Meet the Graduate Students

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.


Sky Biblin

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


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.


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…


Claudia Damiani Fontana

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

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

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

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

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


Kristy Doerr

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


Jordynn Dorado

Graduate Student Jordynn DoradoI grew up in the small town of Nipomo, California, on a small lemon orchard nestled between coastal beach towns and agricultural fields. The diverse landscapes that I was lucky enough to grow up instilled a love for nature and curiosity as to why natural landscapes look the way they do. I grew up in a relatively conservative area, so it was not until I took AP Environmental Science that I became aware of and deeply fascinated with the field of environmental studies. 

I attended UC Santa Cruz for my undergraduate career (Go Slugs!), where I majored in Environmental studies and feminist studies. I worked at the recycling center on campus for all four years and have some opinions on how waste is collected at UCSC and the U.S. (it is a mess). Outside of work, I interned with the City of Santa Cruz to survey local and tourist's opinion on coastal erosion and sea-level rise. I also served as a student-teacher to teach environmental science to fifth graders, which was one of the most rewarding things I got to do at UC Santa Cruz. Throughout my academic career, I focused on how existing power structures and the production of epistemologies shaped lived experiences and socio-political landscapes. Having UCSC's ENVS and Feminist studies departments allowed me to examine how race, gender, and power shape environmental justice and apply it to my future endeavors. 

At San Jose State, I hope to continue to question power dynamics by researching how environmental justice issues are impacted in the era of climate change and the emergence of green markets, examining how climate-friendly products, policies, and movements are affected by capitalism. 

Outside of school, I enjoy exploring the Santa Cruz area, visiting the beach, going to local wineries, reading, and I love watching movies. As an undergrad, I competed on UCSC's track and field team throwing shot put and discus, so I am very passionate about athletics and working out. I am very excited for the new adventures and friendships that await me at SJSU. 


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.


Stephen Doyle

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

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

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

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

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


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.


Joia Fishman

FishmanI was 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.


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.


Esther Haile 

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

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

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


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.


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.


Spencer Klinefelter

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

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

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


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. 


Erin Lacour

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

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

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

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


 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.


Lindsey Marsh

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

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

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


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!


Emily Matthews

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

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

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

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

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


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.


Domingo Poggione

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

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

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

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


Raji Rajesh

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.


Matt Spadoni

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

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

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


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


Ram Thapa

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

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

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

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


Tam Tran

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

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

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


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.


Dawnelle Wynne

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

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

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

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


Mary Yan 

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

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

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

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


Kaitlyn Yee

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

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