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Weekend Recs: Earth Day

Happy Friday, Wildcats! Falvey Library is delivering you another semester of Weekend Recs, a blog dedicated to filling you in on what to read, listen to, and watch over the weekend. Annie, a graduate assistant from the Communication department, scours the internet, peruses the news, and digs through book stacks to find new, relevant, and thought-provoking content that will challenge you and prepare you for the upcoming week. 

Tomorrow, Apr. 22, is Earth Day, a day for celebrating our planet, raising awareness about climate change and climate injustice, and taking concrete actions to create a more healthy environment, whether it’s picking up trash, planting a tree, or taking political action for environmental justice. As climate change has gained a more significant place on our societal agenda, the Earth Day conversation has changed from learning the three Rs (reduce, reuse, and recycle, in that order) to discussing divestment from fossil fuels (including on Villanova’s campus) and sustainable practices.

In celebration of Earth Day, this weekend’s recs share some educational and interesting environmental content to help you get in the Earth Day spirit.

If you have 2 minutes and 26 seconds…and don’t know the history of Earth Day and how it came to be, watch this video from The History Channel.

Bonus: if you want a comedic recap of the history of the actual earth, watch the Internet classic “history of the entire world, i guess” by bill wurtz.

If you have 10 minutes and 11 seconds…and don’t know how climate change disproportionately affects working class communities and people of color, watch this video. This is why “climate justice” is important, as it’s not just about the environment.

If you have 15 minutes…and want to learn how you can be more environmentally friendly at college, check out this article. Sometimes, it feels impossible to live environmentally friendly on a college campus, as you’re not in full control of your food, housing, and more, but these tips might help you make a small difference.

If you have 27 minutes and 42 seconds…and are inspired by Greta Thunberg and her climate activism, watch this interview where she discusses her book and her thoughts on the climate change conversation (and has some fun with Russell Howard).

If you have 1 hour and 26 minutes…and want to watch something for Earth Day that won’t stress you out too much, watch The Lorax, available in Falvey’s DVD Collection. Although it’s catchy songs and colorful animation might distract you, this dystopian climate fiction (cli-fi) film follows a boy living in an environmentally desiccated city as he tries to find and plant a real, living tree. Plus, it features Zac Efron, Danny DeVito, Taylor Swift, Ed Helms, Betty White, and Jenny Slate as voice actors.

If you have 1 hour and 32 minutes…and like solution-oriented documentaries, watch 2040, available online through Falvey. This documentary follows a filmmaker around the world as he searches for innovative ways to combat climate change.

If you have 4 hours…and have a free Saturday, take part in Villanova’s Earth Day of Service from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Mendel Lot. If you’re interested in participating in some hands-on work to help better the Villanova environment, register here.

Bonus: for more Villanova-centered ways to celebrate Earth Day, check out these Villanova Earth Week activities and events

If you have 6 hours…and want to learn more about suburban wildlife, read Marzluff’s Welcome to Subirdia, available online through Falvey. We’re used to hearing how our suburban sprawl is horrible for the environment, and while it does have very real environmental consequences, this book discusses how some animals are actually adapting to and even thriving in suburban environments. It also gives some practical tips for making suburban neighborhoods more hospitable.

If you have 7 hours…and haven’t read this environmental studies classic, read Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, available at Falvey. This book famously called attention to the dangers of pesticides and sparked the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Annie Stockmal is a graduate student in the Communication Department and Graduate Assistant at Falvey Library.


Weekend Recs: COP27 and the Climate Crisis

Happy Friday, Wildcats! Falvey Library is delivering you another semester of Weekend Recs, a blog dedicated to filling you in on what to read, listen to, and watch over the weekend. Annie, a graduate assistant from the Communication department, scours the internet, peruses the news, and digs through book stacks to find new, relevant, and thought-provoking content that will challenge you and prepare you for the upcoming week. 

Today is the last (official) day of COP27, an annual international climate conference spearheaded by the United Nations. The conference allows world leaders, national representatives, and key climate activists to engage with the international problem of global warming and its various (and vast) environmental effects. This weekend’s rec will catch you up to speed on some of the key COP27 takeaways and climate change news.

If you have 7 minutes…and don’t know much about the conference, read this New York Times guide to COP27. Its Q&A format is perfect for those who may be unfamiliar. (This BBC guide is also very helpful).

If you have 10 minutes…and need some (rare) positive climate and environment news, read this article about how conservation efforts in Mexico has led to the return of jaguars to the Yucatan region.

If you have another 10 minutes…and are a visual learner, check out this article highlighting climate crisis photography. It truly showcases the good, the bad, and the ugly truths of global warming while managing to capture the beauty of the world around us.

Bonus: check out this video of President Biden talking at COP27.

If you have 15 minutes…and want to know a major takeaway from the conference, read this article from the New York Times. Developing nations, which are often the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, are calling for the biggest emissions producers to pay for the damage.

Bonus: check out this article for an overview of how some of the world’s biggest emitters, including the United States, are actually fairing in comparison to their proposed goals.

If you have 2 hours and 25 minutes…and want to commiserate in some of your  climate denial frustration, watch Netflix’s Don’t Look Up (2021). By now, I imagine many of you have already watched this, but it’s worth a re-watch, especially after recent events.

If you have 16 hours…and want to read a collection of essays on the climate crisis from experts and some hopeful solutions, read Greta Thunberg’s new book, The Climate Book.

Annie Stockmal is a graduate student in the Communication Department and graduate assistant in Falvey Library.

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TBT: 2019 Climate Strikes

close-up of a poster from the 2019 Climate Strike demonstrations at Villanova

students during the 2019 Climate Strike demonstration at Villanova

Here comes a BONUS TBT in honor of Earth Day! The photos featured here come from the March 15, 2019 Climate Strike at Villanova. This was just one of many climate strikes taking place on college campuses across the country. These strikes were inspired by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish  student who challenged world leaders to take immediate action against climate change and emphasized that no one is too small or too young to make a difference. Thunberg has had three consecutive nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize from 2019-2021. 

Student speakers Gracie Stagliano and Yvonne Nguyen led the demonstrations and the group march to the office of University President the Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD, to present him with two demands:

  1. Move the University’s carbon-neutral pledge date up to 2030
  2. Enter into a power purchase agreement for renewable energy by 2020

More information on the 2019 Climate Strikes at Villanova can be found in Falvey’s mini-exhibit entitled Earth Week at Villanova.

jenna newman headshotJenna Newman is a graduate assistant in Falvey Memorial Library and a graduate student in the Communication Department.







Biologist, Philosopher, Researcher, Falvey Scholar: Meet Elizabeth “Libby” O’Brien

Elizabeth O'Brien award

Elizabeth “Libby” O’Brien receives the Falvey Scholar Award from Associate University Librarian for Collections and Stewardship Jeehyun “Jee” Davis.



This is part 2 of a 6-part series featuring the 2019 Falvey Scholars. Read more about them every Tuesday and in the upcoming issue of Mosaic: the library’s bi-annual publication.


Scholarly Stats:

Elizabeth “Libby” O’Brien ’19 CLAS

Hometown: Portland, Maine

Faculty Mentor: Samantha Chapman, PhD, associate professor of Biology

Research: Foliar water uptake in ecotonal mangroves which are expanding with climate change

Other Honors: Fulbright U.S. Student Program award winner, will continue her thesis work analyzing mangrove ecology and environmental ethics in the Philippines.


In her own words:

Libby’s Research:

While working with Drs. Chapman and Matthew Hayes in a Florida saltmarsh on their research analyzing mangrove ecology in the face of climate change, I began to ponder about an idea that would become my thesis question: “What if mangroves supplement their water needs not from their roots, where they are competing with the marsh species, but through their leaves?”

At Villanova in the fall, the three of us sat down and revisited that question. In our preliminary literature review, we found evidence that a number of plant species use foliar water uptake across ecosystems, particularly where water availability can be limited such as high, mountainous elevations and dry, arid environments.

Mangroves are specialized plants that live in salty water. Due to the high salinity concentration of their soils, they are often under water stress as they need to extract, and filter water out of this salty environment to meet their physiological demands. In short, mangroves are living under pseudo-drought conditions. However, coastal mangroves sometimes encounter sea mist and fog, leading us to believe that they may utilize foliar water uptake in a similar way to other plants living under drought conditions.

Our second research question was “Do different mangrove species exhibit varying degrees of foliar water uptake?”

Elizabeth O'Brien PresentingWe aimed to answer this second question to provide evidence for existing geographic distributions of specific mangroves species and their projected future encroachment patterns.

To test our hypotheses, we built airtight chambers and placed the three different species of mangroves inside of them. We used humidifiers to mimic morning fog enriched with a tracer that could be detected by a machine in the lab after the experiment. Since we sealed off the soil from the rest of the plant, (meaning that the soil was not moistened by the fog), any tracer detected in the leaves of the mangroves would indicate foliar water uptake.

Using statistical analyses, we could identify trends in the data to answer both of our research questions. Once in the lab, we did detect the tracer in all of the species, pointing to some foliar water uptake, but we also discovered problems in our experimentation methods. This meant that while our results were promising, there were a few possibilities as to why they were what they were.

However, the three of us do not take this as a failure. If we had not done the experiment, we would not have known that mangroves exhibit some foliar water uptake; and even if it is impossible to parse out the differences in foliar water uptake across species at this time, we have a solid research process on which to build on moving forward.

Setbacks like this are not only common, they are inevitable. We are currently in the process of re-examining our methods to produce more reliable results. Moreover, I come away with a confidence in my ability as a woman in science moving on to answer the next questions.


Libby’s “Falvey Experience”:

In order to begin the development of my research questions, and throughout every subsequent step of my thesis, I needed to be a sponge for information. At first, it was overwhelming to experience a total information overload, but three things kept my project focused and achievable.

The access that Falvey’s online resources provided proved invaluable. The access that I was able to have to high profile academic journals and niche, often international journals, as well as published theses exposed me to the diverse and interdisciplinary research within the realm of mangrove ecology.Libby O'Brien

For the articles that were not immediately available to me, I used interlibrary loan. I was able to develop my experimental design from one article that I got through the interlibrary loan system, a resource that then-research librarian Robin Bowles (now the director of Libraries at Montgomery County Community College) pointed me towards—she was instrumental in my successful thesis completion.

Her knowledge and experience for sifting through endless articles and culling searches gave me papers that addressed my specific questions. I live-chatted with her in one instance which enabled me to get help from the library and keep working.

Finally, Falvey Memorial Library provided me with the space to work and collaborate with my mentors, a contribution that I cannot ignore. The 24-hour access to workspaces, printers, and online resources eliminated many of the obstacles a commuter student like myself might have faced in order to finish my thesis on a deadline.

Over this past year, at the back left square table of the library Holy Grounds, Dr. Chapman, Dr. Hayes, and myself drank endless cups of coffee and discussed how our mangrove foliar water uptake results fit into the larger conversation of coastal climate change.


The Impact on Her:

From Florida saltmarshes to Mendel Science Center, climate change challenges our status quo. As a soon to be graduate from a rigorous Augustinian institution, I am equipped with the skills to analyze, engage with, and speak about the processes behind the issues that affect our everyday lives.

My thesis, an investigation into foliar water uptake as a potential water acquisition strategy in mangrove species, offers a contribution to the scientific community in the context of coastal ecosystem ecology, as well as to Villanova University as an example of what a student committed to conducting research can achieve.

From the completion of my thesis, I have learned that the hardest part about research is narrowing the focus of your questions because analyzing the implications in the larger scheme of things comes later. I have learned that I respond well to a mentorship style that gives me the space to try and fail and re-try lab techniques, and that it is essential to take advantage to the resources available.

Falvey Memorial Library facilitated so much of my research success; from that, I have grown to have a passion for asking and answering research questions.

What’s Next:

After my Fulbright U.S. Student experience, I am planning to attend graduate school. I aim to continue this work but also integrate my research in philosophy in the coming years as I pursue a doctorate that blends ecological research with ethical considerations in a project that explores mangrove productivity and success through a lens of anthropogenic influence.

My mentors’ attention to both of these interests throughout this year motivated me to pursue a career that combines science and policy advocacy.

Shawn Proctor

Shawn Proctor, MFA, is communications and marketing program manager at Falvey Memorial Library.



Last Modified: June 11, 2019

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