The School of Earth & Sustainability (SES) at the University of Massachusetts is guided by a collaborative steering committee with representation from across the member departments. Additionally, SES is supported by a small, dedicated team of staff with specialized experience to advance the goals and initiatives championed by the school.
SES Steering Committee
Rob DeConto is a Professor of Geosciences and Co-Director of the School of Earth & Sustainability at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Previously, he held research positions at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Rob studies polar climate change, the response of ice sheets to a warming climate, and coastal impacts of sea-level rise. Rob serves on international science advisory boards and is a lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Camille Barchers has practiced as a regional planner throughout Florida, the Southeast and mid-Atlantic. Prior to joining University of Massachusetts, Camille taught in the Leadership Education and Development program at the Georgia Institute of Technology where she also received her PhD in City & Regional Planning. Camille’s work examines how planners use technology and how it changes the way we engage with the public. Her research interests include big data applications for long-range planning, internet communication tools, and land use planning. She has a BS in Natural Resources and a Master of Regional Planning from Cornell University.
Sarah Berquist currently teaches courses in the Sustainable Food and Farming undergraduate program. Sarah offers contemplative and participatory courses in farm-based agriculture education, social justice, food systems, and personal sustainability. She has an MS in Sustainability Science with a specialization in Agriculture Education from UMass Amherst.
Forrest’s research investigates how students learn GIS, especially in the growing field of CyberGIS. Through analysis of curriculum and instruction in GIS, Forrest aims to build an evidence-based understanding of how GIS programs function, and what knowledge, skills, and practices make up the GIS degree. He has additional research interest in geography education, geography in higher education, resources of the elements, and tropical glaciers.
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.
Department Head and Professor
Department of Geosciences
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.
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.
Lena Fletcher is the Director of the Natural Resources Conservation program. Her academic interests include forest ecology and old growth forests, as well as student-centered and innovative teaching, with a particular interest in contemplative pedagogy and civic engagement. Lena teaches team-based general education classes at the intersection of sustainability, ecology, and society, as well as online courses for teachers to incorporate climate change into their classes. Lena is a co-leader of the Contemplative Pedagogy Working Group in the Center for Teaching and Learning, as well as the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program Collaborative. Lena is also a mom of 4 teenage boys.
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.
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.
Director of Stockbridge School of Agriculture
Darci Connor Maresca
School of Earth & Sustainability
Darci Connor Maresca has facilitated meaningful change through a transdisciplinary approach to environmental programs and sustainability initiatives for more than fifteen years. At UMass Amherst, Darci is responsible for curating the long-term goals, overseeing the day-to-day operations, fostering vibrant partnerships, and implementing priorities for the School of Earth & Sustainability. A central part of her role is to build capacity and assemble high-impact collaborative teams. Darci also advances the university's academic mission through student training, the SES internship program, career-focused courses, and advising and mentoring sustainability students. Her leadership includes the Paperbark Literary Magazine advisory board, UMass Carbon Zero Living Lab lead, the Northeast Center for Coastal Resilience lead, UMass Sustainability Curriculum Fellows Program co-lead, to name a few. Her work at UMass relies on strong partnerships with university officials, campus colleagues, alumni, regional organizations, and workforce leaders. Prior to her work at UMass, Darci's career has taken her across the country, working in communities at all levels to address societal challenges through an inclusive, collaborative approach to problem-solving. Darci earned her Master of Science in Marine Resource Management from Oregon State University in 2007. To learn more about Darci's experience, click here.
School of Earth & Sustainability
Coming from Upstate New York, Courtney Crossgrove is a graduate of the Sustainability Science Master's program with a concentration in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems. She works alongside SES leadership and staff to support key initiatives and programming. Courtney 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.