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Date: Thurday, April 2nd, 2015

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Engineering for a Sustainable Society
Engineers Without Borders

Past Projects


ESF and INECOL (Instituto de Ecología) are teaming up to do collaborative research. ESF-EWB has been awarded two reserach grants:

  • The first is researching emissions of N2O (nitrous oxide) released from mycelium during the filtration of water. This process of using fungi to filter and treat water has been coined "mycofiltration" and this research will be following the experimentation and procedure of ESF ERE graduate student Rusell Daniels.
  • The second is researching the possibility of implementing a constructed fringe wetland (CFW) to treat contaminated water running into a cloud forest reserve in Xalapa, Mexico.

Both of these research projects will be done at INECOL and ESF, and members of EWB will be travelling to Xalapa, Mexico to conduct research at INECOL.


The Syracuse University and SUNY ESF Chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB) traveled to Honduras over the 2005-2006 winter break. Their project combined trail reconstruction with mapping in Pico Bonito National Park. Covering 100,000 hectares of unique ecosystems, Pico Bonito National Park is the second largest national park in Honduras. Much of this area is covered by densely covered forest. These forests combine with the rough natural landscape to be home to amazing waterfalls, wildlife species and multiple ecosystems.

The Rio Cangrejal is the river that forms the eastern side of the park as well as where we stayed for the duration. Pepe Herrero is a popular businessman, political figure and environmentalist in Honduras who has been known for helping organizations that study in the park. He has also been kind enough to lend the EWB his river house which lies on the Rio Cangrejal and 30 minutes outside on La Ceiba. The road that goes up to the river house and beyond was washed out from hurricane Mitch in 1998. You can still see remnants from how amazingly high the river water flowed during the hurricane.

Pico Bonito has been threatened by low funds, illegal logging and questionable farming techniques. The rivers have been proposed to be damned for electricity and there have been land claim issues arising in the park as well. Since Eco-tourism has been believed to increase the number of jobs and income to the local communities, it has become the focus of many efforts to maintain the integrity of the preserve. There are many programs in place to help the park:

FUPNAPIB, Fundacion Parque Nacional Pico Bonito is a NGO whose mission is to protect the biodiversity of Pico Bonito National Park and improve the living conditions for the people who live in the surrounding areas. They are implementing participatory programs with the goals of protection, community development, agro forestry, forest management, ecotourism, women's role in river management, and research.

REDHES is also a NGO that combines five north coast conservation organizations. REDHES works on a similar goal as FUPNAPIB and they often work along with each other in the areas that we have been working.

There is also a USAID program that is designed specifically to help the economy of Honduras by increasing tourism. This program is Manejo Integrado de Recursos Naturales or MIRA which translates to Honduras Integrated Natural Resource Management

There are also tourist guide services that have shown to help out a lot.

GUARUMA is a local guide service that is located in the same area as Cabanas del Bosque which has been funded mostly through grants. They are located up the road from Pepe's river house in Las Mangas. Anna Richter is a member of the peace corp who has been working with GUARUMA and other locals to create Cabanas del Bosque. Many of the same people who helped us work on the trails are the ones who built the cabins and small restaurant that now are located here in Las Mangas. The workers who spent time building have earned shares and now manage this guide service.

Other tourist businesses are Omega Tours, Jungle River and Expatriates.

In EWB's time working with these organizations, we must work alongside them all and also with the local people and existing tourist operations to create an ecological area that everyone can enjoy without unnecessary disruption. Pico Bonito National Park is a large area and we hope continue relations between SU/ESF EWB and FUPNAPIB, REDHES, MIRA and the locals strong enough to continue the project for many years.

Reference here for additional information on section above

Reference here for additional information on the section below

"I am very excited about the trip," said Kristin Wunsch, Buffalo, a senior at Syracuse University studying biomedical engineering "And I hope to encourage more SU students to join Engineers Without Borders when they see the trails we're building and repairing in Honduras."

For many, EWB is part of a long-term plan. Richard Huggins is a junior in Forest Engineering at ESF. Huggins, from Gilbertsville, N.Y., said, "I became interested in EWB as a freshman and have become more heavily involved each year because it's an opportunity to travel and help make the world a little better."

"I've always thought," continued Huggins, "that no matter what my career choice was I wouldn't be happy unless I could use my skills positively."

Kristy Davila Lazo, a senior at ESF majoring in Conservation Biology, brings an international perspective to the Honduras project as well as experience in designing trails. A resident of Queens, N.Y. since age 13, Lazo was born in Iquitos, Peru, and worked on an ecotourism and conservation project on the island of Dominica.

Plus, Lazo said, "I feel I can be very helpful during our stay in Honduras because I speak fluent Spanish and I have field experience in the tropics of Brazil."

Second year Master's student in Landscape Architecture, Daniel McCormick, said, "I got involved in this EWB project through (ESF Associate Professor) Theodore Endreny, who felt my experience working for the past several years on trails for federal and non-profit agencies would be very useful."

The trip will also be a learning experience for McCormick, from Rochester, who explained, "I've never been to Honduras or a similar type place before so I am looking forward to it."

Mary Gifford, of Athens, N.Y., majoring in Environmental Resources and Forest Engineering, said, "While our short-term goal is trail work, we hope to contribute to a larger cause – promoting ecotourism to help the Honduran economy rebound from a series of devastating hurricanes. In addition, we hope to promote sound natural resource management policies for a sustainable future in Honduras."

The other members of the EWB Honduras project team included:

Daniel Flynn, of Byram, N.J., majoring in Environmental Resources and Forest Engineering and Ronald Sanzo, of Chenango Forks, N.Y., majoring in Environmental Resources and Forest Engineering.


The State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) chapter of Engineers Without Borders will be on the windward island of Dominica from December 30, 2004, until January 15, 2005. There the students will join forces with electrical engineering students from the University of Vermont to complete installation of a micro-hydro turbine to replace the diesel generator at the Archbold Tropical Research and Education Center.

Mary Gifford of Albany, N.Y., president of the ESF EWB chapter, said the ESF students are very excited about this project. "Dominica is not a high income nation and the cost of diesel fuel is two to three times what it is in the United States. But Dominica has a lot of natural resources, like fast moving rivers, which can spin turbines and make energy that's renewable."

In fact, rainfall in Dominica averages 300 inches a year and the project at Archbold Center taps a stream running through the property. A concrete intake has been constructed on the side of a hill and water will be directed through 600 feet of PVC pipe, dropping 140 feet into the micro-hydro turbine, spinning the turbine to generate electricity. Then the water returns to the stream.

Student Megan Scott of Dunkirk, N.Y., said, "I wanted to find out why I'm in engineering, and I knew there was a reason. Once we started planning this project I knew why, it's an opportunity to help." She explained, "We're getting something out of it; they're getting something out of it. I take all these classes and learn all these formulas and theories so now I get to put them in action."

Michael Miller of East Syracuse, N.Y., a senior at ESF studying hydrology, calls this project, "The chance to get some hands-on experience plus what we're doing should be really helpful to the people there for developing renewable energy resources."

Gifford said they hope this micro-hydro turbine project serves as a model for similar innovation. "Energy is needed to develop hotels and other services to build the eco-tourism industry on Dominica so they can take advantage of the island?s ecological diversity," she said.

The SUNY-ESF EWB chapter has 20 members; six are taking part in this particular project. Each student pays his or her own travel expenses, but room and board is provided and the materials needed for the project are being secured by ESF. During the spring semester, the participating students will make a presentation on their work to the ESF Board of Trustees.

Dominica, a former British colony, is about 2400 miles from Syracuse, located north of Barbados and south of Antigua, part of the windward islands that separate the Atlantic Ocean from the Caribbean. It is considered a living laboratory with pristine rain forests, fertile volcanic soils and abundant fresh water. Dominica boasts a river for every day of the year.

The Archbold Tropical Research and Education Center is directed by a consortium of colleges and universities, SUNY-ESF and Syracuse University are charter members because of their strong connections to philanthropist John D. Archbold. The center is located on Springfield Plantation and Mt. Joy Estates, a gift from Archbold to Clemson University. The Center is just three miles from Roseau, the capital of the commonwealth. Adjacent to the Center are the Morne Trois Piton National Park and Archbold Preserve, a tract of tropical rain forest.

The other SUNY-ESF students working on the micro-hydro project included: David Norton, Camden, N.Y., Junior, Environmental Resources and Forest Engineering; Ayana Douglas, Nyack, N.Y., Environmental Resources and Forest Engineering; and, Peter Simpson, Elbridge, N.Y., Forest Engineering.

2005 Update:

Alvin Chan, a student at the University of Vermont during the initial phase of the turbine project and now a graduate student at ESF, along with partners from the UV have made two trips back to the island of Dominica to work on the micro-hydro turbine.

Their work included removing water from the piping that holds the transmission line; renovating the intake tank/filtration system; adding air release valves in the pipeline; fixing leaky joints; and testing the power dynamics. It was discovered that the turbine was only generating about 50% of its 1000-watt capacity.

They also found that flow from the head end (the pool created at the top of the hill) wasn't as good as first thought. Adjustments were made to the nozzle which increased flow but that didn't completely solve the problem so the next step will be to change the pulley ratios to take full advantage of the water now flowing down the pipeline.

Daily Orange article- ESF students make turbine abroad


We have worked with Amberations to help develop their trails and facilities. We marked trails, mapped out the area, and built composting toilets.

A group of students involved in our local projects committee had been working closely with the owner of Amberations in Marietta, New York to design and implement a composting toilet for the park's visitors. Amberations is a non-profit organization with over 50 acres of land, dedicated to the support of mental health for people of all ages through interaction with the natural environment.

Construction of a composting toilet on the property followed ADA specifications in order to be handicap accessible. The waste from the composting toilet is composted and used in various gardens around the property. The students returned to ensure all specifications were met. We would specifically like to thank Tony Russo for his help and guidance during the construction.

Amberations Fall 2014 Newsletter (PDF)

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