Environmental Studies Professor and Alumnus Publish Adirondack Research | St. Lawrence University

Environmental Studies Professor and Alumnus Publish Adirondack Research

Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Peter Pettengill and Ethan Collins ’18 co-authored a research paper focused on tackling a growing public land issue in the region that was recently published in the Adirondack Journal of Environmental Studies.

The paper, titled “Analysis of Search and Rescue Incidents in the Adirondack State Park from 2015-2016,” includes their examination of the demographics, causes, and methods of rescue for various incidents throughout the Adirondack Park.

Read the Adirondack Explorer’s story about the research.

Collins, who was an environmental studies major and volunteered as a local firefighter and EMT as a student, attended St. Lawrence so he could help others by pursuing a career in medicine. He took an interest in Pettengill’s courses about parks and recreation as well as land management and signed up for a research seminar with him during the first semester of his senior year.

As Collins brainstormed ideas for his independent research project, concerns were mounting in and around the park about the number of forest rangers in the Adirondacks as the area was growing increasingly popular. Between Pettengill’s expertise with parks and recreation and Collins’ passion for emergency services and medicine, the two undertook the research together in order to help tackle a complex challenge facing the region. 

“The goal was to provide data in an attempt to decrease morbidity and mortality of both Park visitors and rescuers,” Collins explains. “Our findings provide a roadmap for where education and prevention could be most effective in future mitigation. In the future, we hope to better correlate park usage numbers with Search and Rescue incidents, provide a long-term look at the status of incidents, and investigate occupational hazards present in the responding rescuers.” 

Pettengill believes this research and similar projects are a critical part of the student experience at St. Lawrence. “They emphasize the importance of individual responsibility while pursuing outdoor activities and highlight the demand of public land resources and the professionals who steward them,” he says.

Recently, Pettengill has partnered with other St. Lawrence students on research focused on assessing the ecological impacts from visitor use at campsites in the Cranberry Lake region of the Adirondacks.

“While they may not all go on to work for land managing agencies, I hope my courses help establish a lifelong relationship between students and our common property resources,” Pettengill says.

Collins, who is currently pursuing an advanced degree at the University of New England’s College of Osteopathic Medicine, is working toward a residency in emergency medicine along with a fellowship in critical care. Despite having already graduated from St. Lawrence, he has plans to conduct more research alongside Laurentians: “I also hope to work in the realm of wilderness medicine and continue research in public health and environmental studies with my colleagues at St. Lawrence.”

For more information about the innovative research projects St. Lawrence’s environmental studies students are working on with their faculty mentors, visit the Department of Environmental Studies.