think tank explores ways to visualize environmental change

COE Think Tank
2021-22 Think Tank members, from top left: Olivia Baglieri ’22, Dylan Judd, Jennifer Raynor, Skye Hawthorne, Alton C. Byers, Helen Poulos, Suzanne O’Connell, Courtney Fullilove, Antonio Machado-Allison.

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 2021-22 is visualizing environmental change.

Our 2021-22 COE Think Tank faculty fellows are: Suzanne O’Connell, the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science; Jennifer Raynor, assistant professor of economics; Courtney Fullilove, associate professor of history; Helen Poulos, adjunct assistant professor of environmental studies; Antonio Machado-Allison, university professor in the College of the Environment; and Alton C. Byers, senior research scientist at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTARR) at the University of Colorado at Boulder and this year’s Menakka and Essel Bailey ‘66 Distinguished Visiting Scholar in the College of the Environment. Olivia Baglieri ’22, Dylan Judd ’22, and Skye Hawthorne ’22 will also be joining the Think Tank as student fellows this academic year.

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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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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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intro envs course engages wes students

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.

Helen Poulos
Helen Poulos

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.

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what on earth are they saying: listening and learning beyond the human

Meaning and language are commonly thought to be the exclusive province of humans. But is this thinking simply our own anthropocentric conceit? On November 2, 2019, Menakka and Essel Bailey ‘66 Distinguished Visiting Scholar in the College of the Environment Charles Siebert led a discussion about the nature of meaning in the world, the myriad of forms in which it manifests, and the many ways in which they inform our place in the world. The discussion, What on Earth Are They Saying: Listening and Learning Beyond the Human, was the 17th Annual Where on Earth Are We Going? seminar sponsored by the Robert F. Schumann Institute of the College of the Environment.

From top left: Tony Hatch, Sara McCrea ’21, Kari Weil, Camille Britton ’20, Charles Siebert, Helen Poulos, Courtney Weiss Smith, Antonio Machado-Allison, Melissa Thornton ’20

Charles Siebert is the author of three critically acclaimed memoirs, The Wauchula Woods Accord: Toward a New Understanding of Animals, A Man After His Own Heart, and Wickerby: An Urban Pastoral, a New York Times Notable Book of 1998, as well as a novel, Angus; an e-book Rough Beasts: The Zanesville Zoo Massacre One Year Later; and a children’s book, The Secret World of Whales. A poet, journalist, essayist, and contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, he has written for The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, Vanity Fair, Esquire, Outside, Men’s Journal, National Geographic, and numerous other publications. He presently teaches creative writing at NYU Abu Dhabi.

Siebert’s seminar was followed by a panel discussion with COE Think Tank members Camille Britton ‘20; Anthony Hatch, associate professor and chair, Science in Society Program; Antonio Machado-Allison, visiting scholar, College of the Environment; Sara McCrea ‘21; Helen Poulos, adjunct assistant professor of Environmental Studies; Charles Siebert,; Courtney Weiss Smith, associate professor of English; Melissa Thornton ‘20; and Kari Weil, University Professor of Letters.

think tank explores beyond the human

Each academic year the COE gathers a small group of Wesleyan faculty members, a scholar of prominence from outside Wesleyan, and a small group of undergraduate students into a year-long academic think tank on a critical environmental issue. The aim of the 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.  This year’s Think Tank theme: Meaningful Worlds: Listening and Learning Beyond the Human.

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