Each year the College of the Environment provides faculty-student research grants to provide faculty and their students an opportunity to conduct research that would not have been otherwise possible. Research in the O’Neil lab is focused on understanding the structure-function relationship of proteins involved in neurodegenerative diseases, specifically ALS. Thanks to a COE faculty-student research grant and a COE summer fellowship, Alison O’Neil, assistant professor of chemistry, neuroscience major Daniel Kulick ’21 and molecular biology and biochemistry & neuroscience and behavior double-major Josephie Park ’22 were able to collaborate on Professor O’Neil’s investigation of the persistent toxicant cis-Chlordane as an environmental trigger of sporadic ALS.
Each year the College of the Environment provides faculty-student research grants to provide faculty and their students an opportunity to conduct research that would not have been otherwise possible. Helen Poulos, adjunct assistant professor of environmental studies, and environmental studies & earth and environmental sciences major Ally Detre ‘22 launched a faculty-student research collaboration during the 2020-21 academic year working on a dataset documenting native woody plant recovery in the Big Bend Region of the Rio Grande.
Each academic year, the COE gathers a small group of Wesleyan faculty members, a scholar of prominence from outside Wesleyan, and undergraduate students into a year-long academic think tank on a critical environmental issue. The aim of the COE Think Tank is not only to generate a deeper understanding of the thematic issue, but also to produce scholarly works that will influence national/international thinking and action on the issue. The Think Tank theme for 2020-21 is Habitability: Cosmological, Planetary & Ethical Perspectives.
Dr. Helen Poulos, adjunct assistant professor of environmental studies, has been awarded a $300,000 NASA grant to examine forest type-conversion through the lens of evapotranspiration (plant sweat) in response to high-severity wildfire in southeastern Arizona. Poulos and her team will conduct their research using imagery gathered by the ECOSTRESS sensor mounted on the International Space Station. It will be the first-ever test of the ECOSTRESS sensor’s applicability for wildfire-related research.
Plants facing the aftermath of wildfire often have insufficient water, which causes their temperature to rise. The ECOSTRESS radiometer measures the temperatures of plants across Earth to an extraordinarily accurate degree. Poulos’s NASA-funded project will specifically investigate the effects of the 2011 Horseshoe Two Fire on post-fire plant and site water balance and evaluate the potential of using data gathered from the ECOSTRESS sensor to predict wildfire effects on plant community structure and water relations in an Arizona Sky Island pine-oak forest.
This spring, Wesleyan will offer its first-ever ENVS course taught in Spanish, ENVS283/LAST383, Venezuela: The Effect of Oil Discovery on People, the Environment, and Democracy. The course will be taught by Antonio Machado-Allison, former Menakka and Essel Bailey ‘66 Visiting Scholar in the College of the Environment and current research fellow in the College of the Environment. He was recently named a member of the Academia de Ciencias de América Latina.
Tell us about ENVS283. Why are you focusing on Venezuela?
Antonio Machado-Allison (AMA): Being a Venezuelan scholar and witnessing what is happening in my country, one way I think I can help my people is to let citizens of other countries know how Venezuela arrived at these conditions. In the course we will discuss the key factors that have affected the development of Venezuela and its environment from the pre-colonial period to the present through the reading of interdisciplinary literature that includes anthropology, religion, sociology, environmental sciences, law, and history. Ultimately, we will examine the factors that have led to the collapse of democracy in Venezuela.
Introduction to Environmental Studies/ENVS197 examines the technical and social causes of environmental degradation at local and global scales, along with the potential for developing policies and philosophies that are the basis of a sustainable society. This semester Dr. Helen Poulos, adjunct assistant professor of environmental studies, is teaching the course. Poulos is a plant ecologist who examines the influences of natural and anthropogenic disturbances on local-, landscape-, and regional-scale plant distribution patterns. She recently received a $300K research grant from NASA.
What are the class components of ENVS197 and how do those components tie-in with the COE’s focus on interdisciplinary study?
Helen Poulos (HP): The course is an intro/survey course, so we cover topics spanning the sciences, humanities, and social sciences. The idea is to cover the breadth of the field of study. The final project, however, is designed as a way for students to dive deeper into one environmental issue that really interests them. The final project options this semester include working with Wesleyan Physical Plant and Forklift Danceworks, making an artist book, or writing a Green Fund proposal. All three options are designed to provide students with unique opportunities to engage with environmental issues through a particular lens. For the Physical Plant project, students shadow Physical Pant workers for three hours each week and have biweekly group meetings with my course assistant, Tamara Rivera ‘21 and Gretechen LaMotte ’18 of Forklift Danceworks (via Skype). For the artist book project, students workshop their projects with Suzy Taraba from Special Collections and participate in two bookbinding and printmaking workshops with Alexander Osborne, visiting assistant professor of art. I also lead two workshops on grant writing for students who select the Green Fund proposal option.
A conversation with Professor Michael Singer, Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies, about his Fall 2019 course BIOL 220/ENVS220: Conservation Biology. The course is a broad introduction to the interdisciplinary, science-based field of conservation biology. While the course includes aspects of economics, politics, ethics, and other fields, it focuses on the biological part of conservation. Much of this biology is ecology, which is Singer’s specialty. At left: BIOL220/ENVS220 students and visitor Dr. Paul Spitzer on a field trip earlier this semester.