Meet our Graduate Students

Christina Barry

christina-barryI was born in Michigan, and raised in Minnesota. I have spent all of my life enjoying the great outdoors and soaking up as much sunshine as possible. When I was a little girl, I knew I would grow up to be an advocate for our environment. 

I was born the daughter of two adults who are passionate about scuba diving, traveling, camping, and spending summer days up at the cabin on the lake as much as possible. Their blood definitely runs through my veins. I was less than one month old when I traveled on an airplane for the first time. My two current favorite travel destinations are the Swiss Alps, and the Amalfi Coast in Italy. I am also a sucker for Alaskan summers, and Hawaii's beautiful garden island of Kauai.

I am a deeply devoted yogi, runner, snowboarder, hiker, surfer, and skier. I am driven and motivated by the lasting impacts of climate change, water management, environmental protection, forest conservation, and sustainable law and policy. 

In 2021, I rescued my best friend. Her name is Aspen, and she is a 2 year old Mastiff/ Yellow Lab mix. I graduated from the University of Vermont in 2020 and received my Bachelor of Science, while also competing on our NCAA Division 1 Women’s Soccer team. I majored in Community Entrepreneurship, and double minored in Public Communications and Community and International Development. 

Now that my love for studying our environment is taking me to the other side of our country, I could not be more excited to earn my Masters of Environmental Studies and immerse myself into San Jose's culture. I look forward to meeting new people, exploring new spots, and creating change one day at a time.

A fun fact about me is that I rescued my best friend in 2021. Her name is Aspen, and she is a 2 year old Mastiff/ Yellow Lab mix!


Gwen Barry

gwen-barryI grew up in Santa Cruz, California, surrounded by the beauty of the Pacific Ocean and the redwood forests. I have always had a fascination with nature, and our connection to it as humans. My goals for pursuing the master’s program in Environmental Studies are to gain a better understanding of the natural world, and improve the ways in which people perceive and interact with nature. I am particularly passionate about marine ecology and marine conservation.

I graduated from SJSU in May of 2019, with a B.A. in Environmental Studies, and a concentration in Biology. While pursuing my undergraduate degree, I worked as an intern for One People One Reef (OPOR), a research organization centered around ocean conservation in the outer islands of Micronesia. I had the opportunity to go to the remote outer islands of Micronesia (Ulithi Atoll and Yap) and work with the community there to help develop management plans. My specific work there involved measuring reef rugosity and biodiversity. OPOR partnered with UCSC for the analysis of fish and coral samples collected from Micronesia. I gained valuable skills learning how to perform DNA extractions and sequencing on fish and corals. After conducting coral reef research in Micronesia, I presented the team’s findings at the International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) in Honolulu, Hawaii. My current work with OPOR involves coding and quantifying data and community interview responses to determine main themes/concerns. The identified themes are used to determine appropriate conservation methods for the coral reef ecosystems. The project has a goal of bridging traditional ecological knowledge together with western science.

Some of my hobbies include kayaking, tide-pooling, hiking, nature photography, gardening, cooking, and spending time with my fiancé, our cats (Yeti and Yoda) and our dog (Wolfie). An interesting fact about me is that, Ulithi Atoll, where I conducted research with OPOR, is the closest land mass to the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the ocean! In 2012, Filmmaker, James Cameron and a National Geographic team left Ulithi Atoll for the Challenger Deep expedition to explore this mysterious part of our world.


Abby Espinosa-Gonzalez Bellolioabby

My interdisciplinary education and experiences in research and industry have driven me to pursue this environmental science program, where I hope to make a meaningful contribution to addressing environmental disparities and promoting equity in marginalized communities. My undergraduate studies at Iowa State University, where I focused on Spanish Language: World Languages and  Culture and Industrial Technology: Occupational Health and Safety, provided me with a unique perspective that combines environmental health and safety with a commitment to social and environmental justice. Throughout my academic and industry career, I have been deeply committed to assisting marginalized communities in urban areas, particularly those in industrial settings, by advocating for and promoting sustainable practices. My ambitions led me to pursue a Masters thesis on “Understanding the vulnerability and resilience to climate change among unhoused unsheltered individuals residing in San Fransisco Bay Area, particularly those in close proximity to urban stream corridors”.

I am passionate about keeping the ever-evolving environment, biodiversity, and community members safe through the applied use of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. I have learned that the answer to tackling problems in our community and the world is head-on. Making actual change is through education, research, and the endless pursuit of knowledge and understanding, meanwhile being the necessary change. I want to dedicate my life to environmental research and education once I graduate because all my experiences in research and industry have helped me bring a diverse perspective on the environment and sustainability. I look forward to contributing to the culture of advancing sustainability, driving innovation, exercising integrity, and building community at San Jose State University.

I love to skateboard, am a big foodie, and love to watch shows! A fun fact about me is that I played the Viola for 9 years!


David Benterou

david-benterouI spent my childhood Summers dipping in creeks and playing among oaks and sycamores in my hometown of Livermore, California. I participated in Scouting, learning to love adventuring and camping outdoors, and earned an Eagle award by planning community service for a summer camp helping terminally-ill youth. I attended the University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC), and was exposed to studying plant ecology at the campus farm with Steve Gliessman. I completed a BA in Environmental Studies (concentrating in sustainable agriculture) and second in American Studies.

Through nearly a decade of work in youth outdoor science education at the Boulder Creek, Ca YMCA camp, I enjoyed hiking outside in the rain and sun, smelling wet redwood duff, and kissing banana slugs (actually, we don’t do that anymore!). In this time, I also was certified as a California Naturalist through the UC Cooperative Extension, (which I recommend to everyone to gain more familiarity with the natural world and with current research). Also during my time at the Camp, extreme weather, and particularly wildfires and hazardous air quality, forced numerous evacuations of hundreds of camp participants, and in 2020 the CZU Lightning Complex fires burned the forests surrounding the school. My interest in connecting people to their natural surroundings was met by the question of how to meet dueling goals of wildfire preparedness and redwood forest conservation. Now at SJSU, I’m interested in researching how coast redwood understories respond to wildfire defensible space fuel reductions.

I love backpacking and bike touring in remote places, and I’ve formerly volunteered teaching bike mechanic skills to the public through The Bike Church Co-op in Santa Cruz. My fun fact: I found an enormous California Giant Salamander, while wandering around the redwoods in a downpour, and was so excited I forgot to get a photo!


Sky Biblin

sky-biblinI spent most of my childhood in Ojai, a small town in southern California. This is where my love for nature and outdoor recreation began, hiking and exploring the surrounding
mountains. In 2012, I moved to Santa Cruz to attend UCSC where I double majored in economics and environmental studies. My undergraduate research was on elephant seals in Año Nuevo State Park where I conducted accuracy and wildlife disturbance studies on the utilization of drones for wildlife census data collection.   
 
Like many UCSC graduates, I have yet to find the courage to leave Santa Cruz (and can you blame me!). Currently, I am an Interpreter for the Santa Cruz District and have worked at 9 different parks over the past 5 years. Now I have my hands-on projects all across the SC District, but keep my office and park favoritism at Wilder Ranch. 
 
My impetus to pursue a graduate education came with the recent CZU complex fires. As the third fire that has forced me to evacuate in my life, I decided focusing a career on fire would be the best way to reconcile the dilemma of my unwavering desire to live/work in natural landscapes with the fact that wildfires are only going to increase. So here I am, leaning into the challenge! 
 
I am fascinated by the natural cycles of regeneration, adaptation, and resilience as well as how natural or anthropogenic phenomena that are labeled as “destructive” offer new opportunities for growth and renewal. I hope to build an understanding of both the ecological and societal challenges associated with the increased proliferation of wildfires in the western United States. My proposed area of focus for a thesis is to study the effects of fire management strategies on fuel load and ecological recovery indicators. 
 
I enjoy most things outdoors — hiking, trail running, mountain biking, backpacking, kayaking, skiing, snowshoeing and most recently, mushroom foraging and cave exploring! A fun fact — I was an only child until age 20, now I have a 7-year-old little brother!


Maya Briones

maya-brionesI thrive on two passions: ecology and environmental justice. While seemingly different, these two fields are the core of who I am and summarize the worldview by which I live; that all life, human and nonhuman, deserves to live on a healthy planet. In order to live in harmony with the natural world, we must also live in harmony with each other, repairing the injustices committed by generations past and restoring our connection with nature. My experiences as a student researcher, an urban forester, and a volunteer BioBlitz and citizen science docent have taught me the crucial value and responsibility of involving the whole community in the planning and implementation of ecological projects. I am pursuing my master's to better live out my mission of teaching all people about the environment through ecological projects, such as citizen science events or educational programming. I hope to gain experience in wildlife conservation to use this knowledge to conserve the invaluable ecosystems of our world while also having the opportunity to reshape local agencies and organizations to engage communities that environmental injustices have long burdened.


Ramiro Brown

ramiro-brownI grew up in Hayward, Ca. and moved to Los Angeles in 2017 to attend UCLA where I got a B.A. in Anthropology. During my undergraduate career, I took many hybrid courses within the Anthropology department. Through these courses, I was introduced to conservation and ecology. I loved learning about the complexities of environment and the mutual relationship between humans and the ecosystems that they inhabit. It is with this combined interest and knowledge of social and biological science that I hope to make an impact. While at UCLA I also had the opportunity to volunteer for two different labs as a research assistant. The fist lab I volunteered for dealt with the identifying and sorting of human remains, and the second dealt with classifying species of gracile capuchin monkeys, with the ultimate goal of creating a comprehensive guide to capuchin diversity. While very different, both of these opportunities helped me to recognize that I liked doing research and that I would like to further my education.

I knew I wanted something that would allow me to continue to explore the dynamics between humans and nature, and environmental studies is the perfect starting point for my graduate career. It is my hope that I will move on to an interdisciplinary PhD program that will allow me to teach and do research at the university level. My current research interests include climate change and its effects on vulnerable populations; particularly, those with autoimmune diseases, human ecology, and climate change mitigation policies.

My hobbies include making art, playing guitar, singing, and reading.


Rachael Burnham

rachel-burnhamI was the type of child who consistently brought home stray animals, raised snails and crickets in the backyard, and read books about animals.  This passion for animals led me to explore and venture into the veterinary health sector.  I graduated with my A.S. in Veterinary Technology in 2009, and have been working as a Registered Veterinary Technician ever since.  I continued going to school during my career as an RVT, and graduated from San Jose State University in 2014 with my B.S. in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Restoration and Resource Management.  During my undergraduate education, my interests became more focused and my true passion for wildlife conservation and habitat protection came to fruition.  I focused my final project and senior seminar on the wildlife in the San Francisco Bay Area.  The research I conducted used camera traps to gather data, which helped analyze the types of wildlife and activities of the species within Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve.  I look forward to continuing my education to help protect threatened and endangered species and the habitats they rely on.

My hobbies include hanging out with my fiancé and our two dogs, Athena and Kobe.  I enjoy backpacking, hiking, and basically anything to do with the outdoors.  It is my goal one day to backpack the Pacific Crest Trail.


Nicole Chen

nicole-chenI grew up in the Bay Area and have always loved the great outdoors. I enjoy camping, hiking, fishing, backpacking, campervan trips, you nameI grew up in the Bay Area and have always loved the great outdoors. I enjoy camping, hiking, fishing, backpacking, campervan trips, you name it and I love it or I'm down to try. At least once a month, you can find me with my inflatable kayak and a pack of Hazy IPAs in some body of water. I love travelling, whether it be a hike-in day trip or hopping on an overseas flight.

I did my undergrad at UCSB in Environmental Science where I was able to explore a wide range of sustainability topics through both coursework and work experience. Now, I am continuing my Masters focusing on renewable energy, specifically researching grid modernization and equity with an emphasis on accessibility of microgrid technologies.

Fun fact - my right foot is a size bigger than my left foot! it and I love it or I'm down to try.


Isabelle Cojocaru-Durand

isabelleI was born and raised in Montreal, Canada. I speak French at home but went to school in English. I completed a Bachelor of Commerce with a major in Finance in 2013 at Concordia University. Since then, I have been working in finance in Montreal. Why the sudden change in fields? Because I have always been passionate about environmental protection and interested in environmental issues. In the last few years I have learned a lot about climate change by being involved with many different environmental organizations as a volunteer and advocate. I’m now ready to take the leap and pursue a graduate degree in Environmental Studies. I would like to link my background in business with the environment by focusing my research on the implementation of environmental management systems and the integration of environmental practices in corporations. I am also really interested in environmental policy and renewable energy.

Outside of work and school, I love spending time outdoors and I am so excited to experience the many possibilities that California has to offer. I am an avid runner, alpine skier, yogi and scuba diver. I love going on adventures, travelling, discovering new cultures, meeting new people and trying new things (especially food!).

More about me: Growing up I was so scared of sharks anytime we would go to a beach. In 2015, I had the chance to dive next to great white sharks in South Africa. This experience truly opened my eyes to the beauty of this animal and its importance within the ocean ecosystem. I’m now also more at peace when I go swimming! Another fear of mine, heights!! I have yet to be convinced to jump off a plane…


Claudia Damiani Fontana

claudiaI was born in Peru and moved to the Bay Area five years ago. I grew up in Lima, the capital and biggest city in Peru, but I always loved more rural settings. Since I was a little girl, my life was greatly influenced by the Andes where I would go to enjoy family vacations with my three brothers and parents. 

In 2008, I graduated from the National Agrarian University La Molina with a degree in forestryengineering. My first job as a young professional was the adventure of my life, I had the opportunity to work with indigenous communities roughly from 2008 to 2011 and then again from 2012 until 2014. Those years living with the indigenous people were greatly inspiring and moving. I learned a little bit of their language, how to catch fish with a net, traditional dances, and the use of medicinal plants.

In 2008, I graduated from the National Agrarian University   La Molina with a degree in forestryengineering. My first job as a young professional was the adventure of my life, I had the opportunity to work with indigenous communities roughly from 2008 to 2011 and then again from 2012 until 2014. Those years living with the indigenous people were greatly inspiring and moving. I learned a little bit of their language, how to catch fish with a net, traditional dances, and the use of medicinal plants.  

Now I live in the East Bay with my husband, who is a proud SJSU alumni, and I work as a Greenhouse Manager for a local non-profit organization called Valley Verde. I am in charge of propagating multi-ethnic seedlings for the families enrolled in our organic home garden program. My current job gave me the opportunity to learn more about the diversity within Santa Clara County, their traditional foods, ingredients, organic agriculture, and sustainable food systems. 

My hobbies include of course gardening, reading about gardening, pottery, and watching movies. A fun fact about me: most of the time I can accurately predict whether or not a movie is good just by judging the poster.

As a student at SJSU, I plan on working with Dr. Russell and explore the relationship between soil hydrophobicity and wildfires in chaparrals and forested habitats.


Kristy Doerr

kristy-doerrI was born and raised in the Bay Area and have always had an immense fascination with animals. Whether it was bringing foster kittens to school to bottle feed around the clock or checking out every library book I could find about my newest species of interest, my life has always revolved around my love for animals. This passion led me to want to study wildlife conservation in order to help animals on a large scale.  
 
I graduated from UC Santa Cruz in 2018 with a B.A. in Environmental Studies. While pursuing my undergraduate degree I worked as an intern with the Santa Cruz Puma Project which studies mountain lions through the use of telemetry collars to better understand and protect these apex predators. This project specifically looks at habitat fragmentation and seeks to answer questions about the physiology, behavior, and ecology of these elusive creatures. Throughout college, I also worked with Guide Dogs for the Blind where I trained a guide dog puppy in preparation for a career as a service dog. This meant that this puppy went everywhere with me including all of my classes. But she was “career changed” due to her excitable nature and her unrelenting love for other dogs. She now leads an easygoing life as my stay-at-home pet.
 
For my research at SJSU, I plan to study how wildlife responds to wildfires. The CZU Lightning Complex Fire decimated large portions of the Santa Cruz Mountains in the summer of 2020 and I intend to analyze the impact on local wildlife with the use of camera traps and animal sign surveys. Outside of school, I like to spend my free time hiking, backpacking, and scuba diving. I also love reading and spending time with my three cats and dog.


Stephen Doyle

stephen-doyleI was born and raised in Upland, California. Growing up, I discovered my love of the outdoors during visits to national parks, natural history museums, and aquariums. Another big reason I had a childhood interest in environmentalism was because of Steve Irwin’s documentaries, which highlighted the importance of conservation and being a steward of nature.

I graduated from San Jose State with a B.S. in Environmental Studies and a minor in Sustainable Water Resources. During my undergraduate fieldwork courses, I had the opportunity to visit a variety of California wetlands, which eventually grew into my primary research interest. I was intrigued by the biodiversity and ecological importance of wetlands, such as Elkhorn Slough, and the impacts that human activity had on them. I also enjoyed learning about California’s unique water management challenges, such as saltwater intrusion caused by groundwater pumping.

I currently work as a Regulatory Compliance Analyst for Caldwell Compliance. I have had the opportunity to work on the regulatory scope of works for both the pre and post-construction sides of cellular site builds. A couple of aspects of being a regulatory analyst I enjoy are interpreting NEPA documents and learning about implemented safeguards that are in place to protect avian species that could be adversely affected by the fast-growing telecommunications industry.

As a San Jose State graduate student, I hope to research effective and natural methods of reducing nutrient-rich runoff sourced from human activity and mitigating the damage it causes to California’s watersheds.

During my free time, I enjoy exploring new wetlands, playing rugby, hiking, and visiting breweries. Fun fact: I have a bearded dragon named Biggles who enjoys car rides and frolicking in the grass.


Diana Garcia

diana-garciaMy name is Diana Garcia-Colmenarez, and I am joining the Environmental Studies program here at SJSU to focus on Fire Ecology and GIS. My aim is to learn how to model fire behavior and map out the impacts that fire will have on various surface processes. I want my research to be able to inform emergency response teams and create meaningful fire management plans. Born and raised in the golden hills of the East Bay, one of my earliest memories was seeing a giant grass fire creep towards my house on the Fourth of July. I know as well as anyone how destructive and impactful fire can be. Even more impactful is being able to utilize cutting edge tools alongside fire personnel to put our resources where they can do the most good - for people and for the environment. As the climates change and summers get longer and hotter, I want to be able to contribute in creating meaningful fire policy/data. I graduated from Saint Mary’s College of California in 2020 with a BA in Environmental Studies, and I was encouraged to chase the GIS bug into higher education by my advisors.

Aside from the program, I am currently trying to figure out how to grow Stropharia Wine Cap mushrooms in a pot, and so far I have produced one cap (and I’m very proud of it). I enjoy discussing historical costuming, science fiction horror movies, and fantasy novels!


Kinsara Garg

kinsara-gargI was born in a small town in the northern part of India. I grew up as a shy teenager with a lot of dreams encaged inside as a little girl. Little did I know this girl would one day become an extrovert speaker and unshackle her dreams of travel and lead a team as the head of a department. I was fortunate enough to be raised in a setup where sustainability was an inevitable part of our lives, from sharing air- conditioned rooms to carpooling or biking to work/school and understanding the importance of Re-using and Re-purposing the Non- Biodegradable goods. So, my love for the Environment was inculcated at a very young age. 

I graduated with a bachelor's in science with a minor in Botany, Zoology, and chemistry. Further, I pursued a Master's in Zoology, where I got acquainted with environmental biology as one of the courses and developed an interest in it. Post this; I worked as a biology lecturer for 5years. I travelled few countries, which brought me even closer to Environmental sustainability as I realized how human interference and modernization are taking us towards irreversible environmental catastrophe. 

This motivated me to do some volunteering to raise alarming awareness about minimizing the pollution caused to our ecosystem and jeopardizing our flora and fauna, and not forgetting shrinking beautiful years of ourselves. So, I volunteered for two weeks in Bali (Indonesia) and locally in India. This pulled me to San Jose for the love of the Environment, and I pursued this field further to be part of the change for the betterment of species and wildlife. As a graduate student at San Jose, My Research area would be somewhere between the changing Climatic impacts on our flora and fauna and the impact of non-biodegradable waste among species. I plan to work in organizations that aim toward environmental sustainability work. 

During my Leisure time, I love listening to Ed-Sheeran, Taylor swift and Bollywood music. I love hiking and have attained 14000 altitude, a peak of the Hampta-pass trek in India. Also, I have done multiple Adventure Sports like skydiving, scuba diving and rafting (7 times). I have written about some of those on my Blog. Theoutbacklife.com I am very excited about new adventures and new friendships that await me at SJSU. 

Fun Fact- I can speak three languages and walk for hours with my ear phones plugged in.


Esther Haile 

esther-haileI was born and raised in the small sleepy town of Dixon, CA. A lot of my childhood was spent watching nature shows, camping in the woods, running around beaches, and being fascinated by animals. I always knew that I wanted to study biology and work with animals as my career.

I graduated from CSU Monterey Bay in December of 2015 with a degree in Biology. During my undergraduate career, I interned with Point Blue Conservation Science studying sea bird diets and Western Snowy Plover populations and with the Pacific Grove Natural History Museum surveying Monarch Butterflies. The more I learned the more interested I became in studying birds. After graduation, I began working for the Resource Conservation District of Monterey County, continuing to monitor the population of Western Snowy Plovers along the Monterey Bay coast and bio-monitor for the Salinas River Stream Maintenance Program assisting in flood control for the local farmlands. I have recently transitioned into working with Point Blue Conservation Science, furthering my involvement with the Western Snowy Plover program. I hope to incorporate my work with Western Snowy Plovers into my thesis, perhaps by looking into how adults react to different predator types, how our juvenile population overwinters, or how they disperse for the following breeding season. Honestly, the research questions are endless!

Outside of work and school, I enjoy spending time outside hiking, camping, and exploring the coast. I also enjoy more indoor activities like sewing, knitting, baking, and drawing. Occasionally you can find me watching an opera or a musical as I am a bit of an old lady at heart. I’ve recently started baking a lot of sourdough bread.


Eric Goldbeck-Dimon

eric-goldbeck-dimonI grew up in San Francisco and since childhood I have relied on the greenbelt of the San Francisco peninsula as a respite from the busyness of the city. My uncle was forced to live in the heart of SF’s Tenderloin as a result of rheumatoid arthritis which prevented him from working to earn a living income. My mother, a naturalist, took my uncle on regular hikes when he could still walk, and I would often join them. I contrasted the stress and depression of the inner city with the peace and freedom of nature and realized the importance of the natural world and the pressing need for its protection. The oak savanna in particular resonated with me and has become my calling.

In August of 2020 I graduated from UCSC with a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies combined with Biology. My dad also played a part in my environmental interest as he too graduated from UCSC with a degree in Environmental Studies. In my undergraduate time I interned at the UCSC Forest Ecology Research Plot (FERP) taking forest census data. I also worked on habitat restoration as an intern at the Younger Lagoon Reserve in Santa Cruz. I took a series of classes on geographical information systems (GIS) and eventually interned with PhD candidate Stephanie Webb, helping her to project Pacific Herring spawning and landing data onto maps of California. I would like to use my GIS background to map out and ensure the future of the oak savanna in California. While global climate change is inevitable, oak trees exert a significant regional influence on ecosystems and could therefore be used strategically as a foundational species to preserve local conditions needed by the flora and fauna that comprise native ecosystems.

When I am not chilling under oak trees I am either at the record store digging through the crates, painting abstract expressions/landscapes, or making unnecessarily healthy smoothies.


Anna Greene

anna-greeneHi everyone! My name is Anna Greene and I am from Santa Maria, California on the Central Coast. Growing up, I spent all my time exploring the Solomon Hills across from my home. Rather if it was catching bluebellies with my friends or riding dirt bikes with my brother, there was never a moment I was not outside exploring.

I moved to San Jose to complete my B.A. in Global Studies with a minor in Public Policy and Public Administration in 2019. While in undergrad I interned at the Center for Development of Recycling here on campus. This led to my current job position where I am the Household Hazardous Waste Manager. 

As a Black Danish American, my love and respect for all parts of our ecosystem has been instilled in me since childhood, thus fueling my passion for environmental justice particularly when it comes to the Black community. Many generations of Black people have been left traumatized from systemic oppression that have made many walk away from natural science, particularly agriculture. It is my passion to not only bring attention to the environmental and systemic issues the community faces, but to encourage BIPOC people to not turn away from something that was once seen as important cultural knowledge and heritage. 

If I’m not in the classroom or out on a trail run, you can either find me in the kitchen whippin' up some food and herbal remedies or dancing with my friends at a rave under the neon lights!  I am looking forward to continuing my studies here in the ENVS department as my undergraduate experience was more than I could have hoped for.


Jessica Gonzalez

jessica-gonzalezI was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and I graduated from San Jose State University with a B.S. in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Environmental Restoration and Resource Management in 2012.  Since graduating, I have worked in several field research opportunities, including bird banding in Indiana, conducting shorebird and waterfowl surveys in Bay Area salt evaporation ponds with San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory, and most recently working with SFBBO once again to conduct breeding Snowy Plover surveys as a Biologist.  I am looking forward to returning to SJSU to pursue my Master's degree and being able to pursue my thesis on the behavior and conservation of local breeding avian species while monitoring ecological habitats of the Western Snowy Plover.

The experience and knowledge I've gained through my educational studies, work, and life experiences have been very gratifying in the advancement of my career.  More importantly, they have been more rewarding and valuable than I have ever anticipated.  Simply being immersed in an environment of knowledge and working alongside wildlife has been a joy in my life.

During my free time, I enjoy spending time in nature, drinking excessive amounts of coffee, taking naps, spending time with my three cats and my family, and of course spending my time with birds and wildlife.


Landon Guzman

landon-guzmanHello everyone! My Name is Landon Guzman, I am from Stockton, California.

For my undergraduate degree, I also studied in the bay area at SFSU, where I graduated with a degree in Environmental Studies. Currently, I am an incoming graduate student in the Environmental Studies Graduate program at San Jose State University, with a particular interest in Environmental Policy, as I believe larger actions need to be made within our government to help save our planet. Regarding my thesis, I do not have a concrete question yet. However, I am leaning into diving into the relationship between polyethylene waxes in our personal care products and how the presence of these waxes can affect our environment.

In my free time, I enjoy finding new places to eat and exploring with friends and family, especially here in San Jose, where there seems to be limitless options of incredibly tasty food. I also enjoy being creative when I have the time, I like to doodle and paint with watercolors as medium. I usually paint things I find pretty like, flowers, plants, hands, and bubbles.  As for my dislikes, it would have to be eating unsatisfying food. Hopefully, I will get to see all of you in person soon.


Carter Hawkins

carter-hawkinsGrowing up in the Santa Cruz mountains, coastal environments were something that always existed on my radar. Whether it was my trips to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Moss Landing, Davenport, or further up the coast, my proximity to the coast created a fascination with the complex environment that exists within it and in relation to it. I spent my youth traveling along the coast exploring places that invoked wonder and joy. As I grew older that fascination grew as my knowledge did, and along with that also came a fierce desire to protect the ecosystem I had come to love. I attended Long Beach State as a student athlete while obtaining my bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science and Policy. Along with my coursework and research, I worked as an intern at Vericatch during my final semester at Long Beach State. Vericatch itself is a fishery software company used by fisheries and governments to trace the catch reported by fishermen to ensure sustainability. My role as a Sustainability Market Research Intern was to use my knowledge of sustainability policy to further research and compile a data set of the seafood sustainability purchase policies of U.S., Canadian, and European grocery retailers. Additionally, working with my supervisors about seafood tracking and ideal seafood sustainability policies. I enjoyed studying the balance between the natural world and the policies that are needed to implement change. I am excited to focus my research on sustainable policies that pertain to coastal environments.

Outside of school I enjoy doing anything that will either get me active or get me outside, typically both. Some of my hobbies would include traveling, photography, rock climbing, surfing, biking, water polo, and simply trying new things. A fun fact about me is that I have traveled to 4/7 continents and plan to bring that up to 6/7.


Alexander (Ash) Ivanov

ash-ivanovI was born and raised in San Francisco and moved with my family to Portland, Oregon where I stayed until I was 20 when I graduated from Portland State University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Environmental Science and Management with a minor in Water resources. During my time at PSU I did my honors undergraduate thesis on examining the effectiveness of riparian restoration projects on improving water quality in urban streams of the Portland Metropolitan Area. For my graduate research I am planning to continue focus on restoration ecology, particularly riparian areas, by researching the techniques used, how effective they are, and what could impact that effectiveness and hope to work in either impact assessment or developing/implementing restoration plans after graduate school.. I am excited to return to research and work towards a career in restoration!

Outside of academia I am a barista and enjoy photography, rock climbing, hiking, and video games. My favorite photography style is medium format primarily of landscapes and architecture. When I go hiking in the bay my favorite spots are in Point Reyes for some great views of the pacific, although for shorter hikes I tend to go to Lands End.


Padmaja Iyer

PJWhile it might seem a little strange, I am both a lecturer in the Environmental Studies Department at San José State University and I am enrolled as a graduate student. I would say that I am a nature loving, spiritually grounded human being who loves to teach and learn.  With a bachelor’s degree in Economics from UC Davis and an MBA from the University of Illinois at Chicago I ventured into the computer software industry to become financially independent. After 8 years and two kids later, I left the tech industry for environmental work with the City of Cupertino, the City of San José, Silicon Valley Energy Watch, and Smart Yards Cooperative. 

Upon realizing my roots were linked to rocks and minerals (Yes, I had a pet mountain - a rock that looked like a mountain), I decided to research the impact of Western United States lithium mines on the environment and community. One of my lifelong hobbies has been pursuing North and South Indian classical music. I often sing looking out on the Guadalupe riparian that is my backyard. Since watching bird behavior while perfecting a musical artform can be time consuming, my family often wonders how I will focus on studying because my head is quite literally in the clouds most of the time. In fact, just last week on a particularly warm day, I went upstairs to change into a pair of shorts. While singing to myself I got lost in the music and came half way down the stairs before I realized I had forgotten to put on the shorts.


Daniel Jacobson

daniel-jacobsonAs a Philadelphia native, I have spent the majority of my life in the Northeast. With family up and down the west coast, however, I have always loved the environment in California. For this reason among others, I decided to drive cross-country to San José for my M.S. in Environmental Studies. At the University of Delaware, I completed my B.S. degree in Health Behavior Science and Public Health in 2018. In the few years between my undergraduate graduation and the start of my transition to California, I explored occupations in the medical, fitness and environmental fields. Through a few years of volunteering with my town’s environmental advisory council, I definitively decided that I want to work to protect the environment. The relationship between humans and the environment is something that I discovered that I am passionate about. With this in mind, my thesis and research topic interests include environmental policy, anthropogenic climate change and the correlation between human and environmental wellbeing.

Some of my hobbies include traveling, hiking, playing guitar, exercising and petting dogs. The most impactful travel and environmental experiences I have had was studying abroad in Brazil. While taking a course about the environmental issues within Brazil, we spent a week on a floating lodge on the Amazon River in the Mamiraua Reserve, one of the largest sustainable development reserves in the Amazon Rain Forest. Being able to personally connect with and spend time in this forest, one that I have heard so much about, has been one of the driving forces in guiding my decision to pursue environmental studies. I believe my background in human behavior, health and environmentalism could contribute to some interesting conversations around the environmental issues present in the world today.


Taylor Key

taylor-keyHi! My name is Taylor and I was born and raised in Washington D.C. Ever since highschool, I’ve had a calling for environmental justice. In 2019, I made the decision to move out to San Jose and pursue my bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and Spanish at Santa Clara University and I recently graduated this past June.

Last year, I had the opportunity to start an incredibly fun and rewarding job working for Santa Clara County Parks where I was under the instruction of a park ranger, focusing on the Fire Operations Uni. I had no prior experience or knowledge about wildfires or prescribed burns but through this program, I was able to receive wildfire training and watch a lot of how their operations work. I focused on creating standardized documents and forms for each fire event and also posting fire notification signs out at the trailheads of a few parks. Along the way, I worked with a number of other rangers and spent a lot of time outside, especially on the Calero Reservoir. This job opportunity is where I found my passion for fire ecology which eventually led me here to SJSU.

I am incredibly grateful and excited to be a part of this program at SJSU and I am hoping to work alongside Dr. Will Russell. Looking forward to starting this fall!


Spencer Klinefelter

spencer-klinefelterAs a child, I spent much of my time outside hiking, climbing, and
playing in the open spaces around my home on ancestral Nisenan lands in the Sacramento Valley and foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Since then not much has changed, and I still divide my time between hiking, rock climbing, and naturalizing as much as possible. I’m an avid birder and botanist and a lifelong student of environmental education programs, and have now been teaching children of all ages in similar settings since high school. As an undergraduate at UCSC, I focused on agroecology and environmental interpretation, and was fortunate enough to take several field-base classes that took me all over the state. Upon graduating with degrees in Environmental Studies and Education,  I began working for the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History as an education coordinator, in charge of developing curriculum, leading school programs, and cultivating stewardship in classrooms across the county. I’m still there, currently focused on how best to integrate community-based organizations with schools as the education climate shifts in the face of a global pandemic.

I strongly identify with western culture and the ethos of the central coast of California and am inspired by the various writers and artists that have come out of the region over the past century. I spend a good deal of my free time reading, writing, and exploring both near to and far from home, when time allows, in a bid to better understand my own sense of place.
I am broadly interested in land management and fire, particularly as they relate to indigenous forms of stewardship and the practices and processes that shaped California over the last ten to twenty thousand years, and how shifting fire regimes and land management practices can be synthesized and better understood in the context of a changing climate. My goal is to weave together traditional ecological knowledge with modern practices to inform policy and stewardship across the west.

Oh, and I’m fiercely competitive when it comes to card games.


Sarah Knott

sarahI grew up in Rancho Santa Margarita in Orange County, California. I studied Geoscience at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, and received a B.A. in Earth System Science. During my time at Trinity University, the knowledge I gained about the Earth and Earth processes sparked my interest in the environmental field. Environmental Studies excites me because in gaining knowledge, research, and experience in the field I could help the community protect habitats and species and improve the quality of life for many individuals. At San Jose State, I hope to learn more about the impacts of climate change as well as tools and technologies that could combat climate change. I would like to focus my research specifically on wildfires and drought as it is a consequence of climate change that has impacted not only my hometown but many regions around the world.

My hobbies include going to the beach, biking, swimming, and hiking. I also love and appreciate animals and enjoy going to the zoo to observe their interactions. I also enjoy spending time outside and trying new things. A fun fact about me is that I am a triplet and I grew up with two automatic best friends, Tommy and Nathan!


Christian Knowlton 

christian-knowltonI was born in Riverside C.A snd currently reside in Santa Cruz.  I spent eight years in the U.S. Army with multiple deployments over seas, before returning to school and earning my B.S. in Biological Sciences from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.  I have always had a strong interest in nature and conservation. Some of my earliest memories are camping with my family and catching and identifying the insect I would find in my back yard.

Currently I work for H.T. Harvey as a field biologist.  Most of my work has been with heaps however I have also worked extensively with owls.  I spent two seasons surveying for spotted owls in the Sierras.  I have also conducted western burrowing owl surveys, Swainson’s hawk, great gray owl surveys along with surveys for California tiger salamander and red-legged frog. When I am not in the field I enjoy music I regularly attend concerts from local bands at one of Santa Cruz’s great music venues or spending time with my two kittens. 


Melanie Kramer

mel-kramerHowdy! I was born and raised in El Paso, Texas, where I grew up hiking in the beautiful Franklin Mountains. I graduated from Texas A&M University with a bachelor’s in physics, double minoring in math and electrical engineering. I moved to the Bay Area at the end of 2019 to work at NASA Ames Research Center. I’m currently a project administrator and previously worked in the Office of the Chief Scientist. I also volunteer with two employee resource groups to advocate for and support the Ames workforce community. The West Texas desert will always have a special place in my heart, but I fell in love with the redwood forests and ocean views of the Bay Area when I moved to California. My research interests are currently very broad, and my hope is that as I progress in my studies within the Environmental Studies program, I can narrow my passions towards something impactful and meaningful. I’m interested in wildfire monitoring, management, and risk mitigation, as well as forest ecosystem recovery after wildfires. I want to both protect people and preserve forests as wildfires are happening, as well as better understand how ecosystems recover after such events and change over time. Some of my hobbies include taking long walks with my dog; playing video games and board games; and theme park history deep dives. I love music, both going to concerts and playing instruments. I’ve played the flute since I was in 5th grade, and I’m currently learning the ukulele. I’m an aspirational reader, knitter, and cross stitcher; I love doing these activities but motivation for them comes in waves. A fun fact about me is that I have aphantasia, so I can’t picture things in my mind! I discovered this during my multivariable calculus course in undergrad – wondering why I was the only one in my class frustrated at the professor saying, “just imagine rotating the diagram in your head” and not finding the advice helpful.

Erin Lacour

erin-lacourI grew up in a small town in Ventura County, just a short walk from a little-known regional park where I have spent countless hours exploring. Growing up so close to nature is what founded my connection to the outdoors and wildlife. Even though I have always been drawn to nature, including visiting countless national and state parks throughout my life, it was not until college that I realized I wanted, or even could have a career studying and protecting natural resources.

I graduated from UC Irvine in 2015 with a B.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and a minor in Medical Anthropology. During my undergrad I gained experience from my amazing classes, working in a research lab studying bird behavior, and working in sustainability. Since graduating I have had a variety of jobs such as teaching, wildlife rehabilitation, restoration and stewardship, and wildlife monitoring and inventory.

I moved to the Bay Area a few years ago and have worked for a collaboration of land agencies known as One Tam as well as Marin County Parks. Some of my favorite projects I have worked on include the Marin County Bat Roost Ecology Project, the Foothill Yellow-Legged Frog Docent Program, and of course the Marin Wildlife Picure Index Project which I will be using for my masters thesis. Using data from WPI, I will be looking at species occupancy and diversity in relation to human disturbance.

Some of my hobbies include hiking, cooking, camping, using iNaturalist, and birdwatching. My favorite taxa are raptors, flycatchers, and meso-carnivores, with special love for screech owls, Western kingbirds, and badgers. I love working as a wildlife biologist and monitoring for special status species, and hope to make a career in wildlife management. A fun fact about me is that I spent a couple weeks in South Africa as wildlife vet intern, where I both provided treatment to farm animals and helped capture megafauna such as nyala and cape buffalo.


Lily Law

lily-lawI was born in Hong Kong and immigrated with my family to the US when I was 10. I was fascinated by the strong environmental focus that San Francisco has for many aspects of city life, e.g., integrative park system within a city and a comprehensive residential recycling and composting program. I had the opportunity to intern for San Francisco’s Department of the Environment in high school and it strengthened my interest in environmental work. 

I completed my B.S. from UC Berkeley with double majors in Environmental Sciences and Forestry Natural Resources in Spring 2018. During the summer of my second year in college, I attended the UC Forestry Camp and learned about Sierra Nevada ecology, silviculture, and forestry techniques and management. This experience inspired me to complete my senior thesis in soil microbial ecology, specifically on the interactions between arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and plant roots in the rhizosphere. After graduating, I became the lab manager for Prof. Jill Banfield at UC Berkeley who is an expert in microbial ecology and bioinformatics. 

At SJSU, I’m interested in studying the impact of invasive conifers and their removal on the soil microbial community of a California coastal grassland. I hope to provide valuable background information about the soil microbiome and apply the findings to support the development of effective management plans in the future.

My favorite hobbies are traveling and eating delicious food. I’m usually already planning my next meal as I’m eating my current meal! 


Christine Lopez

christine-lopezHello! My name is Christine Lopez and I have been living in the San Francisco Bay Area my whole adult life, but mainly from the East Bay. I received my BS in Environmental Studies minor in habitat restoration in the spring of 2022. I am interested in the ecology side of environmental studies and the ways that we could mitigate our negative influence on the ecosystem.

I was originally a navy brat and grew up in a navy town near Seattle, then I migrated to the Bay Area in my late teens. Growing up in Puget Sound and later the Bay Area I was always fascinated by the transition zone between land and water. Due to RealLife™ it took me 7 years to get my AS in natural science from Laney College in Oakland, CA with the intention of transferring to a university for marine biology. Due to RealLife™ once again it took me 5 years to get my transfer requirements completed, only to figure out at the last minute I wanted to focus on environmental studies.

Once at SJSU, I completed my BS in environmental studies in 2 years. My focus was on tidal marshes and riparian zones with my senior seminar project focused on how urban features can affect invasive plant species intrusion in riparian zones. I immediately applied for the master’s program before graduation and was accepted for fall 2022. My master’s thesis will focus on how urbanization can affect three canines of Silicon Valley, grey foxes, red foxes, and coyotes.

Currently, I am an intern with The Urban Wildlife Research Project working under Bill “The Fox” Leikam in the Palo Alto Baylands. We use camera traps to do a broad observation study on the various species in the Baylands. The Bayland currently is the home to two grey foxes “Liamos” and “Big Eyes” and two beavers, as well as the occasional coyotes and red foxes, plus dozens of raccoons, skunks, and opossums.

My 10-year goal is to be in a position be help mitigate healthy ecological functions in an anthropogenic world.


Mojgan Mahdizadeh

mojgan-mahdizadehI was born and raised in Tehran, the capital city of Iran. While living in Iran, I was able to obtain a B.A. in Economics from Azad Tehran University. My country has been subjugated by an oppressive and brutal theocracy for over 40 years, but I was fortunate enough to immigrate to the United States to enjoy basic human rights, freedom and a better future. Back then, the only refuge that would give me a sense of peace and solace was nature. Still, some of the best memories I have from my homeland are the trips I took to the Caspian Sea and the hikes in the Alborz mountain range. In the United States, I became aware of the environmental issues facing humanity. That soon became my motivation to attend college again and switch from finance to environmental studies. In May 2021, I graduated from SJSU with a B.A. in Environmental Studies and a minor in Restoration and Resource Management. Dr. Russell’s Forest Ecology class at SJSU inspired the love of redwoods in me. For my final project in Senior Seminar, I studied the initial response of several tree species in Big Basin redwood forest that was decimated by the 2020 CZU wildfire. I do strongly believe that our relationship with nature is reciprocal and we have the responsibility of returning the gift of the Earth. Redwood forests have endured a hundred years of cruel logging and are now facing threats of global climate change, wildfires and urban development. For my graduate thesis, I hope to be able to study the impact of human-induced disturbances on redwood forests and help restore and protect these awe-inspiring giants.

In my spare time, I do restoration work as a volunteer at Ulistac Natural Area, a 40-acre undeveloped land in the city of Santa Clara. Besides my passion for the environment, astrophysics fascinates me the most and I can’t wait to find out what the James Webb Space Telescope is going to reveal about the universe we live in. My hobbies are hiking, camping, skiing, kayaking, and attending live music performances. I also have a goal of visiting all national parks in the U.S. within my lifetime.


Lindsey Marsh

lindsey-marshMy name is Lindsey Marsh and I am a San Jose native. I didn’t go camping or hiking often growing up, but I do have fond memories of getting together with my extended family at our local parks. As I grew older, my interests in outdoor recreation pulled me closer to the natural environment. I received a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in Recreation at San Francisco State University in 2016. While completing my degree, I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Nina Roberts on two research projects regarding visitor use/non-use at San Mateo and Marin County parks. We conducted focus groups in low-income communities throughout the counties to learn about the different types of constraints and barriers to county park visitation. Listening to these experiences opened my eyes to the inequities that are prevalent throughout the SF Bay Area and it propelled me to pursue work that would benefit vulnerable communities.

Since graduating, I continued to work with Dr. Roberts on several research opportunities. In 2018, our research team conducted a study in support of Assembly Bill 250 with the California Coastal Conservancy, Coastal Commission, and California State Parks to investigate effective national models and possible strategies to expand overnight opportunities along the California coast for low-to-moderate income families. This project examined existing facilities and identified potential new opportunities to enhance coastal access and recreation for all Californians. The data are currently being used to influence future projects and funding.
 
At SJSU, I plan to focus on pro-environmental behavior, environmental education, and environmental justice. I am interested in studying socially vulnerable communities within the SF Bay Area and their environmental identities to develop strategies for improving environmental education programs and teaching community members to become advocates.

Most of my spare time is devoted to my dog. We love to go on hikes every weekend and backpack in the Sierra during the summer. I am also a lifelong San Jose Sharks fan! The happiest day of my life will be when the Sharks win the Stanley Cup (don’t tell my fiancé).


Emily Matthews

emily-matthewsI was raised in a small rural town in western Sonoma County, surrounded by a mix of cattle fields and open spaces. From a young age, I loved animals and the outdoors. Much of my childhood was spent playing outside with friends; hiking, climbing trees, and exploring nature in our backyards. As I got older my love of the outdoors became a fascination with ecology and a passion for environmental issues. I began to actively pursue ecology and environmental science in high school. When possible, I would choose classes that focus on biology and environmentalism and was an active member of my school’s Students for Sustainability Club.

I studied Environmental Science at Saint Mary’s College of California. The small size and interdisciplinary focus of Saint Mary’s allowed me to take a wide array of classes and provided me with new perspectives. Through this experience, I realized that I was most interested in the ecological aspects of environmental science. Through internships with the UC Davis Bodega Marine Lab and WRECO (a local consulting firm), I was able to further my understanding of ecology, ecological research, and the applications biology and environmental science outside of academia. My most rewarding work in undergrad was my senior capstone project; studying the variation in bird biodiversity in urban, suburban, and rural areas. I graduated with new knowledge and confidence in my field of interest as well as new frameworks for understanding environmental issues, including - environmental justice, economics, and politics.

After graduating I spent three years working at WRECO as an environmental scientist consulting on the biological and water quality impacts of construction projects. My job included both fieldwork and report writing. In the field, I conducted wildlife and botanical surveys, wetland delineations, and mitigation monitoring. My report writing included Biological Assessments, Annual mitigation monitoring reports, water quality reports, and stormwater data reports.

In graduate school, I hope to gain a deeper understanding of the ecological components of environmental science. My research interests include restoration ecology, habitat conductivity, biodiversity, and the impact that climate change will have on restoration. I hope to protect sensitive species and ecosystems through restoration and climate change preparedness.

In my free time I enjoy hiking, camping, birding, going for runs, cooking, reading, listening to podcast and audiobooks, and spending time with friends. I am also an amateur doodler and an appreciator of music and film. A fun fact about me is that I was born on Friday the thirteenth.


Ann McMillan

ann-mcmillanMy home biome is temperate rain forest, favorite california vegetation type is coastal sage scrub, my favorite bird is the American dipper, and the greatest plant genera are Quercus and Calochortus. My favorite population is the California slender salamanders in my garden. My favorite organism is always the one I am looking at right this minute. You know the hiker who is never hiking because they are always drawing a picture, keying a plant, or watching a bird? That’s me.

I come from La Honda, California and currently live in Mountain View. I have worked as a birder, science illustrator, fine artist and teacher. As an undergraduate, I studied science illustration, environmental studies, and biology at UC Santa Cruz.  I am starting a Master's degree in fall of 2023 to work in climate action and ecology. I'm interested in urban and wildlands forestry as well as restoration ecology.

Our urban forests will be critical for mitigating the damages of climate pollution and biodiversity loss. I hope my thesis will advocate for an ecological approach to urban horticulture in the built environment. Sponsoring ecosystem engineers, such as American Beaver, to do local restoration work would be interesting as well. Dr. Klock will be my advisor since my project will focus on restoration ecology.

I can identify birds by song, learned to key plants in high school, and have spent too much time on rollerskates.


Rebecca Mina

rebecca-minaHello my name is Rebecca Mina. I was born and raised in Stockton, California. I attended San Joaquin Delta College for three years and transferred to CSU East Bay where I earned my bachelor’s degree in environmental science and a minor in biology. At East Bay, I completed a project looking at the input/output of dissolved inorganic carbon ( DIC) at the Eden’s Landing salt marsh near the campus. I formulated three hypotheses to better understand the relationship between the salt marsh and the amount of DIC going in and out of the wetlands. I especially enjoyed collecting pore water samples at the marsh since this allowed me to better grasp my project, which is what I look forward to do more of during the masters program! I also did a project in an environmental impact course involving the hypothetical impacts of placing solar panels on a desert. Here, we determined how much the installment of the solar panels would impact the desert on areas such as flora/fauna, noise pollution, and the cultural impacts. For my thesis, I am very interested in researching topics such as environmental impact analysis or environmental restoration. I also would enjoy researching topics related to water or soil quality since I touched on this area during my undergraduate too.

My hobbies include anime, manga, reading books, listening to music, spending time with my friends, and working on puzzles! I also like matcha flavored drinks/snacks and turtles ! A fun fact about me is that I have three pets, which are my two dogs, Cosmo and Bella, and my pet turtle Princess.


Jamsheed Mistry

jamsheed-mistryMy name is Jamsheed Mistry and I was born in Mumbai, India. At the age of three, my family and I relocated to Toronto, Canada, where I was raised in a suburban community surrounded by maple trees and lots of snow. By being surrounded with the native wildlife of Canada from an early age, my passion for climate change mitigation blossomed in my childhood. During my childhood, I would constantly berate both my parents and my elder brother when their daily activities would exceed an arbitrary threshold that I would make up. In retrospect, I realize that I was subconsciously monitoring my family’s ecological footprint as a child with no knowledge whatsoever about ecological footprints.

When I was in the third grade, my family moved to Cupertino, California, where I completed my elementary, middle, and high school years. For my undergraduate studies, however, I decided to enroll at the University of Toronto because I had always had an affinity to attend the institution that was right next to my childhood home. In my undergraduate studies, I double majored in biology and environmental science. As an undergraduate student, I had taken a plethora of courses in different disciplines – ecology, evolution, genetics, earth science, data science, geography, chemistry, biology, and religion – but my favorite subject was environmental science. My undergraduate research included writing a literature review paper analyzing the environmental and public health effects of exposure to methyl parathion pesticides. Furthermore, I had also conducted an extensive risk assessment/matrix detailing the complex abiotic and biotic components of a proposed stormwater management restoration project in Ontario, Canada during my time as an undergraduate student.

As a graduate student at SJSU, I aspire to work with Dr. Mulvaney and learn more about solar power commodity chains. Under Dr. Mulvaney’s tutelage, I plan research about how solar panels and urban green spaces are utilized to mitigate the urban heat island effect. My hobbies include watching basketball (Go Warriors!), reading, and socializing with my friends. A fun fact about me is that my smile is constant and infectious! I have a very jovial and kind personality and my favorite genre of movies is, you guessed it… comedy!


Gayatri Mujumdar

gayatri-mujumdarI am an Indian who has had the privilege of moving across India while growing up. I relocated to a new place every 2 years, changing schools, meeting new people, adapting to different climates, and connecting with diverse religions, cultures and demographics, all of which have played a great part in shaping me and developing my career. I pursued my undergraduate degree in Architecture from the Academy of Architecture, Mumbai, India. Post my bachelor’s I was working at Artha Studio, Pune for 2 years, a sustainable design firm in India, where my thinking was immensely shaped towards being resource efficient, environmentally sustainable and devising possibilities so that human well-being is achieved with minimal environmental footprint. This insight led me to pursue a diploma in “Sustainable management of natural resources and nature conservation” from the Ecological Society, Pune, India. It enhanced my understanding of the connections between humans and nature, economy, livelihoods and conservation and I aspired to transform my career ambition towards planning for the environment leading me to pursue my Master’s in Urbanism (urban planning and design) at the Technical University of Delft in the Netherlands. It was here in a country that proclaims to be built by the Dutch people; since the whole country was a swamp originally, I realized what it means to live with nature. I was exposed to a variety of environmentally friendly ways of living; public transport being the major one and if you find someone speeding on a bicycle or running to class with a helmet on, that would be me!!

While I had an amazing time exploring the Dutch landscapes for academic projects that were based on topics such as wellbeing, circular economy, SDGs, climate adaptation and sea level rise. My master’s thesis was based on improving the resilience capacities of a city called Otsuchi, in Japan that was affected by the March 2011 Tsunami. This project had a profound impact on my conscience about why nature plays a central role in the cognitive process of human development. Having recently immigrated to California and observing firsthand the American gift to Urbanism- ‘The sprawl’, I am again drawn back to academia at SJSU to pursue my second master’s in environmental studies to find solutions the environmentalist way….!!!

A sustainability advocate at heart and an eco-driven urbanist, I am also a licensed architect with COA(council of architecture, India) and an associate-level IGBC (Indian green building council) certified professional also from India. An interesting thing about me, I started my own architectural company at the age of 23. My hobbies include gardening, currently, I am growing basil, oregano, rosemary, curry leaves, holy basil, coriander, mint and some flowering plants. I also love baking, going on hikes and biking around in the city.


Mai Nguyen

mai-nguyenI grew up around areas of San Jose, CA for the majority of my life. Ever since my childhood years, being outdoors and exploring new places has consistently been a keen interest of mine. With the combination of my outdoor childhood experiences and the education I received throughout those years, I had the idea fairly early on that I wanted to study the Earth’s systems. Along my academic course, I became intrigued by human interaction and mental processes, leading me to obtain my undergraduate degree in psychology with a minor in legal studies from San Jose State University. Nevertheless, environmental issues and topics, specifically relating to the ocean, continues to be the field I want to focus my attention. As an environmental studies graduate student, I plan on examining how the legal system is taking part in preserving the ocean, and engaging in ways to reduce human impact on the marine environment. The issues of overfishing and plastic pollution in the ocean are areas I am aiming to tailor my research.

In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my dog, hiking, photography, swimming, and any outdoor activities. A fun fact about myself is that I nearly drowned three times but I am still really eager to explore different aspects of the ocean.


Amairani Oronia Ortega

amairaniI was born in Zacatecas, Mexico and was raised in San José, California where I had the privilege of experiencing the city’s diverse cultures. I enjoy spending time in nature, baking for my family and friends, and can commonly be found glued to a good book. My parent’s instilled a strong work ethic in me and inspire me to be courageous and advocate for those who cannot themselves. Recently, I graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Environmental Studies with a minor in Climate Change Strategies from San José State University. My interest in environmentalism began in high school where I first learned about the basics in resource management, restoration, and climate change impacts through various media and literature. Having a background in social activism and organizing, I began to notice the disparities in impacts that different communities faced when dealing with pollution and health risks from environmental events and disasters. This propelled me to take a specific interest in environmental justice so I could contribute to the research and solutions of lower socio-economic communities that face environmental problems. During my time as an undergrad, I completed a policy analysis on different approaches to reduce groundwater pollution in the Central Valley from shale fracking. As a graduate student, I look forward to researching the overall health impacts that pesticide use have on agricultural workers, specifically reproductive issues women in the field face due to exposure of certain chemicals.

Fun fact: My favorite place is the beach, rain or shine, and I have a mini library of over 180+ books


Mayra Pelagio 

mayra-pelagioI grew up in rural Mexico and migrated to the U.S when I was thirteen, I studied high school in East San Jose- Yerba Buena H.S. I have a B.S in Environmental Science and Management and a minor in Wildlife Conservation Biology from UC Davis. During my undergraduate career I spent two summers working in Colorado with a program that brought Latinx families outdoors. As a program coordinator I planned several overnight camping trips for families. During these trips I guided recreational activities including hikes, mountain biking, fishing, and archery for all ages, fun fact- I’m a certified archery trainer. It is my firm belief that nature and outdoor spaces should be accessible to everyone, and that the environmental community should focus on creating resources to promote diversity and inclusion.  For this reason, after graduating I became an independent contractor and worked with environmental non-profits to organize outdoor activity events for the Latinx community in Woodland, Sacramento and Davis region. I am highly passionate about conservation biology; I’m especially interested in amphibians, reptiles and birds. For my studies I’d like to focus in conservation biology and the accessibility underrepresented communities have to outdoor spaces. In my free time I volunteer with social justice groups, lobby for policies at the state capitol, and attend rallies.


Tanay Pradhan

tanayI was born and raised right here in the Bay Area and have always had a fascination with the natural world and being outside. Whether it be rewatching the Planet Earth Documentary Series every few weeks as a child or my yearly scuba diving adventures, I take any and all opportunities to see and explore new landscapes and environments. These interests eventually led me to complete a B.S. in Environmental Management and Protection from Cal Poly SLO in 2022. During my undergraduate time, I discovered a passion for studying air and noise pollution, hazardous waste, and environmental injustice. While completing my degree, I had the opportunity to work with the California Military Department and many California Central Coast jurisdictions to update Military Department’s comprehensive waste management plan. Since graduating, I have had the chance to grow my passion working for Kimley-Horn as a CEQA/NEPA Air Quality, Health Risk, and Noise consultant.  As a graduate student, I hope to continue growing my knowledge on the impacts that air pollution has on vulnerable communities in California. Specifically, researching multipollutant health risk approaches to analyzing cancer risk impacts on communities and how CEQA can more effectively address air quality impacts. I hope that with my Masters at SJSU, we can get one step closer to a healthier and cleaner environment for everyone! 

Outside of school and work, my hobbies include playing as much soccer as possible, hiking, and watching movies. I am also completely obsessed with watching soccer and have been a lifelong Liverpool fan. I even wake up for those 4 A.M. games!


Domingo Poggione

domingo-poggioneI was born and raised in Santiago, Chile. I have always been passionate by our unique ecosystems. I absolutely love traveling and visiting new places, exotic cuisines, different cultures and people. I have had the opportunity of travelling quite a bit in Chile and around the world. One of my favorite hobbies is backpacking, which I have done almost throughout all South America. I am a very active person and I love trying new things, so I have had many different hobbies in my life.  Of late my favorite hobbies are gardening, playing basketball, hanging out with my family and videogames.

I graduated from Universidad Catolica de Chile on 2017, with  a B.A. in sociology. As a student I focused on studying community manage and qualitative and quantitative research methods. After I graduated, I worked on territorial interventions with vulnerable/vulnerated communities. Mainly, I have developed two lines of work: urban gardening with low income families and renewable energy projects with indigenous communities in the rural south of my country. I have special interest in learning how people adapt to their environment: that amazing human capacity of transforming their surroundings and transforming themselves  as they interact with the ecosystems that sustain them.

In order to face the inevitable consequences of climate change we need to have tools and knowledge on how to face the environmental hazards that affect (or will affect) our territories. At SJSU I wish to work with Dr. Rampini to explore those key aspects of climate change adaptation that will help create resilient and strong communities, focusing on vulnerable groups.

Fun fact: I have 2 appearances in two different documentaries: “Voces del Puelo” and “Itrofil Mongen”. Not that I am a film star, but for a non-actor, its pretty good.


Raji Rajesh

ragi-rajeshI have always been passionate about nature. It began early in my childhood with my mother teaching simple practices she implemented around our house such as growing vegetables and fruits, reusing instead of buying new things and not wasting food. I pursued an undergraduate degree in Engineering from Bangalore, India, and then worked in the IT industry for 9 years in India. Even though I worked in IT, my passion for nature and the environment did not die down. I participated in volunteering activities to raise awareness about waste segregation in Bangalore, practice eco-friendly tactics around my household. My hobbies include hiking, gardening and cooking. My favorite hiking trails in the Bay area are the PG&E trail in Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve and Mission Peak in Fremont. I am a novice gardener and dream to have a bigger vegetable garden, big enough to provide at least a few veggies for my cooking needs. It pains me to see the havoc created on the environment by us, humans. For instance, oceans of plastic affecting sea life, Industrialization leading to pollution and lesser green cover, wastage of food, chemicals almost everywhere around us and in the food we eat. Pondering over these issues, I decided to change my career path from IT to an environment related career. Taking few courses in Environmental Studies at De Anza College further confirmed that I had made the right decision to pursue Masters in Environmental Studies. My goal is to make an impact on the environment through educating society on current environmental issues, a better understanding of environmental policies and speaking up for environmental justice.

Fun fact is when I go hiking with my friends on the PG&E trail, we keep joking about if we encounter a mountain lion it will make us complete the hike in record time!


Sanjana Ramakrishna

sanjana-ramakrishnaHello, I’m Sanjana. I come from India which is a land of villages. I was born and brought up in-the huge farms of my grandparents in India where Agriculture is the main occupation. My outdoor playing was all about cultivation activities along with my cousins. Apart from enjoying the sunshine and fresh air, the two blessings of God, I was also fascinated looking at the tall trees.  I was fortunate enough to learn all the traditional methods of cultivation and growing trees at a very young age.

I finished my schooling and bachelor’s degree in engineering in Bangalore, India. During the summer breaks of my undergraduate program, I had the great opportunity to work as Wildlife Educator for school kids in the thick forest of Karnataka, India.  I also had the privilege to attend in-depth informative seminars and live sessions about various species and their origin which helped me realize my love for nature and its conservation. Once I realized where my heart lies, there was no looking back. I went on to attend various research programs related to wildlife species in national parks of India. I also worked as GIS intern in an NGO called “ATREE” where my focus was in preventing fire accidents in the Bandipur National Forest, India. The most memorable and exciting part of my student life was volunteering in the “SAVE THE FOREST” campaign team which eventually helped me in designing “FOREST MONITORING SYSTEMS” as a final year project of Engineering course.

On the personal front, I got married in 2021 and relocated to the United States as my husband works in Silicon Valley.  Upon realizing my passion for nature, my husband encouraged me to explore new avenues to enhance my knowledge in Environmental Science. My hobbies are Dancing, gardening, and playing sports such as badminton, tennis. I also love exploring new hikes and outdoor sports.


Saara Ranabhat

saara-ranabhat“Happy wife, happy life.”

“Healthy nature, happy creature.”

Hello Everyone! It’s me Saara Ranabhat from the country of Mount Everest, Nepal. Growing up in a country with extremely rich biodiversity, my passion for nature and environment exists since my childhood. This could be well reflected through my participation in youth clubs and doing plantations around the road along with weekly sanitation programs. Gradually, for my undergraduate program, I looked up for the courses which would keep me in close contact with nature and help me to get enlighten more on this. That’s how I ended up doing my undergraduate degree in forestry science and undergraduate thesis on climate change adaptation and community resilience. When I got enrolled for my undergraduate degree, a profound interest blossomed inside me for climate change.

Immediately after my undergraduate degree, I worked as a sustainability intern for USAID funded Hariyoban Program followed by some short term consultant role for drafting local level government’s documents regarding climate change. Even before coming here (5 months ago), I used to work as a climate change research officer for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) project in SNV (Netherland’s development organization) Nepal.

With all these facts, climate change is the field that I want to work on for my graduate thesis under the supervision of Dr. Costanza Rampini.

Hobbies: Travelling and hiking in the nature, watching movies, learning new things

Fun facts: I don’t want to leave anything incomplete, mostly movies and Netflix series. I could spend my entire day and night in order to finish that. And guess what…my family member has to stop me like a baby.


Jose Ruiz

I graduated from San Jose State University in the spring of 2022, earning aJose Ruiz degree in Environmental Studies with a minor in Sustainable Water Management. Having grown up in Alviso I have a loving passion for environmental conservation and restoration, particularly in water sustainability. Throughout my academic journey, I focused my research and coursework on various water management and conservation aspects. This included studying hydrology, water policy, and sustainable practices. My commitment to understanding and safeguarding water sources stems from a deep-seated appreciation for my hometown's natural beauty and ecological significance. Beyond academia, my interests are diverse and reflect my multifaceted personality. I love to travel and spend time with my family, science, math, history, and art, I find joy in continuous discovery. Nature holds a special place in my heart, offering solace and inspiration during outdoor adventures that reconnect me with the natural world and its delicate balance. Looking ahead, I am eager to apply my knowledge and experiences to contribute meaningfully to environmental conservation efforts. Whether through research, advocacy, or community engagement.
Fun facts about me: I'm the youngest of four siblings, toughened by my love for sports despite enduring multiple bone fractures, ligament tears, and muscle strains. I've explored 15 countries across three continents, with four road trips across Mexico under my belt. On my bucket list is to visit Australia, The Golopogos, and See the Northern Lights.


Sherilyn Reinhart

sherilyn-reinhartI was born in rural Elk Grove and spent my teenage years in the small gold rush town of Placerville, CA. My four siblings and I spent the majority of our childhood outside tending goats, chasing roosters, fishing in the delta and seasonally hunting deer. (Naturally, I became a vegetarian and moved to San Francisco after high school). For the better part of a decade I worked, traveled, volunteered and attended community colleges before transferring to The University of Hawaii at Mānoa (UH), where I received a Bachelor of Science in Ethnobotany.

While at UH, I worked in the Hynson Fungal Ecology Lab. It was through this experience that I saw myself as a young scientist for the first time. I assisted in elucidating which mycorrhizal partner the endemic Hawaiian orchid, Anoectochilus sandvicensis, is dependent upon for germination. Using the molecular skills I learned from this project, I applied for and was awarded a university grant to study the fungal symbiont of the Hawaiian lichen, Cladonia skottsbergii.

As a graduate student I hope to travel the mycelial web and gather the skills to become a well-rounded researcher and community educator. I’m interested in examining how common practices on organic farms impact and interact with the health of the soil ecosystem. I am particularly interested in exploring carbon farming as an avenue for sequestering atmospheric carbon.

Outside of academia I am happiest hiking with my young child and husband, baking off a loaf of sourdough, raising plants from seed or having a nice cup of coffee. This past year I fell in love with Indigo dyeing and am now teaching myself how to quilt. I’m also trying to get back to my own rural roots.


Diana Saavedra

diana-saavedraI like to begin my story with my parents’ for theirs is such a huge part of my own. Born and raised in Guatemala, they were both forced to flee government corruption, poverty, and overall violence in the early 1980s. In 1983, they met in East Los Angeles where they soon got married and had three girls- me being the last born. My status as a first generation Guatemalan-American has always been very special to me and has shaped a big part of my identity and politics.

In 2017, I left sunny Southern California and moved to the Bay Area. Here, I earned my bachelor’s in Ethnic Studies with a concentration in Latinx Studies at CSUEB. I fell in love with my studies for it allowed me to gain an understanding of the effects and dynamics of various social issues.

I am a firm believer that environmental problems and social problems are interlaced, thus cannot be separated. Consequently, I have become passionate about advocating for the most vulnerable communities and their local environments. And so, I am pursuing a M.S. in Environmental Studies at SJSU. My research interests include working with people who are directly affected by their rapidly changing environments and how they are adapting to new social and environmental issues. Although climate change will eventually affect everyone, I am specifically interested in working with marginalized and vulnerable communities that are already paying the consequences of irresponsible and unsustainable human practices.

Some of my hobbies include reading, drawing, hiking, riding my bike, and hanging out with my partner and our two dogs. I also love to travel! This summer I visited Cuba and Mexico and had such a great time.

Fun Fact: I am super into astrology and will love to nerd out if anyone else is interested!


Ingrid Salazar

ingrid-salazarI was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, which most people simply call L.A. My parents are El Salvadorian and immigrated to the U.S. as young adults. Their wild stories about the civil war in El Salvador and their journey to the U.S. have motivated me to pursue a higher education. I recently graduated from SJSU with a B.S. in Environmental Studies and a concentration in Restoration and Resource Management. I am excited to further my education with the department that has already taught me so much!

My environmental journey began my freshman year of high school after watching the documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. It was the first time I learned about climate change and my thought-life immediately became post-apocalyptic. My English professor helped me brainstorm ideas to create change instead of living in dread of the future. I began to notice that after every sports practice and game, students would leave plastic water bottles and trash on the fields. I decided to pick up the trash during lunch and my teacher would help me recycle the plastic bottles. My peers gave me the lovely nickname “janitor”, but I was unfazed because I was so passionate about making a difference. Eventually, our trash clean-up became a class initiative! Since then, I have helped with many organizations such as Tree People, Save the Bay, CommUniverCity, the California Native Garden Foundation, and the Center of Development and Recycling, just to name a few.

My research interests include energy, life cycle assessments, and industrial ecology. I am confident these fields will create solutions for resource management and waste reduction. I believe that our society needs to learn how to implement a circular economy model in order to reach our sustainability goals. 

My hobbies include cuddling with my cat, running, hiking, scrolling through Pinterest, and taking pictures of clouds! I am also an avid yelper. I enjoy exploring the app and finding new restaurants, hiking spots, and dessert places to try.  A fun fact about me is, I love to teach (force) my friends and family how to recycle, especially when they tell me, “It’s too hard”.


Anjali Sharma

anjali-sharmaI grew up in the state of Haryana, located in northern India. I have always been one of those students, who always liked reading interesting facts that amazed me, and most often I loved experimenting and applying the interesting factual information given in the little boxes in the corners of science book pages to real life. My family identified my inclination towards the field of science in the Fourth-grade, when I read an experiment in my brother’s Eighth-grade science book, and I made a science project for the school fair and ended up receiving the First prize.

I did my undergraduate degree with Botany, Zoology, and Chemistry as my major subjects, after which I pursued a post-graduate diploma in Environmental Education. I passionately worked for the welfare of animals, particularly dogs and cows. I fostered several dogs in my home and adopted one of them too. During the difficult times of Covid, I worked towards maintaining the level of education for underprivileged students in the neighborhood by providing them with resources and home tuition when the conditions got safer. I also worked as a volunteer intern with the Muskurahat Foundation, which works in the same field on a larger scale and crowdfunded money for the cause.

For my professional goals, I want to fulfill my wish of moving away from the comfort of my home and pursuing a Master’s degree in Environmental Science, a field in which I have a profound interest and also feel passionate. I stand strongly for the belief that whatever resources we are using are being granted to us by the past generation and are being borrowed from the share of future generations. I wish to enhance my knowledge and skills during and after this master’s degree in the field of sustainability and energy resources concerning agriculture and development in developing and underdeveloped countries.

I love being outdoors in green areas that are full of vegetation and abundant with different species of organisms. Apart from it, I enjoy strength training 5-6 days a week.

A fun fact about me is that I can probably deadlift your body weight and I prefer mountains over beaches.


Mya Shiloh

mya-shilohHi everyone! My name is Mya Shiloh and I have recently graduated from San Jose State with my bachelor’s in environmental studies accompanied with an environmental impact analysis minor. Going into my graduate studies, I plan on focusing my time working on environmental justice issues. It’s interesting to see similar local environmental challenges span across different countries and the factors that influence them. Throughout my career I hope to gain the experience necessary to help solve local and global environmental problems for low-income communities; primarily in a way that suits them long-term. To learn more about how to communicate environmental topics to people who may not be familiar, I’ve worked diligently as a director for the Environmental Resource Center and as a manager for the Center for Development and Recycling.

When my head isn’t stuck in a book or laptop, I could most likely be found at a music event trying to destress! Finding curiosity in all things outside was an interesting and unusual route for me to take considering I’m not fond of insects and have awful allergies. With that being said, even if the world tries to push me away, I will not hesitate on helping where I can.


Allison Solis 

allison-solisI was born and raised in San Clemente; a sleepy beach town in Southern California. I graduated from San Jose State University with a B.S. in Environmental Studies and a concentration in Environmental Restoration and Resource Management. Throughout my undergraduate years I loved being involved on campus with various organizations such as: A.L.M.A.S. (Academics, Leaders, and Mentors, Aiming for Success), the Center for Development of Recycling, the Environmental Resource Center, Chicano Commencement, and Lambda Sigma Gamma Sorority, Incorporated. I was also an education staff intern at the Guadalupe River Park where I would help teach kids about nature and the environment. I am excited to pursue my studies as a graduate student following a different passion: environmental justice. My calling would be to help protect and restore the environment, help strengthen communities that are impacted by environmental justice issues, and help prevent environmental justice issues altogether.

Also, I love to be outdoors and my hobbies are: running, hiking, and reading. In the future, I hope to travel around the world, so far I’ve traveled to two countries: Guatemala and Mexico, my parents’ home countries.


Matt Spadoni

matt-spadoniGrowing up in Upstate New York, I spent a lot of time gardening, camping, and fishing with my family.  Ever since I can remember, my family has instilled a love and stewardship towards the ecosystems around us, which has made me into the person that I am today.  I followed this passion for the environment by attending Paul Smiths College, a small school in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains of New York.  While earning my B.S. in Environmental Science, I fell in love with conducting field studies on streams and plant ecosystems, as well as studying the ecosystems of the past through lake sediment cores.  After graduating in 2018, I worked as a nature interpreter at Smugglers’ Notch State Park  in Vermont.  There, I created nature programs for kids and adults to teach them about soil science, environmental stewardship, weather patterns and everything in between!  It was  at this job that I developed a true passion for interacting with the public and sharing my love and fascination for the environment with others.  

Following position, I began hiking on the Appalachian Trail. While hiking, I interviewed almost everyone that crossed my path about how they have experienced climate change over their lifetime and what they believed humanity’s role is in climate change.  I got the chance to speak with people from all over the world, who shared countless stories and experiences.  After 50 days and 800 miles from Georgia to Virginia, I took a break from the AT and began hiking the Long Trail, a 272-mile traverse of the Green mountains in Vermont.  A fun fact: we had to take a long break after hiking 10 days in a row through the soggy, Spring trails because we were starting to get trench foot.

I am very excited to be going to SJSU where there is so much expertise in social science and community involvement in environmental science.  I hope to develop a thesis based on understanding peoples’ perceptions and lifelong experiences with climate change, while also engaging them in citizen science activities.


Bradley (Brad) Speno

brad-spenoHello, I’m Brad and I grew up in Gilroy and received my bachelors degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Colorado. For the past 5 or so years I have worked as a field science teacher at a San Jose park and wildlife refuge, a bird counter in different locations, a salamander and snake wrangler, and most recently a plant mapper. 

After independant literature review, I have decided to research avian communities such as songbirds, shorebirds, and marsh birds in the context of salt marsh restoration at SJSU because I am interested in which factors are most important in a restoration project's success. So few wetland ecosystems remain intact even though they are considered so important in buffering against climate change and providing habitats for wildlife communities, which is why restoration success is important to me. 

In my free time I like to get outside as much as possible. I have recently dabbled in rock climbing, bike riding, and I have always liked to snowboard in the winter. I also like seeing live music, traveling, and consuming streamable content.


DeNarae Stewart

denarae-stewartHi there! The name’s DeNarae. I was born and raised in Riverside County, CA and moved to San Jose 5 years ago to get my BS.

I graduated from SJSU with a BS in Environmental Studies and a minor in Environmental Impact Assessment. Growing up in a low-income community, environmental education was not a large part of everyday life. However, that didn’t stop me from falling in love with and caring for the nature around me. It began with a simple love for rocks but grew into full-blown curiosity after learning about biofuels. I wanted to know everything about the Earth and what it was capable of. Before I knew it, I became aware of not only the beauty of the world but also the negative impacts human life had on it. Since then, I’ve jumped at all opportunities having to do with habitat restoration and waste management. For my thesis, I hope to address the cradle-to- grave life cycle of packaging materials and the effect this life cycle has on the environment.

In my free time, you’re 99% guaranteed to find me reading either comics or sci-fi fantasy novels. For the other 1%, I’m likely to be playing with my fur babies, Bambi and Poseidon, or reorganizing some part of my home. A fun fact about me is that I have ADHD, which pretty much means I’m an unorganized filing cabinet full of random information. So ask me a question, I just might know the answer!


Lacey Strong

lacey-strongI am a Wildlife Management and Conservation graduate from Humboldt State University. As an undergraduate I interned at two wildlife rehabilitation and educations centers: Wildlife Images in Grants Pass, Oregon, and California Wildlife Center in Malibu, California. While working at these centers, I provided care for sick, injured and orphaned wildlife. I also assisted with wildlife education, guided tours, and helped with many youth camps. 

After receiving my Bachelor of Science, I worked two seasons as a Wildlife Biological Science Technician for the U.S. Forest Service. I worked in the Shasta Trinity National Forest where I surveyed northern spotted owls, peregrine falcons, northern goshawks, western pond turtles, foothill yellow-legged frogs, fishers, and American beavers. I also did backcountry river surveys for salmonid species. Additionally, I assisted with a MAPS bird banding station. I have research interests in population ecology, predator-prey interaction, and the impact urbanizations has had and will have on wildlife.

It has been through my journey as a wildlife student, intern, enthusiast and biological science technician that I have obtained the desire to become the most educated and well-rounded Wildlife Biologist I can be.  This graduate program will grant me the ability to use the knowledge I have obtained to date, but more importantly open doors to a future that will allow me to help preserve and protect the fragile wildlife ecosystems I am fortunate to study. During my free time I’m an avid water skier and I relax painting. I also find myself backpacking, hiking and birding.


Yankit (Sam) Suen

sam-suenI was born and raised in Hong Kong, China. When I was in secondary school in Hong Kong, I had the opportunity to conduct field research in various locations, which made me strongly appreciate the environment. Particularly between humans and the environment. When I arrived in San Francisco, the weather and the scenery shocked and surprised me. At that time, I want to learn more about this location.

In the spring of 2023, I obtained a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and Geography from the University of San Francisco. During my few years at SFSU, I took courses on different natural resources, such as trees and soil. Also, I learned about GIS, extreme weather, and global warming, and I learned how to manage these natural resources as well as how the city's government takes care of the environment. The more I learn at SFSU, the more interested I become in soil and plants, particularly climate change. Since trees and soil comprise the majority of the earth's elemental makeup.

Perhaps this is common knowledge, but I believe our actions and the environment are interconnected. As we can see, soil, forests, and other natural resources are being depleted annually; therefore, I want to determine what we can do to prevent this or to demonstrate the significance of trees and soil. In the master's program at San Jose State University, my research focuses on how to plant trees and soil without harm from human activity or invasive species. I do believe that forests and soil can help us prevent the problem of climate change and that these are the things we can preserve for future generations so that they can comprehend the past.

My hobbies include reading and writing stories, hanging out with friends, and trying new foods. And enjoy attempting new tasks! I am willing to attempt anything that piques my interest! same as my research thesis, so please don't hesitate to ask me if you need assistance.


Jacqueline Taylor

jacqueline-taylorI was born and raised in Watsonville, California. I grew up in the country with my two brothers and dozens of animals. My parents immigrated here from Portugal and brought their customs with them, which included living mostly off what we grew and raised on our land. Growing up surrounded by nature, along with the endless wildlife documentaries my dad got us hooked on, I became infatuated with wildlife conservation. My plan was to save the tigers. Now I’m just trying to save anything.

I graduated from San Diego State in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in biology. I moved up to Livermore after graduation and spent the next eight years working as a wildlife biologist for private environmental consulting firms around the Bay Area. A fun fact about me is that I worked with snakes for over six years and was never able to make peace with snake bites. The snakes would sense my nervousness and bite me instead of my relaxed coworkers. I don’t miss that. I stopped working in 2016 when I had my second child. Since leaving the work force I’ve been raising my kids, volunteering, and obsessing over our deteriorating environment.

About a year ago I realized volunteering alone wasn’t cutting it for me. I wanted to be a more integral part of the solution, but I wasn’t sure in what capacity. I took two classes at a local junior college and realized how much I missed learning. I combined that with my background in wildlife biology and my obsession with environmental issues and that led me to a master’s program in environmental studies with a focus in wildlife conservation. For my thesis I’m planning to study wintering burrowing owls in the East Bay. As an avid birder, I’m so excited to follow owls around for the next couple years.

I’m into wildlife photography, weightlifting, watching reruns of old sitcoms, veganism, gardening, avoiding plastic, thrift stores, drawing, reading, sewing, and sports. My husband and two kids are cool too.


Olivia Trevino

olivia-trevinoHello everyone! My name is Olivia Trevino, and I am a current graduate student in the Environmental Studies Program at San Jose State University (SJSU). I am a former spartan, receiving my undergraduate degree in environmental studies focusing on restoration and resource management. I graduated from SJSU in December 2019. I have extensive experience that prepared me for and has allowed me to excel in the graduate program. I was an environmental educator for a year, teaching children environmental issues.

I also helped create four new school gardens in elementary schools and develop a new curriculum for students. I also have fieldwork experience, working with the non-profit Grassroots Ecology on multiple restoration projects and Santa Clara Valley Water District’s Mercury Program investigating mercury and methylmercury in reservoirs. I currently work for the City of Palo Alto in their Watershed Protection team, where I focus on outreach for stormwater pollution prevention, pesticides, and water conservation.

I am eager to continue my work on water quality issues at SJSU by researching polyfluoroalkyl substances – known as PFAS. My graduate research investigates PFAS chemicals in recycled water in Santa Clara County and bioaccumulation in soil. Outside of school and work, I try to find time to do things I love including hiking, golfing, concerts, cooking, and cooking new foods.

A fun fact about me that most people would not know is that I taught English in Thailand for a month. One of the best experiences of my life! Thank you, and I can’t wait to share my research with the SJSU community!


Ram Thapa

ram-thapaI am from Nepal and currently residing in Sunnyvale, California. Nepal a country with rich natural resources and biodiversity. Of course, completely different geographical structure starting from the altitude of 50m from the sea level till the highest peak in the world, the Everest.  My passion for nature ignited since I was in grade five as I brought a street puppy to my home which was  irreplaceable to me and my family. We named him “Bruno” but he expired 4 years back due to the upper age limit. After completing my higher school degree in Science, I chose to study BSc. Forestry from Tribhuvan University of Nepal. I happen to explore more than 100 community forests, study their plans and policy, the way scientific forest management was implemented, benefits distribution, forest mensuration and silvicultural treatments. Furthermore, I also happened to work as a forest technician for more than 5 CFs and help them with different forest related activities. I conducted my thesis on “Habitat suitability of wild water buffalo (Bubalus arnee) in Babai flood plain of Bardia National Park, Nepal” which was awarded by WWF small student research.

I got a golden opportunity to explore core habitat of wildlife in Bardia National Park during my field days while conducting the research. This is how I developed a passion toward the conservation of environment, endangered species. This was a different feeling of fear and excitement of getting close to wild faunas, when you see a one horned Rhino right by your eyes like 10 feet away. Seeing an aggressive wild elephant running through the bushes, breaking the trees and following its activities with the help of its radio collar was such a moment to remember throughout my life. Last but not the least being chased a wild water buffalo while trying to capture it through my lens…… it really was an amazing day.

Similarly, I volunteered for four years in Society for Wildlife Research and Conservation (SWOREC) which is one of the green organizations of our university where I got an opportunity to serve as the coordinator for two years. In addition to my academic course, I was always active in extra-curricular activities like organizing workshops and programs on environment and wildlife related topics. Furthermore, I love travelling, watching movies and doing adventurous activities. Moreover, I want to conduct my graduate level thesis by linking endangered wildlife species, forest and environmental factors as my undergraduate thesis was more of a technical one.

Fun fact about me is I am so interrogative, funny and I speak fast.  


Tam Tran

tam-tranI was born in Ho Chi Minh City (Sai Gon), Vietnam. In 2012, my family moved to the United States. We settled in Southern California for the first few years. After I graduated from UC Berkeley, I decided to live in the Bay Area, together with my family.

With a background major in Architecture and minor in Sustainable Design, I have been working for an architecture and interior firm. I have a strong aspiration of bringing beautiful nature and green environment to our community. Architecture and environment are natural companions. Combining aesthetics, sustainability, and healthy society is my design manifesto. For this reason, I desire to broaden my knowledge and explore the relationships of environment from a variety of perspectives, with the emphasis on green technology and environmental justice. My passion is to develop green technology, advance its applications and efficiency, consider the impacts, lifespan and harmfulness of the technology to environment in a holistic and integrated view, as well as coordinate sustainable technology into my designs to create a better place, with integration, comfort, and safety. The ultimate goal is protecting community’s health. Besides, I am devoting to help rising everyone’s awareness on environment and sustainability.

My hobby since childhood is reading comics, which develops my imagination of space and visual arts. A bunch of beautiful designed stickers that shows how to save energy, which I received when I was in elementary school, had a great impact on my awareness of environment and changed my habit of saving energy, water since that day. On weekends, I love visiting different libraries and parks to observe, draw and sketch.


David Vásquez Ospina

david-ospinaHello, my name is David Vásquez, I was born and raised in Medellín, the second biggest city in Colombia. Since childhood, I had so much contact with nature because of my parents’ passion for being in the countryside. I always enjoyed being in contact with water such as the ocean and rivers and I can tell I´m a water lover; I practice swimming and scuba diving. I also always had a dog and a cat close to me and being with them is something I don’t want to miss.

I’m a Sanitary Engineer from the University of Antioquia with a specialization in environmental law, which is a short postgraduate degree in my county. Choosing Sanitary Engineering was natural for me due to my passion for understanding different biological components, the control of human activity-driven pollution, and interaction with nature. It has been a fulfilling choice, and it has made me more aware of the climate threat our planet faces every day. Since graduation, the environment has been my career focus. I have joined interdisciplinary teams in environmental consultancy and the construction and operation of infrastructure and three years ago, carbon capture and emission reduction projects, mainly focusing on reforestation and conservation. My profession has also given me the opportunity to visit different territories in Colombia (the country with the second-largest biodiversity in the world), and some other countries in Latin America. I have learned about the natural resources and ecosystems, and I could appreciate the conditions of the communities that inhabit them; the effects of the activities by their regular dynamics such as extensive cattle, artisanal mining, subsistence farming, and logging for livelihood, but also the threats they face by natural phenoms like fires and events related to weather and the effect of climate change.

As a student at SJSU, I expect to become a better advocate for climate justice and an agent of positive change, even from the academic field, playing significant roles in contributing to the development of different territories, benefiting the surrounding communities, and helping to protect and sustain the natural resources.


Mitchell Victoria  

mitchell-victoriaMy Name is Mitchell Victoria and I am about to begin graduate school after taking a short break during the pandemic. I graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies. My focus on my Master’s Thesis is studying the American Badger within the Bay Area and in Santa Cruz County. I graduated in the fall quarter of 2019 and have since been on a long break until now. Before UC Santa Cruz I spend 4 years at Cabrillo College where I faced many challenges before transferring, but I persevered and received a liberal arts degree in Environmental Studies.

I was originally a wildlife biologist major but was discouraged when I discovered UCSC did not provide that major. Once I learned about Environmental Studies, I found that it was close to what I wanted to do and work in the natural sciences. The biggest mistake I make on accident is forgetting that this major has a social sciences component that includes the people in the research. I love all animals including animals from the past and future. I also enjoy socializing with everyone I meet. I love stand-up comedy because I love to laugh. I enjoy doing impressions and making other people laugh even when I’m not trying to be funny. I love to be at the beach because the ocean is my second home.

I like to hike in forests because there is less sunlight. I’m not a big fan of talking politics or religion because those topics always divides everyone. I’m also willing to be open to new experiences from learning another culture to even new methods for studying or working. I am looking forward to becoming a graduate student and am ready to embrace every obstacle along the way.


Kate Worrell

kate-worrellHello! My name is Kate Worrell and I completed my undergrad degree at Cal Poly SLO in Environmental Management and Protection. With minors in Biology, GIS, Sustainable Environments, and Studio Art. I did not set out to get so many minors but as the years went on they just kind of fell into place. Through my biology minor I took many Botany courses which led me to falling in love with plants. Especially smaller shrub plants that are native to California. Getting to research plants in California is amazing since there is so much diversity throughout the state. 

For my thesis I hope to do research around Dudleya the endangered genus of succulents native to California. Manly in regards to restoration and conservation with Dr. Metha Klock as my chair advisor. I want to research Dudleya with the hope that I can help increase their population so that one day they can get off the endangered species list. I think that there are not only gorgeous but have a very interesting history as well. They used to be in the Echiveria genus but further genetic and physical research proved that they were an entirely different genus. 

In my free time I like to watch all kinds of shows from Parks and Rec to anime like Haikyuu. I also like to play video games with my current obsessions being animal crossing and genshin impact. Not to mention I also like to play board games as well my favorite is Betrayal at House on the Hill. I also like being out in nature and exploring the open spaces around me mainly on the hunt to find Dudleya out in their natural habitat. I am so happy to be getting my Master’s at SJSU and I cannot wait to start my research!


Dawnelle Wynne

dawnelle-wynneAfter listening to many radio programs and reading articles that have sounded the alarm that immediate action is needed to reduce the human-caused degradation of the environment, I became convinced that as many people as possible should be addressing this crisis. I am committed to directing my career into the field of environmental studies to work on solutions to reduce the effects of human-caused environmental degradation. I am excited and grateful to have been accepted as a graduate student in the Department of Environmental Studies at SJSU.

I have advanced degrees in Materials Science and Engineering from U.C. Berkeley; my work experience related to the area of research in the Department of Environmental Studies that I am primarily interested in involved solar panel manufacturing. Working in the the solar panel manufacturing field was very rewarding, as I had come to believe that it is critical to move from using fossil fuels to using alternative energy sources as part of reducing the human-caused climate crisis. 

My primary area of interest for research is in implementing strategies for photovoltaic waste management in California (to further the research conducted by Lee-Tan Lu), with Professor Mulvaney’s and Professor Olszewski’s advice. Another area that I’m very interested in is in implementing sustainable materials management strategies; I was excited to learn about the Center for the Development of Recycling that exists in the Department, directed by Professor Olszewski.

My current hobbies include attending live music performances, reading, and hanging out in the East Bay (I live in Oakland). I love travelling when I have the time. I’ve enjoyed playing a musical instrument in the past, I look forward to taking up this hobby again.


Mary Yan 

mary-yanI'm a San Francisco native who moved to the South Bay on a whim for a change of scenery and to finish my BS in Environmental Studies with a minor in Biology. I love the easy access to natural open spaces down here, but not the weather! I completed my undergraduate studies at SJSU and am currently working as an environmental educator at Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge and Environmental Health and Safety intern for the County of Santa Clara.

When I'm not working, I'm exploring any place that time and money will allow me to.  I love uncovering parts of the world map that are blank to me. If this narrative sounds very much like uncovering maps in an video game, it's because I love those too! My most recent adventures were: fishing in Kalispell, Montana; exploring Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park; attempting (and failing) to access the tidepools at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve; and eating and drinking with new friends along Mississippi Street in Portland.

My research systems are in the redwood forests in the mountains of Santa Cruz, and I am focusing on Trillium ovatum, an understory plant. T. ovatum is a really interesting plant! It can live for more than a decade, hunker down underground when conditions aren't favorable, and produce plump, fleshy fruits. Is it delicious or toxic? I don't know... yet! I'd like to know if this neat understory species has ties to redwod trees that can help us figure out how to manage the redwood forests more effectively.

My interesting fact: I've moved 11 times. No, wait. I'm moving again as I write this. Make that 12.


Kaitlyn Yee

kaitlyn-yeeI was born and raised in the Bay Area. Growing up here, I was fortunate enough to have the best of both worlds with the mountains and the ocean as my playground. From  “salamander hunting” in the forests of Mt. Madonna, to spending hours ogling at intertidal critters in Santa Cruz,   these experiences shaped me into having a deeper  appreciation for the environment.  
 
While working towards my BA in Environmental Studies at Hawaii Pacific University, I started a company called Extinct Global. Through this platform, I wanted to encourage change by educating the public about environmental issues and species’ extinction using social media and selling merchandise that would donate a part of profits to conservation organizations. Research and daily outreach I had done really opened my eyes to the world of conservation work and the large-scale threats that species face. Combining this with my academic field studies in different Hawaiian ecosystems led me to realize that studying human impacts on biological systems was critical to the preservation of them, and it was what interested me most.

As a graduate student, I hope to further develop the skills to contribute to environmental research and make an impact on the conservation of species. In my time at SJSU, I would like to focus my research on the marine environment, specifically the relationship between humans and sharks in the Northern Monterey Bay. 
 
As for hobbies, I love to spend my time outdoors. I enjoy hiking, scuba diving, petting dogs, kayaking, surfing ankle-high waves, and eating. One fun fact about me is that I once had a pet tarantula! His name was Mr. Spudz.


Jiacheng (Jason) Zheng

jason-zhengMy name is Jiacheng Zheng. I was born in Shanghai, China. I obtained my bachelor’s degree of a double major biology and chemistry from the University of South Alabama in Dec. 2022. My primary major was biology, with an ecology orientation. I was interested in symbiosis, especially with double mutualism relationship species before 2020. So, I’ve taken some biology advanced classes such as animal-plant interaction, botany, dendrology etc. As an achievement, I have a taxonomy research paper describing a new species of eleutherodactylus published this year. In this research, my job is to extract DNA from liver samples and amplify them with PCR, then sequence and build the phylogenetic tree to identify the potential new species from genetic divergence.

After COVID outbreak, I have more interests in environment detection and purification. Therefore, I paid more attention to the chemistry side with an instrumental analysis approach. Which is basically about choosing the right instruments helps separate and detect analytes in different levels of aspect. For example, if I want to detect a certain metal contamination. A universal method maybe uses atomic absorption chromatography after analytes separated by HPLC. While AAS can only process one type of element at a time. Though it is cheaper, for analyte containing multiple elements, an ICP-MS would be more appropriate with consider of price and effectiveness. In my opinion, considering all situations and picking a right tool for right job is interesting.
For my research, my primary interesting is on evaluating, detection, or problem solving related to water environment. Ecology, including microecosystem and biodiversity would be my subordinate plans.

My hobby is board games such as GO, Mahjong, bang. I’m willing to learn any types of board game. In fact, I was in chess club in my high school. I’m also a big fan of strategy and simulation games. Civilization 6 and oxygen not included takes most of my leisure time.

Fun fact: I often encounter duplicate numbers. My birthday is 222, my phone number end with 586-5586.


Zhiyi (Lucy) Zhou

lucy-zhouAt the age of 15, I took a leap of faith and left my home country, arriving in the United States alone. My decision to seek new opportunities. With unwavering courage, I embarked on a path that would change my life forever. Upon arriving in the U.S., I settled in upstate New York for 3 years for my high school. I lived with an American family for 3 years, and after I graduated from high school. I still have connection with them. Upon completing high school, I continued their educational journey at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Albany. I was Majoring in both Environmental Science and Studio Art, I am eager to contribute to the global environment, and art has been my passion since I was a child, so I choose to study both at the same time. One significant aspect of my college life was my involvement in the Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) as the vice president for 3 years. With an undergraduate degree in Environmental Science and Studio Art from the State University of New York (SUNY) at Albany, I would like to continue my educational journey in graduate school, focusing on furthering my knowledge in environmental science and making impact on conservation efforts. I made the decision to pursue a graduate degree in Environmental Science, with a specific interest in conservation biology in SJSU. I hope that in the future I can use my knowledge to contribute to the environment of the earth.

I love to go out in nature, I love hiking, skiing, laying on the beach and go into the mountains, sunrise and sunset. I have a one-year-old cat who weighs 15 pounds already and I live in Los Angeles now and will probably get another cat when I move to San Jose. In my free time, I enjoy my painting time, my favorite style is landscape painting.

About my fun fact: I have to listen to music when I'm doing something serious, otherwise I can't concentrate.