Middlebury College

Grants from the Lintilhac Foundation to Middlebury College have supported important research and initiatives that deepen understanding of the Lake Champlain region and work towards a more sustainable future. Two key projects in recent years have been the renovation of Hillcrest Environmental Center and development of the lake research vessel David Folger.

The Hillcrest renovation was completed in 2007 with help from a $200,000 grant from the Foundation. The project is a model of resource conservation and energy efficiency, repurposing an 1875 Vermont farmhouse that had at various times been used as classroom space, dormitory, or offices, into a new LEED-certified center of environmental leadership and learning. Hillcrest today houses Middlebury’s Environmental Programs, including the Environmental Studies academic program, Environmental Scholar-in-Residence Bill McKibben, Middlebury Fellowships in Environmental Journalism, and other resources and programs.

A planning and feasibility grant from the Lintilhac Foundation initiated a multi-year effort that culminated, in fall 2012, in the successful launch of the David Folger, a new research vessel dedicated to the study of Lake Champlain.

The David Folger is named for the former Middlebury geology professor who helped to pioneer lake studies on Lake Champlain. It is the brainchild of Pat and Tom Manley, geology professors at the College who have engineered important advances in the body of knowledge of the lake, including a first-time comprehensive mapping of the lake floor that revealed new information about sediment, hydrodynamics, and understanding of how material travels throughout the lake.

The David Folger replaces the antiquated Baldwin research vessel and represents a tremendous expansion of research capacity with state-of-the-art navigational tools and oceanographic equipment such as current profilers and high-precision tools to measure physical characteristics of the lake. Research conducted on the David Folger will provide essential information about the lake’s geology and biology to help solve critical problems such as water pollution caused by phosphorous runoff.

The 45-foot vessel is substantially larger than the Baldwin, allowing for up to 18 students plus a professor and crew to operate the boat. It is outfitted with six computer stations for students and researchers to process and analyze data. Custom-designed to meet the ambitions and specifications of a design committee that included the Manleys and others, the David Folger is a twin-hulled catamaran made of stainless steel that is faster than any prior research vessel on Lake Champlain, capable of traveling from Charlotte, VT to the northern Missisquoi Bay in three hours.

Note: please see Kathryn Flagg’s article What Lies Beneath, published in Seven Days newspaper on October 31, 2012, for more information about the David Folger and the Manleys’ work on Lake Champlain:

Middlebury faculty, students, and staff at the dedication of the David Folger in 2012.

Middlebury faculty, students, and staff at the dedication of the David Folger in 2012.