Departmental Award Recipients

Environmental Studies is pleased to announce the following award recipients:

Spring 2018 Award Winners:

 The Richard A. Cooley Award in Environmental Studies: Leslie Anne Madarang


Winter 2018 Award Winners:

The David Gaines Award in Environmental Studies Recipients: Justin Luong and Aysha Peterson

Justin Luong

I am from Irvine, California in a perfectly landscaped bubble. Unlike most people in the department, I did not interact much with my environment or nature much growing up. It wasn't until I started my undergraduate studies at UC Santa Barbara that started recognizing and appreciating not only the beauty of nature, but also started questioning the interesting dynamics within ecosystems. I then became enamored with environmental studies and changed my major from Chemistry.

After graduation, I worked for some time in ecological restoration focusing on coastal grasslands and vernal pools. As a PhD student at UC Santa Cruz, I work with Michael Loik in the Environmental Studies Department. I am interested in understanding different facets of grassland restoration in the context of climate change from topics spanning on how to improve the efficacy and predictability of restoration outcomes to potential trade-offs in ecosystem services associated with restoration. To answer such questions, I work with drought structures erected at the UC Natural Reserve Younger Lagoon near the UCSC Coastal Campus which is part of a global ecological drought experiment (Drought-Net).


Aysha Peterson

Aysha grew up in Massachusetts where she first learned about agroecology by working at a diverse fruit and vegetable farm near her childhood home. Since then, she has been fascinated by the deep relationships that permeate our agricultural soils. She is now a first-year Ph.D. student studying soil ecology with Dr. Weixin Cheng. Through this research, Aysha hopes to support small farmers’ efforts to maintain soil health while reducing fertilizer and irrigation applications.

James Stuart Chanley Scholarship RecipientLilianne De La Espriella

Lilianne De La EspriellaI am originally from Florida, where I was an avid environmental and social justice activist, school organizer and trail blazer. After setting roots, I realized I needed to go somewhere where I could learn from others. In 2014 I came to Santa Cruz with the intention to attend UCSC. Despite financial hardship and personal shock from being truly alone in a new place, I was able to work and save up to afford high tuition rates. Today, I am an ENVS major with a focus on policy. My interest strongly lies in climate change mitigation through biomass conservation. Healthy natural systems are hugely important not just for air, water and human mental health, but now we're discovering that they can sequester carbon. Through my education and dedication, I hope to make a difference along the way.


The Richard A. Cooley Award in Environmental Studies: Leslie Anne Madarang

Leslie Ann MadarangI am classified as a junior, but this is my second year in UC Santa Cruz. I come from a very low-income family and as the first-generation student, I attained the opportunity to provide a better life for my family. I come from Earlimart, California, which is a small, rural, agriculturally-intensive, impoverished town in the San Joaquin Valley. Growing up surrounded by the fields and entering a new environment at UC Santa Cruz made me realize that I grew up in very difficult conditions. When I realized that inhaling tons of toxic fumes, walking on dirt roads, drinking contaminated water, buying from illegal vendors, holding rooster fights in my backyard, etc. was not something everyone grew up with, it pushed me to continue my education so that I can learn how to improve the conditions that I grew up in.

My ambition is to focus my studies in environmental sociology, policy and economics. With my degree, I hope to environmentally improve the living space, lifestyle, and health of people who have grown up in vulnerable conditions. My current initiative is to Styrofoam in Earlimart, California.  The purpose of the campaign is to phase out the use of Styrofoam in a town that I know is in a vulnerable state. My vision is to make Earlimart a green community. Although Styrofoam is just one of the reoccurring problems in the town, I hope this initiative can create a chain reaction throughout the whole community. Maybe one day, it can also inspire other impoverished towns to strive for a greener and healthier environment.

Hammett Fellowship Winners

The Hammett fellowship is made possible by a generous donation from Benjamin and Ruth Hammett, for students who conduct interdisciplinary research on climate change or climate change and water issues. The Environmental Studies department is pleased to announce the Winter 2017 recipients, Ana Martinez Fernandez, Grace Barcheck, and Danielle Crawford.

Martinez FernandezAna Martinez Fernandez, Ph.D. student, Department of Earth and Planetary Science

I was born and raised in Madrid, Spain, surrounded by buildings that made me long for the sea and mountains constantly. I spent my childhood summers on my grandparents’ farm, where I realized how completely we depend on nature for basic things like oxygen and food.  This inspired me to study Environmental Science at the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid where I specialized in limnology and water quality. For the senior year of my bachelor’s degree I studied and researched abroad at Umea Universitet and at the Climate Impact Research Centre of Abisko, Sweden where I learned about microbial ecology, pollution and climate change.

After I graduated, I worked at a sustainable rural development company creating tools to assess the environmental risks of olive and seed oil extraction and refinement. Wanting to refocus on water quality I applied for a grant from the Ministry of Education of Spain to work as a research scholar in Paytan Biogeochemistry lab here at UCSC. I was awarded the grant, and enjoyed the research so much, I decided to continue pursuing a Ph.D. in the Department of Earth and Planetary Science. I am currently using RNA sequencing and physiologic analyses to investigate the effects of ocean acidification and climate change on corals and benthic foraminifera to identify species and populations resistant to a changing environment.

BarcheckGrace Barcheck, Ph.D. student, Earth and Planetary Sciences

Grace is a senior Ph.D. student in the Earth and Planetary Sciences Department. Her love of landscapes and the geologic processes that form them began during childhood family vacations to Colorado, where she was equally enamored of hiking the high peaks of the Rockies and hunting for fossils in the limestone beds of the Great Plains. As an undergraduate at Washington University in St. Louis, Grace majored in Earth Science because she loved going on field trips and expanding her knowledge to explain the landscapes around her. Grace became interested in seismology and geophysics at WashU. While working on several seismology research projects at WashU, she was privileged to also be involved in many field expeditions, one of which brought her to Antarctica and ultimately her current research path. Over the years, Grace participated in seismometer deployments in Minnesota and Wisconsin, the Marianas Trench, various parts of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica, and Breiðamerkurjökull glacier in Iceland. Grace’s current research path was inspired by the stunning beauty and captivating science she encountered on her first trip to Antarctica in 2010 to service seismometer equipment deep in The Middle of Nowhere, Antarctica. At UC Santa Cruz, she is studying the movement of the Whillans Ice Stream, which is a fast-flowing outlet of the smaller but more unstable “Western” half of the Antarctic Ice Sheet. She uses seismometers to listen to the sounds the bottom of the ice makes as it scrapes over the sediment, rock, and water underneath, and she relates what she learns to GPS measurements of ice speed. The goal is to better understand how ice slides for better predictions of sea-level rise. Her research also aims to explain what is causing the Whillans Ice Stream to slow down (say what??), and why it seems to be skittering and stick-slipping to a halt. 

Danielle Crawford

Danielle Crawford, Ph.D. student, Literature

I was born and raised in the Santa Cruz area and received my B.A. in Literature/Writing at UC San Diego. After receiving my undergraduate degree, I entered a graduate program at San José State University, where I received my M.A. in English and Comparative Literature and gained valuable teaching experience. Upon joining the Ph.D. program in the Literature Department at UC Santa Cruz, I became especially attracted to interdisciplinary research, and particularly work situated at the intersection between literary and environmental studies. While I had always been interested in the environment, taking classes in the Literature and Environmental Studies Departments at UC Santa Cruz made me realize that my work could actually address both fields. With the help of my committee, which includes my advisor Rob Wilson, Christine Hong, Kirsten Silva Gruesz, and S. Ravi Rajan from the Environmental Studies Department, my work broadly explores the complex relationship between U.S. militarization and destructive storm systems in the Pacific during the 20th and 21st centuries. My prospective dissertation draws from historical case studies, literary narratives, films, archival documents, and scientific literature on tropical cyclones and utilizes a wide geographic focus that encompasses sites such as the Philippines, Hawai‘i, California, and the Marshall Islands. By examining the intimacies between extreme storms, U.S. warfare, and weapons testing, my project analyzes how the U.S. military has historically responded to and interacted with the climate in the Pacific, and the implications this holds for disaster aid under global climate change.



Winter 2016 Hammett Fellowship Winners:

Kate Ross, Environmental Studies graduate student: Forests under climate change: climate sensitivity and management of Eastern Sierra Nevada conifers

I’m originally from Hanford, California, in the San Joaquin Valley. I spent my summers at my family’s pack station in the central Sierra Nevada, hiking and enjoying the outdoors. I received my B.A. in Linguistics and German from the University of California, Santa Barbara, but by the end of undergrad, I realized my interests and passion were in environmental studies and plant ecology. I studied Environmental Sciences at the University of Cologne, where my masters’ thesis considered the effect of specific soil microbes on plant growth and root morphology. As a PhD student at UC Santa Cruz, I work with Michael Loik in the Environmental Studies Department. I am broadly interested in understanding the relationship between physiological and distributional responses of plants to climate change. In my research I work with eastern Sierra Nevada conifers in the area around Mammoth Lakes, CA, examining current physiological processes and distributional patterns across an elevation gradient, as well as historical growth trends embedded in tree rings.

Galen Gorski, Earth and Planetary Sciences graduate student: Linking hydrogeology, biogeochemistry, and microbiology during stormwater

I was born in Washington State and grew up hiking in the North Cascades near Mt. Baker, trying to keep up with my older brothers. I went to Carleton College in Minnesota and majored in chemistry, but my interests shifted to environmental chemistry and geology. After I graduated, I worked as a technician in a stable isotope lab at the University of Utah, then moved back to Minnesota and worked in a biometeorology group at the University of Minnesota. I am broadly interested in using stable isotopes and other chemical tracers to investigate human impacts on the hydrological cycle and other biogeochemical processes. Now at UCSC, I am a PhD student working with Andy Fisher and Adina Paytan in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. In my primary research I am investigating ways to improve water quality through the removal of nitrate and other contaminants through the use of naturally occurring microbial populations. Our research is focused in the Pajaro Valley Groundwater Basin, a chronically overdrafted basin south of Santa Cruz that faces significant water quality challenges. We hope our research can lead to low cost technologies and management practices that provide dual improvement to water quantity and quality on the central coast of California and beyond.