Gift to benefit Ohio State’s School of Environment and Natural Resources

Wildlife habitat evaluation area

COLUMBUS—A $250,000 gift will benefit both undergraduate and graduate students in The Ohio State University School of Environment and Natural Resources (SENR).

The donation from Marathon Petroleum Foundation will advance terrestrial wildlife ecology research, student learning and sustainability, and diversity and inclusion scholarships.

“We are excited that this gift will further enhance our efforts to support students from a diversity of backgrounds interested in pursuing careers in the environmental and natural resource fields,” said Jeff Sharp, SENR director and professor of rural sociology in the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES).

Specifically, $165,000 has been designated to research in terrestrial wildlife ecology, $60,000 to create the SENR Diversity and Inclusion Scholarship Fund, and $25,000 to the Students Understanding Sustainability and Taking Action to Improve Nature and Society (SUSTAINS) Learning Community.

“As we challenge ourselves to lead in sustainable energy, partnering with an innovative and highly-engaged institution such as The Ohio State University will help us move the needle further together,” said Shawn Lyon, Marathon Pipe Line President. “We’re committed to investing in projects that promote sustainability and excited about the opportunity to invest in the important work being done at Ohio State and CFAES.”

More than 80 Ohio State students have engaged in research and projects through the Terrestrial Wildlife Ecology Lab (TWEL). “TWEL is a cooperative venture that has always thrived on partnerships,” said Gabriel Karns, clinical faculty member. “Entering into collaboration with Marathon Pipe Line provides yet another opportunity to study conservation potential and possibilities on working landscapes – namely rights-of-way.”

Marathon Pipe Line manages over 8,000 miles of utility rights-of-way nationwide, said Karns, whose research focuses on how working landscapes can provide habitat for pollinators.

Specifically, the donation to TWEL will support research to understand the benefits of integrated vegetation management on utility rights-of-way with a focus on ecology, soil carbon, and landowner relations.

The gift will enable Karns and his SENR colleagues, lecturer Joe Campbell and assistant professor Scott Demyan, to examine how rights-of-way vegetation management can bring together utilities and private landowners to address soil conservation issues and create biodiversity reservoirs for threatened taxa. They will also be able to hire three new six-month positions to work in the field.

An internship opportunity for one Ohio State student has also been made available within Marathon Pipe Line’s rights-of-way vegetation management team. “This internship will be a hands-on, experiential learning moment where everyone learns from one another,” shared Lyon.

SENR diversity and inclusion efforts will also get a big boost with scholarship monies earmarked to students who add diversity to SENR and/or who actively contribute to nurturing a more diverse and inclusive community within the school. Up to $6,000 could be awarded annually per recipient.

Monies from the new SENR fund may be used for research-related costs, tuition, and fees, and other education expenses. Sharp noted that support may be awarded in varying amounts based on student enrollment, available funding, and other factors. 

SENR co-administers the SUSTAINS Learning Community experience with Ohio State’s Sustainability Institute. Students live alongside their peers who share common interests in exploring sustainable solutions for local, national, and global issues.

“The gift from Marathon will allow for the SUSTAINS Learning Community to return to in-person programming after almost two years of delivering a virtual curriculum due to COVID,” said Matt Griffin, program coordinator and co-lead of the SUSTAINS Learning Community. “With this gift, we can deliver safe, engaging, and unique sustainability-focused learning opportunities for students.”

SENR director Sharp noted, “A growing number of students are interested in issues of climate, sustainability, and conservation. These gifts will help make college more accessible and affordable.”

For more information about SENR and its programs, visit

Sherrie R. Whaley
For more information, contact: 

Jeff Sharp