Tools for Undergraduate Research in Environmental Science and Field Biology:
(Note: As of Fall, 2013, only Units II and III are active. Other Units will be added over the coming months.)

I. Scientific Inquiry: How to identify a research topic, question and hypothesis

II. Fundamentals of Field Sampling: How to design a field study

III. Graphing and Statistics: How to interpret your data using MS Excel

IV. Communicating Your Results: Tips for writing effective papers and making clear presentations

  maps of region where we're living

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November 11, from Munsiyari: Food "Footprint"

I decided to spread out on our table all of the food that the three of us eat in a typical 24 hr period.

Clockwise from lower left: peas, onions, eggplant, potatoes, 2 1/2 metal cups of flour (for making chapatis), 2 metal cups of rice, 2 metal cups of chick peas, 1 metal cup of yellow dal, tea, sugar, milk powder, spices in center (see next photo). Not shown - a few tablespoons of oil. Other items occassionally eaten: crackers, oatmeal, wheat porridge, other misc. vegetables, eggs, bananas, guavas, and a rare treat of chocolate. Ingredients are obtained by walking to market about 30 mins. away.

Clockwise from left: chillies, garlic, coriander leaves, ginger root, salt, ground coriander seeds, turmeric, husks of timur berries we harvested, jeera seeds, in center - chilli powder.

Some of this food (such as the vegetables) is grown locally, but much of it is imported from elsewhere in the country. Though we're living in an agricultural area, most farmers don't grow quite enough food their own needs, so their diets are supplemented by food from the market. This means that most food in the market is not locally grown, but is imported from elsewhere.

Beans growing in a local farmers field - Munsiyari is famous for beans:

Looking at the food I've laid out, I find myself thinking about my food footprint here (portion of the ecological footprint devoted to food needs) and how it compares to back in the States. It's quite clear that it's lower in several ways: less packaging, less processing (so less energy spent on producing the ingredients), less transportation (we're closer here to major agricultural regions than New Hampshire is to California), and fewer animal products.

A typical dinner. Clockwise from left: alu (potatoes), chapati, choli (chick pea dal with many yummy spices!), subzi (vegetables - in this case eggplant and caulifower with kadai sauce), rice.

Because we're simply eating what's available (and foods that are similar to the local diet), our food footprint is likely pretty representative of local residents and much lower than the average American's. When my students explore their ecological footprints and discover that simply by living in the US, it's nearly impossible as an individual to bring one's footprint as low as the average in most developing countries, they often wonder why. This food portion is just one example I would be hard pressed to bring my food footprint as low in NH as it is here, no matter how hard I try.

Where's the unprocessed, unpackaged local food in this typical American Grocery Store? OK, fair enough, a picture of the produce aisle would give some chance of finding such food. (image from:

I have no great solutions in mind here . . . just an interesting example to share. It's also an opportunity to give a shout out to the local foods movement eat local!

Logo from the new Monadnock Coop in Keene, a store that features locally grown food. Click on the logo to link to their website.

This site created and maintained by
Dr. Rhine Singleton
Associate Professor of Biology & Environmental Science
Franklin Pierce University, Rindge, NH 03461
You can contact me at: singler at franklinpierce dot edu