Meet Dr. Craig Spencer




Dr. Craig Spencer

Professor, Aquatic Ecology


Q. What are you currently doing in your everyday life for sustainability?
. I try to walk or bike to work most every day. I take reusable shopping bags to stores. If I forget them, I load up my pockets, arms, etc w groceries, and avoid using new plastic bags. A few years ago we converted half of our lawn from Kentucky bluegrass to native prairie plants that require no watering, fertilizer, etc. It looks great. The tall grasses look really nice even during the winter poking up through the snow. The birds and other pollinators, including monarch butterflies, love it. I first got interested in prairies after working on a long-term restoration project with my ecology class at Newton Hills State Park. Over 99% of the tall-grass prairie has been lost, mostly to corn and soybeans, and this type of agriculture is not sustainable. "Our" restored prairie is visible when hiking the Augie Ridge Trail at Newton Hills.

Q. What are you currently doing at Augustana for sustainability?
As part of my J-term course we are working with local artisans in Guatemala making beautiful jewelry from a forest vine. Called the Maya Cross Project, it represents a sustainable use of the forest, provides fair trade work for the artisans, and some of the proceeds go back to help protect the rapidly disappearing tropical forest where the vine grows. Marketed through a non-profit called Sharing the Dream in Guatemala, we recently opened a store in downtown Sioux Falls on N. Phillips. Folks can support this sustainability project by shopping there!
Another way that I try to promote sustainability on campus is by bringing in outside experts involved with sustainable food production. Recent visitors include author Dan O'Brien from Wild Idea Buffalo Co, who is raising grass fed bison and restoring prairie in the process, Dr. Carter Johnson from EcoPrairieSun Farms currently working on opening a grasslands research and education center near Sioux Falls, and Dr Brent Loken, from an NGO in Norway called EAT, promoting ways to feed 10 billion people a healthy and sustainable diet. During his visit last Spring, among other things, Dr. Loken met with Augie GREEN and SoDexHo and raised the possibility of having "meatless Monday's" in the dining hall as practiced on some other college campuses.

Q. What are your plans for increasing sustainability in the future?
We will continue to add more native prairie to our yard. I plan to reduce my meat consumption and when I do eat meat will search for sustainable products like grass fed bison.

Q. Why are you interested in sustainability?
We have finite resources on Earth. It makes sense that we should try to live sustainably and not over-deplete these resources; thereby leaving a better legacy for future generations.

Q. What do you think is the easiest way to be more sustainable?
Drive less and eat less meat.

Q. In what areas do you think Augustana needs to improve in (related to sustainability)?
Try Meatless Mondays. Work on better promotion of single stream recycling which we already have on campus. Many folks still think it is necessary to separate paper and cans on campus. Not so with single stream.