Santa Clara University

Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences

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Environmental Studies and Sciences News & Events

  •  Challenging Conservationists to Balance the Needs of People and Nature

    Monday, Aug. 8, 2011

    Peter Kareiva and Michelle Marvier of the Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences have published the first textbook to explore the scientific foundations of conservation while highlighting strategies to better connect its practice with the needs and priorities of a human population that is growing by a quarter million people every day.

    Conservation is a scientific enterprise and social movement that seeks to protect nature, including Earth’s animals, plants, and ecosystems. People all too often see conservation as being at odds with human well-being and economic development. Instead, it can and should be an important strategy for improving human health and welfare. Indeed, Kareiva and Marvier foresee conservation succeeding only if it finds a way to balance the needs of people and nature. Their book explores how conservation can protect nature, not from, but for people.

    Because conservation is concerned with how humans live on the planet, passions about what needs to be done to achieve success run deep. In fact, the central theme of Kareiva and Marvier’s text—that conservationists must look beyond national parks and other protected areas, where human activity is restricted, to human-altered landscapes and the benefits that nature offers to society—has drawn fire from some conservationists. Conservation requires difficult choices and sacrifices, and Kareiva and Marvier guide their readers to confront those choices. Conservation Science: Balancing the Needs of People and Nature is published by Roberts and Co. and is now available.

  •  ESS welcomes Dr. Virginia Matzek!

    Friday, Aug. 5, 2011

    SCU’s Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences welcomes Dr. Virginia Matzek as a newest Assistant Professor of Environmental Science. Dr. Matzek earned a M.S. in Environmental Science, Policy, & Management from UC Berkeley and a Ph.D. in Biology from Stanford University. She worked as a lecturer here at SCU a few years ago before taking a tenure-track position at Sacramento State University. We are delighted to have recruited her back onto our faculty team.

    Dr. Matzek’s research is centered around ecological restoration to preserve or re-establish ecosystem services. “Ecosystem services” refers to the myriad ways that intact, functioning ecosystems benefit humans, for example by providing crop pollination, groundwater storage, nutrient cycling and topsoil formation, and so on.

    Dr. Matzek’s current research involves quantifying the ecosystem service of carbon sequestration—storage of atmospheric carbon dioxide in stable, non-gaseous forms—that is provided by restored forests along the Middle Sacramento River. About this project, she writes, “These sites were planted with native riparian forest species over a period of two decades by The Nature Conservancy and River Partners, in cooperation with state and federal agencies. Their original purpose was to provide habitat for threatened/endangered species like the yellow-billed cuckoo, which they have done, admirably. But no one has really looked at what the value of these restorations has been to humans. The trees and soils on these former agricultural sites may be carbon sinks, or they may actually be releasing legacy carbon from the decomposition of the orchard stumps that preceded the restoration. Because the sites were restored in phases over nearly 25 years, they form a fantastically well-replicated age series in which to quantify how much, if any, carbon is stored by forests at different stages of secondary succession.”

    Dr. Matzek will be looking for research assistants to help her with field work as well as greenhouse studies and laboratory analyses. Please stop by her office on the second floor and welcome her back to SCU!

  •  Letter from the Chair

    Friday, Aug. 5, 2011

    Welcome back from what I hope was a terrific summer break. There are many changes underway for SCU’s environmental program.

    New Department of ESS

    This year Santa Clara University welcomes a new Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences (ESS). The establishment of this new department both demonstrates and deepens SCU’s commitment to fashioning a world that is just, humane, and sustainable.

    Interest in environmental fields has been growing rapidly both nationwide and here at SCU. When the university first offered environmental science and environmental studies as majors in 1999, only one student studied it. Currently more than 125 students are majoring in either environmental science or environmental studies.

    Dr. Michelle Marvier (that’s me!) will serve as the first official chair of the Department of ESS. The department also welcomes Dr. Virginia Matzek as a new Assistant Professor of Environmental Science.

    Environmental Studies Becomes a Stand-alone Major

    As a part of creating the Department of ESS, the university has also transformed the environmental studies companion major into a stand-alone major, giving the university depth to offer a robust coursework that focuses on societal responses to environmental problems.

    In the past, students could major in environmental studies only in addition to some other primary major. Environmental studies is now recognized as a coherent and rigorous curriculum that includes environmental law, policy, and economics, as well as sustainable development.

    Changes to Environmental Science and Studies Course Requirements

    All newly enrolled majors in both Environmental Science and Environmental Studies will fall under a revised set of course requirements. Continuing students who were declared before September 1, 2011 will continue under the old set of requirements but can elect to switch to the new requirements if desired. Your advisor will be in touch via email with details.

    ESI Lives!

    Santa Clara University’s Environmental Studies Institute (ESI) will continue to operate as a separate entity under the direction of Dr. Leslie Gray. ESI will focus on outreach programs in the community such as AmeriCorps, sustainability across the curriculum, campus sustainability, healthy food systems, and urban gardening.

    Best wishes for a successful, inspiring academic year!

    Michelle Marvier, Chair of the Dept. of ESS