2012-2013 Sustainability Leadership Fellows

Ghassan J. Alaka, Jr.

Ghassan J. Alaka, Jr.
Graduate Research Assistant, Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University

My research matters because Atlantic hurricanes are destructive forces that are not well-predicted. I tackle this issue by improving our understanding of pre-hurricane weather systems over Africa. Although these weather systems regularly move from Africa into the East Atlantic in the summer, it is currently difficult to determine whether or not they develop into hurricanes. The goal of my work is to better predict periods of increased or decreased Atlantic hurricane activity 2-3 weeks in advance.

Sharon Baruch-Mordo

Sharon Baruch-Mordo
PhD Candidate, Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology, Colorado State University

Human-wildlife interactions and conflicts continue to rise as people build their homes in previously natural areas. Such conflicts can negatively impact both people and wildlife; hence we need to better understand both sides of the human-wildlife conflict equation. That is, we need to understand how wildlife behaves near people and how to change human behavior to better secure attractants from wildlife, with the ultimate goal of reducing conflicts. In this way we can provide real solutions to human-wildlife conflicts and promote coexistence between people and wildlife for the prosperity future wildlife populations and the enjoyment of future generations.

Sarah Bisbing

Sarah Bisbing
PhD Candidate, Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, Colorado State University

The landscape of North America was historically dominated by large, intact forest. Despite diminishing in size over the last century, these valuable ecosystems continue to provide crucial services to residents of both our wild lands and urban centers. Forest trees are ecosystem engineers that, among other things, promote clean water, provide nutrients for other plants, utilize excessive atmospheric carbon, provide wildlife habitat, and offer both aesthetic and cultural services. In other words, forests (and the trees within them) keep our air and water clean, our wildlife sheltered, our forage-able food (berries and mushrooms) naturally  fertilized, and our natural playgrounds beautiful.

Jessica Gilman Ernakovich

Jessica Gilman Ernakovich
PhD Student, Department of Ecosystem Science & Sustainability, Colorado State University

Permafrost (or permanently frozen) soils contain vast stores of carbon that may be released to the atmosphere by microbial decomposition if permafrost thaws. Degradation of permafrost has already been observed. Despite the potential for large amounts of carbon to be liberated from permafrost, we lack the understanding of the factors that affect the rate of decomposition in those soils. I am researching how the activity of the microbial community in permafrost changes with an increase in temperature, and how this will affect the amount of carbon stored or released from these soils under future climates.

Sarah Warner Fitzpatrick

Sarah Fitzpatrick
PhD Candidate, Department of Biology, Colorado State Univeristy

Translocations are an important tool used to augment declining populations, yet the consequences are often unknown ahead of time. Gene flow may break down local adaptation, resulting in population declines or it may increase population size by infusing inbred populations with new genetic diversity. My work aims to understand the conditions under which gene flow results in positive or negative population growth by using an introduction experiment with freshwater stream fish in Trinidad. This information is highly important for wildlife managers to understand when planning conservation strategies for at-risk populations.

Jamie Fuller

Jamie Fuller
PhD Student, Department of Anthropology, Colorado State University

The Pacific Islands have been predicted to be the most effected by climate change scenarios. The effects of climate change cannot be fully prevented (severe weather events, drought, warmer temperatures, ocean chemistry changes), but the damages can be lessened through education, preparation and environmental preservation. Educating island nations and communities of these changes and developing plans for food, water and shelter scarcities may be detrimental to avoiding future disasters. Additionally, intact ecosystems will provide an environmental buffer to help sustain both humans and biodiversity. Creating awareness and community discussions is the first step in stimulating more adaptable land management plans and subsistence strategies.

Debra Kaye Holman

Debra Kaye Holman
PhD Student, Department of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources, Colorado State University

Dr. Kaye Holman is a Sustainability Fellow with the Higher Education Associations Sustainability Consortium where her works focuses on developing and supporting collaborative sustainability education initiatives with national and international higher education associations. Within the field of student affairs, she is also a member of the sustainability committees for ACPA College Student Educators International and NASPA Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. Active in a variety civic and education initiatives in the local community, Kaye is a member of the Community Investment Council and the Community Impact Advocate Award Selection Committee for United Way of Weld County. She has assisted with evaluation of the Fort Collins Boys & Girls Club Public Achievement program and volunteered as a mentor and judge for various K-12 STEM education programs along Colorado’s Northern Front Range. With Dr. Bill Timpson, SoGES Resident Fellow, she co-edited two books published by Atwood: Case Studies of Classrooms and Communication: Integrating Diversity, Sustainability, Peace and Reconciliation ( 2011) and Controversial Case Studies for Teaching on Sustainability, Conflict and Diversity (2014).

Khishigbayar Jamiyansharav

Khishigbayar Jamiyansharav
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Forest & Rangeland Stewardship, Colorado State University

Khishigbayar Jamiyansharav is a postdoctoral associate in the Department of Forest & Rangeland Stewardship, Colorado State University. She grew up in Ulaanbaatar- Mongolia, where she received her undergraduate degree in chemical technology at the Mongolian State University in 1995. She graduated from the Carl-Von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg in 1999 with Master of Science degree on renewable energy. She was working as scientific researcher on producing biogas from biomass at the Mongolian Renewable Energy Corporation before she came to United States. Khishigbayar obtained her PhD degree in 2010 from Colorado State University Graduate Degree Program in Ecology. Her current research interest is on climate change, land atmosphere interactions, coupled human-environmental systems and sustainable technology.

Theresa Jedd

Theresa Jedd
PhD Candidate, Department of Political Science, Colorado State University

Theresa joined the National Drought Mitigation Center in 2015 as an Environmental Policy Specialist looking at the linkage between physical and socio-economic indicators of current and future drought in the recreation and tourism sector in the Western United States. She attended Colorado State University for her M.A. and Ph.D. in environmental policy from the Political Science department. During that time, she also worked as a staff researcher in the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory on Colorado’s first climate vulnerability study. At the drought center, she looks forward to developing a project collaboratively with the National Center for Atmospheric Research that will help make climate forecasting more relevant for outdoor enthusiasts and those working in the tourism industry.

Michelle Meyer Lueck

Michelle Meyer Lueck
PhD Candidate, Department of Sociology, Colorado State University

The impacts from disasters are increasing and these impacts are spread unevenly throughout our society. I study both individual and community responses to disaster. I work to understand the  different risks people face in disaster, and how warnings and preparedness plans can help the most people. What affects the ability of certain people to prepare for and recovery from disaster? What role do organizations (churches, nonprofits, governments) play in helping prepare for and then recovery following a disaster, and how can these organizations improve the ability of a community to bounce back from a disaster?

Sarah Maisonneuve

Sarah Maisonneuve
PhD Candidate, Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, Colorado State University

We are likely witnessing the 6th mass extinction in earth’s history. Many extinctions are the result of humans coming into direct or indirect conflict with wildlife. People who live at the immediate interface with wildlife are the most vulnerable to experiencing the negative impacts of co-existing with it, and are also in a position to most strongly influence its ultimate persistence. My work is dedicated to bridging the disconnect that has developed between humans and wild animals sharing the same landscape, and to bring benefits to local people (both monetary and experiential) that depend upon the persistence of wildlife.

Holly Marlatt

Holly Marlatt
PhD Student, Department of Journalism &Media Communication, Colorado State University

I want to research the climate change communication process so that scientists can better inform journalists, journalists can better inform the public (including policy makers), and the public can come to educated and accurate conclusions. This matters because many people are still not getting “it.” Academic research can help, but only if the research goals involve strategies that can be applied. Additionally, I aim to leverage extreme weather events as climate change communication opportunities. This is relevant because more and more extreme weather events are occurring, yet people ignore the possible linkage. It is our ethical responsibility to adequately inform.

Kelly Sierra Ramirez

Kelly Sierra Ramirez
Postdoctoral Fellow, School of Global Environmental Sustainability, Colorado State University

Dr. Kelly S Ramirez is a soil microbial ecologist and is interested in characterizing the diversity and biogeographical patterns of soil microbes across the globe-including-Bacteria, Archaea, fungi and other eukaryotes. Kelly's primary objectives are to (1) characterize the diversity in soils across the globe, from Central Park, NYC to Antarctica, using high-throughput sequencing techniques; (2) understand the mechanisms underlying bacterial community and functional shifts with respect to global change factors; and (3) establish a framework to synthesize global soil biodiversity data. Currently Kelly is a postdoctoral researcher at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO) where she is expanding her research questions to include above-below ground interactions and examine the critical relationships between soil microbial communities and plants. Specifically, she is interested in how soil microbial community composition and diversity may change as plants' expand their range to new locations.

In addition to her research, Kelly has led, and is involved in a number of global synthesis and networking efforts: Prior to her position at the NIOO she was the Executive Director of the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative and a postdoctoral scholar at Colorado State University. Additionally, she was Awarded a postdoctoral fellowship with the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity in Leipzig, Germany where she organized an international workshop on the global synthesis of soil biodiversity data. Find out more about Kelly's research at kellysramirez.com

Lindsay Reynolds

Lindsay Reynolds
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Biology, Colorado State University

Lindsay Reynolds is a riparian ecologist whose research centers on plants, ecohydrology, climate change and invasions. She received her B.A. in Environmental and Evolutionary Biology from Dartmouth College in 2003 and her Ph.D. in Ecology from CSU in 2009.  She is currently a Research Scientist in the Biology Department at CSU and also the US Geological Survey’s Fort Collins Science Center. Recently, her work has focused on how river hydrology and geomorphology influence adjacent plant communities in the context of future climate changes, river regulation and exotic species invasions in western North America. 

Misha Iris Schurman

Misha Iris Schurman
PhD Student, Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University

I study tiny particles suspended in the atmosphere; they can react with pollutants and form more particles, which can be hazardous to animals and plants, travel great distances, and deposit chemicals into natural environments. They can also act as ‘seeds’ for cloud formation, which may impact precipitation patterns and even change the amount of sunlight reaching Earth, which has implications for global warming. It is important to understand how these particles form, react in the air, how far they can travel, and finally how they are deposited into the ecosystem so that we can decrease harmful environmental effects.

Seema Nayan Sheth

Seema Sheth
PhD Candidate, Department of Biology, Colorado State Univeristy

Most species are rare, and all species occupy a limited space, yet we do not fully understand why species differ in their geographic distributions. Understanding the factors that govern where species occur improves our ability to prioritize species and areas of conservation concern, forecast vulnerability to climate change, and predict the spread of invasive species. Further, understanding whether populations at the peripheries of species’ geographic ranges can adapt to marginal environments is crucial to predicting how species may shift with environmental change.

Faith Sternlieb

Faith Sternlieb
PhD Candidate, Department of Geosciences, Colorado State University

The outcomes of my research will help decision - makers in the Colorado River Basin determine locations where synergy exists between the agricultural sector and other sectors in coordinating efforts to share water. In addition, my research will highlight different types of arrangements for water management that will increase flexibility in water scarce areas. Finally, I will demonstrate that a geographic perspective can offer new ways to look at old problems.

Paul Tanger

Paul Tanger
PhD Candidate, Department of Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management, Colorado State University

Paul Tanger is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Colorado State University (CSU), working to improve plants for bioenergy use.  He recently completed his Ph.D. at CSU, where his research examined the diversity of bioenergy traits in rice, and sought to identify genes underlying these important traits.  The goal of this research was to improve rice as a food crop, as well as a source of economical bioenergy from leftover rice straw.  Paul is looking forward to applying his skills and experience to link science and energy policy together to improve our lives and environment. In his free time, Paul likes to cook, travel, and moonlight as an amateur photographer and is most likely found enjoying outdoor activities including running, soccer, mountaineering, and backcountry skiing.

Andrew Tredennick

Andrew Tredennick
PhD Candidate, Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, Colorado State University

In Africa, wood provides the energy people need to meet the basics of a living standard - cooking, heating, and shelter. So we need to better understand how much wood is available in Africa, how much is produced every year, and how wood extraction affects local and regional ecosystems.

Fang Wang

Fang Wang
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University

Here, I would like to summarize one of my research projects: ‘Impact of mineral dust deposition on snow melting’. The transfer of dust from arid and semiarid lands to snow-covered landscapes takes place around the world. The increasing area of arid lands and the utilization of these lands by expanding human population have increased dust loads. In this research, we look at how the dust radiative forcing impacts the melting rate of snow and then further change the river runoff. The results will be important for river forecast and also the timing of the onset of greening and flowering.