The School of Earth & Sustainability (SES) at the University of Massachusetts is guided by a collaborative team of steering committee members from across the partnering departments.
SES Steering Committee
Curt Griffin's teaching and research interests are in biodiversity conservation, wetland wildlife ecology and management, and integrated natural resources management issues. Although his research program addresses both applied and basic ecological questions, it focuses primarily on the conservation of biological diversity and providing a strong science base for management decisions. Thus, his overall research program is very applied and is largely driven by the resource conservation needs of local, state and federal agencies, NGOs, and international organizations. His research and conservation efforts have spanned five continents, from work with elephants in Africa and Southeast Asia to sea turtles and whale sharks in the Caribbean. His current research efforts with grad students focus on assessing the effects of climate change and offshore wind energy facilities on wildlife, elephant ecology and conservation in southern Africa, and whale shark ecology and ecotourism. He also has a strong commitment to and involvement in the development of local, state, national, and international policies relating to wetlands protection, endangered species management, and conservation of biological diversity.
Wes Autio grew up in a rural/tourist part of western Maine and attended the University of Maine for two years. He received his B.S. degree in Horticulture from Virginia Tech and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Plant & Soil Sciences (Postharvest Pomology) from UMass. In 1985, he joined the faculty at the University of Massachusetts. Until recently, he served as the UMass Fruit Program Leader. He regularly interacts with tree-fruit farmers and the many individuals interested in tree fruit in the landscape. His research focuses on apple and peach rootstocks, controlling growth apple trees with mechanical and hormonal approaches, and chemical thinning of peaches. He teaches courses in pruning fruit crops for undergraduates and in statistical analysis for graduate students. Because of his extensive experience with experimental design and statistical analysis, he is involved with number research projects and serves on numerous graduate committees with the sole purpose of providing guidance in design and analysis. Currently, he serves as Director of the newly reconfigured Stockbridge School of Agriculture. In that capacity, he leads efforts to strengthen educational, research, and outreach programs from the Stockbridge School.
Julie Brigham-Grette's research interests are focused on the stratigraphy, sedimentology, and chronology of geologic systems that record the climate evolution and sea level history of the Arctic since the mid-Pliocene. Most of her research program is aimed at documenting the global context of paleoenvironmental change across “Beringia”, i.e., the Bering Land Bridge, stretching across the western Arctic from Alaska and the Yukon into NE Russia including the adjacent marginal seas. Starting 3 decades ago with fieldwork on the sea level history and glacial stratigraphy of vast Arctic coastal plains and coastal environments in comparison with regional alpine glaciation, she is now focused on the integration of records from marine and lacustrine systems. Since 1991, her group has participated in nine field expeditions to remote regions of Arctic Russia and she was a co-chief scientist in 2002 of an expedition on the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Healy, taking sediment cores from the Bering and Chukchi Seas. She is the US Chief Scientist of the El’gygytgyn Lake Scientific Drilling project, a $10M multinational field program leading to the first unprecedented recovery in 2009 of a 3.6 Myr record of paleoclimate from the terrestrial Arctic. In collaboration with Steve Petsch, Brigham-Grette is also PI on a grant to develop sea ice proxies and records of paleoceanography across the Arctic-Pacific gateway. Since 2005, she has collaborated with colleagues at Bates, Mt Holyoke, and Hampshire colleges alongside Northern Illinois University with the effective implementation of an REU program on Svalbard tidewater glaciers and lake systems. At home, she maintains an interest in the late Pleistocene paleoclimatic history and drainage record of Glacial Lake Hitchcock and the Holocene evolution of the Connecticut River. Exploring ahead, she has future interests in IODP/ICDP drilling in the Bering Strait and at the margins of the Chukchi and Beaufort seas.
Professor of Plant Pathology
Stockbridge School of Agriculture
Dan Cooley’s research and Extension program focuses on using integrated pest management to more efficiently and effectively manage diseases of fruit, particularly apples. The goal is to enhance the sustainability of apple production by minimizing or eliminating the use of toxic fungicides. This is accomplished by understanding the biology and ecology of important pathogens and using environmentally driven risk forecast models to guide fungicide applications. In addition, his work emphasizes the use of non-chemical alternatives to reduce disease pressure. He also works with colleagues at other institutions to develop and deliver web-based decision support tools to growers, including most recently apps for mobile devices. In addition, he has worked with a private non-profit to develop an advanced IPM production system for apples that markets fruit under the Eco Apple label. He has recently been investigating disease forecast model failures caused by changes in weather patterns in the Northeastern US.
Piper Gaubatz is an urban geographer specializing in the study of urban change, development, and planning in East Asia and the U.S. As an urban geographer she is interested in the processes which shape urban space, and particularly in the historical and contemporary linkages between policy, practice and physical and social urban forms in China, Japan and the U.S.
Elisabeth M. Hamin
Elisabeth Hamin is the department head for Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning. She teaches and researches in land use planning, with a particular focus on planning for climate change adaptation. Through studios and projects, she works with regional planning agencies and communities on master plans, special projects, and climate change planning. She served as program director for the Ph.D. in Regional Planning for over ten years.
James Holden’s research focuses on high-temperature microbes that grow in hydrothermal environments in the deep sea. Specifically, he is interested in microbial life in the Earth's crust that lives without sunlight or oxygen, the search for life on Earth and elsewhere, numerical modeling of microbial metabolism, microbe-mineral interactions, and the application of thermophiles in bioremediation and bioenergy. He has participated in two dozen oceanographic expeditions and made 11 trips to the bottom of the ocean in the deep-sea submarine Alvin. He earned his Ph.D. in Oceanography at the University of Washington and was a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Georgia.
Robert Ryan's research addresses the question: what motivates people to become engaged in sustainable landscape design, planning and management practices that benefit the environment and how does that affect their attitudes and behaviors in the landscape? His studies in urban parks, rural landscapes, and national forests have shown that people’s connection to nearby nature or landscape (i.e, place attachment) is critical to developing better land stewardship. A key part of this work has been to understand the landscape patterns that are both ecologically beneficial, as well as perceived as beautiful by local residents. In addition, his research has shown that place attachment can help promote connections between local residents and urban parks, particularly those undergoing ecological restoration. His research has focuses on visual resource management, greenway and green infrastructure planning, and sustainable site design. He is a senior researcher on the UMass interdisciplinary graduate education research (IGERT) project to study off-shore wind energy facilities.
Combining backgrounds in structural engineering, wood science, and digital design, Alex Schreyer’s interests span the entire range of planning, design, and execution of buildings and structures. He specializes in the design and construction of mainly heavy-timber type (e.g. glulam) structural systems. This is complemented by a strong interest in technology applications and web-based solutions in structural engineering, construction, and architecture. In his research, Mr. Schreyer focuses on the behavior of wood-based structural systems with a particular interest in innovative connection systems for wooden structures. Other foci are the development of software-based approaches in digital design and structural optimization as well as interactive web-based tools.
Department of Environmental Conservation
Brian Cheng is a field ecologist who asks questions in coastal marine ecosystems. His research focuses on the intersection of climate change, biological invasion, and the interaction among species (e.g., predation). He uses experimental and observational approaches to understand what makes natural ecosystems tick. At UMass Amherst, much of his activity is based out of the Gloucester Marine Station, a marine lab located 1 hour north of Boston. The marine station is an ideal staging area for climate change research in the Gulf of Maine, which is warming faster than 99% of planet Earth. Research in his lab also addresses broad-scale questions in marine ecology using meta-analysis approaches, synthesizing data across disparate sources to address general questions in nature.
Klaus Nüsslein's research interests are focused on (I) the adaptation of microbial community structure and activity to external stress factors, and (II) the role microorganisms play in biogeochemical cycles. To aid his research he currently focuses on three defined terrestrial microbial systems: The lack of electron donors in deep subsurface systems, the stress of land use change and intensive agriculture on soil systems, and the extreme conditions in sediments under acid mine drainage.
Darci Connor Maresca
School of Earth & Sustainability
For more than fifteen years, Darci Connor Maresca has worked at the intersection of science, policy, and people on relevant environmental programs and sustainability initiatives. At UMass Amherst, Darci is responsible for curating the long-term goals and implementing priorities for the School of Earth & Sustainability. She supports SES leadership, manages interdisciplinary partnerships, and spearheads new programming. As the Assistant Director, Darci works with program advisors to develop student opportunities related to career planning, professional development, and experiential learning. Her work relies on strong partnerships with university officials, campus colleagues, alumni, regional organizations, and workforce leaders. Darci earned her Master of Science from Oregon State University's Marine Resource Management Program.
Program Assistant & Student Engagement Coordinator
School of Earth & Sustainability
A native of Western MA, Emily Chiara is a current graduate student in the Sustainability Science Master's program with a concentration is Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems. She works alongside SES leadership and staff to support key initiatives and programming. Emily is also responsible for coordinating student engagement, and developing collateral and marketing materials. As a proponent of interdisciplinary education, she is excited to help further SES's mission by connecting students and faculty across multiple disciplines.
Program Assistant & Social Media Coordinator
School of Earth & Sustainability
Sarah works with SES as a Program Assistant, promoting the school's work and mission through outreach and communications with a focus on social media. She is a MS/PhD student in the Department of Geosciences at UMass with a focus on hydrogeology and the basin-scale processes that impact groundwater availability in arid regions. Her thesis uses groundwater flow models to investigate the climatic and geologic influences on the migration of high-salinity groundwater bodies and impact water resources for people in arid regions throughout the world. She also has an interest in Middle Eastern studies, is fluent in Arabic, and has lived in both Jordan and Lebanon.