Student Research Spotlight: Brittany Bondi ‘19 studies the impact of environmental film

55% of Gettysburg College students complete research with a faculty mentor. Most tend to associate research with the sciences, but the Kolbe Summer Fellows Program allows students to develop and pursue interdisciplinary research projects in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. This past summer Brittany Bondi ‘19 was selected to be one of the nine Kolbe Fellows for Summer 2018. Over ten weeks, Bondi made her project proposal into a reality.

Titled How does environmental film impact audience behavior and emotion?, the project explores how a particular environmental documentary affected audience mood, climate change beliefs, and the motivation to take action against climate change.

Bondi has been interested in climate change from a young age, but it was an experience in 11th grade that solidified her passion: a summer program that focused on international relations and climate change. “That was the first time I was ever exposed to the problem of climate change really in-depth – what it was doing to people and countries,” said Bondi, an environmental studies major. “When I came to Gettysburg College I wanted to pursue my interest a little bit more, and enrolled in Environmental Studies 196. I fell in love with the topics we studied and the Environmental Studies department.”

Two other Environmental Studies courses impacted Bondi and how she perceived the world around her: Environmental Studies 223: Earth System Science and Environmental Studies 225: Environmental Humanities. Through 223, Bondi learned about the complexity of the earth and how every little thing is interconnected. In 225, she became fascinated by the way one could approach the environment in a philosophical and abstract manner.

Bondi’s experiences inside the classroom have inspired her, but so have her experiences outside the classroom. Last summer she was a part of an X-SIG program under the direction of Dr. Sarah Principato, marking Bondi’s first experience in independent research. “It really showed me how to be more independent in my work, how to problem solve, and allowed me to see the environment—specifically Iceland—in a scientific lens,” said Bondi. Her summer research experience involved a trip to Iceland with Dr. Principato and fellow X-SIG student researcher, Marion McKenzie.

Bondi was able to continue conducting independent research through her study abroad experience in Mongolia last fall. This time however, her project entailed interviewing herders in the area who were fighting against the establishment of an illegal mine.

When she returned to campus, Environmental Studies professor Dr. Salma Monani reached out and recommended the Kolbe Summer Fellows Program to Bondi. Dr. Monani and Dr. Principato later became Bondi’s faculty mentors for her project — an aspect of the fellowship that allows students to gain guidance and support throughout the duration of the program.

Her main hope for this project is to see how science communication can make a difference within the problem of climate change. “There’s a lot of miscommunication between the scientific community and general public,” said Bondi. “My project is important because it helps us understand what current efforts to educate people on climate change are effective. Is our documentary helping people feel more environmentally conscious, or is it not?”

In order to execute her research, Bondi strengthened previous skills and learned new ones. One skill she has attained was using WordPress: how to use plugin, make things aesthetically pleasing, and incorporate html and css. One aspect she didn’t expect was going into other fields like psychology or statistics. “I think that just speaks a lot for environmental studies, it’s an interdisciplinary field.”

Bondi’s research is not complete as of yet. A screening of the environmental film will occur in the fall, and surveys from the film’s audience will need to be analyzed. Her summer research however, has laid a strong foundation for her Environmental Studies senior honors thesis. Bondi hopes to finish her thesis in April 2019.

As for what she has gained from her summer research through the Kolbe Summer Fellows Program, Bondi believes that it has taught her to be more independent, to think, and problem solve. “I’m hoping after Gettysburg—even if I don’t pursue environmental communications—I can at least use the skills I’ve learning through this project and apply them to broader topics either in graduate school or through a Fullbright.


This article was written by Abigail Major ’19

Have you done student research or know a student who has? Email to be potentially featured or nominate someone.

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