Meet the Grad Students

Student Surveying

“I have received tremendous support and encouragement from the faculty and staff in the EnvS department throughout the course of my graduate studies at SJSU.  Once admitted into the graduate program, you become more than an individual student, you are part of the EnvS team.”

— Lauren Hanneman, MS Candidate (2012)

Donate Online


Contact the Graduate Program Coordinator

For more information about the MS degree in Environmental Studies, please contact the Graduate Program Coordinator at

Rosemary Alvarez

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!


Christian Ardeleanu

I graduated in June 2009 from the University of California, Irvine with a major in Earth and Environmental Science and a minor in Global Sustainability. I am currently writing this in Cuzco, Peru, which, including Ecuador, is where I’ve been traveling this summer. Tomorrow I leave for Bolivia, and I’ll be there until I return to California. During my travels I have been trying to grasp the essence of both natural and cultural areas in the grander scheme of how they interrelate. I am interested in how consciousness shapes natural resource use, conservation, and preservation. Since I have solely been within the boundary of the ancient Incan empire, I have been analyzing how the Incan mind set relates to nature, the cosmos, and natural resource production; and furthermore, how this mind set has been passed through to the living descendents of the Incas in a contemporary setting. In this sense, I have found interest in the sustainable farming and housing industries of Peru and Ecuador.

When I’m not traveling I enjoy skiing, hiking, rock climbing, mountaineering, reading, playing an instrument, dancing, basically anything, as long as I’m doing it in the mountains. The Sierra Nevada has been my home since I was a little child, but I have been living there for the past year since I graduated from Irvine. I also enjoy the coast, especially that of northern California where the coastal redwoods grow close to the beach. I am particularly fond of marshes as well after working at the San Joaquin Marsh in Orange County during my years as an undergrad. Another area I love is the southern California sage scrub community. The smell of California Sagebrush will forever remind me of my childhood.


Jeondra Arrington

Jeondra ArringtonI am a San Francisco Bay native from Alameda, California. I graduated from Sacramento State with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies and a minor in Biological Sciences in the spring semester of 2012. I focused my undergraduate studies on the ecology and management of hydrological systems including wetlands ecology, riparian restoration, oceanography, and natural resource conservation. I wrote my undergraduate thesis on the effects of invasive plants on the water supply in semiarid areas and locations such as the Sacramento Valley and South Africa. I am currently interested in watershed ecology and water resource management with respect to water supply and quality.

I have, in the past, done an internship with a community group called Alchemist Community Development Corporation in Sacramento, running an urban farm stand throughout the summer and fall. Most recently I worked in the Stanislaus National Forest with the U.S. Forest Service as a biological science technician during the summer. I spent most of my time conducting sensitive plant, Spotted Owl, and Northern Goshawk surveys throughout the forest in Calaveras County and working out of the Calaveras Ranger Station. I have also participated in a variety of volunteer work including helping out at the East Bay SPCA and being a part of a number of American River Clean Ups with the American River Parkway Foundation.

I enjoy watching hockey, soccer, and movies, hiking with or without my Wirehaired Fox Terrier Yuna, biking, cooking, maintaining my vegetable garden, and writing.


Gina Bacigalupi

Gina BacigalupiWhile working as an environmental educator for over five years, Gina discovered she had a passion for helping people connect with their food by bridging the gap between farm and table. She loves farming and gardening and is enjoying gaining more experience with both. She would like to have a career that allows her to be a farmer as well as an educator.

She is thoroughly enjoying her time in the Environmental Studies Department at SJSU and has made many wonderful friends and connections. For her thesis, she is working in tandem with CSU East Bay. By consulting stakeholder perceptions and preferences and performing a site analysis, Gina is evaluating the feasibility of installing an educational farm on an urban university campus.

A lover of languages, Gina looks forward to becoming more fluent in French, Spanish, and Italian and to taking on Portuguese and German, too. She also hopes to do lots of traveling so she can put her language skills to use and experience cultures first-hand. She likes spending time with friends and family, going to the theatre, gardening, reading, hiking, cooking & baking, and riding her horse, Dixie.


Cassie Bednar

Cassie BednarI am a Bay Area native originally from Gilroy, CA. I graduated from UC Santa Cruz in 2010 with a B.S. in Marine Biology. I am currently working for PRBO Conservation Science on Santa Cruz Island in the Channel Islands as a seasonal field tech doing seabird surveys and nest monitoring. I am looking forward to continuing my education in environmental studies so that I can continue to research and impact our coast in positive ways. When I’m not working, I enjoy traveling, hiking, photography, going to the movies, baking, and BBQing with friends.


Atossa Behzadi

Atossa BehzadiI was born in Iran and received my B.S in Cellular Biology from Tehran University in 2001. I immigrated to the United States after college and then moved to Davis three years ago with my husband and two sons (6 and 9 years old). I worked for the Agricultural Health Center as a research assistant and as a result became interested in environmental issues relating to the health of farm workers. I used to be the coordinator at the kid’s garden on UC Davis family housing, where we grew organic vegetables. It was a great experience for our kids to get connected to nature and learn how food grows. I look forward to studying environmental studies and would like to focus on water resources and the application of statistics in environmental issues. I teach Persian cooking classes at our Co-op grocery store in Davis. In my free time I like to get together with my friends, cook, bike, travel and read with my kids.


Lisa Benham

Lisa BenhamSelf-described as a “radical generalist,” I prefer to embrace this as a fruitful if meandering symptom of being endlessly curious about how everything relates to everything else. My undergraduate studies were in fine art, music, and psychology, so graduate work in environmental studies felt like a most interdisciplinary compliment toward understanding our complex world, and what best we might do in response. I began this same M.S. program back in January of 1991, focusing then on solar architecture, before requirements of raising a family, and an exciting if accidental career as Silicon Valley web/graphic design consultant took over for a while. My quandaries over our planetary situation never waned, and I returned here in January 2007, this time concurrently earning a GIS certificate, as the perfect blend of graphic communication and broad earth analyses, especially as an obsessive map lover for my entire life. I enjoyed putting several of these skills and knowledge sets to frequent use, while working for SJSU's Sustainability Initiative over our 2009-2010 launch year.

Then, in enthralling harmony with the Buddhist chaplaincy training program I’ve since begun, my thesis focus has shifted from researching climate change communication, psychology, and engagement, to now exploring the more personal, “spiritually connective,” rehabilitative, and/or transformative experiences reported by prison inmates, as a direct result of their participation in hands-on science education, sustainability, and endangered species and habitat restoration programs, offered within the Washington State Department of Corrections. From there, I’d like to contribute to developing a very nascent field of “environmental chaplaincy,” by expanding similar bi-directional healing opportunities, within correctional facilities, and beyond.


Swarali Bhat

Swarali BhatI earned a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Environmental Sciences from the University of Pune, India. I had a summer internship where I studied restoration of the one of the lakes in Pune and continued research on bioremediation for my thesis project. After graduation, I began working for an environmental consultancy where I gained extensive experience in preparation of catchment area treatment (CAT) plans, river restoration and beautification projects, and lake rejuvenation proposals. I was part of a team that prepared a comprehensive catchment area treatment plan for the entire Satlujriver basin in Himachal Pradesh, India. Satlujriver is known to be the longest of the five rivers that flow through northern India. It is first of its kind CAT plan in India which had a basin wide approach. I was lucky to visit the picturesque Himalayas as part of this project.

At San Jose State University, I am looking forward to specialize in sustainability, water resource management, environmental management, and energy conservation. I am a complete foodie with passion for cooking and trying out different cuisines! I love spending my free time in art and crafts like quilling, origami, hand embroidery, and fabric painting. I also like to explore new places and beaches are my favorite! I adore all types of furry pets. I have special interests in adventure sports like rafting, bungee jumping, and skydiving. I enjoy watching different species of birds come to feed on my patio bird perch that I made from recycled material!


Sutapa Biswas

Sutapa BiswasI am a science graduate with some exposure in the field of Environmental Science and also some field experience in Integrated Pest Management. I was born and brought up in West Bengal, an eastern state in India. I obtained my bachelor's degree in biological sciences with a major in Zoology. I did my master's degree in Environmental Science, which helped me gain in-depth understanding of the integrated, quantitative, and interdisciplinary approach to the study of environmental systems. My master’s dissertation focused on the extent and level of adoption of Integrated Pest Management practices in crop and vegetables. I gained some experiences in characterization of biological soil crust while I was working as a volunteer research assistant at Arizona State University.

I love spending time with my family, reading novels, listening to music, biking, and a bit of hiking and camping too. I am looking forward to start my master's program in the coming fall semester in Environmental Studies and spend some quality time with my new friends and colleagues.


Nora Cata

Nora CataI received my undergraduate degree from UC Santa Barbara in Environmental Studies and Global Peace and Security. After college, I spent two years working in marketing for a software company. While this gave me valuable insight into the corporate world as a young professional, my passion remained in Environmentalism. Now I'm excited to come back to school and pursue that dream!

I've always had an affinity for the natural world, but it wasn't until I read Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma" that I decided to declare Environmental Studies as my major. It was the tipping point for what would soon become my future and my interest in environmental topics flourished. When it came time for graduate school, I wanted to research something that was close to my heart. I belong to the Seneca-Cayuga, Comanche and Ohkay Owingeh tribes, and given my background, I desired to explore energy and policy on American Indian reservations. I'd also spent my formative years on the Navajo reservation in New Mexico which has a long history of environmental disputes (often as a result of outside corporations). Now, the Navajo Nation's most recent dilemma emerges from their dependence on coal for economic livelihood despite its environmental degradation. Because of its governmental sovereignty, the reservation faces unique policy-making decisions when facing EPA standards, alternative energy and corporate responsibility. I'm excited to dive into how alternative energy plays a role in American Indian reservations and what sort of solutions lie ahead.

On a more personal level, my hobbies include traveling to new places and soaking up the local culture; I love a spontaneous adventure! The past few years I've enjoyed checking off a list of my favorite artists by going to live concerts or camping at music festivals. While I have fun being active, I also appreciate the calmer side of life. My idea of paradise is sitting under the sun reading a good book and enjoying a cool glass of Chardonnay. Modest Mouse might be playing in the background and in the distance my (future) dog would be bounding through the ocean waves. All-in-all I'd say that my tribal names are aptly descriptive... in English they can be translated to Laughter, Prairie Flower, and One Who Loves Animals. Interesting/Funny Fact: I spent Sundays my sophomore year cleaning up Gorilla poop.


Nicole Catalano

Nicole CatalanoOriginally an East Coast transplant, Nicole has lived in the San Francisco Bay area since 2000.  She originally graduated from the University of Connecticut in 1998 with degrees in English and Journalism.  She developed her passion for conservation and sustainable natural resource management after spending a year traveling and volunteering in Central America.  Her professional experience includes working with the for-profit and non-profit sectors, including environmental NGOs.  This includes campaign, media, and public policy work on the following topics: global warming, climate change, arctic drilling, fossil fuels, endangered species, water pollution, ocean conservation, and public land conservation.   Her research interests include marine conservation and public policy.  Nicole speaks both German and Spanish and hopes to have an opportunity to do international work one day.  In her free time, she likes travel, learning languages, exercise and sports, and spending time in the outdoors.


Billy Christian

Billy ChristianI’m the younger of 2 siblings and was blessed to have grown up in one of the most beautiful parts of California. I call Arnold/Murphys, CA home, which is located right smack dab in the middle of the Stanislaus National forest. Growing up here provided a plethora of beautiful places to explore.

I graduated from Cal State University, Long Beach in 2007 with a degree in Environmental and Physical Geography. During my time at SJSU I intend to focus my research on Sustainable Forestry, Agriculture, or Environmental Policy. As you can see, I am sort of on the fence right now regarding my thesis but I do know that I would love to spend the rest of my life doing conservation work. I love the outdoors and many activities that involve being outside.

I enjoy telemark skiing, cycling, hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, and surfing to name a few. I love reading, watching Seinfeld, spending time with close friends and family, and I love the San Francisco Giants. An interesting fact about me would be: Last summer, a friend and I did a cycling tour from Portland, Oregon to Grover Beach, California. It took 21 days to travel 1,200+ miles. I consider this trip one of the most epic things I’ve ever done and would recommend doing a cycle tour to anyone seeking a great adventure!


Lisa Henderson

Lisa HendersonI grew up in the east bay in Danville, California. I moved to Hayward when I started my bachelor's in 2004 at California State East Bay.

When I began my first year of college I was a liberal studies major hoping to become a teacher. During my second year I took a biology series that changed my outlook and turned my passion towards science. In the end, my love for animals led me to major in Ecology and Conservation with the hopes of finding a career in wildlife conservation. After graduating, I worked with East Bay Regional Park District monitoring the endangered California least tern that nests on the Hayward shoreline. My enthusiasm for being outdoors and bird watching fueled my passion further which encouraged me to continue my education. I knew that when I entered San Jose State’s Graduate program that my thesis would revolve around an avian species. After the first grueling year of classes, I pinpointed a fascinating topic involving the Western burrowing owl, which is a declining species of concern in Santa Clara County. I have designed a study to observe the rates of predation upon the burrowing owl as well as the possibility that the California ground squirrel which nests in close quarters with the owls could potentially be warning the burrowing owls about oncoming predators with their alarm calls. The next two summers I will spend my time researching at Moffett Federal Airfield using camera trapping methods at each owl burrow to capture photographs of predators 24/7 while I observe each nest during different time frames of the day to see the reactions of the owl and the surrounding ground squirrels. I look forward to finishing up this project just to dive into another whether it’s a job in the field or a doctorate program only time will tell!


Michael Hobbs

Michael HobbsI am a non-traditional student with an extensive work history. Having grown up a Navy brat, I have lived in many places throughout the Western U.S. never settling in one place for more than 3 years until moving to San Jose. I served in the Military after High School and was humbled by a squadron pilot who nailed me in a heated conversation that sent me seeking higher education. Eight different colleges later I obtained my BSBA. Having worked in our high tech, high pressure, Silicon Valley for the past 25 years, I have been fortunate enough to secure myself and begin a new journey.

After some soul searching, it has become clear that environmental science was calling on me. As a boy I was fascinated with everything outside; clouds, mountains, trees, rivers, creeks, ponds, and the ocean. Every terrene was an adventure. I was always fishing, collecting bugs, frogs, snakes, and lizards, enjoying every creature I could find. As a single parent and having raised my son solely since birth, I reflect much and have a strong desire to protect that which I have been privileged to enjoy. All combined, my life’s energy has shifted and life’s journey continues. Interesting fact: When I was a teenager, I worked at China Camp in San Rafael as a boat boy, before it became a State Park. Ask me what a boat boy does sometime.


Nidhi Jain

Nidhi JainOriginally from Kenya, I have lived in the U.S. for the past six years. I went to community college in the bay area and then transferred to Drake University in Iowa. I majored in Environmental Science and minored in Business. After graduating with my B.S., I worked in Portland for a start-up company and decided to return back to school.

My research interests include water and resource conservation, species management, watershed management, entomology, and habitat management amongst others. My love for the environment and animals encouraged me to pursue a degree in Environmental Science. My hobbies include traveling, hiking, camping, dancing, skiing, and surfing. I dislike nothing, I mostly like everything! I speak five languages fluently and can read and write three of them.


Jen Jelincic

Jen JelincicI grew up in the East Bay Area in Pleasanton, California and I attended SSU, where I double-majored in Biology (Ecology, Evolution & Conservation) and Environmental Studies (Conservation & Restoration). As an undergraduate, I assisted in field studies including a captive head-starting program for western pond turtles, behavioral and physiological studies on northern elephant seals, and impact studies in the rocky intertidal. Upon graduating, I traveled to Central and South America where I worked with sea turtles, manatees, and local communities to educate residents and promote environmental programs and ecotourism.

For the past 5 years, I have worked as a wildlife educator and keeper, and have volunteered with various conservation organizations. I have a wide range of interests in wildlife and conservation biology (including the captive counterparts of various taxa), but my main interests are to study human/wildlife conflict, and finding solutions to these problems. I enjoy reading, writing, being outside, hiking, yoga, music, and dancing. One time while tap dancing on stage, my shoe flew off and hit my duet partner in the head. (Don’t worry, she survived.)


Colin Kortman

Colin KortmanI grew up in San Diego and moved to the Bay Area for undergraduate study at UC Santa Cruz. After some time studying biology, I switched majors and graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy. My interest in California’s natural history began with an engagement with photography, and has grown into a broader curiosity of the spatial patterns present in landscapes. I’m currently investigating fire ecology and sudden oak death. When not disguised as a mild-mannered graduate student, I still enjoy photography, riding things with two wheels, and trying to learn (and remember) the Latin names of things.


Miranda Melen

Miranda MelenI grew up camping, hiking, and exploring the foothills and baylands around Palo Alto, CA. In 2009, I graduated from Santa Clara University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science. I studied abroad in Costa Rica researching rainforest ecology and restoration practices, and in Baja Sur, Mexico to study two uninhabited desert islands off the coast of La Paz.

I worked for a local Public Health and Environmental Engineering Consulting firm called EOA, Inc. in support of the Santa Clara Valley Urban Runoff Pollution Prevention Program (SCVURPPP) that focuses on urban runoff issues and ways to provide public outreach and educational opportunities to residents and municipal staff of the Santa Clara Valley.

In the fall of 2009, I returned to Costa Rica to research rainforest structure and mantled howling monkeys, Alouatta palliata, at La Suerte Biological Station. One day while a colleague and I were following a troop of monkeys, it began to rain heavily. We huddled under the tree where all the monkeys had taken refuge from the storm. As the rain fell, the monkeys decided it was time to defecate, with us directly below. We were literally in a monkey poop storm!

My research at SJSU focuses on plant-pollinator interactions in the Zayante Sandhills of the Santa Cruz Mountains where I am studying the influences of French Broom on the pollinator guild community. I am also collaborating with Santa Clara University to look at a case study plant, Eryisimum teretifolium, an endangered flowering plant endemic to Zayante Sandhill outcroppings to see if there is an inbreeding or outbreeding depression.

At home, I have an integrated vegetable, fruit, and perennial garden where I experiment with raised beds and mixed plant groupings. I enjoy hiking, backpacking, bicycling, sea kayaking, singing, cooking, and baking.


Sandra Menzel

Sandra MenzelI received my undergraduate degree from UC Santa Cruz in Environmental Studies with a focus on ecology in 2006. Since then, I have worked as a field biologist on various projects, including observing peregrine falcons and searching for their nests up and down the California coast, conducting searches for avian fatalities in the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area, and participating in research for the Point Reyes National Seashore Cooperative Tule Elk Project. Recently, I have been conducting avian point-count surveys at airports to monitor the numbers and species of birds that may represent aircraft strike hazards, as well as surveying for and banding burrowing owls.

Now that I have worked in the field for several years, I am ready and eager to return to the academic world to pursue graduate level work. My intent is to delve into statistics and GIS and focus my thesis on the behavior and conservation of burrowing owls.

A native of the north-German flatlands, I moved to the Golden State in 2000. I love living in the Santa Cruz Mountains amongst the redwoods and oaks, surrounded by thousands of acres of public land, and having access to miles and miles of trails all the way from Skyline to the Pacific Ocean. No doubt -- I am happiest when I am in the great outdoors.


Emily Moffitt

Emily MoffittOriginally from Pennsylvania, I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area two years ago in hopes of fulfilling my dream to continue my education and work in the environmental field with a wildlife focus. I received my B.S. from the University of Vermont in Animal Sciences, and after spending several years working in the veterinary field, I have switched gears and found that my true passion resides in environmental sciences and conservation. Since living in the Bay Area, I have become involved with several projects with the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory (SFBBO).  I spend several days a month volunteering at the non-profit’s bird banding station, where we band passerine birds and take measurements and make observations in hopes of understanding more about migration patterns, climate impact, and breeding abilities. Other projects I am involved with include colonial water bird monitoring, vegetation surveys, and point-count surveys. I am interested in continuing to research birds for my thesis, and I hope to be able to focus on trends of migratory birds that use the pacific flyway and the Bay Area as a stopover point. I am hoping to analyze some of the data that has been collected at the SFBBO field station over the past 30 years, and relate that to current issues in avian migration. I love the outdoors, and would prefer to sleep outside in a tent rather than in my own bed. Some of my hobbies and interests include backpacking, hiking, camping, running, rock-climbing, bird watching, skiing, animals, and music. I am hoping to one day be able to hike the John Muir Trail from Yosemite to Mount Whitney. An interesting thing about me is when I moved to California, I drove the entire way from Pennsylvania, and stopped at as many National Parks along the way as possible. The trip took 19 days and I saw 9 National Parks and Monuments!


Jessica Murphey

Emily MusgraveI am a recent graduate from San Jose State University with a Bachelor's of Science in Hospitality Management. I currently work for Spartan Catering on the San Jose State campus as the Catering Sales Assistant for the company. While I come from a hospitality background, I have a strong interest in Environmental Studies ever since taking an Environmental Studies course in high school. I fell in love with determining how water quality conditions were affected by human actions. This love led me to pursue my Master's in Environmental Studies with my research interest pertaining to human actions and their effects on water quality and aquatic invertebrates. When I'm not working or enjoying learning about little aquatic critters, I enjoy hiking, doing photography, acrylic landscape painting, reading, and enjoying time with my closest friends. One of my little quirks is my ability to spell words or repeat phrases backwards... you can always test me and ask me to say the alphabet backwards! :)


Minako Nishiyama

Minako NishiyamaI graduated from Soka University in Japan in 2012, with a major in Environmental Engineering for Symbiosis. My research field during undergraduate studies was microbiology, but now I’m more interested in Forest Ecology, Ecological Conservation and Management, and Environmental Education. I would like to integrate natural and social sciences for a better management of forest ecology.

I studied in Singapore for a year as an exchange student, and traveled all around South-East Asia. I love traveling, eating, and talking with people from different cultural backgrounds. I can speak Japanese, English, Chinese, and a little bit of Spanish. I hope to improve my Spanish in San Jose!

My dream is to be a truly international environmental specialist who can contribute to a symbiotic and sustainable society.


Ben Pearl

Ben PearlI grew up in San Luis Obispo exploring my rural surroundings by hiking foothills, canyons, and valleys, and exploring tide pools, mud flats, and marshes. I received a B.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from UC Santa Cruz in 2008. My studies focused on community structure, specifically the role that various members of a community play in creating a healthy and vibrant ecosystem.

Since graduation, I have been working as an analytical chemist for a nutritional supplements company in Scotts Valley. I am an avid fan of Bay Area sports, especially the San Francisco Giants, and I enjoy hiking, camping, and relaxing at the beach. I am also very interested in cooking and enjoy learning new techniques and flavor combinations to add to my repertoire. For my graduate studies, I plan to focus on Urban Habit Restoration, and I would like to work with the Western Burrowing Owl and other local threatened avian species.

One interesting fact about me is that I am an avid wild mushroom forager and enthusiast. Some people are weary of eating wild mushrooms, but if done carefully and properly, there is nothing to fear. The most important thing to know is that I don’t just grab random wild mushrooms and eat them. I look for specific good edibles, and use a well-defined dichotomous key to positively identify anything I would consider eating. It’s a great way to nurture two of my favorite hobbies, hiking and cooking!


Jennifer Per Lee

Jennifer Per LeeI grew up in the East Bay and graduated from Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo with a degree in Earth Sciences in 2012. Originally a bigger fan of the hard (rock) sciences, I've decided on a path towards learning about water quality through the Environmental Studies program. This is largely attributed to my current job at a small tax and assessment firm, generating income for districts focusing on stormwater, fire prevention, and schools.  It has opened my eyes to how much work is put into improving water quality in California, and I hope to play a larger role in it some day. Hiking, walking, and watching shows on Netflix are some of my favorite things to do in my spare time.  I also enjoy hanging out with my senior cat, Sammy.  I've always had a great love of the outdoors, which makes me extremely anxious to start my graduate career in Environmental Studies.  It really does have it all - the outdoors, science, law - all things I can honestly say I will enjoy spending my future career doing.


Amy Petersen

Amy PetersenGrowing up in the Bay Area, I have always had a deep affinity for nature and the many opportunities for hiking, camping, and exploring that California has to offer. I received my Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies from San Jose State University. My interests include forest restoration, specifically pertaining to Sequoia sempervirens habitats, as well as sustainable agriculture and native plant species restoration. I currently work as a research analyst and energy consultant, focusing on solar power and home energy efficiency. I am also involved in coordinating outreach for a pilot program created by WattzOn and the City of San Jose that is designed to implement conservation through behavior change. In my spare time, I enjoy cooking, reading, and spending time outdoors.


Tina Peterson

Tina PetersonI grew up in San Francisco, studied biology at SFSU, and graduated Humboldt State with a B.S. in Natural Resources. I also have a M.S. in Library & Information Science and I am currently a science/health librarian here at SJSU. My original career goal after Humboldt was to hike in the woods for a living and it’s a story in itself how that migrated to becoming an academic librarian.

Now I am interested in studying public participation in science and environmental research, specifically in ecological subjects such as habitat fragmentation, phenology, and species fluctuations. (Check out and I have collected data for these kinds of projects myself, including nestbox monitoring and migratory bird banding, and now I look forward to further learning and fieldwork in my first love, environmental studies.


Brittney Relerford

Brittney RelerfordI graduated from UC Riverside in 2010 with my B.A. in Global Studies. For my senior thesis, I looked at globalization and the adaption of environmental policies, using the 2008 Beijing Olympics as a case study. In undergrad I studied Mandarin and my Chinese name is 任宝尼 (Rèn Bǎonī = treasured girl.). For the past two years I have sat on the Board of Directors for the non-profit organization, Child Leader Project, Inc. When it comes to the environment I am interested in a whole slew of things. Ever since reading the book “Power and Powerlessness: Quiescence and Rebellion in an Appalachian Valley” by John Gaventa, I have been interested in the exercise of power over different groups of people and ways in which this has been addressed and counteracted. I am learning that there is a lot of power within food and food systems. For my thesis I will be focusing on alternative local food systems. I am allergic to all types of seafood and nuts. I enjoy reading Oscar Wilde quotes, and surfing YouTube. I am currently reading the “Autobiography of Malcolm X.” I love listening to Mumford & Sons, and I secretly wish I knew how to play the banjo.


Rebecca Riesenfeld

Rebecca RiesenfeldRebecca received her undergraduate degree from Mills College in Environmental Science. Her studies focused primarily on molecular chemistry, culminating in a senior thesis that examined methods of groundwater remediation through zero-valent iron nanoparticles and microbial communities. Rebecca’s diverse experiences include biological fieldwork with the endangered Mohave Ground Squirrel and project management with The U.S. Green Building Council – Northern California Chapter. She is excited to pursue a Master's degree in Environmental Studies while exploring water resource management from a biological lens. Rebecca also enjoys spending time in the mountains, baking, listening to and making music, and traveling.


Rachel Solvason

Rachel SolvasonI received a Bachelor's of Science Degree in Environmental Studies with a Minor in Urban and Regional Planning in 2008 from San Jose State University. During the program and for some time after I worked as an intern at the Santa Clara Valley Water District where I did research for the South Bay Salt Pond Project and San Francisco Bay Shoreline Study. Recently, I started a new internship with the Water District doing data collection in the lakes and reservoirs of the South Bay. I will be starting the Environmental Studies Graduate Program this coming 2010 semester. My focus will be on policy analysis related to Climate Change, which is an interest of mine. My interests outside of school include playing music and spending time with friends.


Billy Tu

Billy TuI was born in San Jose, but grew up in nearby Oakland. My background and interest have always been focused on aquatic biology, which led me to major in Environmental and Resource Science and minor in Aquaculture at University of California, Davis. During my years as a student, I interned at a fish ecology lab and aquaculture research facility in Davis. I graduated in March 2011 with a Bachelor of Science. After graduation, I began working at a biotech company as a full-time assistant field researcher helping to develop a biomolluscicide for controlling invasive Dreissenid mussels. As I begin this program, I hope to study the biology and/or ecology of endangered freshwater turtles as my thesis project with the purpose of improving our understanding and management of Chelonians. Outside of academia, I enjoy exploring the great outdoors with my girlfriend, Yen. I snowboard in the winter and raft in the summer. I recently picked up mountain biking and off-road riding. When I am at home, I like to relax and spend time with my amazing cat and two turtles.


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!