visiting scholar byers champions wetland conservation

Elizabeth and glacier larkspur in the middle of the Ngozumba Glacier, Gokyo, Nepal.

Elizabeth A. Byers is the 2021-22 visiting scholar in the College of the Environment. She is a senior wetland scientist with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. During the last five years at WVDEP she has worked to create and implement an assessment tool that will become the law of the land in West Virginia in early 2022.  Prior to joining DEP, she worked for 11 years as a Natural Heritage Ecologist and for 20 years as a hydrologist and conservationist in the Himalayas, East African rift, Andes, Rocky Mountains, and Appalachians.  In 2020, Elizabeth published the first-ever field guide to the flora and ethnobotany of Mount Everest National Park.

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o’neil, kulick ’21 & park ’22 collaborate on als research

Josephine Park, Daniel Kulick, Alison O'NeilEach 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 Josephine 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.

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poulos, detre ’22 explore big bend dataset

Helen Poulos & Ally DetreEach 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.

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coe think tank explores habitability

2020-21 COE Think Tank fellows (l to r): Victoria Smolkin, David Grinspoon, Mary-Jane Rubenstein, Antonio Machado-Allison, Helen Poulos, Martha Gilmore.

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.

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where on earth are we going: habitability and life on venus

As part of the 18th annual Where On Earth Are We Going?  Robert F. Schumann Environmental Studies Symposium, David Grinspoon and Martha Gilmore presented their talk, “Habitability and Life on Venus,” on October 17, 2020.

At the beginning of the presentation, Grinspoon pointed out that, “Before the Space Age, there was an image of Venus as an earth like, but also tropical planet.” There were reasons for conceiving of Venus that way: its close proximity to Earth, similar size, and cloud covering. This idea of Venus’s habitability was proved false when the spacecraft Mariner II reached Venus in 1962 and revealed that Venus was “not at all earth like … so hot that no life could exist on that surface.” This disillusionment with Venus was documented in an editorial in the New York Times, which determined the discovery as “the beginning of the end of mankind’s grand romantic dreams.” 

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poulos receives $300k nasa research grant

 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.

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machado-allison teaches first-ever envs course taught in spanish

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.

Antonio Machado-Allison

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.

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