Dear Friends of ESS,
We hope this newsletter finds you well, engaged in your community, and making your path in the world. Spring has sprung and the roses and native sages all over campus are in full bloom, a powerful reminder of the natural forces that sustain us and that we celebrate.
We just celebrated Earth Week on campus! The events were organized by committed students from the Green Club under the leadership of Marisa Rudolph and Sean Reilly. With a little help from ESS and the Office for Sustainability the events were a success! Along with a new informational display each day highlighting topics such as energy and waste, there were evening events, as well. The evening events included a discussion of whether fair trade has sufficiently supported small-scale coffee and chocolate farmers, an engagement with the Pope’s Encyclical Laudato Si (the second encyclical of Pope Francis) from an economic perspective, a film screening, and a presentation on the progress of reducing pesticide use in Asia. The week was topped off with the traditional Earth Day Fair and a celebration in the Forge Garden – accompanied by some unexpected, but always welcome, rain. After Earth Week, the front of Varsi Hall was the central command station for a campus-wide ‘Bioblitz’ organized by “Into the Wild” (a campus organization) with the goal of taking a census of the species on campus. It’s been busy but so rewarding.
Much has happened and is happening in ESS since our last Environews; we hope that you will enjoy reading about the many wonderful things our students, staff, and faculty are doing. Many of them are collaborating - with colleagues across campus, colleagues from other institutions, students from other departments or stakeholders from the community. These collaborations have been productive and fruitful, as can be seen in the success of our capstone course and the research work at home and abroad. ESS seniors, Lauren Cloward, Claire Parchem, and Sean Reilly, all of whom are conducting research with ESS faculty, and Colleen Henn who worked as an SCU Gone Wild intern, presented their work at the recent Sigma Xi poster session.
Our seminar series is bringing speakers from a variety of disciplines to campus several times a quarter. Two more high profile events are planned this quarter, bringing departments across campus together. On May 13th, Jeff Conant, an international human rights advocate, will be speaking about indigenous rights versus the development of hydroelectric energy and the recent murder of Goldman prize winner Berta Caceres in Honduras. On May 19th, renowned Science writer Emma Marris will give a presentation of her work. Check our website for details and come join us if you can!
Several of our juniors, namely Erika Francks, Elia Kazemi, and Déjà Thomas will be traveling abroad this summer under a GSBI (Global Social Benefit Initiative) Fellowship from the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship. Two more ESS students, Hailey Kennedy and Grant Chou, will travel with the Leavey School of Business Global Fellows Program. They are all actively preparing for their work in Africa, India, Central, and South America – expect their reports in the next Environews. ESS seniors Jordan Webster and Blair Libby are part of a student team that is organizing a seminar class on Laudato Si this spring. The class is well attended and features a different guest speaker and lens of analysis each week. It is inspiring to see our students take a lead in their own education.
Several ESS students, namely Allison Carmody, Blair Libby, Megan Michel, Lauren Moore, Erin Murphy and Kayla Wells, continue to work as interns for the Office for Sustainability, organizing such events as the Eco-Fashion Show and Waste Characterizations. Our capstone course and Baja expedition were resounding successes and our students are winning national scholarships – read about this and more below. Professor Hari Mix received a rapid NSF award to investigate El Niño-driven atmospheric rivers this late winter. In the fall, ESS will welcome assistant professor Charles J. Gabbe to our team. CJ will join us from UCLA, where he is finishing up his dissertation which investigates the role of land use regulations near major transit zones. He will be teaching courses in sustainable urban planning and GIS.
Last but not least, we are absolutely thrilled to announce that three of our treasured ESS faculty have been promoted this academic year. Virginia Matzek and Chris Bacon have received tenure and a promotion to associate professors, and Leslie Gray has received a promotion to full professor. Way to go! Hearty congratulations from all of us at ESS to these three dynamic teachers and scholars!
Chris is teaching his engaging ENVS 155 Food Justice course this spring. He has received a multi-year National Science Foundation grant to work on food and water security issues under climate change in Nicaragua, and he also recently co-edited a new book on Agroecology.
Virginia is currently teaching her popular Restoration Ecology class, taking students to field sites for wetland delineation and bird banding. She recently published a paper in the journal Restoration Ecology, which is co-authored by two former SCU undergrads, Shawn Warren ’14 and Colleen Fisher ’14. Her next project is a study of non-herbicidal methods for control of the invasive grass, slender false-brome (Brachypodium sylvaticum), in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Leslie has been on sabbactical from teaching this year and has been conducting research on urban agriculture in Santa Clara County. Her work examines issues such as access to urban agricultural land, health benefits and social impacts of various urban agricultural programs. She has also been preparing for field research with colleagues from USF and Ghana to examine the impacts of GM technology on the gendered dynamics of labor in the cotton sector in Burkina Faso.
There is still so much more to tell you about - we hope you enjoy the following updates.
Environmental Studies and Sciences