Meet the Graduate Students

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“My goal is to  protect the quality of water on the central coast, more specifically, the waters flowing in to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary... This is where I live, surf, garden, hike, etc. It is where I choose to concert my effort, to make a difference.”

— Mike Powers, Graduate Student


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Earth Day 2016

Photo: ENVS Graduate students and faculty gather for the annual 2016 SJSU Earth Day event in matching t-shirts; showing support for a fellow graduate student's band which performed at the event       


Annie Ahmed

AhmedI was born in Pakistan and moved to the US at the age of 1. I was raised in the small town of Livingston, CA where everyone knows everyone. My love for nature blossomed in elementary school where I had the opportunity to raise juvenile salmon and release them into the Merced River when they came of age. It was a very inspiring and moving experience for me as a child. I moved to Sacramento in 2013 and began my career at CSU Sacramento where I received a Bachelor’s of Science in Environmental Studies. My undergraduate research was centered on how birds utilize flood irrigation versus subsurface drip irrigation, and how farmers in turn benefit from having birds present on their farms.  

I currently work for the United States Geological Survey at the California Water Science Center, primarily as physical science technician in the Organic Matter Research Lab, and provide field assistance. I analyze water samples for organic properties using absorbance and fluorescence spectroscopy along with dissolved organic carbon and nitrogen.     

My hobbies include exploring the outdoors, hiking, leisurely biking, reading, watching scary movies, and spending time with my adorable cat, Dewey. A fun fact about me: I speak 5 languages, one of them being a derived dialect of the other.

As a student at SJSU, I plan on working with Dr. Trulio and getting more into avian ecology. I learned that I enjoyed birding quite a bit during my undergraduate research, and I hope to continue down a similar path. I care for and appreciate the Earth very much and am excited about pursuing a career that’ll allow me to do that.


John Baker 

John BakerI was born and raised in San Francisco, California.  I hold a B.A from the University of San Francisco in English Literature with a concentration in writing, and a great books certificate from the Saint Ignatius Institute.  My parents are from the Philippines and immigrated here in the 70’s.  They continue to tell me stories of their homeland, and about all of them have something to do with the environment; swimming in the ocean, diving to catch clams, spearfishing, cooking seafood while Mynah birds in the background talk too much because they’ve become drunk from coconut wine. I’m nostalgic for a life that I’ve never lived. Summers as a child though were spent in San Leandro, where my cousin had a house with a yard.  Here I got to feed my environmental curiosity by observing slugs, snails, spiders, pill bugs, and squirrels.  Then we’d watch Marty Stouffer’s Wild America on PBS.  Eventually I started reading a bunch of environmental literature.  My favorites were Rachel Carson, Archie Carr, Aldo Leopold, Gary Snyder, and Thoreau, and Beatrix Potter. In my spare time I hike, swim, bike, ponder the plight of sea turtles and whales and write experimental short fiction, poetry, essays and comic books.  In keeping with tradition here, I also like play competitive online games with friends, and cyberpunk is totally my thing; I suppose dichotomy is what drives me. At SJSU, I look forward to researching water sustainability, humanity’s impact on the North Pacific Gyre, and how environmental technologies can be used to alleviate issues stemming from poverty. Poverty and homelessness is still a major issue here in San Francisco, as it was when I was growing up.  Maybe even more so now.  I’d like to use what I will have learned to lend a hand.  The North Pacific Gyre interests me not just because sea turtles live there, or that there’s a giant-sized island of garbage floating through it, but that something about its pull and flow gravitates me toward it, like some mysterious ancient cycle connecting me to where my family is from and where we now live. 


Gwen Barry

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.




Rachael Burnham

Rachael 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.


AnaLisa Campos

AnaLisa CamposI am an Urban Studies & Planning graduate from California State University of Northridge.  With a minor in Sustainability, my passion is protecting our environment.  I do not believe the Earth belongs to us, I believe we belong to the Earth and it is our responsibility to respect and nurture the resources we are granted.  I was employed by CSUN's Institute For Sustainability to tend the on-campus garden by planting, composting, and providing overall maintenance.  For me, there is not a better job than working outside with your hands and getting a little earthy.  I also like long bike rides on the beach, sleeping in hammocks, and discussing the inevitable zombie apocalypse.  I am excited to begin the Environmental Studies program at San Jose State!  I hope to learn more about the incredible world we all share and gain the knowledge and experience that will further my environment-saving regime!


Isabelle Cojocaru-Durand

Cojocaru-DurandI 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…


David Cowman 

David CowmanGrowing up in San Anselmo, Ca, a small town north of San Francisco, and attending UCSC for my undergraduate degree, I have literally spent my entire life in the habitats along the northern/central California Coast.  My father was a small-scale commercial salmon fisherman, my sister manages a teen outdoor education program in the Marin headlands, and my mom regularly backpacks the Sierra.  Essentially, a career and interest in the outdoors was predetermined for me the day I was born.

During my undergraduate career at UCSC I majored in Environmental Studies and focused specifically on Agroecology and Sustainable Agriculture.  I was captivated with the idea of creating sustainable food systems with the health of consumers and the environment in mind.  Upon graduation from UCSC I immediately took a job with the Golden Gate National Recreation Area performing trail maintenance.  It was through this job that I began to truly appreciate public land and the individuals who steward it.  After 9 months with the Parks Service I accepted a job with California State Parks as a member of the Natural Resource Management Crew in the Santa Cruz area.  As a Forestry Aide for the State Parks my natural resource duties are broad and far reaching.  One morning I may be sampling Steelhead Trout in Pescadero Lagoon and then that same night (literally) I may be clearing trees and spraying fire retardant around historical structures in preparation for a fire.  What has truly captivated me about natural resource management pertains to my involvement with our prescribed fire program. 

Through my research, broadly, I hope to delve into the intricacies of land management.  More specifically I am interested in how fire historically and currently affects a landscape.  I am interested in plants, animals, and ecosystems and how they have evolved to function cohesively within a landscape prone to frequent or infrequent fires. 

On a personal level I enjoy hiking with my dog, fishing, freediving, and frequenting taquerias in Santa Cruz.  I recently took up bike riding by biking 1200 miles with no prior training.   During this trip I enrolled in classes from my phone on the side of the road in the southern Arizona desert.  


Alex Dahl 

Alex DahlI was born and raised in Campbell and am eager to move back to the Bay Area. After completing my undergrad degree at San Diego State University, I have enjoyed living just a few blocks from the beach and working in market research. However, I am extremely excited to return to school to purse my true passion in sustainability. As an Aztec, I received an undergrad degree in Social Science (Environmental Studies) while participating on campus in several environmental, honors, and social organizations. Additionally, I spent a semester abroad in Melbourne, Australia, learning how other cultures practice sustainability while also touring around a beautiful country.

Growing up, I spent most of my childhood in the Santa Cruz bay, where while sailing, body surfing, swimming, and hanging by the waves, I developed a deep appreciation for the ocean. As I grew older and learned that not all people share the respect I have for wildlife, I knew that I would dedicate my life to preserving and educating others on the environment. During this graduate program, I look forward to studying environmental education and policy-- especially about the most effective ways to teach others the importance of incorporating sustainability into our daily lives.

In my free time, I enjoy watching Giants baseball, riding my cruiser to the beach, singing along (poorly) to country music, reading, and watching Criminal Minds. A fun fact about me is that one of the best days I’ve ever had was the day I snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef, despite the fact that my friends and I got terribly sea sick on the boat ride out there. I hope to do more travel like this in the future!


Claudia Damiani Fontana

I 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 forestry engineering. 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.


Ping Ding 

Ping DingI grew up in the northwest of China. I moved to the Bay Area with my family in 2018. After finishing my Bachelor's Degree and Master’s Degree in Plant protection and plant pathology I got the opportunity to work in Syngenta China as a pesticide regulatory manager from 2007. Syngenta AG is a global company in agribusiness that produces agrochemicals and seeds.  I have learned a lot of environmental aspect of pesticides during I0 years work in Syngenta. I am zealous about how pesticide will behave after applied to environment? How applying pesticide will impact on the environment? How the government regular and assess the pesticide before the product approved to use? Because of the enhanced regulation environment in China, I feel that I need come back to school to study the topics that the government and I are both zealous about.    At that time my husband got a position in Mountain View, CA, so I can fulfill my dream with my family now.  I am honored to be part of SJSU’s Environmental Studies Graduate Group to fulfill my goal of obtaining a graduate degree. In my free time, I like to spend my time with my family, trying to cook some amazing recipe I saw on a cooking book.


Michelle Domocol 

Michelle DomocolI was born on the East Coast but always felt California & Southeast Asia were my true homes. From 2004 to 2011, I worked and studied in Australia and the Philippines.   In 2007, I earned my undergraduate degree in Environmental Resource Management through Southern Cross University in New South Wales, Australia. As part of the undergraduate degree, I produced a thesis on agroforestry management in Cebu, Philippines.  After completing my bachelor's degree in Australia, I co-managed tropical agroecological projects in the Philippines. I was also employed as a lecturer and research assistant in Queensland University of Technology (Australia).  After six years of living overseas, I finally returned to the United States.  Here, I immersed myself in California's sustainable agriculture and environmental conservation movements. For the past five years in California, I worked as a freelance horticultural consultant and landscape designer.  My clients were both local and based in Asia.  I additionally taught at Bay Area outdoor schools and Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority. 

As I start a new chapter in my academic career, I'm thrilled to join Environmental Studies Master of Science program.   As part of my Master's thesis, I want to investigate climate-related changes in either Santa Clara Valley's oak woodland or chaparral communities.  I will also explore conservation agencies' strategies to stabilize oak woodland or chaparral communities.   Following the Master's program, I hope to join researchers as a Field Botanist or Resource Manager.  Through vegetation studies and other macroecological assessments, I aim to improve Santa Clara Valley climate adaptation responses and regional habitat restoration plans.

In my spare time, I love volunteering at Second Harvest Food Bank, Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority and climate justice non-profits like Filipino/American Coalition for Environmental Solidarity.  I also enjoy dancing, creating glass sculptures, and traveling in California and Asia.  In 2017,  I was invited to the Gourmand International Awards Ceremony in  Yantai, China. There, I received an international award for a farm-to-table cookbook I co-created.  The book was produced to share Filipino farmers' plant-based cuisine and raise funds for Philippine farmers' schools damaged by Typhoon Haiyan.


Claire Dormody 

Claire DormodyI was born and raised in Seward, Alaska, a small tourist town on the Kenai Peninsula. However, my family has always had close ties to the Monterey Bay area in California, and since about the age of 12 I spent winters there while I attended school, and summers up north. I was extremely fortunate; living in California gave me access to a much better education, but summers in Alaska let me keep the connection to my home, and growing up in both these areas gave me access to wonderful experiences camping, hiking, fishing, and exploring nature. On top of that, the move back and forth means I developed a love for travel when I was very young, which has only grown in adulthood.

I graduated with my undergraduate degree from UC Davis in 2014, where I majored in Technocultural Studies. The major is very much tailored to each individual, and in my case meant studying media and its place in our society, including the ways it’s used in marketing and advertising. I also spent some time studying audio software and sound engineering, which provided a really interesting practical component to a lifelong love of music. In the summers I continued to spend my time at home in Alaska, working in the commercial fishing industry with my family as I had since the age of 16. Although it’s a very physically demanding job, and left no time for much summer recreation, it’s an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Since graduating Davis I have moved to California full-time. I will probably always think of Alaska as home, but there are many more opportunities available to me here, in the lower-48. Though I spent some time working in marketing, I’ve found it’s just not for me, and I’m excited to begin my studies at San Jose State. I hope to focus on the commercial fishing industry and the ways in which it needs to be amended and improved for the sake of the oceans and fish we harvest, as well as for the people who make it their living.

Ideally I’d spend all my free time travelling, but when that gets impractical I’m happy to stay home and read, play some board games, and spend time with our ever-increasing menagerie of animals.


Peter DuBois 

Peter DuboisMy name is Peter DuBois. I was raised in San Carlos California, in San Mateo County.   I began my undergraduate education at the University of California, Santa Cruz undeclared. My freshmen year, I studied computer engineering, bioengineering, economics, and marine biology. However, I decided that I wanted to declare a major in environmental studies by the end of my first year. I felt passionate about helping to take care of the environment.

My education in environmental studies included restoration ecology, energy politics, climate change ecology, biogeochemistry, soils and plant nutrition, and tropical ecology. I chose to work on a group capstone project for my senior exit requirement. My group studied how pollution undermines the sustainability of watersheds. Each group member analyzed a different kind of pollutant and a different watershed scale ranging from local, regional, to international. My part of the project focused on analyzing industrial pollution in the Rhine river basin, and international management strategies.

During my studies I interned for the arboretum on campus, which primarily involved gardening and landscaping. I became familiar with a variety of different plant species, especially those native to California such as manzanita and needle grass. I also interned for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This internship was especially interesting because we studied the dietary ecology of coho salmon. We examined the distributions of mesofauna in benthic lagoon samples, from Scott Creek Lagoon, using microscopes. We compared the data to the stomach contents of the salmon.  Later on, I had the opportunity to help catch and tag coho salmon individuals.   

I currently work in Santa Cruz for two companies.  I work in the food service department for the Santa Cruz Seaside Company and I work for a locally owned grocery store called Staff of Life. I am interested in researching the intersection between environmental economics and human ecology for my graduate thesis. Outside of work I like to be outside and play basketball, soccer, and beach volleyball. A fun fact is that I swam with humpback whales off the coast of West Cliff in Santa Cruz. They swam about five to ten feet away from me.


Alycia Ellington

EllingtonI was born and raised in the Bay Area (San José and Mountain View). My entire childhood was focused around extra curricular activities like cheerleading, girl scouts, and volunteering. I have always been passionate and empathetic towards animals and the environment, but was first introduced to the study of the environment when I took APES in high school, and have been in LOVE ever since!

I completed my B.S. in Environmental Studies, with a concentration in Natural Resources Management and Conservation, from SF State in Spring 2016. My favorite experience in undergrad was having the opportunity to have an academic internship with the Facilities and Maintenance Volunteer department with the National Park Service, where I got to work on several restoration projects throughout San Francisco and the Presidio. Throughout my entire undergrad, I worked as a gymnastics and cheerleading coach, gaining over 7 years of experience with youth from 18-months - 17 years old.

 After graduating, I have held several environmental positions, from being a naturalist with YMCA Camp Campbell in the San Cruz Mountains to an AmeriCorps Outreach Campaign Coordinator with Rising Sun Energy Center. Most recently, I served a second term with AmeriCorps at San Mateo County Office of Education as an Environmental Literacy Fellow, where I was able to gain experience within the education system and got the opportunity to help develop curriculum for another SMCOE program.

As an Environmental Studies grad student, I look forward to studying environmental education, and restoration and conservation. I am very passionate about working with youth, and I believe the world becomes what we teach. I want to be able to help provide youth with the knowledge and tools they need to lead sustainable lives, while connecting them to their natural environment through experience-based lessons.

During my free time I enjoy going to the gym (especially body combat class), going on hikes, cooking, hanging out with friends, taking naps, watching warrior games, and going to drag shows. A fun fact about me is that I am obsessed with pickles and Mexican food (separately)!


Naseem Fazeli

FazeliI was born and raised in southern California. Growing up I had many different interests and hobbies, so I was always changing my mind on what I wanted to be when I was older. By the time I was in university I had settled on studying language. In 2017 I got a BA in Linguistics from UCLA. In 2017 I moved up to the Bay area to begin working as a linguist in industry.

The climate of southern California strongly shaped my view of nature from a young age. Because water is so scarce, I grew up learning about the necessity of resource conservation through school and my family. I strove to live conscientiously, though it only became more apparent over time that our society was still a long way off from embracing conservation. I felt limited in the impact of my individual contributions. I decided to apply for and join the Environmental Studies program at SJSU in the hopes that I could dedicate more of my time towards conservation. As much of my interest in environmentalism came from documentaries about forest ecology and hikes through California parkland, I plan to research forest conservation and restoration, looking at effective management practices and their cost.

In my free time, I like reading, dancing, playing music, and learning about languages from around the world.


Erin Fisher 

Erin FisherI was born and raised on the San Francisco Peninsula. I have always had an interest in animals and nature, and can't recall a time where I didn't want to visit the next zoo, aquarium, natural history museum, or state park. I earned my BS in Environmental Biology with a minor in Regenerative Studies from Cal Poly Pomona. Although I started out as a zoology major, I discovered that I preferred studying ecology and sustainability, and switched majors accordingly. My first ornithology course got me hooked on birds, and my undergraduate research project studied the habitat preferences of California Gnatcatchers.

Since graduating I have held positions with varying degrees of overlap between natural history and animal husbandry, from raising baby seahorses at the Monterey Bay Aquarium to handling and feeding ambassador raptors at Lindsay Wildlife Experience. Most recently, however, I have spent the last several years working as a wildlife rehabilitator, caring for all manner of sick, injured, or orphaned local wildlife, from skunks and squirrels to hummingbirds and hawks. In 2016, I began volunteering with the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory, learning to band and measure migrating raptors, and the experience inspired me to shift my career goals back towards field work and to develop a better focus on avian ecology.

As an Environmental Studies grad student, I hope to study avian ecology in urban environments, particularly the utilization of restored habitats or urban cityscapes. Although I will happily study any bird species, I get particularly excited for raptors and so hope to assist Dr. Trulio with her research on local Burrowing Owl populations.

My hobbies include birding, hiking, camping, tending an indoor garden of succulents, and more birding. I enjoy having small pets at home and have over the years cared for many rats, hamsters, aquariums, and quail. Fun Fact: I learned to ride horses in college after joining the Cal Poly Pomona Equestrian Team and am somewhat disappointed that riding through town on horseback is no longer an acceptable commute option.


Joia Fishman

Fishmanwas born in the Bay Area and have lived in the East Bay for most of my life. While growing up, I spent many hours exploring and volunteering in the East Bay Regional Park system. These experiences growing up gave me a great appreciation for urban wilderness and the natural world in general. I also took up birdwatching around the time I was in middle school and have continued this hobby ever since. I especially enjoy watching shorebirds at the Hayward Regional Shoreline.

I completed a B.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from UC Santa Cruz in 2018. During my time there, I became interested in botany and restoration ecology, specifically wetland restoration ecology. One of my favorite jobs in college was one where I would hike all over campus identifying and collecting plant specimens. While volunteering for a graduate student at Elkhorn Slough, I realized that I wanted to pursue a career in wetland restoration, especially as we are experiencing a global loss of these important ecosystems.

 Since graduating, I helped start a local phenology monitoring program in the native plant garden at a local high school. It was a great experience using my botany knowledge to help create a curriculum where students could monitor and better understand the plants they were already caring for. I spent time working in a horticultural nursery, where I honed my plant identification and general plant knowledge. I have also spent a summer working on a long-term riparian monitoring project for Pinnacles National Park.

At San Jose State, I hope to study wetland ecology and restoration in urban environments. I am very interested in urban restoration and how to create healthier urban ecosystems.

In my free time I enjoy playing music, birdwatching, hiking (and doing a little plant identification on the way), swimming, and dancing. I also enjoy reading and eating spicy food. One of my goals during graduate school is to further increase my tolerance of spicy food. Fun fact: I once stood on a glacier.


Lupe Franco

FrancoI was born and raised in the small predominant Latino community of Boyle Heights in Los Angeles. Living in the city, my parents were never outdoorsy people and so neither was I. I realized my love for the environment in college after taking a Natural Disasters class that sparked my interest in the relationship between climate change and humans. I pursued a Bachelor of Science Degree in Geology from Cal State Los Angeles and received a GIS certificate from Pasadena City College. After graduating I became a CivicSpark Fellow for the Sustainability Department at the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG). During my time with CivicSpark, I worked on the Green Region Initiative, Climate Adaptation Framework, and was a project manager for BE a Spark for Changea volunteer program assisting the non-profit Blueprint Earth in their cataloging efforts out in the Mojave Desert. My research interests primarily lie on Climate Change research and Environmental Justice. During my time at SCAG, I was awarded for my Storymap ‘The Environmental Injustice that Homeless Face’ touching on climate issues affecting the homeless living in Southern California. I hope to further delve into climate issues and fight for equity and climate justice!

My hobbies include finding cute dogs to pet, picking up pretty rocks while on hikes, re-watching Gilmore Girls for the hundredth time, and making Spotify playlists. An interesting fact about me is that in LA I was in an Aztec Dance group for about 10 years, I hope I can find a new team in San Jose.


Morgan Frankel 

Morgan FrankelI was born and raised in Boulder, Colorado where I spent most my time outdoors in the Rocky Mountains. For me, this time spent in nature created a deep appreciation and respect for our environment.

 In 2016 I earned my B.A. in Environmental Studies with a minor in Atmospheric and Oceanic Science.  My junior year, I studied abroad with Semester at Sea where we visited 11 countries by passenger ship. Learning about other cultures and their environmental issues and innovations furthered my desire to expand my knowledge on our environment and those who inhabit it.

 At SJSU I plan to focus on sustainable agriculture/sustainable city planning. I believe that where/how we live and what we grow/eat are some of the most important things we can focus on if we are going to have a sustainable future. Lastly, I like to spend my free time mountain biking, hiking, practicing yoga, and brewing beer!


Patrice Frazier 

Patrice FrazierI grew up in a small town on the outskirts of Los Angeles County called Topanga, which has been translated by some to mean, “Where the mountains run into the sea.” I have always had a fascination and empathy for the ocean, marine life, and the animals we share this planet with. Topanga’s accessibility to such a massive city as Los Angeles, while also providing access to the Southern California sage covered mountains and oak trees, as well as the Pacific Ocean are all characteristics of the environmental I called home that created who I am today. 

I graduated from Mount St. Mary’s University with a B.A. in Global Politics. While there, I focused on environmental, human and animal rights issues in Borneo (a Southeast Asian Island near Indonesia where most of our palm oil comes from) and Brazil. I then interned for the former Speaker of the California State Assembly, John Perez on matters related to bettering education for those in low income sections of the city, environmental policy legislation such as the Clean Air Act’s proposed carbon pollution standards for power plants, and LGBTQ rights in Los Angeles.

Once my time with the Speaker’s office finished I focused more heavily on SCUBA diving and educating myself on the life and geology of the ocean.  I joined the California Science Center as a volunteer SCUBA diver where I have volunteered weekly for the past three years as a presenter to the public on the kelp variety and local marine life that share the Southern California Coast with us.

 The ocean is full of mystery and wonder that can help us better understand ourselves. My mission is to help people better understand the Ocean. This fear of the unknown has led to the decimation of the Ocean, and the irreplaceable organisms that call it home. I believe that when fear of the unknown can be turned into understanding, compassion follows.


Heidi Giancola

GiancolaI was born and raised in Massachusetts, and grew up in a small town called Lunenburg. When I graduated high school, I moved out to San Diego to attend San Diego State University. I now hold a B.A in Anthropology with a minor in Sociology. I have a love for travel and experiencing other cultures. During my undergraduate I studied abroad in Canterbury, England. I also did a two month backpacking trip around Europe by myself and explored many different cities. After graduation I received a certification at San Diego State to teach English as a foreign language. This certification allowed me to move to Tokyo, Japan and teach English.

Anthropology inspired my desire to understand how humans interact with their environment. Through travel, I developed a fascination with cities and city life. With different cultures and communities there are different views of the environment and how it should be treated. My research goals are to understand the complexities of urban agriculture. I want to explore how to create sustainable agricultural land in cities, how biodiversity plays a major role, and how communities perceive or participate in urban farming. 

As most people going into studying the environment, I have a love for the outdoors. I enjoy hiking and playing soccer. I’m a big fan of the beach and reading by the ocean. I also dabble in pottery and enjoy spending my time experimenting on the potters wheel.


David Gonzalez 

David GonzalezMy name is David Gonzalez and I was raised in San Jose. I have had a love for nature as far back as I can remember. When I was a child I wanted to play baseball because it was near a creek that had frogs and when I played outfield I mostly looked at the bees, flies and butterflies that frequented the area. Except for occasional camping my family never went hiking and my idea of a park was in the middle of the city with monkey bars. I decided to join the workforce after a year of college immediately after high school. I worked the electric trade for a few years and decided that it wasn’t for me. I wanted to do something that worked toward my passion and built a better life for me and my family.

 I recently completed my undergraduate degree at SJSU. I want to study the impacts of human development on herp species. I hope to contribute to a better understanding of how development impacts the natural world. I achieved a B.S. in environmental studies and hope to teach middle school science or work to better the environment while interacting with children in some other way. I want my career to move toward educating students about the world around them and give them a love for protecting and sustaining a healthy environment. I want children to have a better connection than I had and to grow up with opportunities to explore nature and contribute to a better future.

 In my spare time, I like to paint miniatures, take hikes, birdwatch, go fishing, protest and spend time at the beach. One thing about me that people find interesting is my employment as a kindergarten aide for two years. I was hesitant when I accepted the position but it showed me how much I would love to teach. It was always funny to meet parents and relatives for the first time because they always presumed I was a parent.


Alyssa Hanover 

Alyssa HanoverI was born and raised in the Bay Area. As a kid we moved around a lot, the one constant I had was nature. We spent every weekend at the beach or in the forests that surround the Bay Area. My fondest memories are camping and hiking in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Throughout high school I volunteered at a science camp for kids in the redwoods, it was there that I realized I wanted to turn my love for the environment into a career. I left college after a few years to dabble in the working world. After having my daughter, I realized I could not just sit idly by while we destroyed this planet, so I returned to school to finish my degree.

I recently completed my Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies at SJSU where I focused my senior research project on coast redwood forests. I hope to focus my thesis research on redwood ecosystems and how these forests are recovering after historic logging events. After completing my degree, I would like to stay in academia and teach at the colligate level. It is my hope to help educate future generations on the importance of preserving the natural world and minimizing human impacts. When I have free time, I enjoy going on adventures with my daughter, hiking, camping, and spending time with family. Something people find interesting about me is that I am not afraid to get my hands dirty. I can spin a wrench and do all of my own car/motorcycle maintenance. 


Joie De Leon 

Joie De LeonBorn and raised in San Jose, I grew up in a home that always had a pet and this nurtured my love for animals. When I was young, I had a fascination with all the marine mammals at Sea World and even decided I wanted to train Orcas when I grew up. Although that dream changed, I still had a curiosity for wildlife and ecology. This curiosity guided my path to the Biology Department at SJSU where I graduated in 2012 with a B.S. in Biology with an emphasis in Conservation and Organismal Biology. My courses with lab field trips were my all-time favorites including Aquatic Ecology and Fishery Biology and Management. Being out in the field and working in rivers, creeks, streams, and lagoons gave me a deeper appreciation for aquatic life and introduced me to the beautiful open spaces all around the South Bay. After Graduation, I interned at the Santa Clara Valley Water District for over 2 years as a Student Wildlife Biologist while working towards a Geographic Information Science (GIS) Certificate at West Valley College. I also volunteered for multiple Graduate Students and was able to work with Kangaroo Rats and other small mammals at Pinnacles National Park, with California Red-Legged Frog in Santa Cruz County, and sampling California Tiger Salamander populations in Sonoma County. These experiences have pushed me to pursue my Master’s Degree where I am interested in continuing to work with aquatic creatures and concentrate on California Tiger Salamanders. Amphibians are a charismatic group of animals that not many people get to see and I would like to share my fascination and help others understand the importance in conservation to help protect these animals. In my free time (when I have some!) I like to bike ride with my boyfriend around the Bay Area and read while hanging out with my dog Xena and my cats Momo and Todo.


Jessica Gonzalez

Jessica Gonzalez I 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.


Peter Hilkene 

Peter HilkeneMy name is Peter Hilkene and I was born in Austin Texas to English parents, but I was  raised in Gilroy, California. I Completed my undergraduate studies at UC Davis where I earned a Bachelors of Science degree in Environmental Science and Management. By the end of the four years I had become deeply interested in the management of water in California, and California’s energy Policy, both I believed to be tackling some of the biggest environmental issues facing the state of California. I wanted to apply myself to working in these areas and I started looking for jobs where I could work within these topics. After graduating from UC Davis I took a job with Montrose Environmental group Air Quality Services division. Here, I would climb smokestacks gathering and analyzing samples to determine how much of a certain pollutant was being emitted from the stack. Using the results to determine whether they were in compliance with emissions regulations set by the local air district. I primarily worked on projects at Bay area refineries and natural gas turbines. Towards the end of my time there I had begun to manage a few projects of my own at the Chevron Richmond Refinery and Valero Benicia Refinery. Working at these places furthered my belief that a transition to renewable energy sources is desperately needed and as a student In the Environmental Studies Masters program I plan to focus my work on this transition. My hobbies include golfing, soccer both playing and watching (Go Quakes), and Brewing beer. A fun fact about me is that I once got to play a Basketball game in High School at Oracle Arena.


Lauryn Duoto (Hopper)

Lauryn HopperI was raised in Lake Arrowhead California where my love of nature stems from. I grew up in a house that bordered the San Bernardino National Forest, where I gathered a sense of appreciation for the natural environment. As I spent most of my childhood years in the forest, I decided to change it up by going to the vast farmlands and vineyards of Sonoma County. I obtained my B.A. in Biophysical Geography with a minor in Environmental Sciences and Planning in 2016 from Sonoma State University.

My senior thesis at SSU focused on a new method for placing weather stations. I enjoy studying meteorology and tracking storms. At SSU I was the Map Librarian and discovered an interest in interpreting maps. I also taught others how to read and utilize maps throughout the labs that I conducted.

My interest in the environment grew with my travels as I explored different cultures, climates, and ecosystems. One of my favorite memories was in Cambodia where I was able to climb the ruins of Angkor Wat. My hobbies include hiking, cooking, and painting.

I recently had an internship with the Sonoma County Regional Parks Department that focused on environmental education. I was able to teach youth about climate change and empower them to make a difference. At SJSU I hope to focus on sustainability through methods of conservation, and innovative processes to maintain a healthy environment. My fun fact is that I once got a black eye from being in a tomato fight.


Duncan Keller

Duncan Keller

I’m deeply fascinated by the microscopic world of soil. This curiosity sprang to life when I began gardening several years ago, and it would be accurate to tell you that it probably rescued me from years of misery.

I was a philosophy major as an undergraduate, and became very familiar with the question, “What are you supposed to do with that major?” Since I’ve always had an affinity for arguing, I convinced myself and others that law school was the answer. The opportunity to study logic and explore deep questions was critical to my personal growth. But the decision that law school was right for me appeared increasingly questionable. Eventually, health problems and the prospect of student debt became daunting, and I felt stuck as my first semester loomed ahead of me. Thankfully, my newfound relationship with horticulture overrode my fizzling aspirations for a law degree. An interest in natural resource management took root, and I applied to the ENVS graduate program here at San Jose State.

I’m convinced that regenerative agriculture is indispensable for confronting some major human-induced environmental problems. This conviction drives my desire to study the subject. A few topics that currently interest me are fungal ecology, integrated pest management, no-till crop production, and carbon farming. I’ve experimented with some of these concepts in my backyard garden, and I’m excited to explore them more rigorously in the graduate program. A fun fact about me is that my favorite pastime is wandering through the woods in search of wild edible mushrooms. Few things make me happier than finding a species I haven’t tried before.


Sara Khosrowshahi Asl

Sara KSara has developed an interest in environment and agriculture from her early years. She has spent most of her childhood at her parent’s orchards and vineyards. Sara was born in Reading, England. She was raised in Iran, and now lives at Los Gatos, California. She got her Bachelor of Science in Water and Agriculture engineering. Her interests are in water management, water quality, ground water modeling and sustainable agriculture. During her bachelor years, she had some experience on forecasting the Reservoirs Inflow and Designing Irrigation Systems of farm lands. She has written a paper on optimizing a model for protection of flood areas. Also, she was awarded for her device called field drain filter test during her bachelor years. She has worked on designing a combination of drip and surface irrigation system for agricultural fields. She loves to spend time and go on adventures with her family of three. On her free time, she volunteers at her son’s school and does fundraisings for homeless and kids’ education. Besides that, she loves to cook and have get-togethers. One of her favorite things to do is to sit in a local coffee shop and read a book. Finally, she always finds time for meditation and long walks.


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. 


Julia Larson 

Julia LarsonI can catch dragonflies with my bare hands, or I did once which ought to allow me to make that claim. I have a B.A. of Environmental Studies and a B.S. in Cognitive Science from UC Santa Cruz. I've spent the last 5 years working as a firmware and software engineer for controlling scientific equipment and cameras. I've decided to pursue a Masters at SJSU in order to help bring the wonderful technologies being worked on in Silicon Valley to the world of environmental conservation.


Will Lawton 

Will LawtonI was born and raised in Ben Lomond, California, in the heart of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

I studied Wildlife Biology at Humboldt State University, and graduated with a BS in 2013. While at Humboldt, I worked extensively with Peregrine Falcons and threatened Snowy Plovers, and was a member of the 2012 Wildlife Society’s winning Quiz Bowl team. My undergraduate thesis, “Self-stranger song discrimination in a territorial suboscine, the black phoebe, Sayornis nigricans”, studied whether black phoebes learn their song or inherit it through genetics.

 Since leaving Humboldt I have been working as an Ornithologist for various companies across the United States. My work has focused predominantly on the conservation of birds of prey that are threatened species or species of concern. My field experience includes seasons of aerial golden eagle population surveys out of a 4 seater Cessna, and too many hot days wandering the Mojave on point count surveys.

 When I’m not surveying from a tiny plane, I enjoy birding, playing soccer, wildlife photography, and spending time outside with my wife and our Australian Shepherd. As a graduate student at SJSU I will be studying the distribution and population dynamics of wintering burrowing owls in the Diablo Range.  


Tino Le 

Tino LeI was born in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam and moved to San Jose, California at the age of nine.  Soon after, my family and I moved to San Luis Obispo where I resided for the next five years of my life. I decided to move back to San Jose in my late teenage years.   After graduating high school in San Jose, I attended De Anza college to get enough transfer credits so that I could apply to a University.  I graduated San Jose State University in 2017 with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies concentrated on habitat restoration and resource management.  During my work at SJSU, I became fond of scientific research and literature which is why I decided to continue my academic journey. 

I hope to work with arthropods as I work on my Master at SJSU because they often play an important role in our environment which we often ignore.  By bringing more light onto their beneficial roles, arthropods can be better appreciated. 

Outside of my academic work, I work with the Environmental Volunteers to bring hands-on nature learning and field trips to elementary schools in the Bay Area.  I also enjoy cycling, running, hiking, and mixed martial arts on my time off.


Lee-Tan Lu

Lee-Tan LuHi! I’m Lee-Tan, you can call me Denise. I was born in Taoyuan, Taiwan. Since me and my sister were small, our parents always bring us to go hiking, swimming, cycling etc. in every holiday. In fact, there are at least 50% of Taiwan area are covered by over 1000 alt. meter mountains, so it’s usual that we always go deep into mountains. Not only going up to the mountains, but we also enjoy jumping into the sea. All of these activities and memories make me have intimate connection with nature, and found interests from them. When I was in college, my major is Life Science, concentrated in population fluctuation of shrew and animal behavior in zoo, later, I joined the project company in Italy for international internship, then assisted research of Circular Economy as an intern in foundation in Taiwan. With all the lessons I learned from college project and internship, I’m interest in and decided to focus on sustainability, particularly in life cycle assessment, production network, energy and green technology to continue pursuing the further practical and professional knowledge of industrial ecology.

Apart from the academic side of me, I enjoy outdoor activities a lot, such as hiking, nature photography, snorkeling, and volleyball etc. On the other side, I also like listening various type of music, watching movies, episodes, and having fun in amusement park. One funny fact of me, when I was about 5 years old, my mom held my hand walked through in a park, without any noticing, I bumped my head into a pillar, I didn’t cry but laugh.


Rosemary Martinez

Rosemary AlvarezI was born in San Francisco, raised in San Mateo, and reside in San Jose.  I am a first generation Mexican American and fluent in Spanish.  I completed my undergraduate at U.C. Berkeley where I received a B.A. in Political Science.  I also have an A.A. in Environmental Studies from De Anza College.  I am quite passionate about nature and my hobbies include anything related to the environment, specifically bird watching, hiking, and traveling.  I love to hike all over the Bay Area, getting to know the beautiful places in my own backyard.  I once backpacked from Foothill College to Waddell Beach - this was quite the experience!  Alum Rock Park is a favorite place to visit, as I love the hiking trails where I routinely exercise.  Places I have traveled include Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Mono Lake!  Admiring the majestic beauty of these places inspires me to protect our natural world.  Conservation, preservation, and restoration of the natural world are important to me.  I want to help protect endangered species and prevent more of our beloved creatures from becoming endangered.  For my thesis, I would like to focus on avian research.  I currently work for the City of San Jose in the Environmental Department where I participate in creek clean ups, public outreach, and all things related to trash.  Maintaining our streets, drains, and watersheds litter-free is one of my important tasks.  For my future career, I would like to continue working with riparian areas, watersheds, and wildlife.  An interesting fact is that I went to Belize for an internship to study the rare Solitary Eagle.  While in Belize, I learned about their natural world, remarkable animals, striking plants, and their culture.  I met many interesting and amazing people.  They are advocates for nature and they know much about their flora and fauna.  Many of the people are studying in the field of ecotourism.  This is great because the beauty of Belize can continued to be preserved through awareness.  I would love to return to Belize one day!


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.


Nanako Oba

ObaI was born in a city called Utsunomia, the largest city in Tochigi Prefecture in Japan known for their famous strawberries and tasty dumplings. I do not remember the time that I have spent there since after 6 months I was born, my family and I moved to Santa Clara, CA. I have spent almost 11 years there, growing up with the beautiful nature of California. I was a child who loved to read illustrated reference books of animals, plants, space, etc. Furthermore, enjoyed visiting to places such as the forests and the beaches. These experiences in the Bay Area had led me to become very curious of science and the environment.

 After my family and I have moved backed to Japan, I enrolled to Japan Women’s University in Tokyo majoring in Chemistry and Biology. During my undergraduate years, I had an opportunity to go to SJSU as an exchange student for a year and decided to choose classes from the ENVS program! It was a whole new experience for me. I was thrilled and have enjoyed my time there learning and interacting with the students/faculty. Moved by their passion of caring about the nature, that triggered me to becoming even more environmentally aware.  Since graduating collage, I have experienced several jobs including laboratory works, plus regulatory works/consultant of chemical substances where I have communicated with the Japanese companies and wonderful colleagues in Japan and from other countries such as the UK and Korea who have diverse backgrounds.

I am ecstatic to be back at SJSU! In my very new chapter as a graduate student, I plan to study more about forest management and hoping to gain further knowledge in other areas as well in order to contribute to the society in the near future.

My hobbies include drawing, arts & crafts, and taking pictures with my polaroid camera (Still practicing!). I do love to open up and experience new things. Also, a huge fan of animals, especially cats! Now that I am back in California I am looking forward to visit to beautiful places where I can enjoy nature!


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.


Ryan Phillips

Ryan PhillipsI always had a passion for the environment and biodiversity as I spent much of my childhood in nature as my family instilled in me key environmental values. I was born in Santa Cruz, California and grew up in the Santa Cruz Mountains, but currently reside with my wife, Wendy, and daughter, Farrah, in Campbell. My Bachelor of Science in Wildlife, Fisheries, and Conservation Biology with a specialization in Ornithology from the University of California at Davis prepared me well for a career as a wildlife biologist. After graduating from UC Davis in 2004, I was hired as a Field Biologist with The Peregrine Fund on the Belize Harpy Eagle Restoration Project. After living in Belize for three years and witnessing the persecution of raptors I founded the Belize Raptor Research Institute to give locals opportunities in research and conservation. I returned to California and received a teaching position at De Anza College in the Environmental Studies Department and later became the Program Coordinator for the Wildlife Science Technician Program in the Department where I currently teach fourteen different courses. This has allowed me to combine the classroom and the field studies courses as a way to impassion and inspire students about conducting research. In the process, I have been able to show that science is not intimidating, but exciting—as it is truly a discovery and exploration of questions. To further inspire future environmental biologists I co-founded the Talon Ecological Research Group, a local non-profit organization, to give early-career biologists and students an opportunity to gain experience. As a Talon Biologist I am currently working with Tricolored Blackbirds and Burrowing Owls. In my spare time I band raptors at the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory. I have published numerous papers related to bird ecology and have presented at various scientific conferences. My research interests are in bird ecology, specifically movement patterns, human interactions, and symbiotic interactions, as it relates to wildlife conservation. I am honored to be part of SJSU’s Environmental Studies Graduate Group and having Dr. Trulio as my adviser to fulfill my goal of obtaining a graduate degree.


Raji Rajesh

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!


Sherilyn Reinhart

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

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

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”.


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.


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.


Ashari Taylor-Watson 

AshariI am from Williamsburg, Virginia and growing up there shaped my world view and values. Williamsburg being the birthplace of America, and a very important beginning to a great country, my experience was unique. I lived in a living museum.  I was enthralled in history and introduced to simulated environments, which has always peaked my curiosity about how environments shape reality. I graduated from Hampton University in 2014 with a B.A in Political Science. I decided that to be the change I wanted to see, I had to help turn policy into practice. My passion includes Environmental Justice specifically in low-income communities of color, Food Security, Resource Allocation and Community Involvement. I have always been blessed to see different perspectives and have always wanted to help those who weren't as fortunate as me to advocate for themselves in different spaces. That sparked my interest to study Environmental Justice and continue my education as a Spartan at SJSU. With goals to learn about all of the different careers that are associated with environmental studies, I am extremely excited about starting my education here. I know being educated here will help me achieve one of my goals of creating programs and using technology to help teach low-income communities of color about nutrition and food security.  I am a country girl, who has had the pleasure of traveling and living in different places such as Miami, FL and Washington D.C for a year. As I traveled I saw that everyone does not have the same platforms and outlets to really voice their concern about their health. Getting to know and learn these people, continue to push my passion of forward. In my personal time, I am adventurous. I love to travel, read, nature, dance, music, and eating different foods from different cultures. I am active; I try to work out as much as I can. I am excited to


Nicole Tomes-Orlale 

Nicole TomesI grew up in Southern California where I attended school at Mount San Antonio Community College to pursue my goal of becoming a Veterinary Technician. While taking classes there, my outlook was changed as I learned more about the topics of sustainability and wildlife conservation and this led me to think about animal care from a new perspective. Consequently, I changed my major, transferred to Cal Poly Pomona to learn more about the relationship between humans and wildlife and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Biology. 

I have worked as a Recreation Leader at the San Dimas Canyon Nature Center where I handled and cared for native mammals, reptiles, and raptors that were injured or habituated to humans. I also educated the Junior Naturalists and gave presentations of the animals to the public. While in school, I explored the field of marine ecology and human impacts by assisting the graduate students in the Biological Sciences Department with their research. One research project included identifying impacts that human visitation had on the foraging behavior of Black Oystercatchers in the rocky intertidal zones of Southern California. This project inspired me to apply to graduate school to perform my own research.

For my thesis at San Jose State University, I am interested in conducting field studies to identify a source of anthropogenic influence to sensitive species in the Bay Area that may alter the functioning of the ecosystem. I aspire to bring awareness to the importance of natural areas and wildlife through education and film/photography.

I love being outdoors and trying new adventurous activities. Some of my hobbies include traveling, camping, hiking, biking, bird watching, indoor rock climbing, and yoga. An interesting fact about me is my first international experience was traveling to Kenya and going on a safari at the Maasai Mara National Reserve which inspired me to learn more about how different cultures connect to nature and I hope to visit there again!


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.


Patricia Ury

Patricia UryI was born and raised on that island in New York that looks like a fish.  Yes, I'm speaking of Long Island!  Therefore you can assume (and would be right) that I like the Yankees, Giants, and Rangers.  I received my B.S. in Adolescence Earth Science Education from C.W. Post – Long Island University, and taught middle school science for the past year.  It is an amazing experience to be able to fuse both your passions of working with kids, and teaching about life and the environment.  For my thesis, I plan to focus on Environmental Education, to further enhance the connection between the two.

I am moving to California to not only obtain my Master's degree, but to seek out more of an adventurous lifestyle.  I enjoy trying new things, especially if it involves the outdoors.  I LOVE to be active, push myself out of my comfort zone, and do anything that is sporty.  Unfortunately for most of the year, the weather in New York did not permit me to do such activities and be outdoors; this is why I feel that California will be a great change for me!

I love to travel, meet people, and learn about different cultures.  I have been to several countries thus far.  My most recent travel plans are to go to Thailand, and backpack through Europe and South America.  While studying abroad in Australia, I discovered my passion for more of an environmental approach as opposed to just Earth Science alone.  This is what ultimately led me to pursuing my masters in Environmental Studies.

Fun facts: I have danced pretty much my whole life and will find any excuse to do so; in my car or in class, it's never a bad time to have a dance party.  Some other hobbies and things I enjoy include: hiking, running, yoga, going to the beach, camping, skiing/snowboarding, and I would love to take up surfing while in California.


Justin Weiss

Justin WeissMy full name is Justin Ian Weiss and I was born at 10:11 a.m. in Evanston, Illinois.  I spent most of my youth living in the scorching oasis better known as Phoenix, Arizona.  One final move westward took me to my current homestead of beautiful San Diego, CA.  Family camping trips at a young age can be credited with instilling the environmental passion that drives my academic/professional aspirations today.

I graduated from the University of Arizona in the fall of 2010, earning a degree in Environmental Studies with a focus in policy and law.  Some of my favorite classes throughout my college years included organic chemistry, medical ethics, any political science class, and psychology 101.  Along with my unwavering passion for test taking and writing papers, I love becoming involved in campus clubs and activities; meeting new people and trying new things is what I live for.

Areas of interest and intrigue for my graduate studies lie within the following fields: sustainable development in urban/corporate settings, renewable energy, and agriculture.  I would love to pursue a thesis that somehow intertwines all three fields along with their impacts on society.

I am a huge college sports fan and will forever be a U of A Wildcat, but I look forward to jumping on the Spartan bandwagon.  Besides my somewhat unhealthy obsession with all things sports, I also enjoy reading a good book, any outdoor activity, listening to good music/getting down on the dance floor, and cooking.  On the flip side, some of my biggest dislikes include styrofoam, olives, electricity wasters, and naps.

FUN FACT: I went skydiving on my 18th birthday and bungee jumping on my 20th birthday.  I laugh in the face of danger!


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.