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Letters, Alumni Notes

June 27, 2012


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Nelson Institute alumna Ann Carlson in Yosemite

Parked in New Mexico

Hi to all at the Nelson Institute! I was just reading In Common and thought I'd send a quick note to give an update on my whereabouts. I am now working as a seasonal park ranger for the National Park Service. Since graduating in 2009, I have worked at Yellowstone, Yosemite and currently Carlsbad Caverns National Park. I attached a photo (at right) from Hetch Hetchy in Yosemite.

Ann Carlson ESC '06, M.S. CBSD '09

Well prepared

I am an alum and felt compelled to write after attending a recent event at my university.

The University of Kansas (KU), where I have been on the faculty since graduating from UW, has just undergone a major strategic planning exercise, part of which identified four strategic research areas. One of these strategic initiatives is called "Sustaining the Planet, Powering the World." I was involved as a member of the planning committee for the summit on this initiative, and 200 of us spent all day talking about potential collaborative work that could be done to enhance KU's standing in this area.

At many times during the day, I felt incredibly grateful for the interdisciplinary training I received in the Nelson Institute (then the Institute for Environmental Studies). I remember when I was applying for Ph.D. programs, struggling to articulate to a friend why I felt it was so important to bring multiple lenses to bear on environmental problems. I sensed why at the time, and my commitment to interdisciplinarity has only grown in the years since then. At the initiative summit, I was reminded that UW prepared me to work especially well as my institution moves forward on this.

Stacey Swearingen White Ph.D. LR '98 Associate professor, Urban Planning Department, and director of academic programs, Center for Sustainability, University of Kansas

Alumni Notes

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Jill Baron (M.S. LR '79), a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, has been named president-elect of the Ecological Society of America. The USGS and the Department of the Interior have a policy that allows scientists to hold such positions while they continue their research at the USGS.

Baron has led national efforts to understand the consequences of nitrogen deposition and climate change on mountain ecosystems and identify ways for public lands managers to prepare for and adapt to these changes. She was a member of the Science Strategy Team that now shapes the intellectual direction of the USGS, and is founder and co-director of the John Wesley Powell Center for Earth System Science Analysis and Synthesis. Her tenure as ESA president-elect begins in August.

Jane Elder (M.S. LR '91) was named executive director of the Wisconsin Academy in January. The nonprofit organization applies the sciences, arts and letters to bring context, civilized discussion and meaningful action to the most important issues and ideas of the day.

Elder's career has focused on environmental policy and communications, balanced by interests that include theater, modern dance and painting. Elder was the founding director of the Sierra Club's Great Lakes Program and led the organization's Midwest Offi ce for many years. She was also the founding director of the Biodiversity Project, a nationwide initiative to raise awareness about the value of Earth's diverse species, habitats and ecosystems.

John Francis (Ph.D. LR '91) received the McDowell Alumni Achievement Award from the UW-Madison Multicultural Student Center in May. The award honors UW-Madison alumni who identify as persons of color, embody the Wisconsin Idea and enhance the Wisconsin Experience through gifts of time, talent and/or treasure.

Francis, a visiting associate professor of environmental studies for the 2011-12 academic year, spent 22 years walking and 17 years in silence in response to a 1971 oil spill in California. He has authored two books about his experiences and now focuses on creating a more inclusive view and collective approach to environmental sustainability.

Kat Friedrich (M.S. LR '06) interviewed fellow Nelson Institute alumna Nina Mukherji (M.S. CBSD '09) on her blog Science Is Everyone's Story in February. Mukherji serves as director of programs at Real Food Challenge, a Boston-based organization that leverages the power of youth and universities to create a healthy, just and sustainable food system. Friedrich produces news and web content for nonprofi ts in Maine, Massachusetts and Connecticut; she also blogs about environmental issues, engineering, technology and science communication. Read the interview.

Rower Grace Latz
Latz (center)

Grace Latz (ESC '11), who rowed with the UW-Madison women's rowing team as a student, traveled to England in June to compete in the Women's Henley Regatta and Henley Royal Regatta. These prestigious races, held on the River Thames by the town of Henley-on-Thames, attract international crews and thousands of visitors. While there she also visited the River and Rowing Museum, focused on the ecology of the sport.

Andrea McMillen (M.S. WRM '11) has joined the Ecological Society of America as education programs coordinator within the organization's Education and Diversity Programs Office.

The office works to improve the relationship between educators and researchers to promote the understanding of ecology and to prepare students from diverse backgrounds for ecology-related careers. McMillen is helping to develop a digital library of biology education resources for k-16 educators and organizing a conference to promote their use.

Erick Shambarger (EAP '02) serves as deputy director of environmental sustainability for the city of Milwaukee, overseeing the Milwaukee Energy Efficiency (Me2) program and administering efforts aimed at systematically reducing energy use in city operations.

The federally funded Me2 program helps Milwaukee homeowners and businesses finance energy efficiency upgrades to their properties.

Vincent Smith (Ph.D. ER '11) is an adjunct instructor of environmental studies and sociology at Southern Oregon University. He currently serves as a member of the SOU Sustainability Council, a university-wide group that advises, encourages and coordinates campus operations in a manner consistent with environmental stewardship and sustainability.

NWF Certified Success
The National Wildlife Federation
Steffenie Widows' research.

Vincent's current research explores the impact of farm-based educational programs on childhood eating behavior and he has just completed a study of perceived barriers to the university's new on-campus recycling program. Vincent is also the owner of Silent Springs, an online community and marketplace that works to establish markets for natural product artisans (

Research by Steffenie Widows (M.S. CBSD '11) was the subject of a National Wildlife Federation article in the April/May 2012 issue of National Wildlife. As part of her master's program, Widows evaluated NWF's Certified Wildlife Habitat program, investigating properties in the Orlando, Florida, area. Her goal was to determine whether certified yards provide habitat not available in non-certified yards and if that additional habitat benefited native wildlife.

Widows found significant differences: Certified yards offer more habitat and sustain more wildlife than non-certified properties nearby. Read the full article.

ES denotes environmental studies undergraduate major; ESC, environmental studies undergraduate certificate; CBSD, Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development graduate program; EAP, Energy Analysis and Policy graduate certificate; ER, Environment and Resources graduate program (after 2007); LR, Land Resources graduate program (through 2007); and WRM, Water Resources Management graduate program.