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Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences

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Environmental Studies and Sciences News & Events

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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!