Petition to Save College Park and Shattuck Observatory
2009 signees:
Dear Friend of College Park and Shattuck Observatory,

Dartmouth is currently conducting a feasibility study to consider building a 750 bed capacity undergraduate residence hall on the highest part of College Park. While we understand the need for improved student housing on campus, this should not come at the expense of a park and the Shattuck Observatory which are enjoyed and used by many, including for teaching and research. Some of the potential negative impacts that seriously concern us are the following:

—Irreplaceable loss of the only undeveloped parkland on central campus. College Park is a popular natural retreat. At any time of the day, you will find students and other members of the community enjoying the park - walking, talking with others, reading, meditating... The park is also heavily used during term time by academic departments as varied as Earth Sciences and Studio Art: groups of undergraduate students can often be found studying up close the spectacular rock outcrops or painting the park landscapes.

—The loss of Shattuck Observatory, the oldest scientific building on campus. Opened in 1853, Shattuck is one of only three operational observatories in the country that remain from this early period, and the only one that still retains its original footprint. Shattuck is an integral part of the physics and astronomy department, providing office space for several faculty. Shattuck continues to play an invaluable role in instructional and public observing, as well as in research (see below). Shattuck inspires many people, including alumni with fond memories, as evidenced by frequent, spontaneous drop-ins seeking a glimpse of the telescope and the historic building.

—The loss of the only ‘dark sky’ location on campus suitable for observational astronomy. A new residence hall of the size being considered would inevitably result in a significant increase in outdoor lighting. The Shattuck telescope and two smaller telescopes in neighboring observatory buildings in College Park have served introductory undergraduate astronomy courses taken by many students over the years, as well as popular weekly public observing sessions that are run by students. On average, about thirty people attend each public observing session, with the number growing to in excess of one hundred for sessions organized during special Dartmouth weekends (Homecoming, Green Key, Parent’s, etc.).

—Compromised weather records due to relocation or altered local environment. Dartmouth’s weather station adjacent Shattuck has been in operation since 1830, with daily weather observations collected without interruption by generations of students, staff and faculty since 1893. These weather records are essential in enabling the National Weather Service to discriminate between natural and anthropogenic climate variations. Since 1995, the weather station has also served as a site in the Global Network of Isotopes in Precipitation (GNIP) that provides bi-weekly isotopic compositions of oxygen and hydrogen in precipitation. The data in GNIP have been broadly used by researchers all over the world for modern and historical studies of hydrological cycles in response to climate change.

--Compromised seven year (to date) data set of atmospheric dust and other contaminants deposited on the Shattuck weather station and nearby trees. This record is already unique and becomes increasingly invaluable the longer the data collection runs, especially as we close in on the 11-year solar cycle. It would be impossible to account for the additional dust generated by construction on this record or for the changes in airflow at the site due to a new, large building. The analytical equipment used for this research is the Dartmouth Short-Lived Isotope facility located in the basement of Fairchild Hall, one of the very few large gamma spectrometry facilities hosted in an academic institution. The highly sensitive instruments in this facility are sensitive to vibration and dust contamination and could be heavily impacted by construction activities.

—Compromised seismology records due to increased vibrational noise. Shattuck has housed a seismic monitoring station in its basement for many years as part of the U.S. Geological Survey's New England Seismic Network. New England is one of the most seismically active areas east of the Rocky Mountains and the Shattuck monitoring station contributes critical data required to understand and assess seismic hazards in our region.

—Disruption to experimental quantum information science in Wilder Hall. Vibration noise during the construction phase, especially that caused by ledge blasting, will make it extremely difficult for faculty, students and postdocs to carry out their delicate quantum physics experiments. Increased electromagnetic noise will also pose challenges to these experimental efforts.

—Potential hazards in siting student residential halls in close proximity to chemical fume hood exhaust systems.

In summary, we urge the Dartmouth administration and the Trustees to explore alternative residential building sites that will not have such a severe, irreversible impact on an iconic part of the campus, on Dartmouth’s scientific and architectural heritage, and on future teaching and research.


Friends of College Park and Shattuck Observatory

A Brief History of Shattuck Observatory:

"Dartmouth and its Shattuck Observatory: Science and Identity at a 'Small College' from 1848 to 2018," Physics & Astronomy Colloquium - Richard Kremer, Dartmouth College

College Park project information:

Editorial in The Dartmouth:

Letter to the President from the Department of Physics & Astronomy:

Letter to the President from the Department of Physics & Astronomy Alumni Advisory Board:

Letter to the President from the Department of Earth Sciences:

Letter to the President from the Department of Chemistry:

Letter to the President from the American Astronomical Society:

March 3, 2018 update: Dartmouth recently announced that they will not be building a 750 bed residence hall in College Park, citing the high financial cost of the project as the reason. While we are relieved to hear this decision, we nevertheless continue to urge Dartmouth to commit to preserving Shattuck Observatory and College Park for future generations.
Please join us in expressing your support for preserving College Park and Shattuck Observatory. Please also forward this petition to others who care. We will soon add you to the signees of the petition:

(Petition last updated: Tuesday, April 10th, 8:14 PM EST)

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Shattuck Observatory, Thursday December 14, 2017
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