FDU Collaborates to Fight Climate Change

By Jhoana T. Merino-Martinez
Staff Writer

HILLSBOROUGH TOWNSHIP, N.J. – The Equinox attended the NJ College News Commons climate change trip along with students representing five other college newspapers. This semester’s seminar was hosted on Duke Farms, a nature preserve that uses eco-friendly methods to combat climate change. The program included a tour of Duke Farms, a learning lunch and a collaborative workshop.  

The tour guide Jon Wagar, deputy executive director, briefed the staff on what Duke Farms hopes to accomplish.

 The “equation” for a sustainable climate is to eliminate the production of emissions and remove existing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Currently, there is no technology that can remove greenhouse gases already present in the atmosphere. In fact, the only way to do so is how nature has done it for millions of years — this is where Duke Farms comes in.” 

Originally a thoroughbred horse farm with a track, the historic building has been adapted to meet Leadership in Energy & Environment Design (LEED) standards established by the US Green Building Contract.  

Architectural improvements include, but are not limited to: south-facing windows for natural light, ground source heat pumps, a 640-kilowatt solar-ray, electric-powered equipment, rain gardens, bioswales, etc. According to Wagar, updates aren’t complete as they are hoping to build another solar power plant so that they can be “fully green.”

Wagar took the attendees to the community garden. Its purpose is to retain the necessary carbon in the soil, which typically gets released from plowing. By using perennial produce that does not need to be plowed every year, such as pawpaws, artichokes, scarlet runner beans, etc., Duke Farms reduce their carbon footprint with permaculture.  

The most alarming part of the tour was the “sugar shack,” the place where maple syrup is made. Wagar said the maple syrup sugaring season is drastically affected by climate change. Due to the temperature differences, the sugaring season has now moved up. The sap is beginning to run in February rather than March because the cold nights needed for sap to ripen have changed.

By Patricia Ressell-Deras

The sugar shack is where Sugar Maple tree sap is converted into syrup to be used on an assortment of foods, such as pancakes, waffles, etc.

The Sugar Maple tree species are becoming more exclusive in Northern Jersey since it does not do well in warmer climates. Since it cannot adapt as quickly as other maple trees, the Sugar Maple trees are declining in certain parts of New Jersey. Though this is only one species of maple tree, it demonstrates how influential the effects of climate change are. 

The Sugar Maple tree illustrates that climate change is not years away from having an impact on day-to-day life. Instead, climate change is already here.

During lunch a presentation from Will Atkinson, a research and communications fellow for the non-profit “Climate Central,” was given on the application of climate solutions in modern life.

By Patricia Ressell-Deras

Research and communications fellow, Will Atkinson, educates writers on how collaborations can help fight climate change.

Climate Central was founded in 2008 and currently has 30 staff members. They work with researchers in Princeton to analyze climate change impacts and use science to find implementable solutions. They have several web resources available to raise awareness about the growing pandemic. For example, sealevel.climatecentral.org, which visualizes sea level rise impacts. Atkinson mentioned the resource program “Climate Matters in the Newsroom,” which works with weather casters and journalists to increase media coverage on the effects of climate change.  

Finally, it was time for the workshop. Joe Amditis, associate director at the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University, prompted the group to reflect on both Wagner’s presentation of Duke Farm’s innovations and Atkinson’s methods on how to make them relevant today.      

The discussion was outlined in an online worksheet, which provided a structure for the group to develop their thoughts. Free to mingle with student journalists from other colleges, the students were able to exchange ideas and discuss issues that were relevant to their own respective campus and come up with potential topics for their college collaboration this semester.

By Nancy Ayala

Equinox members Jhoana T. Merino-Martinez (left) and Patricia Ressell-Deras discuss potential climate stories with Amanda Giampaglia and Emily Melvin (right) of The Ramapo News.

The Equinox is planning to collaborate with students newspapers at Ramapo College of New Jersey, Rowan University and Montclair State University. We will continue reporting on the carbon footprint of commuters at FDU.

 We are honored to attend Duke Farm and be part of the New Jersey Climate Collaboration. The Equinox will continue to report on issues around climate change that impact members of the FDU community, and with the help of the other newspapers, get a much clearer picture of how the “Garden State” is changing.




66B475B3-FDFF-4388-A7A1-B9D095E0615ABy Nancy Ayala

From left to right: Professor Mo Krochmal, Jhoana T. Merino-Martinez, Justin Rimpi, Anthony Covino and Patricia Ressell-Deras.


This story is a part of The Equinox‘s participation in a statewide climate reporting collaboration by members of the NJ College News Commons, a network of campus media outlets working together to cover the climate crisis in N.J.