College of the Environment Newsletter - Winter 2024

Other Quarterly Newsletters


Subscribe to receive our quarterly newsletter in your inbox:

* indicates required

From the Dean’s Desk

Teena Gabrielson

As the days get longer and the trees begin to bud, we welcome spring and this new season of possibility. With new attention to the power of positive environmental stories and solutions-oriented reporting, we bring you this update from the College of the Environment. In this newsletter, you’ll find stories about our incredible students and alums, updates on faculty research, upcoming events, and more. 

Last year, we took a critical look at ourselves as part of a strategic visioning process. We invited faculty, staff, students, alums, colleagues, and community members to provide input about the college - where we are today and where we should aim to be in five years. I’m proud of the work that came out of this process and look forward to its implementation. You can read more about the strategic visioning process and the resulting actionable priorities in the body of this newsletter.

One of the main priorities that emerged from the strategic visioning process is enhancing collaboration and community around those dedicated to the environment. Earlier this month, we lent our support to the Salish Sea Institute, which hosted Elin Kelsey, the author of Hope Matters, a book that looks at ways we can cultivate evidence-based hope and counter climate doomism by changing the way we think (watch the video replay of Elin's inspiring talk). We also just launched a new joint working group with the College of Business and Economics to review our shared Business and Sustainability degree, as student interest in the major continues to rise with the shifting and growing green economy. We’ve seen an overwhelmingly positive response and incredible turnout to the work initiated by now-alum Elena King’s Sustainability, Equity & Justice Fund (SEJF) grant to create spaces of belonging and connection for underrepresented students in Environmental Sciences. These are just a few examples of how working together in and outside the classroom helps make us a stronger community and supports student success.

You and I know that every day is Earth Day, and every week is Earth Week. Even so, we absolutely approve and look forward to events that focus millions of people nationwide, billions worldwide, to think about ways to be better stewards of our shared planet. Keep an eye on our social media for Western’s slate of Earth Week events. The first Earth Day was observed on April 22, 1970, and Western established its first environmental college later that year. Since then, Western has graduated thousands of environmental problem solvers. 

We’re so excited about what today’s students will accomplish in the future and want to give them as many opportunities to make the best of their education as possible. In a few weeks, Western will hold the annual WWU Give Day, the one day each year when we ask our generous donors, alums, community members, and parents to help us support the countless ways our students dream, strive, and achieve remarkable things, in and out of the classroom. This year’s goal is to raise funds for college-level scholarships that support first-generation students and those experiencing significant financial need. You’ll hear more about Give Day and how you can impact future environmental leaders in the coming weeks. 

Thank you for your interest in the College of the Environment; we appreciate the support of this community of alums, donors, and community members. 

Teena Gabrielson,
Dean of the College of the Environment

Alumni Spotlight

Alum’s Capitol Hill internship offers crash course on legislative policy

For lifelong Western Washington resident and Environmental Studies alum Shannon Bacon, working in the “other Washington” has been a crash course on the federal legislative process. Last fall, she interned with Rep. Rick Larsen, who represents Washington state’s 2nd District (Bellingham and Whatcom County, as well as Skagit, Island, San Juan, and parts of Snohomish counties) in Washington, D.C. Rep. Larsen is the lead Democrat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, working on investments in infrastructure and transportation planning. 

Previous internships and coursework had Bacon experiencing legislative policy work from a more local or regional perspective. In Rep. Larsen’s office, she saw how transportation and emergency management policy—two of her main interests—look from the federal legislative angle. If you called or wrote to Rep. Larsen last fall, there’s a good chance it was Shannon on the other end. “I loved hearing from Washington residents and understanding a wider range of experiences in the 2nd District, especially in Bellingham,” said Bacon. In addition to answering and cataloging constituent calls and leading U.S. Capitol tours, she worked with legislative staff on memo writing and bill co-sponsorship recommendations. 

According to Bacon, there’s never a dull moment on Capitol Hill. “I was shocked by how many people there are behind the scenes of Congress,” she said. “I am constantly learning from staffers and other interns. It’s definitely rare to be bored on the Hill, and if you are, there’s a briefing or hearing to fill that time!” 

Bacon graduated from Western in December 2022 with a B.A. in Environmental Studies, a Justice and Community Resilience emphasis, and a minor in Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR). “I am grateful for my professors and their high standards for writing and research,” she said. “Communicating policy information in a concise yet comprehensive way is DRR minor courses were especially helpful with this communication style, as well as with exposure to some federal organizations and processes.”

The internship in Rep. Larsen’s office resonated with Bacon so well that she followed it with another one in the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, which quickly turned into a full-time job.

Bacon is excited to stay on Capitol Hill to continue working on housing, transportation, and risk assessment issues. “It has been great meeting people from all over the country,” she said. “I’ve gained relationships with people with completely different experiences and perspectives to mine, and I’ve grown a lot as a result.”

Shannon Bacon stands in front of the east entrance to the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C.


Mary Tully stands in front of a dark green shrub

Meet Mary Tully!

We are excited to introduce Mary Tully, our new operations manager. If Mary looks familiar, it might be because she worked in the Computer Science Department between 2013-19. She grew up in Yonkers, New York, and worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Baltimore District Contracting Division before making her way across the country to Bellingham in her VW camper van. Some fun facts about Mary? She lives in an old farmhouse on six acres that she’s slowly but steadily fixing up; was crowned the Rosehips Kween at the 2023 Great Port Townsend Kinetic Sculpture Race; and, she was a contestant on Wheel of Fortune! If you see Mary around the office, say hello!

Lola Thompson gives a "two thumbs-up," standing in front of Old Main

Student spotlight: Lola Thompson, one of this year’s AS Student Senators

For senior Urban Planning & Sustainable Development major Lola Thompson, being a Student Senator is like an extension of her studies. “I picked urban planning because it felt like a natural intersection of social justice and environmental sustainability, two of my biggest passions,” she said. Through her position in the Student Senate, she’s been working on projects relating to accessibility and food security.

Thompson describes the AS Student Senate as having three facets. “First, it ensures student representation from all WWU’s colleges in AS decisions. Second, it creates a point of contact for students seeking to engage the AS for support, resources, and funding. Third, it allows student senators to receive support and compensation to launch and maintain projects that help the WWU community.” One project Thompson is working on involves the Environmental Studies building, which houses the College of the Environment, Geology, Humanities and Social Sciences, and others. “The ES building is in need of accessibility modifications,” she said. “Students have had negative experiences with the ES Building, and their voices deserve to be heard. Please reach out to me if you want to share your experience.”

The interdisciplinary nature of the Urban Planning and Sustainable Development major and its focus on justice is what Thompson values the most about it. “I have been able to take multiple courses from different colleges, all centered on the through-line of the built environment,” she said. The program prepares students with the knowledge and skills needed to make positive and progressive change through the planning of equitable, healthful, livable, and sustainable communities. “Recently, I’ve had incredibly moving and engaging experiences taking Disaster Risk Reduction, Agroecology, and Environmental Dispute Resolution,” said Thompson about some of her favorite classes. “I strongly encourage people to take them, even if they are not required for your major.”

Lola Thompson and Meli Bernal are this year’s College of the Environment representatives in the AS Student Senate. They represent student interests in department policies, curriculum design, and other academic affairs. Students can reach Lola and Meli at

Research Highlights

Dr. Robin Kodner awarded Fulbright fellowship to France to expand Living Snow Project globally

Dr. Robin Kodner received a Fulbright Scholar Award for 2024-2025 for a project titled Living Snow Project: building a global citizen science program to study snow algae blooms. During this fellowship, she will spend the year at the Université Grenoble Alpes in Grenoble, France, with Dr. Eric Marchal, lead scientist at ALPALGA (a European collaboration of scientists studying alpine microalgae). She will also work with scientists from the U.S., UK, France, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Norway, Japan, and New Zealand in the Cryospheric Algal Sampling Protocols – International Collaboration and Exchange (CASP-ICE) program. The goal of the fellowship is to improve methods, grow the scope and complexity of research activities, launch The Living Snow Project in Europe, and develop plans for expanding globally. The Living Snow Project, started by Kodner at WWU, engages community-enabled science to study snow algae blooms in alpine areas. 

Drones help researchers study glaciers formerly out of reach

Environmental Sciences Associate Professor Dr. Alia Khan investigates how the cryosphere (the Earth's snow and ice) is changing. This YouTube video shows how Khan and her students use drones to collect samples from remote areas they can't reach by foot. 

Preview: The Planet Magazine

By Riley Weeks, Editor in Chief, The Planet magazine

Greetings, CENV newsletter readers! My name is Riley Weeks (she/her), and I am the current Editor in Chief of The Planet magazine here at Western. The Planet has been a student-funded, reported, edited, and published environmental magazine since its creation in 1979. We’ve won over 50 regional and national awards. We publish online at the end of every quarter and print a year-long anthology with the best of the best stories told by our student writers and photographers at the end of every Spring quarter. You can also find student-reported podcasts on our website. The theme of this quarter’s issue is “clarity.” 

Reporters have been looking into potential high-end developments happening in the small town of Glacier, turning a scrutinous gaze to our own campus steam plant, examining the new Center for Braiding Indigenous Knowledges and Science, and more. Our staff have been working incredibly hard to boil down concepts that might be hard to understand or even pronounce (I’m looking at you, N-(1,3-dimethylbutyl)-N'-phenyl-p-phenylenediamine!) and turn them into something clear and easy to understand. 

We’ll have eight passionately reported and rigorously fact-checked stories for you, covering a wide range of topics, by March 15. Please check our website and Instagram for updates. Are you a student that wants to write for us or take photos? Do you want to submit your own reporting? Have any questions or concerns? Please email Thank you for your continued support and engagement with environmental reporting that matters.

Photos from the Winter 2024 issue of The Planet magazine:

Greg Hough, the Assistant Director of Facilities Asset Management at Western Washington University points out significant pipe channels and control panels while giving a tour of the on-campus steam plant in Bellingham, Wash. Photo by Imogene Eagan.

Greg Hough, the Assistant Director of Facilities Asset Management at Western Washington University, points out significant pipe channels and control panels while giving a tour of the on-campus steam plant. Photo by Imogene Eagan.

A snowplow ascends Highway 542 towards Mt. Baker, departing Glacier, Wash. amid a snowstorm. Photo by Austin Blacketer.

A snowplow ascends Highway 542 towards Mt. Baker, departing Glacier, Wash. amid a snowstorm. Photo by Austin Blacketer.

College News

Undergraduate Ian Shaefer Lorenz receives Student Civic Leadership Award

Ian Schaefer Lorenz stands in front of a bookshelf

Congratulations to Ian Shaefer Lorenz, who received a Student Civic Leadership Award! The award recognizes civically engaged and passionate students dedicated to making a difference on their campuses and in their communities. Lorenz is now in the running for the Governor’s Student Civic Leadership Award, which will take place in Seattle on April 19.

Lorenz is a senior majoring in environmental sciences with an emphasis on toxicology and a minor in chemistry. In addition to his rigorous course load, Lorenz regularly volunteers at the local food bank, has worked on research projects with the Institute for Watershed Studies, and holds down a retail job. In 2022, a summer internship had him working as the Washington state campaign organizer for the Poor People’s Campaign, a national non-profit that fights to give voice to low-income and poor Americans, which landed him at the annual demonstration and march in Washington, D.C. Lorenz continues to support the social justice organization. “It is very humbling to be recognized,” said Lorenz. “But any positive contributions I may have made spring from the guidance of my elders and the support of many people. I hope that this award can serve as an opportunity to highlight the powerful work so many people do in Washington state and across the nation for the Poor People’s Campaign.” 

“Ian Schaefer Lorenz has been an excellent student and a great example of a scholar who embodies both the pursuit of scientific knowledge and the consideration of the broader impacts of that science,” wrote Dr. Manuel Montaño in his nomination. “As a non-traditional student, he has to balance many responsibilities outside of work,” wrote Montaño, who has taught and advised Lorenz for several years. “Despite some of these challenges, he is consistently one of the best students in my classes, and outside the classroom he strives to elevate members of his community.” 

Dr. Troy Abel

WWU represented on EPA Environmental Justice panel

Dr. Troy Abel has been appointed to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Environmental Justice Science and Analysis Review Panel (EJSARP). This Science Advisory Board (SAB) panel advises EPA’s administrator on issues related to environmental justice (EJ). 

“I am very honored to be appointed to a panel of leading EJ scientists from across the nation,” said Abel. “I look forward to reviewing EJ science advances that will improve EPA’s fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people in environmental analysis and rulemaking.” 

Congress established the SAB in 1978 to review and advise the EPA on various scientific and technical aspects of environmental issues. Between 2012 and 2015, Abel served on the first scientific review of EJ for the EPA, which resulted in the first edition of the Technical Guidance for Assessing Environmental Justice in Regulatory Analysis (EJTG), a document designed to help EPA analysts evaluate EJ concerns during rulemaking. The EPA made EJ an agency-wide priority in 2010, and their commitment has grown in the last decade to a point where there is now a standing EJ committee. Abel is a professor of Environmental Policy in the Urban and Environmental Planning and Policy Department and joins other experts from academia, industry, government, Tribes, research institutes, and non-governmental organizations on the advisory panel. 

Linda Luttrell, Dave Knutson, and Stefan Freelan at their group retirement send-off in December.

A trio of retirements

At the end of 2023, we bid farewell to three colleagues who sailed off into retirement. Altogether, the three - GIS specialist, instructor, and assistant director of the Spatial Institute Stefan Freelan, IT manager Dave Knutson, and operations manager Linda Luttrell - gave a whopping 79 years of service to the College of the Environment and WWU. We appreciate you all so much and wish you the best in retirement.

Photo: Linda Luttrell, Dave Knutson, and Stefan Freelan at their group retirement send-off in December, 2023.

Heading to the AAG annual meeting?

The annual Association of American Geographers (AAG) conference is in Honolulu from April 16-20. Several faculty members are presenting either virtually or in person. If you’re attending, be sure to check out these sessions:

AmeriCorps internships offer students hands-on experience & more

Experiential learning is a core component of the student experience at the College of the Environment. And it's even more beneficial when that opportunity offers leadership, community engagement, and workforce experience in addition to financial benefits. 

This year, Ed Weber, the College of the Environment's graduate student advisor and internship coordinator, worked with WWU's AmeriCorps Program Director Amy Brown and five local organizations to create ten internship positions. The Civic Leadership & Engagement Corps (CLEC) is an AmeriCorps program that provides opportunities for students to earn academic credits towards their degree and an educational award of almost $1,500 upon completing 300 hours of service with one of our partner institutions. Internships focus on efforts to support environmental stewardship through habitat restoration and land management, environmental education, and food justice.

The program is a win-win for all parties. Through an internship at Chuckanut Center, Wild Whatcom, Garden of the Salish Sea Curriculum, Whatcom Land Trust, or Skagit Land Trust, students get hands-on experience in fields related to their coursework, and the organizations can strengthen their internship offerings.

Learn more about this year's AmeriCorps internships on our website or contact Ed Weber at to learn more about the program.

CENV Strategic Vision - Community > Impact > Action

Strategic vision will guide priorities & actions over the next five years

Today, as it was more than a half-century ago when the College of the Environment was founded, we aim to prepare our graduates with the knowledge, technical skills, and creative thinking they need to become environmental leaders and problem-solvers. Complex environmental problems require an equally complex approach to solving them, and to remain leaders in our field requires regular reflection, resilience, and deliberate action.

In 2023, the College of the Environment underwent a strategic visioning process. We brought together the voices of faculty, staff, students, alums, and other community members to craft priorities the College can focus on to support student success while meeting the challenges and opportunities facing our community and the planet. 

The following interconnected actionable priorities emerged:

  • Build a diverse, welcoming, and active community dedicated to the environment.
  • Prioritize just and equitable high-impact learning by making intentional use of resources in and out of the classroom.
  • Promote, support, and elevate collaborative scholarship and education that takes action in addressing today’s complex socio-environmental systems.

Progress in one area will support the others. Creating a supportive community is foundational to the student experience and critical to building a vibrant, equitable, just environmental future. Field-based, experiential learning is inspiring and transformational for students, allowing them the opportunity to participate in efforts to meet real challenges driven by a changing climate. Our collaborative, solutions-oriented, applied research is elevating the College nationally and making significant impacts within and beyond the state.

Thank you to our strategic visioning committee and everyone who provided input during this process. Read more about the strategic visioning process and follow our progress on our website.

Ecology of Hummingbirds

Environmental Sciences instructor and wildlife ecologist Greg Green will give a talk about the ecology of hummingbirds at the next meeting of the Koma Kulshan chapter of the Washington Native Plant Society. Green is also an excellent nature photographer, so we look forward to seeing some spectacular photos. Admission to the talk titled The Ecology of Hummingbirds from Ecuador to Washington is free. 
When: Wednesday, March 20, 2024, at 7 p.m. 
Where: Sustainable Living Center education room at the ReStore (2309 Meridian St., Bellingham, WA). The entrance is off the back alley and is upstairs. 

Scholars Week

Scholars Week, Western's annual, week-long celebration of outstanding student research and creative works, will be held May 13-17, 2024. Undergraduate and graduate students will showcase their finest academic accomplishments, highlighting the significance of faculty mentorship and student scholarship through presentations of completed research, research in progress, creative activities and performance.

Earth Week

The College of the Environment and WWU are putting together a host of events for Earth Week (April 22-26, 2024) including:  

Climate Realism, Energy Optimism: Unpolarizing Current Politics. Former Congressional Representative Bob Inglis directs, a nationwide group of conservatives who care about climate change. He'll discuss how and why those with diverse political views are indispensable partners, discussing how it might be possible to bring America together to lead the world in climate action. Join us Monday, April 22, 2024, from 4 - 5 p.m. 

RSVP through the Foundation to attend in-person or online via Zoom.

WWU Block Party

Save the date! Saturday, May 11, 2024, is the WWU Block Party, a family-friendly event with food, music, and fun. Save the date and check back with the WWU Block Party website for details.

Toxicology & Societies Speaker Series

The monthly Toxicology & Societies Speaker Series is presented by the WWU Institute of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry in partnership with the WWU Alumni Association. This seminar series aims to help you better appreciate, understand, and evaluate the many ways that manufactured chemicals (more than 300,000) interact with all humans on Earth.

Co-hosted by Dr. Ruth Sofield, Dr. Tracy Collier, and Dr. Ian Moran. Monthly talks are free and open to the public.

Check out this archive of past Toxicology & Societies Speaker Series talks.

Environmental Speaker Series

The Environmental Speaker Series presents topics of environmental concern for the WWU and Bellingham communities and is brought to you by the College of the Environment in partnership with the WWU Alumni Association.⁠ 

Talks are held each Thursday at 4:30 p.m. in Academic Instructional Center West, room 204, and on Zoom. They are free and open to the public.

Watch archived talks and sign up for a mailing list to hear about the weekly talks. 


Student & Faculty Publications

Patchy and Pink: Dynamics of a Chlainomonas sp. (Chlamydomonadales, chlorophyta) algal bloom on Bagley Lake, North Cascades, WA, Dr. Robin Kodner, et. al. FEMS Microbiology Ecology Journal.

Urban Transformational Landscapes in the City-Hinterlands of Asia: Challenges & Approaches, edited by Dr. Debnath Mookherjee, Professor Emeritus in the Environmental Studies Department, et. al.

Wild Lives by Gregory Green with photos by Art Wolfe. Published by Earth Aware Editions and distributed by Simon & Schuster.

Dataset for the Incorporation of Climate Change into a Multiple Stressor Risk Assessment for the Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) Population in the Yakima River, Washington USA, Dr. Wayne Landis, Emma E. Sharpe, et. al. 

Visual characteristics of walleye pollock and Chinook salmon: Modeling theoretical visual space and target contrast of trawling materials in the Bering Sea, Rebecca Haehn, M.S., Marine and Estuarine Science Program thesis.

Investigating perennial & annual eelgrass (Zostera marina L.) in Padilla Bay as potential donor sources for seed-based restoration, Yuki Wilmerding, M.A. Environmental Studies Masters Field Project.

Contaminants of Emerging Concern in Puget Sound: Screening, Prioritization, and Estrogenic Mixture Response Assessment, Maya Faber, M.S. Environmental Sciences thesis.

Against the Grain: A Mixed-Methods Analysis of the Effects of Climatic and Cultural Changes on Grain Agriculture in Northwest Washington, Natalie Furness, M.A., Environmental Studies thesis.

Seeing Environmental Injustice Through Moss-Colored Glasses: Neighborhood Monitoring of Toxic Metal Air Pollution Disparities with Orthotrichum lyellii, Allison Hayes, M.A., Environmental Studies thesis.

A Characterization of Hyporheic Temperatures with Applications for Salmon Habitat Restoration in a Thermally Impaired River, Sydney Jantsch, M.S., Environmental Sciences thesis.

Value Mapping and the Community Wildfire Protection Planning Process in Entiat, WA, Katharine Kiendl, M.A. Environmental Studies Masters Field Project.

Evaluating Leaf Trait Variation in High Elevation Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva) Under Increasing Water Stress: Insights from Needle Length, Stomatal Density, and Cambial Growth, Audrey Salerno, M.S., Environmental Sciences thesis.

Was the Grass Always Greener? Mapping the Historical Extent of Grassland Ecosystems in the San Juan Islands, Kailey Schillinger-Brokaw, M.A., Environmental Studies thesis.

Generations of Stewards: Re-Indigenizing Youth Leadership, Learning, and Conservation Education, Drew Slaney, M.A., Environmental Studies thesis.

The Race Toward Carbon Neutral Ecotourism: Leveraging Life Cycle Analysis and Natural Climate Solutions for a Community Adventure Event, Ted Tarricone, M.S., Environmental Sciences thesis.

Trophic transfer of metals from seaweed to shellfish in an aquaculture system, Sophia Boyd, M.S., Marine and Estuarine Science Program thesis.

Studying the South Lake Whatcom Fire. Lillian Buck, Environmental Sciences, honors college senior project.

Wild Buildings in the Balkans - Using drones and GIS to identify illegal buildings in Galicica National Park, North Macedonia, Marko Foster, Environmental Studies, honors college senior project.

Browse for more publications on CEDAR.

CENV in the Media

What watermelon snow says about climate change. Dr. Robin Kodner and the citizen science behind the Living Snow Project are highlighted in this article in Alberta, Canada's Jasper Fitzhugh.

WWU faculty, alums collaborate on new display at the Museum of Northwest Art. An exhibit at La Conner's Museum of Northwest Art (MoNA) pairs scientists and artists to create original works discussing climate change. 

WWU monitors say Lake Whatcom water quality showing signs of improvement. Institute for Watershed Studies' Dr. Angela Strecker was interviewed for an article in the Bellingham Herald about small improvements in water quality due to recent (especially in the last decade) restrictions and efforts to protect the watershed. Mentions the IWS water quality reporting program. “WWU monitors say Lake Whatcom water quality showing signs of improvement.”

It’s Only a Matter of Time Before a Tsunami Hits the Northwest. Why Is It Missing from FEMA’s Risk Analysis? The Resilience Institute’s 2015 Cascadia Rising report was cited in this Politico article about risk to Washington’s coastal communities.

WWU Glacier Research with Drones. Environmental Sciences Associate Professor Dr. Alia Khan investigates how the cryosphere (the Earth's snow and ice) is changing. This YouTube video shows how Dr. Khan and her students use drones to collect samples from remote areas they can't reach by foot. 

Water Watchdogs: Inside the Work of WWU’s Institute for Watershed Studies. “It’s water. We all need it to survive. And on top of that, it isn’t just any water – it’s our water here in Bellingham, and our drinking supply from Lake Whatcom.” ⁠Western Today caught up with Dr. Angela Strecker and the team of students who monitor water quality in local lakes.⁠
Meet Mitchell Gibbs, WWU's visiting Fulbright scholar from Australia. Mitchell Gibbs, a lecturer and postdoctoral fellow at The University of Sydney in Australia, visited WWU last fall on a Fulbright scholarship to work with Environmental Sciences' Dr. Marco Hatch on researching the effectiveness of community-run restoration projects, particularly clam-restoration initiatives in Indigenous communities. 

The Planet Magazine, an award-winning student-run quarterly environmental publication dedicated to environmental advocacy and awareness through responsible journalism, will be releasing the Winter 2024 issue soon. The magazine has been independently produced by WWU students since 1979.