Department of Geography and the Environment
Dear Students, Alumni, Colleagues and Friends,

Greetings from GEV! I hope this newsletter finds you and your loved ones healthy, safe and happy.

It’s an exciting time in GEV! We recently moved into our new department office, welcomed a record number of first-year majors in the Class of 2025, and received funding notifications for four major research grants, among many other recent student and faculty accomplishments. We are pleased to share some additional news, highlight several student and faculty accomplishments, and shine a spotlight on several GEV alumni in this newsletter.

This academic year feels almost normal, for which we are exceedingly grateful. We have all missed the in-person interactions that are so important in forming the community within GEV. While we are happy to leave Zoom largely behind us and return to live classes and research, we have decided to take advantage of the increased accessibility that virtual events provide. Our colloquia are available via Zoom in addition to in-person attendance options for folks on campus. We welcome all alumni and friends of the department to join us on select Thursday evenings—please see the schedule below. It’s a great way to stay connected with GEV from afar!

We wish you and your loved ones all the best. Please stay in touch!
Warm regards,
Nathaniel Weston, PhD
Chair, Department of Geography and the Environment
Department News
Welcoming the Class of 2025!
GEV welcomed more than 40 first-year environmental majors in the Class of 2025. The Department initiated a new peer mentoring program in which the students and their junior peer-mentors discuss issues relevant to the first-year experience. GEV is grateful to Tina Aron ’23 CLAS, Kara Dempsey ’23 CLAS, Megan Gaughan ’23 CLAS, Becca McDonough ’23 CLAS, Marie Mullen ’23 CLAS and Anna Roberts ’23 CLAS who have demonstrated leadership by serving as the first peer mentors in this new program.
New Department Offices
The Department moved into a new office space in Mendel Science Center just before the start of the fall semester. The new Mendel G61 office suite sits across the hall from the G58 teaching laboratory and equipment room, creating a dedicated space for GEV.
Angie Fondaco, right, and Camila Silva, left, welcome visitors to the beautiful new Department suite. 
New Drone Course
Drones are quickly becoming a standard tool in the environmental and geospatial industries. Learn about how our faculty and students are using them.
Department Colloquium Series
Nov. 11 at 7:00 p.m. 
“Indigenous' Peoples Rights and Sustainable Development: Are They Compatible?” Joan Carling, Former Secretary General of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact
Nov. 18 at 5:30 p.m. 
Gamma Theta Upsilon Colloquium: Geography Awareness Week
“Kensington Remembers: Mapping Memorial Sites in North Philadelphia,” Gordon Coonfield, PhD, associate professor of Communication at Villanova University
Faculty News
Bonnie Henderson, PhD, was promoted to Associate Teaching Professor. Dr. Henderson is a valued colleague and fantastic professor, and the promotion is well deserved!
David Coyne, principal and chief operating officer of Liberty Environmental, Inc., started teaching “Introduction to Sustainability Studies” in fall 2021. See his “Industry Insight,” below.
Liesel Schwarz, sustainability manager for the University, joined the Department as an adjunct instructor and is teaching a new Advanced Sustainability Studies course.
Student Spotlights
Geography and Environmental Studies major Kamara Staples ’22 CLAS, spent her summer conducting research with Tory Chase, PhD; Lisa Rodrigues, PhD; and Steve Goldsmith, PhD, on the degradation of plastics at different temperatures and salinities. She also researched the efficacy of various irrigation systems in the Villanova Research and Education Garden as part of her senior research project. Kamara was supported by a Department of Geography and the Environment Summer Undergraduate Research (SURF) Fellowship.
Environmental Science major Claire Roberts ’22 CLAS, conducted summer research funded by the Department’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) under the direction of Jennifer Santoro. Her project focused on chestnut blight, an invasive pathogen that infects and kills American chestnut trees. Claire studied possible ways to use Chaga fungus to help reduce blight infection by applying a poultice of mud and Chaga mycelium to blight cankers on tree stems. This method may help to reduce the lethal oxalic acid secreted by the blight fungus. Claire is continuing this research for her senior thesis.
Kate Homet ’22 MS was awarded a GEV Graduate Research Opportunity grant to support her research focused on understanding climate-related social and environmental vulnerabilities in Philadelphia. Under the direction of Peleg Kremer, PhD, Kate found that both social and infrastructure vulnerabilities to flooding are unevenly distributed throughout the city of Philadelphia. Kate will be presenting her thesis research at the Associate of American Geographers meeting in the spring. She also attained some on-the-ground experience with urban flooding following Hurricane Ida’s record-breaking impacts.
Research Spotlight
Steven Goldsmith, PhD, Kabindra Shakya, PhD, Lisa Rodrigues, PhD, Tory Chase, PhD, Stephen Strader, PhD, and Nathaniel Weston, PhD, received four grants that total more than $1.1 million in funding to support research in the Department as part of more than $3 million in total project funds. These research projects will be active over the next several years and yield critical new information on pressing environmental issues and provide outstanding opportunities for student involvement in high-impact research. Read about each of their research grants.
Recent graduate Kyle Kellenbenz ’20 CLAS and his mentor Kabindra Shakya, PhD, published his senior thesis research on “Spatial and temporal variations in indoor radon concentrations in Pennsylvania, USA from 1988 to 2018” in the Journal of Environmental Radioactivity in July 2021.
Justin Stewart ’20 MS, Peleg Kremer, PhD, Kabindra Shakya, PhD, Meghan Conway ’20 CLAS and Alexander Saad ’20 CLAS published “Outdoor atmospheric microbial diversity is associated with three-dimensional urban landscape structure and differs from indoor-transit systems” in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.
Alumni Spotlight
Alyssa Watt ’13 CLAS earned her BS in Environmental Science, and during her undergraduate studies, she worked in the laboratory with Lisa Rodrigues, PhD, interned with the Department of Energy at Brookhaven National Laboratory, and served as an undergraduate teaching assistant. She also completed a semester at the Duke Marine Laboratory, working on a pilot whale research team and a leatherback turtle nesting study. Watt completed a master of science in Sustainability Management at Columbia University in 2017 and started working in asset management at renewable energy companies including C2 Energy Capital, TerraForm Power, Con Edison Clean Energy, and now National Trust Community Investment Corporation, where she is responsible for managing the growing solar power investment portfolio. She is looking forward to continuing work that supports an equitable transition to a clean energy future. Of her time in GEV, Alyssa says, “I had the opportunity to explore many different aspects of geography and the environment with a network of faculty and staff that were so willing to help me succeed.”
John Nguyen ’19 MS recently started a new position as a Life Scientist with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in Chicago, Illinois. “Under the Permits Branch of the Water Division, I'll be reviewing NPDES permits for transport, storage, and disposal facilities, as well as handling litigation cases. I'm pretty excited to move to a big city like Chicago!” he says. In addition to his role with the EPA, Nguyen works as a consultant with the Environmental Grantmakers Association. He graduated from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, with a BS in Chemistry in 2014 before pursuing his Master's in Environmental Science at Villanova. Nguyen worked with Steve Goldsmith, PhD, on his masters’ thesis, focused on the impacts of hydraulic fracturing on streams in the upper Susquehanna River watershed. He also served as a graduate student representative on Villanova’s Student Sustainability Committee. Upon completing his graduate degree, Nguyen was a William Penn Foundation fellow where he helped safeguard water resources in the Delaware River watershed.
Industry Insight
David S. Coyne ’00 MS, principal and chief operating officer of Liberty Environmental, Inc., has spent 30 years in the environmental consulting profession. “It began humbly, working for cash and sandwiches for a geochemistry professor running a consulting side-hustle in Woods Hole, Massachusetts,” says Coyne. Despite the messy job snorkeling for sediment samples in Waquoit Bay, he loved it. “I loved the idea that we could collect information from the planet—from coastal estuarine silts to deep-cored bedrock, from ice-clear mountain streams to petroleum-reeking gas station soils—and use that data to tell a story, and perhaps solve a problem.”

Coyne eventually moved from field work to a seat at a desk. “I grew more familiar with the murky sediment of management—time, people and expectations. But a shining truth has remained constant throughout and motivates me to this day—an environmental consultant can bring the power of education to a specific problem.” Three decades later, there are more and larger problems to solve, but also unprecedented opportunities for aspiring young people. “My firm and others will continue to seek those who tell the next chapters in the story – for the betterment of our communities, our economies and our planet.”
Coyne is writer and host of the Environmental Experts Radio podcast. He earned his MS from the College of Engineering in 2000 and started teaching as an adjunct professor in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ Department of Geography and the Environment in fall 2021.
Supporting GEV
Please consider supporting student research opportunities in GEV! The Enhancing Diversity in Geography and the Environment (EDGE) Fellowship is specifically designed to provide undergraduate student majors from groups underrepresented in the disciplines of Geography and Environmental Science and Environmental Studies with financial support to conduct research or pursue otherwise unpaid internship opportunities. Please consider supporting student research and/or specifically the EDGE Fellowship Fund. After entering your donation amount, simply specify ‘GEV – Student Research’ or ‘GEV - EDGE Fellowship’ in the gift designation section.

Thank you for supporting student research in GEV!
Alumni Notes
Alumni of the Department are invited to share their news and accomplishments for inclusion in future editions of the GEV Newsletter.  
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