice in the matter.”

With his book, Rosenuses his passion for philosophy to argue that archaeology can be granted a new basis, a new avenue of inquiry at its intersection with extinction.He uses a variety of philosophical approaches to make his case.

Inspiration for the book, Rosen says, was frustration. He explains that the field of philosophy has a long history of only focusing on humans, and ignoring the reality that does not include humans. Because of this, “we need a vision of the sciences and of philosophy itself which can help us to better understand our place in this very inhuman world.” Rosen had a clear idea of what he wanted to say with his book, and was able to finish in only a block and a half. The process, he says, helped him gain respect for other writers who are juggling multiple projects and tight deadlines. The short writing time also “further legitimates the wonders of the Block Plan.”

Only in his second year at CC, Rosen, who hails from Ridgewood, New Jersey,has not yet declared a major but plans to study philosophy. He also hopes to continue his study of philosophy into a doctorate program, and eventually teach. Even with these academic goals, Rosen says that philosophy does not start or end with the academy. “Philosophizing is what each of us does every day, it’s how we cope (or don’t cope) with our situation, with the condition of being in the world and being in a world precisely like this one,” he explains.

Outside of academics, Rosen will continue to philosophize and write, as he began to do as he watched “The Hobbit.” Rosen’s book can be pre-ordered on Amazon.

Zunneh-bah Martin ’19 Represents Indigenous Peoples as Ceremonial Queen

Zunneh-Bah Martin '19

By Leah Veldhuisen ’19

CC senior Zunneh-bah Martin recently completed her year as the Miss Gallup Inter-tribal Indian Ceremonial Queen representing the Diné(Navajo) and Modoc tribes.

The role is part of one of the longest-running events in New Mexico, the 97th Annual Gallup Inter-tribal Indian Ceremonial, and was the second time Martin competed. Martin first competed in Fall 2015, as she prepared to leave her reservation for the first time to attend CC. She says she did not run with the goal of winning, but just to “be surrounded by my family, friends, and Native peoples during the Ceremonial events before I left my community.”

She ran again in August 2017 and had a similar inspiration. It was right before she left to study abroad in New Zealand (Aotearoa in Maori), and she says, “I wanted to be part of this annual celebration of Native peoples and our cultures.”

Martin won the title of Miss Ceremonial Queen her second time. She explains that the pageant differs from others in that it “includes getting judged on an essay and public speaking as well as a professional interview with several judges asking tough questions about issues that affect Native American communities and Indigenous women. I was also judged on my Traditional Indigenous Cultural talent and skills as well as my Contemporary talent and skills on stage before the general public.”

These trials are meant to prepare the winner for her year-long stint as Miss Ceremonial Queen, a position that involves representing all Native American tribes and acting as a Native/Indigenous Woman leader and role model.

Martin particularly enjoyed using her platform to inform larger audiences about indigenous rights and environmental issues. The Miss Ceremonial Queen role is well-known across the Southwest, and Martin says it enabled her to interact with people from a variety of backgrounds and tribes with whom she wouldn’t otherwise have been able. She also had the opportunity to represent the title differently from past queens, as she is a full-time college student who studied abroad during her year as the Ceremonial Queen. “I hope to bring awareness and education of the original peoples of this land to CC and how the CC community can become allies who support and stand for Indigenous peoples, our rights, and issues we are still facing with the environment,” Martin says.

CC Makes Sustainability Gains in STARS Report

Tutt Library

By Leah Veldhuisen ’19

CC made a number of appearances in the recently published 2018 Sustainable Campus Index. Run by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, the Sustainable Campus Index is a self-reporting system to highlight colleges’ and universities’ sustainability efforts.

They measure 17 different areas and rate them on the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Ranking System. CC’s Director of Sustainability Ian Johnson highlights the significance of the report, saying “it is important to be in the know about what other schools are doing and to make sure that we remain leaders in our work.”

The newly renovated Tutt Library was highlighted in the “Buildings” section of the report, saying the library is a “major contributor to the college’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2020.” CC also tied for 10th place on the “Purchasing” list, which reviews the environmental and social responsibility of a school’s services and products.

The “Water” section evaluates conservation, recycling, and reuse of water, as well as effective use of rainwater; CC was number two on the list. Johnson sees these results as a big step for CC, as it “is a clear indication that not only is our approach working, but that in some cases it’s put us at the head of the pack.  That tells me that we’re doing something real and doing it right, not just embracing an image.”

Bonner Fellows Class of 2022

Nicole Chavarria

My name is Nicole Chavarria and I am from the DMV area. I was born in D.C. but have done most of my schooling in Montgomery County, Maryland. I love being in D.C. and exploring there. I have had experience in community service through my school and other programs I have been a part of such as NJROTC, NHS, IB, and LTI. I have volunteered at family markets, food banks, helping pick up trash from my school’s side of the road, tutoring and in many school hosted events. I am going to into CC as a Chemistry major for now, I know I might change majors. I am into sports and games. I am very competitive, at times, when it comes to games.




Yajie (Angelina) Chen

Hello! I’m Yajie Chen (or Angelina) from China. I grew up in Guangzhou (a city where the best food in China exists), and went to high school in Shenzhen to study A-Level courses. Sociology, Spanish and Theater were my favorites but my major at CC is still undecided. I enjoy hiking and doing farm stays, so Environmental Sciences might be a fit too. In terms of community service and engagement, I’ve been an activist and volunteer in the fields of education, sustainability, feminism and LGBTQ+. I also worked with both local and international NGOs, schools, sociologists and anthropologists in China. I’m a huge fan of post rock and indie, and I listen to a little bit of everything in different languages. My favorite bands are Sigur Rós, Arcade Fire, mol-74 and Beach House. Looking forward to meeting you all and getting to know about each of you!


Daniel Cortes

I am Daniel Cortés. I grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and became acquainted with community service during my time attending Amy Biehl High School. Beginning my freshman year, I visited several service sites, each providing me with new skills, and an opportunity to make a difference. The following year, I helped to spearhead “Project NOVA”, an opt-in, week long service trip to Portales, New Mexico, where we assisted New Mexico Christian Children’s Home in their mission to better the lives of vulnerable children. My junior year I remained a part of that project and volunteered at a summer camp. My senior year I conducted a 100-hour service project involving the operation of my own organization. In my free time, I enjoy bike rides, soccer, meditation, and hanging out with my closest friends. I also have a passion for creating and listening to music.



Dylan Hall

My name is Dylan Hall, I’m 18 years old and a 2018 graduate from Nichols School in Buffalo, New York. Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, I moved to Buffalo when I was 10. At Nichols, I discovered and explored my interest in languages and cultures; studying Mandarin Chinese for 8 years and Spanish for 3. I plan to continue my study of these languages and others at CC. My life goal is to visit as many countries and learn as many languages as possible. I enjoy listening to music, reading, and watching Netflix in my spare time. My focus on community engagement led me to organize and host the Nichols annual Inclusivity Conference, construct a Black History course my junior year, volunteer with the Home Again organization, and assist with a children’s play day for underprivileged kids at my school. I look forward to becoming a Bonner Fellow and working in the Colorado Springs community.



Annika Koch

My name is Annika Koch, and I grew up in the small town of Zimmerman, Minnesota. I come from a large family of eleven children and one beautiful mother. I have always known I’ve wanted to be a teacher. In high school, I volunteered in mentor groups for younger students and I was an Avid coach. I took a gap year before attending CC. During that time, I dedicated 900 hours of my year to volunteering as a Minnesota Reading Corps tutor at a local preschool. My passion for education has guided a lot of my decisions in my life. I enjoy reading a good book, playing video games, and listening to some great music. My favorite hobbies are sewing and quilting.




Julieta Lechini

My name is Julieta and I am from Montevideo, Uruguay. Since early ages I participated in different organizations such as “Un techo para mi pais”, I was a facilitator at my high school for 2 years and I created a project to build libraries in some of the poorest schools of my city. When I was 16 years old I attended UWC in Germany. Apart from the community events I lead and participated, I worked with refugees and immigrants helping to teach English or doing integration activities. During the last year I went to Senegal for a bridge year and I tried to immerse in the culture, learn the beautiful language of Wolof and be part of many activities such as English classes, a women cooking cooperative and an NGO for children with disabilities. Through my life, experiences taught me the importance of stepping out and learning before trying to help and that to change the world first we need to understand each other. Apart from a deep love to serve, meet people and learn I love anthropology, feminism, traveling, singing and playing (some) sports.


Jasmine Linder

My name is Jasmine Linder and I am so honored to be joining you as a Bonner Fellow! I grew up in Portland Oregon with my single mom and our many pets. In my free time, I love to paint, play the guitar, and hike in Oregon’s beautiful forests! While living in Portland, I have developed a strong passion for many issues, especially those regarding environmental justice and women’s rights. So far, my most influential commitments of service, community engagement, and leadership have been through public protests, as well as two organizations called Outdoor School and Amigos de las Americas. These opportunities have challenged me, but were undoubtedly the most rewarding experiences of my life. Although I have participated in some political activism and service, I am excited to further my experience through the Bonner Fellowship. I can’t wait to get to know you all!



Min Pan

Hello, my name is Min and I am from Los Angeles. Over the past three years, I had the pleasure of participating in a mentoring organization at Minds Matter. My involvement as a mentee instilled an interest in me to help the immigrant and under-resourced communities, specifically to better inform and provide resources for students and families on the education system in the United States. I was also engaged with my school’s track and field team, in which I helped guide and support the underclassmen in jumps. Because of my activities, I hope to learn more about sports medicine, leadership, and the people I will work with and for. One activity I hope to learn at Colorado College would be ice skating. In my free time, I enjoy watching dramas, journal, and attempt to cook.



Maddie Ross

I am a life-long local of the Colorado Springs region here in the Centennial State. Growing up in the downtown area, the non-profit hub has left a major impact on me from an early age. Since accompanying my parents on their volunteer efforts and discovering the vitality of communal spirit over time, engagement with my surroundings has become an ongoing mission. Thus far, I have had the opportunity to become involved with the Pikes Peak Library District, Penrose Hospital, Catamount Institute, and Colorado Springs Teen Court.

Additionally, I enjoy gaining perspective through photography, poetry and literature–am currently intrigued by transcendentalism and Greek theater–and hiking. I am also an advocate for communication (avid speech writer for speech/debate) and a Taekwondo black belt.

Lonnell Schuler

Lonnell Schuler graduated from Manual Arts High School as Senior Vice President in Southern California. In high school, he was the Battalion Commander for the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corp program. For the past two years Lonnell has been an avid peer educator for Black Women for Wellness, a community-based non-profit organization, that has empowered him to become an instrumental member in his community. As a peer educator, he taught comprehensive sexual education classes to high school students. His classes include information on birth control, STD/STIs, and healthy relationships. During his time as a peer educator he founded the Youth Advisory Board for BWW. He now aims to lower the rates of STD/STIs in his community and educate his peers on safe sex and healthy relationships. In his spare time, he plays the trumpet, listening to music, and reading.

Exploring the Watershed

Where Does Your Water Come From?

By Annabelle O’Neill ’19 and Rosa Mallorson ’20

“Where does your water come from?” asked Environmental Studies Program visiting faculty member Rory Cowie ’04 on the first day of class. Like the places we had yet to visit, our responses stretched far, from groundwater wells in Hawaii to water tanks above Philadelphia to snowmelt in the Rockies to pipes in New York City to “I don’t know where…”

Thus began EV 311, Water: Stream Ecology and Hydrology, a Block 8 course that took students to the San Juan Mountains where we studied water chemistry and the impacts of mining. The upper-level environmental science course, which allowed us to engage in meaningful field-based learning that included environmental science subject areas such as geology, chemistry, hydrology, ecology, climate, and human/ecosystem interactions through the analysis of rivers and water, included 14 students from several majors. This course is worth documenting because it embodies the boundless opportunity CC provides for its students to investigate the world’s workings. Cowie was a biology major at CC, so he knew how to balance lecture with field trips nearly every day. Here, we share some of what we learned in the class, while illustrating the beauty of students doing science in the San Juan Mountains.

Why We Care
CC teaches us to examine and tend to our sense of place, which includes the communities, lands, rivers, challenges, and cultures that exist in the Rockies. While many of our studies center in the Front Range, the San Juan Mountains are just six hours southwest of CC and provide much of the Front Range’s water resources.

Since Cowie is an EPA-contracted hydrologist who leads a water sampling project at Bonita Peak Mining District, the Superfund Site where the Gold King Mine, near Silverton, Colorado, spilled in 2015, our coursework focused on mining hydrology. The legacy of heavy metal mining, which boomed from 1870-1990, left nearly 23,000 abandoned mines in the San Juans.

When the surface area of rock containing trace minerals such as pyrite increases due to mine tunnel construction and contacts air and rising groundwater, pyrite’s ions oxidize and form acids in water. This water then flows out of mine tunnels and nearby springs into streams, which soon flow into major rivers that are comprised of watersheds shared by seven states, 12 Native American tribes, millions of people, and vital aquatic life.

The Challenge: Five Watersheds in Five Days
We embarked on a weeklong field trip in the San Juans, studying five watersheds in five days. The trip followed two weeks of theory and practice in hydrology, mine water chemistry, stream ecology, agriculture, development, and snow science. We examined four Legacy and EPA Superfund mines with mandated clean-up, one active mine, and two major active water treatment facilities.

The trip also provided us with diverse data sets that we compiled for our final projects. Our task was to collect stream flow measurements, water quality parameters, and habitat assessments coupled with USGS historic data and lessons from experts we met along the way. This data provided evidence to compare watershed health across the San Juans and extrapolate to the entire Southwestern water regime, which eventually converges with the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.

Trip Log:
Day 1: Uncompahgre Watershed
Discharge and water quality parameters collected in Ridgeway, Colorado
Underground mine tour of Ouray Silver Mines and biomass filtration system
Evening soak at Ouray Hot Springs

Day 2: San Miguel Watershed
Observations of diverse, underlying geology that influences ion-availability in the rivers at the Idarado Mine passive water treatment facility
Appreciation of beavers’ tenacity and ecosystem health value
Habitat assessment of Telluride Valley Floor with Scott Johnson of the Mountain Studies Institute and Laurel Sebastian ’16

Day 3: Animas Watershed
Tour of Gladstone Temporary Wastewater Treatment Plant and Bonita Peak Superfund Site above Silverton, Colorado. Active mine water treatment requires lime, a polymer, large conical holding chambers, and the storage of heavy metal “sludge” to purify acidic and metal-loaded water
Examination of outpouring of American Tunnel and flumes at lower elevations measuring discharge
Water quality and discharge sampling of heavily impacted streams (pH ~4) during a blizzard!

Day 4: San Juan Watershed
Forest ecology lesson in Durango, Colorado
Wolf Creek Ski Resort forest health assessment
Lots of driving
Evening soak at Pagosa Hot Springs

Day 5: Rio Grande Watershed
Mining conference in Creede, Colorado
Visit to Bachelor Mountain, the Nelson Tunnel, and multiple mine portals at a Legacy mine on the Amethyst Fault in the Bachelor Caldera
Examination of discharge and water quality parameters at Willow Creek, which includes untreated water from the Nelson Tunnel
Tour of Summitville Mine Superfund site including the active water treatment facility of the open-pit mine using a high-density sludge process, ultimately purifying the water of a large quantity of metals
Analysis of San Luis Valley agricultural impacts
Data analysis and creation of final watershed report cards


  • A historic, large rock drill is difficult and heavy to hold! Rock-drill competitions still occur in Creede, Colorado, to showcase miners’ talent.
  • Beavers can plug up and flood wetlands by building dams of sticks. However, they can be deceived with large wire nets over drains called “beaver deceivers.”
  • Fire suppression has had detrimental effects on forest health and allowed the pine beetle to infiltrate Colorado’s forests.

Our class expresses gratitude to Cowie, Technical Director Darren Ceckanowicz, and Paraprofessional Hanna Ewell ’17 for teaching us how to do science, have fun, and be a team.

Annabelle O’Neill ’19 and Rosa Mallorson ’20 are biochemistry majors at Colorado College.

Incline is No Walk in the Park

Annie Engen ’19, who worked for the City of Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department this summer through Colorado College’s Public Interest Fellowship Program, undertook a side project that will be seen by hundreds of fitness enthusiasts. A mathematical economics major and Environmental Studies minor from Minneapolis, her project helped connect the dots between mathematics, a local hiking trail, and world-famous landmarks.

Engen created a safety sign for the Manitou Incline, a perpendicular trail on the remains of a former narrow gauge railway whose tracks washed out during a rock slide in 1990. The Incline, which gains more than 2,000 feet of elevation in less than a mile, has an average grade of 45 percent and is as steep as 68 percent in some places.

Engen’s sign lets people know that hiking the Incline “is not a walk in the park.” To put the Incline’s 2,744 steps in perspective, Engen’s sign notes that hiking the Incline is comparable to climbing the Eiffel Tower (twice), the Washington Monument (three times), the Statue of Liberty (six times), or the Empire State Building (once).

Read more about Engen’s PIFP work here.


Students Explore Community-building on Research Trip to Japan

Japanese farm

By Leah Veldhuisen ’19

Many CC students have amazing summer experiences abroad. One such experience for students this summer was a trip to Japan with Assistant Professor of Art Emma Powell and Professor of Japanese Joan Ericson. The focus on photography alongside Asian studies for this trip was a first, but Ericson has taken students on similar trips previously.

Professors Ericson and Powell wanted to collaborate to support their respective fields, Asian studies and art. From this idea, “we decided to develop this trip, which would give students opportunities to learn first-hand about Japanese culture and making photographs in the field,” explains Powell.

The trip was not a class, but a research trip for both students and professors, with a goal of exploring machi zukuriand the process of town revitalization in Japan. Machi zukuriis the Japanese term for community and town building or revitalization; machi refers to a town or small area, while zukurimeans making or planning.

In practice, Powell explains, “machi zukuriaims to improve or make sustainable a neighborhood or town. It often refers to the active attempts to revitalize small Japanese towns that have declined as populations have moved more and more into the big cities. These efforts are being run by local governments and small groups of residents.”  Japan has taken a particularly proactive approach towards these efforts.

Local people have utilized a variety of approaches to revitalize communities, but everyone is working towards sustainability. To learn about the phenomenon of machi zukuri, the group was able to talk with many CC alumni living in Japan, visit a farm run by a CC alumni, tour many art studios and museums, and meet the mayor of Fujiyoshida, the sister city of Colorado Springs. Students on the trip had the opportunity to choose a more specific topic withinmachi zukuri, and focus their investigations on their own interests.

Powell says one of her favorite activities was the group’s visit to the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum, although she says climbing Mount Fuji was memorable for the students. Additionally, Powell says “we all enjoyed the trip to a rural farm run by a CC graduate. The farm was in a beautiful valley and we were able to have a relaxed, in-depth conversation around our topic as we explored the village, and visited his neighbors and a Buddhist temple.”

The trip was funded by the Art Department, Asian Studies Program, Dean’s Office, and HEC.


Japanese tea

CC Paragliders Featured in Pilot Magazine

CC students are featured in this Pilot magazine article.