Santa Clara University

Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences

News & Events


Environmental Studies and Sciences News & Events

  •  Victoria Adetuyi ’15, Environmental Studies: From ESS to Graduate School in Sustainability Management

    Wednesday, Apr. 29, 2015

    Victoria Adetuyi '15 was recently accepted into Master’s programs in Sustainability Management at Columbia University, the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Affairs, UC San Francisco, and the Presidio Graduate School for Sustainability.

    The end of my undergraduate career creates the perfect opportunity for me to reflect on my experiences at Santa Clara University. The culmination of experiences and people I have encountered at SCU have inspired me to continue my academic path in the area of Environmental Studies and Sciences.  I was more deeply introduced to the topics of environmental studies during my freshmen year, when I took ENVS 22 with Professor Chris Bacon.  This class reinforced my interests in the subject, which has only grown over the last few years.  My interests were further stimulated when I lived and worked in Copenhagen, Denmark.  During my time abroad, I was introduced to the innumerable possibilities for sustainable practices at both the government and corporate level. I was perplexed by the Danes’ willingness to embrace natural energy systems and incorporate sustainable action that is proactive, not reactive.  Yet my perplexity was quickly illuminated by the vast possibilities to include sustainable planning within the United States government, corporations, and indu

    stries.  This led me on a journey to find a graduate program in the area of Sustainability Management to further develop my interests in sustainability and ultimately align humanity with nature. Sustainable management is the requisite standard for the future’s lifeline of societal and business improvement.

    In my quest for a graduate program which aligns with my academic and professional goals, I applied to and was accepted to Columbia University’s Master of Science in Sustainability Management program. The courses and professors at SCU were extremely influential in my admittance to the program of my choice.  The program focuses on creating a bold and innovative approach to sustainability which teaches students how to prioritize the protection of Earth systems and resources while creating social and economic opportunity for all people. This focus extends both internationally and domestically.  The overall environment and structure at SCU has played the largest role in my transition from undergraduate to postgraduate work.  I look forward to embarking on a new journey, which will expand my knowledge in a field I feel tremendously passionately about.  Go ESS@SCU!

  •  Baja 2015!

    Wednesday, Apr. 29, 2015
    Sixteen students chose to devote their Spring Break to study the natural history of Baja California Sur with Dr. John Farnsworth and Dr. Roger Luckenbach. Lisa McMonagle '15 shares her experience.

    For the 2015 spring break, 16 students chose to devote the week to the study of natural history in Baja California Sur. Along with Dr. John Farnsworth and Dr. Roger Luckenbach, we made the trip to Baja California Sur to spend two days in the mountains and the following seven days kayaking around and camping on Isla Espíritu Santo.

    The seven days of kayaking was when everything changed.  The excitement was palpable and everyone was ready to hit the boats. We all learned to make wet exits out of the kayaks and then we were on our way. We kayaked every morning and were able to see all of the beauty and diversity the island had to offer. However, seeing this beauty and paddling along wasn’t what made this trip special; it was something much more than that. As the trip went along, it took some time for me to realize why I was having such an amazing time.  Of course we had a great group and the jokes and beautiful sights were endless. Then it hit me. We were learning so much!  Not only were we seeing unique and incredible species, we were learning about everything we were seeing as well.  I would turn over a rock and see a sunflower star and Dr. Luckenbach would show me its defense mechanisms, its tube feet, and tell me that it’s the fastest of all of the sea stars. When we swam with sea lions, I not only got to see two of them swimming and circling each other, I also learned that these two sea lions were young and it was likely they were playing with each other. When I saw the American Oystercatcher on the beach, I could identify it with ease and watch it search for food on the shore.  To be able to learn so much from our professors, to share this experience with so many other students who have the same passion for knowledge, and to be able to learn how to write and describe what we were seeing was what made this trip truly unbelievable.

    Even though we weren’t able to completely circumnavigate the island due to some massive headwinds, the gigantic smiles on the faces of every student, professor and guide on our last night in La Paz were undeniable. We all brought back ounces of sand (mostly in our clothing), sun kissed skin, and countless memories. The most important thing we brought back was knowledge that would have been almost impossible to gain in any other way. Each of us learned about the island, about natural history, about writing, and about ourselves. This is what made the 2015 Baja Expedition one for the books, and one that each participant is unlikely to ever forget.

  •  Fossil Free Santa Clara University (FFSCU) is working for Divestment

    Tuesday, Apr. 28, 2015

    Lisa McMonagle '15 and the Fossil Free Santa Clara University (FFSCU) student club encourage divestment from the top 200 fossil fuel extraction companies.

    Fossil Free Santa Clara University (FFSCU) has the goal of encouraging the university to divest from the top 200 fossil fuel extraction companies and commit to not making any new investments in these companies. By doing this, the universitycan join other schools and universities around the globe in taking action to combat climate change and sending a message that we do not support the practices of these companies. The principles of divestment fully coincide with the vision of the university to build a more humane, just, and sustainable world and also fits nicely with the university’s goal of climate neutrality.

    Since the beginning of the fall of 2013, Fossil Free SCU has been in full swing. During the 2013-2014 school year, the goal of the group was to introduce to the campus fossil fuel divestment and to make initial contact with members of the administration. Since then, the movement has only grown.

    In the fall of 2014, Fossil Free SCU made many strides in the divestments movement. Upon meeting with administration, the group was able to learn about aspects of the endowment of the university and see where divestment fit in the university’s sustainability goals. Additionally, the group was given a platform to open up the divestment discussion to the university. The Markkula Center for Applied Ethics invited CIO John Kerrigan, Markkula director Kirk Hanson, Markkula fellow Krishan Allen, and FFSCU leader Lisa McMonagle to participate in an open panel discussing the pros and cons of divestment. This event brought together many students and faculty members who were not extremely familiar with the movement and allowed them to make decisions on their own while hearing both sides of the case.

    For the rest of the year, FFSCU is hoping to have events and actions to continue to spread the word about divestment and gain support amongst students, faculty, staff, and alumni. This cause is vital to our university and crucial in the fight for our planet. The group is going strong, and all help and interest is welcome. If you are interested in learning more, “like” the Fossil Free SCU Facebook site or email

  •  Just Moving the Letters Around: SCU to USC

    Tuesday, Apr. 28, 2015

    Ben Frazier ’14 worked with professors Lisa Kealhofer, Lee Panich, and Iris Stewart-Frey on a GIS project that is mapping the cultural resources at SCU through time.


    I am currently a first-year Master of Planning (MPL) student at the University of Southern California (USC), with a concentration in transportation and infrastructure planning. The MPL program consists of a lot of reading and a lot of group projects. The information provided by my ESS classes (environmental justice, demography, climate science & environmental technology, to name a few) at SCU have laid a solid foundation for me to build upon. Additionally, the technical skills I’ve acquired, particularly GIS, has proven to be invaluable both academically and professionally during my internship with the City of Los Angeles, in the Department of Transportation’s Bicycle Outreach and Planning Program.

    USC is different from SCU in a number of ways. The school is considerably larger, has a massive graduate student presence (more grad students than undergrads), and has a campus culture centered around football. Our smaller MPL community has allowed for tighter bonds to be formed between fellow MPLs and our professors; very similar to what I experienced at SCU with both ESS and Political Science.

    Overall, I’m very happy here. Los Angeles is a planner’s sandbox with so much new development and transit expansion currently happening. I’m learning more and more everyday and enjoying all the things USC and Los Angeles have to offer. All this was made possible by the great faculty, staff, and students at Santa Clara by preparing me to excel with these opportunities. Go Broncos!

  •  William Burke ’13, Environmental Science - WET track

    Tuesday, Apr. 28, 2015

    William Burke '13 worked on a Cumulative Environmental Impact Assessment and a GIS project in Nicaragua with ESS professors Iris Stewart-Frey and Chris Bacon. He co-authored a peer-reviewed article and is currently a graduate student in Geography at Indiana University.

    Indiana University - Bloomington is quite different from Santa Clara University, and with the size of IU, is much more of a college town.  This is a new experience for me and I'm definitely enjoying it here!  My studies here are very focused around my research/thesis which is tentatively titled "Assessing projected impacts of climate change on small coastal basins of the Western U.S."  I'm learning a great deal both in class as well as outside of class, on my own, and with my adviser (Darren Ficklin).  I have found that in many ways I have been very well prepared for graduate school.  My time working as a research assistant, taking classes focused on my area of interest (hydrology), and the range of topics and the level of interdisciplinarity throughout my undergraduate courses (the ESS ones at least) all played big roles in preparing me well for where I am now.

    Inevitably, there are things I wish I had done differently, notably I wish I had taken more math early in my undergrad career, but I'm also learning things now that I never would or could have known to be useful four years ago (like MATLAB).  I'll be presenting my research and (some) results next week at the Association of American Geographers (AAG) conference in Chicago.

    Santa Clara University was wonderful for me – it helped in launching me toward my goals.

  •  Jennifer Laws ’15 – Research Assistant, GIS Teaching Assistant, ESRI Intern

    Tuesday, Apr. 28, 2015

    Jennifer Laws '15 has been doing research work with ESS professors Chris Bacon and Iris Stewart-Frey. She was recently accepted to the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at UC Santa Barbara.

    I am currently a senior majoring in Environmental Studies with a minor in Political Science. This year, I have been working as a teaching assistant for the “Introduction to GIS” course and as a GIS research assistant for Dr. Bacon and Dr. Stewart-Frey. I first became interested in research, specifically using GIS, during my sophomore year when I got the opportunity to work for Dr. Bacon, Dr. Stewart-Frey, and William Burke on the first Cumulative Environmental Impact Assessment of Santa Clara County. The following summer, I was able to work for the Department of Environmental Services at the City and County of Honolulu, where I used GIS to create maps and reports for numerous watershed remediation projects. Thankfully, all of these experiences using GIS allowed me to become a Community Maps intern at Esri (the leading company in GIS) for the summer of 2014. As an Esri intern, I primarily researched, downloaded, and cataloged free, open, authoritative data from nonparticipating cities worldwide that could be added to Esri’s topographic and world imagery basemaps. After finding how incredibly rewarding it has been to see how GIS research has been able to address and solve many environmental issues, I have been motivated to continue my higher education at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at UC Santa Barbara. Hopefully, I will be able to specialize in water resources management and use GIS to solve many water issues that are occurring and will occur in the future as a result of climate change.

    The best advice I have to give to students just starting out in the ESS major is to get a solid foundation in basic sciences and math. Not only will this help them figure out whether they want to be an environmental science or studies major, it will also help them to be more flexible in terms of their career goals and more marketable when they begin to look for jobs. After taking many ESS courses and having multiple environmental research and internship opportunities, I have found that the best people in the environmental field are the ones who can understand the scientific, economic, social, and political facets of environmental issues. 

  •  How to get your Foot in the Door in the Public Sector

    Tuesday, Apr. 28, 2015
    Sara Aliotti '13 recently advised one of our current seniors who is interested in Urban Planning on how to get started with an internship or entry level position in the public sector.

    “My biggest (and hopefully best) piece of advice for you would be to intern, intern, intern and apply, apply, apply.  I foundmy career through the various internship positions I held—I had a lot of fun and learned so much, too.

    Do you currently have a profile or profile set up?  If not, create them.  You will have job opportunities sent to you based on your interests and location.  I would encourage you to apply for positions you might think are “out of reach”. is a similar site that queries private sector internships.  Now is definitely the time to focus on your present situation, but with an eye for your future.  This being said, do yourself these favors:

    1. Ask around.  Ask your aunts, uncles, parents, professors, mentor, and any adult that might have an opinion about public vs. private sector careers.  Figure out what you value: pension vs. high salary vs. fast paced vs. predictable hours vs. helping people vs. growing a company, etc.

    2. Apply to at least one job per week. Getting on the Calopps and GovernmentJobs sites is a great start.  Also, try picking out some companies or municipalities you might want to work for. Find their HR page, and see if they have openings.  Even if they don’t have openings, shoot them an email with your resume and an offer to intern for them for a lower wage or for no pay.  At your stage in the game, experience is more valuable than any money they can pay you. Sounds cliché, but is so true.

    3. Try not to be overly picky, and never decide to not turn in an application because you think that you “aren’t qualified.” My motto during my job search was “Apply and let them decide if I’m not qualified.”— at the very least, you will become very familiar with your own resume, will get lots of interview experience, and will be exposed to lots of different locations and career paths you may not have considered.

    4. Keep your resume up to date, and save every cover letter and supplemental questionnaire you submit.  You’ll notice as you apply more and more, the application questions start to get repetitive.  You’ll save lots of time if you save your answers.  I have all of my application materials saved on, so I can literally access them and apply for jobs from anywhere I have internet service.

    Enjoy senior year, Go Broncos!

  •  Capstone Projects 2015

    Tuesday, Apr. 28, 2015

    Exploring Equitable and Sustainable Transportation Options for the 2016 Ballot Measure

    Client: TransForm
    Team: Harrison Price, Ian Earley, Genevieve Magnan, Gabriel Arámbula

    It is likely that in 2016, VTA will propose a ballot initiative to pass a sales tax that funds public transportation (about $3.8 billion).  This team conducted a study for TransForm, an urban environmental policy organization, on other cities that have successfully invested in transportation. Their work examined bike and pedestrian infrastructure programs, public transportation programs, affordability programs and sponsorships, and programs that promote the sharing economy.

    Understanding Consumer Barriers to Farmers’ Markets: A Partnership with the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association

    Client: Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association
    Team: Muriel Kenniston, Hannah Maryanski, Matteo Rodriquez, Kelly Ryan, Ellen Yun

    The goal of this team’s research was to understand Santa Clara County consumer grocery shopping habits and barriers to farmers’ market access. To this end, the students conducted surveys examining shopping patterns of grocery store shoppers and farmers’ market shoppers and analyzed their results.

    Analyzing Solutions for Unsafe Pharmaceutical Disposal

    Client: Recycling and Waste Reduction Division, Santa Clara County
    Team: Olivia Chambliss, Keely Graskamp, Allison McNamara, Mallory Miller

    The goal of this team’s research was to understand Santa Clara County consumer grocery shopping habits and barriers to farmers’ market access. To this end, the students conducted surveys examining shopping patterns of grocery store shoppers and farmers’ market shoppers and analyzed their results.

    Barriers to Cross: Wildlife Corridor and Policy Analysis in Coyote Valley

    Client: Santa Clara County Open Space Authority
    Team: Kate Cooper, Dana Kilsby, Elizabeth Malin, Emily Rudder

    Coyote Valley is located between the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Diablo mountain range in San Jose. This region is home to many animal species including coyotes, bobcats, and mountain lions but is currently under pressure from development. Through both spatial analysis and groundtruthing, this team identified potential wildlife corridors and policies that would help protect wildlife.

    Open Streets Comparative Analysis

    Client: Silicon Valley Bicycle coalition
    Team: Victoria Adetuyi, Tyler Brown, Anthony Carnesecca, Morgan Cowick, Savannah Hall

    Reflecting programs all over the world, the City of San Jose is implementing an open streets pilot program next October, 2015. This pilot will close 7 miles of city streets to street traffic, opening up the city to bikes, walkers and runners. This team created recommendations for a post-event evaluation based on four categories: economic, environmental, health, and social.

    Research for the Garden to Table Healthy Cornerstore Program

    Client: Garden2Table
    Team: Amanda Bostwick, Anna Prestbo, Lisa McMonagle

    AB 1990, a new California assembly bill law, allows urban residents to sell their produce and market it directly to the public. Garden2table is working with local corner stores to make this produce available to the public through their Healthy Corner Store Program. This team implemented a questionnaire to gauge public interest in participating in this program, as well as used comparative case-studies to examine similar programs in other cities. They also created a fruit tree care brochure as an incentive for program participants.

    Assessing the Walkability of El Camino Real in Santa Clara County

    Client: Greenbelt Alliance
    Team: Jennifer Laws, Alec Ratto, Lawrence Tse, and Frank Viviano

    El Camino Real is a hotspot for motor vehicle collisions with both pedestrians and bicyclists. This team examined walkability issue along this corridor, mapping collision hotspots and linking them to a lack of important pedestrian and bicycle safety features, such as timed crosswalks and designated bicycle lanes. This team recommended several safety measures including: designated greened bicycle lanes, physical barriers separating motor vehicles from pedestrians and bicyclists, a speed limit reduction for motor vehicles, and the narrowing of car lanes along El Camino Real.

    Fats, Oils, and Grease Control Options for the San José Environmental Services Department

    Client: Environmental Services, City of San Jose
    Team: Ian McCluskey, Andrew Quesada, Julia Peters

    Restaurant fats, oil and grease (FOG) impede processes in waste water treatment plants. This team evaluated the current City of San Jose FOG control program and identified two alternative program formats that would have examined alternative programming having the highest chance of meeting the compliance and costs goals, namely a “Preferred Haulers” strategy based on best management practices, data collection and incentives for FSEs, and an exclusive franchise strategy modeled after solid waste collection.

    Improving Energy Efficiency in San Jose K-12 School Districts

    Client: Environmental Services, City of San Jose
    Team: Matthew Burke, Manpreet Kaur and Uyen Mai

    Proposition 39 provides funding for schools to implement energy efficiency measures and facilities upgrades, yet many schools are not aware that this funding is available. This team surveyed school administrators to identify the key barriers districts face in accessing Proposition 39 funds and propose¬¬d recommendations to assist districts in successfully implementing energy efficiency measures.

    Connecting Local Agriculture with Local Consumers

    Client: Santa Clara County Food Systems Alliance
    Team: Margaret Roe, Drake Swezey, Nick Seabright

    Santa Clara County's farmland has declined by forty-five percent in the past twenty years and fifty-five percent of its remaining farmland is at risk over the next thirty years. This team project examined what local policies that encourage agricultural preservation and viability and policies that link local consumers to local producers.

    “Real Food” at Santa Clara University

    Client: Center for Sustainability, Santa Clara University
    Team: Sara Loewel, Rawley Loken, Tony Ferrari

    Santa Clara University’s 2015 Climate Action Plan contains numerous provisions to help the school reach its sustainability goals, and among these is an improvement upon dining services’ food purchasing principle. This team investigated the quantity of “Real Food” purchased by Santa Clara University, highlighting the areas where our campus food system was the most/least sustainable and examining which kinds of foods the university should focus on purchasing more sustainably in order to meet its target.

  •  ESS alumna Kelly Ferron '10, Waste Zero Specialist

    Tuesday, Mar. 10, 2015

    Before graduating from SCU in 2010, Kelly already had parts of her career trajectory figured out. She'd been awarded a Clare Boothe Luce grant to fund her research, had spent two years as a research intern with ESS faculty, and had presented research on endangered plant restoration at the International Congress on Conservation Biology.

    After graduation, Kelly went on to be a Zero Waste Intern for the City of San Jose, spending seven months working on policy implementation, especially preparing businesses for an upcoming plastic bag ban. After her internship, she went on to become a Sustainability Coordinator with Americorps, working for a year with the City of Issaquah Resource Conservation Office, where she performed habitat restoration on local parks and coordinated sustainability education programs.

    Kelly's first "real" job was as Recycling and Waste Reduction Programs Coordinator for the City of Kirkland, Washington. In that role she developed, coordinated and implemented both the city's internal and external waste reduction and recycling programs, as well as providing environmental education and outreach.

    Beginning last August, Kelly took a position as the Waste Zero Specialist for the Greater Seattle Area. She is now recognized as one of the top waste zero experts in the Pacific Northwest, and is developing state-of-the-art programming with Recology. Regardless of her current success, Kelly hopes to continue her education soon as a postgraduate researcher.

  •  ESS alumnus Carlos Carrillo '14 presents his research at scientific conference

    Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015

     In December, former ESS student Carlos Carrillo (Environmental Science, Water Energy and Technology Track, ’14) presented a poster on his undergraduate research with fellow undergrad Russell McIntosh (Environmental Science ’13), Iris Stewart, and colleagues at the annual American Geophysical Meeting (AGU) in San Francisco. The project examined increases in extreme stream flow and temperature events under climate change for the Sierra Nevada and Colorado River Basins.