Environmental Studies and Sciences News & Events
Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014
ESS faculty member Leslie Gray's (with co-author Brian Dowd) newly published paper examines how liberalization reforms in Burkina Faso’s cotton sector have led to socio-economic differentiation. This research helps us understand the differences among Africa farmers, particularly with respect to their access to land, inputs and broader social institutions and networks. In particular, new grower cooperatives have become a site for wealthier farmers to exert influence on how debts are repaid and inputs distributed, largely to the detriment of poorer producers.
The full article reference is:
Gray, Leslie and Brian Dowd-Uribe, 2013. A political ecology of socio-economic differentiation: debt, inputs and liberalization reforms in southwestern Burkina Faso. Journal of Peasant Studies, Vol. 40:3-8, pp. 683-702.
Friday, Jan. 17, 2014
Land managers have long fought plant invasions in wildlands because invaders can harm native biodiversity, choking out native species and reducing habitat quality for animal species. But a recent paper in Bioscience, co-authored by ESS assistant professor Virginia Matzek, argues that land managers should be focusing more on invaders that have impacts on ecosystem services, the natural benefits that intact, functioning ecosystems provide to humans. For instance, some plant invaders are water hogs, depleting water that could otherwise go to irrigation; others impede navigation in streams or decrease salmon runs.
The Bioscience paper proposes that broadening the focus of management efforts to include impacts on ecosystem services may also improve the funding situation for invasive plan management, which has suffered under the recent economic decline. Currently, innovative payment for ecosystem services schemes are being developed to link natural resource management with benefits to stakeholders and users, and weed management, if linked to ecosystem service provision, could fit well into these new approaches.
The full article reference is Funk, JL; Matzek, V; Bernhardt, M; and Johnson, D. 2014. Broadening the case for invasive species management to include impacts on ecosystem services. Bioscience 64(1): 58-63. A draft version is available here.
Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013
A new article in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment reviews the threats that climate change poses to ecosystem services and human well-being in the United States.
Ecosystem services are the processes, materials, and commodities delivered by intact ecosystems that have value to human beings. These include crop pollination by native insects, flood protection on undeveloped floodplains, and recreation opportunities in natural areas.
Climate change is projected to hamper the availability of these services. For instance, increasingly stormy weather and rising sea levels may threaten losses to coastal property that exceed the value of development; increased drought will impact the supply and quality of drinking water sources; and lower snowfall will shorten ski seasons and decrease tourism revenues in mountain states.
SCU researcher Peter Kareiva, who is also chief scientist of The Nature Conservancy, contributed to the review, as did Virginia Matzek, assistant professor of Environmental Studies and Sciences at the university.
The article is part of a special issue of the journal reviewing the impacts of climate change in the U.S., which grew out of the U.S. National Climate Assessment, a periodic effort by the federal government to study climate change and inform appropriate government responses. All of the articles in the special issue can be accessed here: http://www.esajournals.org/toc/fron/11/9
Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013
John Farnsworth has been awarded a Santander Foundation grant of £2000 to support his doctoral research. In June, Farnsworth will use the funds to travel to the Sierra San Pedro Martyr in northern Baja with colleagues from the San Diego Zoo to participate in the release of California Condors. The narrative of this project will comprise the penultimate chapter in Farnsworth's forthcoming book about Baja natural history.
The Condor Field Station is situated in a remote section of the Sierra San Pedro National Park that has been set aside for conservation research. Located in a conifer forest at nearly 8,000 feet, the research station is not accessible by car and generates its own power via solar arrays. There are currently 30 condors resident in the nearby mountains, and every year another 4 to 7 condors that have been captive-bred in the San Diego Zoo are released there.
Farnsworth, who is a volunteer with the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory's Hawkwatch program, has been studying condor literature intensely for the past several months ever since he was selected for the release team. Upon hearing news of the Santander fellowship, Farnsworth responded, "I am grateful to the Santander Foundation for their support; it will be a great honor to participate in the work of the SDZ Global Wildlife Conservancy, and to do my part to advance their mission of bringing species back from the brink of extinction."
Farnsworth directs the Baja Studies Abroad here at Santa Clara University. He spent the month of August at a field station in Bahia de los Angeles writing about ecologies of summer. He will lead the Seventh Annual SCU Expedition to Circumnavigate Isla Espiritu Santo this coming March. His doctoral research is being conducted at the University of Stirling in Scotland.
Friday, Jul. 12, 2013
ESS faculty member Virginia Matzek recently collaborated with SCU students Justin Covino (Environmental Science '13), Martin Saunders (Environmental Studies '12), and colleague Jennifer Funk of Chapman University to assess how well knowledge about invasive species is shared between academic researchers and land managers. Their surveys revealed that most practitioners do not read academic papers on invasive species and instead tend to rely on their own experience. Information flow is just as limited in the other direction. Virginia's team recommends that, in addition to developing interdisciplinary research ideas in direct consultation with managers, academic researchers should seek new ways to make their work more accessible, including open-access publishing, presenting results at stakeholder workshops or conferences, and using citizen science.
A paper describing their work has been published in the journal Conservation Letters. The article is open-access and can be downloaded here.
Monday, Jul. 8, 2013
SCU Environmental Studies major Claire Overholt is completing a fellowship through the Leavey School of Business Global Fellows program
For the next five weeks Claire will be interning with a non-profit based in Kolkata, India called the Association for Social and Environmental Development. Claire and her internship partner, Jessica VanderGiessen (a SCU bioengineering student), will be blogging about their experiences at http://asedinterns.wordpress.com/.
Claire and Jessica's goal for their time in India is to promote ASED’s mission of nature conservation through education and to use social media and digital storytelling to help the organization grow. Their blog
will be of interest to anyone who wants to see what environmental studies students can do, what working for a non-profit is like, and what environmental problems and solutions in an emerging economy country look like.
Wednesday, Jun. 19, 2013
Allison McNamara, a double major in Environmental Studies and Anthropology, has been awarded a Johnson Leadership Experience Stipend to study capuchin monkeys in Costa Rica.
As part of her proposed work, Allison will spend summer 2013 at La Suerte Biological Research Station in northeastern Costa Rica. While there, she will collect behavioral data on both juvenile and adult white-faced capuchin monkeys and record information on activity budget and positional behavior in order to determine differences in tail use and limb use during different developmental stages of the monkeys and how this affects their activity budget.
Senior Kristie Kurtz will be working with Allison to collect data in the field. Dr. Michelle Bezanson of the Dept of Anthropology helped Allison to develop the project and will be working with her on publications after data collection is completed.
Congratulations, Allison, and have fun in Costa Rica!
Saturday, Jun. 8, 2013
The Sustainability Champion Awards are selected by the Office of Sustainability to recognize individuals and groups at SCU who go out of their way to develop a culture of sustainability. The award celebrates their hard work and honors their achievements. More information.
Stephanie Hughes was selected to receive a Sustainability Champion Award for 2012-3013 based on her commitment to using the campus as a living laboratory for sustainability. Her classes almost always include some component of campus-based sustainability work. Her Joy Of Garbage students have helped tremendously with longitudinal data collection about waste at SCU. They also created new waste diversion signage, which we implemented at Leavey Events Center based on their test and follow-up analysis of the effectiveness of the different signs. They also did Malley Center's full waste characterization which has contributed to Campus Recreation's Zero Waste goals. Her ENVS 23 students are analyzing campus recycled water to support Facilities continued use on campus landscaping. She is a joy to work with and eager to collaborate with Facilities, University Operations, and the Office of Sustainability to help the University meet its commitments to justice and sustainability.
Stephanie's training in chemical and environmental engineering combined with her professional experience in the areas of water and air quality, pollution control, chemical fate and transport, and regulatory compliance,make Stephanie uniquely qualified to offer a wide and exciting range of courses here at SCU. Her courses include Solar Revolution, Joy of Garbage, Environmental Technology, and Energy and the Environment. In addition to teaching these rigorous and highly popular courses, Stephanie continues to work as an environmental consultant in the area of water quality. Her real-world experience continually informs her teaching and allows Stephanie to connect students to local environmental organizations and internships.
Friday, May. 24, 2013
Established to honor the memory of Lucky Hinkle, longtime University staff member who worked diligently to promote recycling on campus, this award is given to the graduating senior with a declared major in Environmental Science or Environmental Studies who, in the judgment of the ESS faculty, has made the most significant contribution to promoting a culture of sustainability at Santa Clara University and beyond.
The 2013 winner of the Lucky Hinkle Sustainability award is Michelle Tang.
Michelle has done so much to advance sustainability on our campus and in our community that it may be impossible to list all of her accomplishments. Michelle participated in the Sustainability Decathlon even before coming to SCU – this was as a high school student at Silver Creek. Once here at SCU, she volunteered as a mentor, then as a peer leader, for the decathlon.
Michelle was instrumental in convincing Dining Services to move away from landfill soda cups to compostable cups, paving the way for compostablility now being written into our vendor contracts.
Michelle brought the eco fashion show to SCU, and led it all three years. 300 students attended this year! Michelle brought the Swap for Good to SCU, and led that all three years. She has been instrumental in developing Sustainability student leadership programs such as SCOOPS. In addition to all of this, Michelle has worked as the Program Coordinator and Environmental Educator for BUG, the Bronco Urban Gardens, and as a WildZones Play Day Coordinator.
Michelle completed at least four internships that fulfilled ESS standards. During her mega-internship last summer with the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Michelle explored community health issues, exhibiting a strong commitment to environmental justice and human solidarity. In like manner, she has had a significant impact on the people of the Alma community, here at home, for the past three years, and here at SCU, as a multi-year intern for the Office of Sustainability.
And, she has done all this while directing the MCC this year, and being in student leadership positions across campus: she is former president of the Vietnamese student association, and a former officer for GREEN club, just to name a few. Whenever there was a service or tabling opportunity - be it Earth Day or Water Week - Michelle has been part of it.
Michelle has sustained her service commitments while maintaining the highest academic standards as she moved through the ESS curriculum. As Michelle leaves ESS to pursue a career as a teacher, having committed two years to post-secondary education in a low-income public school through the Teach For America Corps, she takes our hearts and our warmest congratulations with her.
Friday, May. 3, 2013
Junior Environmental Science major, Jack Bird, has been awarded a Global Social Benefit (GSB) Fellowship through SCU's Center for Science Technology and Society.
The GSB Fellowship program integrates leadership development with action research into solutions to poverty and environmental problems. It trains student leaders to conduct research in the developing world into how social entrepreneurs address the fundamental human needs of poor communities.
Jack will be working on Lifeline Energy action research in Zambia. Specifically, Jack will develop conservation, agroforestry, food security and solar energy curriculum to be incorporated into the national radio curriculum. He will also shadow a local agroforestry technician and translate his oral program into a series of age-appropriate learning activities suitable for radio education.
To learn more about the GSB Fellowship program, click here.