logo: Stanford University Earth Systems Program
Winter 2017 E-Newsletter

Happy Birthday Earth Systems!
The program turned 25 in January, and our staff and community came out to celebrate.

Photo of Earth Systems staff members standing in front of celebration sign
The Earth Systems Staff: Kristin Tewksbury, Katie Phillips, Richard Nevle, Deana Fabbro-Johnston, Kevin Arrigo, and Melissa Vallejo. Photo courtesy of Melissa Vallejo.

Fantastic Birds and Where to Sign Them

The Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve has held great meaning to me since my childhood. I spent countless hours hiking, biking, and birding there, and it undeniably influenced my love of nature. But for all the time I spent roaming the levees, I learned very little of the Baylands’ true value and complexity. So in 2015, I applied for a Summer Project Fellowship through the Haas Center for Public Service, with the goal of harnessing the Baylands’ potential as an educational space.

Photo of Sophie with one of her signs at the BaylandsPhoto courtesy of Sophie Christel

A lack of excellent educational material in a nature preserve may not seem like a pressing need, but I argue that it is, in fact, a hole that begs to be filled. At a park with a high volume of visitors, there is immense potential for environmental education and inspiration. The Baylands’ two interpretive centers have abundant educational material, but their museum-like format can be off-putting, inconvenient, or inaccessible to certain audiences. Summer camps, tours, and classes are not universally accessible options either.

For a casual visitor, interpretive signage on the trails can provide a fantastic alternative. When I proposed my project to create new signs, much of the existing signage had been in place since the 1990s or before, and was in sore need of updating. Additionally, the old signs were visually underwhelming—not likely to inspire visitors to read them—and were written in English only, despite the fact that a high proportion of regular visitors to the Baylands speak mostly or only Spanish. I wanted to reinvigorate the park’s educational landscape with more exciting, accessible, content-rich signs.

It was incredibly gratifying to give back to a place so instrumental in developing my interests in ecology, conservation, and birding. The project showed me that one does not have to travel far afield to provide a valuable service. It also inspired me to enroll in service learning courses that allowed me to work in my home community. I hope that by providing learning opportunities for all Baylands visitors— old and young, English or Spanish speaking—my signs could inspire more sustained interest in ecology and the environmental issues our natural world faces.

My signs can be seen on the trails at Byxbee Park in the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve, and at the nearby duck pond.

By Sophie Christel, Earth Systems MS Student

Mountains as our Textbooks

Outside, the winter wind is frolicking in uncontrolled glee, whipping snow from aspens and rooftops into the night air. I just finished putting away snow science teaching materials and I now sit in darkness in my attic-like office, guessing at when the power will flicker back to life. The storm reminds us that winter remains in charge.

In January, I started my job as program assistant for the field education and graduate programs here at Teton Science Schools (TSS) in my hometown of Jackson, Wyoming. I work and live at the Kelly Campus, located about twenty miles north of town on the eastern border of Grand Teton National Park (GTNP)—in fact, it was on this same campus that I learned about riparian corridors, tracks, and scat during elementary school.

Photo of students in an outdoor class on skiis with lots of snowPhoto courtesy of Tyler McIntosh.

As program assistant, my daily duties are incredibly diverse, although all work toward TSS’s mission of “connecting people, nature, and place through education, science, and stewardship.” I host visiting organizations, process programmatic data, work to create and implement new educational initiatives, support the TSS Graduate Program in environmental education, and spend days in the field teaching snow science and winter ecology to middle school, high school, and undergraduate students.

In addition to duties directly related to programs run out of the campus, I have also become involved in projects with a larger scope, such a red fox research project in collaboration with the Fish and Wildlife branch of GTNP. Over the next month we will be trapping red foxes near campus (one of four trapping regions) in order to take blood draws, collect whisker and fur samples, and place radio collars and identification tags. After release, foxes will be monitored over the next two years in order to gain an insight into the level of habituation of each individual, identify areas of likely human-fox interactions, and investigate fox movement and foraging ecology.

Each day I return to my drafty cabin to check the mouse traps. I find myself strangely revitalized; not only by the excitement that bubbles from students as they examine beaver pelts or snow crystals, but also by the fact that on a daily basis I help to bring students some of the same experiences that taught me to love the wilderness.

Note: The Teton Science Schools’ Graduate Program is currently accepting applications for the 2017-18 school year. If you are interested in place-based education and teaching in the outdoors, please contact Tracy Logan at tracy.logan@tetonscience.org. You can find more information on the program here.

By Tyler McIntosh, Earth Systems MS Student

A Summer at the Ranch

Photo of Catie at TomKat Ranch riding a horsePhoto courtesy of Catie Mong.

I spent my summer working as the third sustainable agriculture intern from Stanford at TomKat Ranch Educational Foundation. My internship was funded by a fellowship from the Haas Center for Public Service. TomKat has had a long-standing connection to Stanford through hosting researchers and students and also through ranch director Wendy Millet, a former program director for Stanford’s Woods Institute for the Environment.

Located in Pescadero, TomKat is a 1,800-acre grass-fed cattle ranch whose mission is seeking solutions to challenges in producing safe, wholesome food in an ecologically sustainable manner. As a non-profit, TomKat can afford to experiment with new practices and then pass on to other ranches.

As an intern, a large portion of my fellowship was helping with the cattle and the rotational grazing system. By dividing the pastures into fenced sub-sections, the ranch can control the movement of the cows to maximize benefits such as carbon sequestration and soil organic matter, while minimizing the risks of overgrazing. Short intense periods of grazing followed by long periods of rest can help native perennial grasses compete against annual grasses. The deep root systems of perennial grasses allow them to more easily recover from grazing. TomKat works with on-site partner Point Blue Conservation to monitor the effects on soil, vegetation, and wildlife.

While mornings were filled with ranch duties, there was also plenty of time for field trips or working with one of TomKat’s partner groups. On any given day, I could be riding with Gallop Ventures, bird banding with Point Blue, conducting soil tests, or planting lettuce using aquaponics at Symbi Biological. Interns were encouraged to start independent projects, and I assisted wildlife camera monitoring, created a pilot seed cover mix, and practiced photography around the ranch.

I had the opportunity to share my knowledge with other students as a TA for Patrick Archie’s course Earthsys 180: Principles & Practices of Sustainable Agriculture. I gave a lecture on “Ranching, Conservation & Diversified Agriculture” where I taught students about the differences in conventional and alternative methods of livestock production, as well as global perspectives on ranching from my personal experiences working on predator-ranching conflict mitigation in Namibia and Brazil.

This internship allowed me to explore possible careers at the intersection of conservation and agriculture: rangeland ecology, conservation grazing management, and rancher relations for a non-profit. I plan to continue this exploration by working with TomKat as an apprentice after I graduate, and last quarter I did a preliminary freshwater ecosystem services assessment for TomKat as part of Gretchen Daily’s course “Ecosystem Services: Frontiers in the Science of Valuing Nature.” I also made a promotional video for the ranch as part of Tom Hayden’s “Multimedia Environmental Communication” course along with Kimberly Chang-Haines (Biology’17) and Meredith Fischer (Earth Systems co-term).

By Catie Mong, Earth Systems MS Student

In this edition:

Four features written by students, highlighting their work and interests in Earth Systems.

Fantastic Birds and Where to Sign Them

Mountains as our Textbooks

A Summer at the Ranch

Getting the Dirt on the Farm Family


Humans of Earth Systems: A new project by Student Advisor Claire Miles

Humans of Earth Systems highlights the unique stories and experiences of our diverse community. Featuring a new student each week, the project includes both a student photo and an anecdote describing their relationship to the program. Many people buy into the single image of a "typical" Earth Systems major - Humans of Earth Systems aims to look beyond these stereotypes and show that people of all shapes, sizes, colors, and backgrounds love the environment and are welcome in the program! Profiles are posted every Monday and are circulated through email and our Facebook page Earth Systems Community.

screen capture of the Humans of Earth Systems feature with Ben Bravo

The inaugural installation of Humans of Earth Systems featuring coterm student Ben Bravo.


New Spring Courses

EARTHSYS 108/208: U.S. Environmental Law in Transition, a 1 unit seminar series on the impacts of the presidential transition on environmental law and policy will be taught by Danny Cullenward, '07, Research Associate at the Carnegie Institution for Science and Deborah Sivas, Professor of Law.

Liz Carlisle, Lecturer in the School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Sciences will offer two new courses:

EARTHSYS 136/236: The Ethics of Stewardship is open to undergraduate and graduate students across campus, and fulfills the Ethical Reasoning WAYS requirement for undergrads.

EARTHSYS 243: Environmental Advocacy and Policy Communication is a graduate-level course, but is open to undergraduates willing and excited to do graduate-level work.

Michelle Anderson, Professor at Stanford Law School, will offer EARTHSYS 238: Land Use Law, focusing on the pragmatic aspects of contemporary land use law and policy.

Jon Koomey and Ian Monroe, both Lecturers in the School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Sciences will offer EARTHSYS 196/296: Implementing Climate Solutions at Scale, which will teach students about the means and complexity of solving climate change challenges.


Student Publications

Emma Hutchinson's article The Maasai, Wildebeest, and a Warming Serengeti was published in Earth Island Journal.

Three student pieces were published in SAGE, Sound Advice for a Green Earth, by Stanford Magazine:

Alan Propp wrote about the sustainability of soda, Meredith Fischer explained how psychological barriers can prevent us from making Earth-friendly choices, and Riya Mehta discussed how to make your wedding celebration greener.


Photo of ranch with cattle in teh foreground and a watering hole in the background
Ranching in action. Photo courtesy of Catie Mong.




The Julie Kennedy Public Service Scholar Award

The awards are named for Julie Kennedy, Professor (Teaching) Emerita of Earth System Science, and former Peter E. Haas Faculty Co-Director of the Haas Center for Public Service. Professor Kennedy was part of the leadership team of the Earth Systems Program from 1994 to 2016, serving as Associate Director (2001-2012) and Co-Director (2012-2014).

The Fall winners of the award are:

Jonathan Fisk, BS '17, MS '17,

Ali Hoffer, BS '18, and

Erika Lynn Kreeger, BS '17



Photo of a red anenome flower with a purple center at the Farm
Red anemone flower at the farm. Photo courtesy of Ashley Overbeek.




Thank you EARTHSYS 201!

As part of a class assignment the students in EARTHSYS 201, Editing for Publication, taught by Tom Hayden and Katie Phillips, contributed headlines to this edition of the newsletter. Thanks to Dylan Anslow, Hannah Black, Virginia Fay, Lauren Gibson, and Natasha Mmonatau.


Generation Anthropocene

Generation Anthropocene is an award-winning podcast that began as an Earth Systems course and continues to integrate project-based learning in and out of the classroom. The show is approaching a 5-year anniversary, and student producers are currently working on stories for the upcoming season– release date: Earth Day, 2017! The podcast investigates topics at the intersection of science and humanity on our changing planet.  Learn more at www.GenAnthro.com. The show is also cross-promoted with Smithsonian.com

Generation Anthropocene logo



Upcoming Events

March 6, 6:30 - 8:00 pm, Y2E2 Room 101
Earth Systems Alumni Networking Event featuring 10 recent Earth Systems graduates

March 7, 6:30 pm
Stephen H. Schneider Memorial Lecture featuring John Holdren: President Obama's Chief Science and Technology Advisor, 2009-2017
Reserve your free tickets here.

March 14, 2-4 pm
Earth Systems Senior Capstone Symposium, Hartley Conference Room, Mitchell Building

March 16, 10:30 am
Earth Systems Happy Hour, Brunch edition, honoring our Winter quarter Julie Kennedy Public Service Scholars


Updated Course Tracks!

Many new courses have been added to the Earth Systems Tracks and some track names have been updated. Anthrosphere is now Human Environmental Systems and Oceans is now Oceans and Climate. Please visit the Earth Systems website for updates.

Screen capture of the Earth Systems website showing the course tracks section



Thanks for reading!

Photo of Kelly Campus with bright sun and a fresh blanket of snow.
Kelly Campus at Teton Science School glitters with new snow at the edge of Grand Teton National Park. Photo courtesy of Tyler McIntosh.



Getting the Dirt on the Farm Family

As an Earth Systems major with a focus on Sustainable Food and Agriculture, I’ve definitely spent my fair share of time on the O'Donohue Family Stanford Educational Farm. After taking Patrick Archie’s class, Principles and Practices of Sustainable Agriculture in 2014, back when the Educational Farm was just getting started, it’s been an awesome experience to see where the Farm is today. Through my classes and personal projects, I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the staff who have made the Educational Farm into the bountiful, vibrant haven it is today. I interviewed three integral members of the Farm team, Rose Madden, Will Chen, and Jessica Gonzalez, to hear more about their backgrounds and introduce them to the Earth Systems community.

SAGE logoPhoto courtesy of Ashley Overbeek.

Rose Madden, Farm Facility & Production Coordinator
Rose, who hails from Nantucket, MA, has always been interested in farming at heart. After graduating college, she immediately began working on a farm and knew that “basically that was the only job I wanted after that.” She worked in landscaping during college, and knew she loved being outside, and farming allowed her to connect all of her interests with the bonus of being able to grow food as well. After working at Santa Clara University’s educational garden, Rose realized how important it was for colleges to have farms and gardens, she and transitioned into her role at Stanford’s then-newly-created Educational Farm. What inspires Rose the most about her time at the Stanford Educational Farm is watching the farm grow (no pun intended) over time. “It’s addictive because every year you get better and better, and the crops get better and better.”

SAGE logoPhoto courtesy of Ashley Overbeek.

William Chen, Farm Facility & Production Coordinator
A Bay Area native, Will first started out as an engineer. When he realized he wanted to do something more hands-on, he went back to school for Environmental Studies and found his passion in ecology and organic farming. He started volunteering at community farms and eventually transitioned into his current role at the Stanford Educational Farm, where he has been working for over a year and a half. One of his favorite parts of working on the Educational Farm is seeing students come back, year after year: “It’s so nice to see returning faces!” Will hopes that students are able to learn new things, especially innovative farming tools and small-scale farming practices. But it is important to note that the Educational Farm is a tool to educate people in the broader Stanford community as well, “This place is open to the public. We’re trying to do research and small scale projects to show other small scale growers that there is an easier way to do things.”

SAGE logoPhoto courtesy of Ashley Overbeek.

Jessica Gonzalez, Program Coordinator
A native of San Jose, CA, Jessica completed her bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and has been working in environmental education and community engagement for the past six years, but just started her position as Program Coordinator at the Stanford Educational Farm in January 2017. Beyond the environment and food systems, Jessica’s main passion is working with people: “I love being outside and I want to share that with others who are excited about it. For others who are not so sure, I love finally getting them outside and getting them involved.” When she interviewed for her position, she was so amazed at how everyone was able to turn a small piece of land into such an amazing, dynamic, and sustainable place: “It’s a place for relaxing, healing, just getting away from it all while not having to go that far. So I would say, for those who haven’t come out, it’s definitely a place to come and visit!”

By Ashley Overbeek, Earth Systems BS Student

The Earth Systems Newsletter is distributed quarterly. To learn more about the Earth Systems Program, visit our website. To subscribe or unsubscribe to the e-newsletter, e-mail your request to Katie Phillips: kphill@stanford.edu.