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Master’s Students

First Year

Second Year

Continuing

Bela Sanchez
Gabriella Altmire
Hannah Gershone
Jessica Brown
Jasmine McCloskey
Katie Russel
Bailey Hilgren
Alex Renirie
Sasha White
Krysta Best
Eliza Hernández
Ben Hinde
Michael Madden
Aimee Okotie-Oyekan
Laura Johnson
Sara Worl

First Year


Bela Sanchez

belas@uoregon.edu

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Gabriella Altmire

galtmire@uoregon.edu

I grew up in Eastern Pennsylvania, calling a plentitude of squirrels, nights of firefly-catching, and Philly pretzels home. I remained in-state for my undergraduate education at Ursinus College where I received a B.S. in Biology, a minor in Environmental Studies, and a variety of memorable research experiences that would eventually lead me to the ENVS program here. 

In the Biology Department, I worked in the Straub Lab studying insect ecology in agricultural systems; at the core, my lab mates and I framed our research questions around reducing the need for harmful insecticides by thinking about how to practically model agricultural systems after natural systems. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to be part of the college’s up-and-coming food forest planning team led by Patrick Hurley where we thought not only about land planning, but also about ideas of community resilience and the marvels of foraging. Work with Sociologist Jon Clark introduced me to various ways of thinking in the fields of environmental humanities and animal studies via a project on Pennsylvania’s Ecoterrorism Bill. Each of these projects and their mentors facilitated both a passion for interdisciplinary work and a love for writing.

During a gap year, I worked on a grassland community/restoration ecology project in Eastern Kansas, a grasshopper community ecology project in the National Bison Range, MT, and as an insect ecology lab technician in the Kaplan Lab at Purdue University.  In Kansas, I was taken by both tallgrass prairie and ideas of restoration, both ecologically and philosophically; ultimately, this led me to the Hallett Lab. I’m excited to learn all I can from the lab, from ecological restoration to plant community ecology, while incorporating my background in insect ecology and my love for writing.

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Hannah Gershone

hgershon@uoregon.edu

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Jessica Brown

jtbrown@uoregon.edu

I am a first-generation Guyanese American artist, editor, and environmental studies master’s student. My writing and research focus on storytelling’s ability to help landscapes and communities heal.

I’m originally from Roselle Park, New Jersey, but grew up outside of Houston, Texas. In conjunction with being a master’s student, I’m the managing editor of digital and editorial content at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. Before this position, I worked for the UO’s Office of the Provost as a communication specialist.

I received my bachelor’s degree in public relations, minoring in geography, from Texas State University. I’ve been rooted in the nonprofit sector for over five years—finding ways to combine art, community outreach, and environmental awareness. I’m the founder and director of Soil and Roots Studios, an environmental nonprofit organization. Our work is focused on decolonizing environmentalism through artist residencies, educational retreats, and writing workshops.

When I’m not reading or writing, you can find me hiking around the Pacific Northwest, taking pictures of flowers and trees. I thrive on grasping the knowledge of the unknown and looks forward to sharing more stories.

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Jasmine McCloskey

jmcclosk@uoregon.edu

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Katie Russel

krussel3@uoregon.edu

I grew up in northern California and have always loved learning about animals. My favorite place to visit was the Monterey Bay Aquarium, specifically getting to see the sea otters. I followed these interests into my undergraduate studies at Loyola Marymount University where I earned my BS in Natural Science in 2012. During my time at LMU I was able to gain experience working in animal care and public education around the greater Los Angeles area. 

After graduating I moved to Hawaii and lived there for eight years. I worked with several species of marine animals including otters, seals, sea lions, sea turtles, penguins and dolphins before moving to the terrestrial side where I worked with bongos, zebras, giraffes, African crested porcupines, and cheetahs. Along the way I have also taught field trips, been a camp counselor, worked on whale watch boats, facilitated animal interactions, and lead private tours. All of these experiences combined have helped shape my experience with public education and now I’d like to study what makes an educational program impactful to the public.

At UO I will be pursuing a masters degree and hope to be able to learn how to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of public education programs, specifically in zoos and aquariums. I hope to see what methods and experiences help to create long lasting impressions on guests, that hopefully inspire them to make planet friendly decisions in their own lives, and most importantly to show them the importance of voting to make systematic and institutional changes to protect the environment.

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Second Year


Bailey Hilgren

bhilgren@uoregon.edu

Hilgren

I grew up in rural Minnesota and developed a love of my native prairies and wetlands while camping and hiking around the state with my family. I stayed in the prairie to attend Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter, Minnesota and double majored in oboe performance and biology. I initially understood my passions for and academic involvement in music and ecology as largely unrelated, and my professional plans alternated between either a career in science or music performance. However, neither option seemed to fit quite right: a performance career would not necessarily allow me the freedom to use my biology training to address the environmental issues I had become so passionate about, and a career in science did not spark the same joy, inspiration, or powerful sense of community that music had given me. I struggled with this tension until the summer before my senior year when I discovered ecomusicology, a relatively young sub-field of musicology that examines the interactions between music/sound, nature, culture, and all the complexities of those terms.

After graduating from Gustavus in 2017, I entered the master’s program in historical musicology at Florida State University to pursue studies in ecomusicology. My master’s thesis is on environmentalist data sonifications, which are collaborative composition projects that blur the line between environmental science and activist art by harnessing both the perceived objectivity and authority of science and the emotional potential and narrative elements of music. During my time in the UO ENVS program, I plan to explore other environmental humanities perspectives so that I can continue to probe at the intersections between sounding art, science, and climate change in musicology scholarship and pedagogy.

In my free time, I like to play my oboe and banjo, look at art and trees, thrift, and read for fun. I loved exploring the southeast region of the US during my musicology studies in Florida, and can’t wait to do the same with the northwest!

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Alex Renirie

arenirie@uoregon.edu

Renirie

Alex is a concurrent Master’s student in Conflict and Dispute Resolution and Environmental Studies. Passionate about building strong communities in the face of climate change, she is interested in using mediation and facilitation to help groups craft collaborative solutions to conflicts within climate change policy making, resiliency planning, and renewable energy development. Over the last ten years she has worked for a wide range of environmental and social justice nonprofits as a grassroots organizer and policy advocate. In her most recent positions in New Mexico, she worked with diverse communities to help shut down a nearby coal plant, advocate for new solar and wind projects, and advance federal EPA rules to curb methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. Realizing how quickly critical climate policies were dismantled following the 2016 election, she became interested in whether solutions reached through multi-sector collaboration could better withstand major political shifts.

Alex is originally from California and holds a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies from the California Institute of Integral Studies. Before moving to Oregon in 2018, she spent a year in South America and now jumps at any excuse to speak Spanish. She loves to be on the move but has fallen in love with the Pacific Northwest and hopes to make a life here for the long term. When not writing papers, she loves to get out on long hikes, do improvisational dance, play music, and take up new crafting projects.

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Sasha White

swhite3@uoregon.edu

Chafe

Originally trained as a visual artist, Sasha combines her love of drawing and bookmaking with her passion for how humans interact with the natural world. After an artist residency on an island 10 miles off the coast of Maine in 2004, she began actively reconnecting her life with the rhythms of the natural world, studying medical herbalism, botany, ecology, wildcrafting, permaculture and land stewardship in both Appalachia and Oregon. At the U of O she will be integrating her research into phytogeography and disturbance ecology with her practices as a visual artist, utilizing medicinal plants as a lens through which to unpack the social and environmental issues that imbue those disciplines.

Sasha brings a wide range of experience to her interdisciplinary studies, including teaching at the Scuola Internazionale di Grafica in Venice, Italy, graduate work in printmaking at Cranbrook Academy of Art, and conducting a research fellowship at the Lloyd Library and Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio. In addition to her art-related experience, she has crewed on a tall ship off the coast of Maine, managed a medicinal plant conservation internship in southeast Ohio, collected seeds for restoration projects in the Willamette Valley, monitored vegetation in sagebrush steppe and participated in prescribed fire operations across the fire-adapted ecosystems of Oregon. She is a qualified Wildland Firefighter and Wilderness First Responder and passionate about the use of plant medicine in acute and first aid situations. When not drawing or making plant medicine, Sasha likes to be backpacking to the mountain lakes that led her to call Oregon home.

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Continuing


Krysta Best

kbest@uoregon.edu

Krysta Best

Krysta graduated from Northern Arizona University in 2013, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Philosophy, and a minor in Sociology. During her time as an undergraduate, she served as the student director of an environmental ethics outreach program for underserved youth. She was inspired by how enthusiastic and insightful young people were regarding philosophical questions. Thus she discovered an appreciation for environmental education with a primarily philosophical approach.

After graduating college, she served as an AmeriCorps VISTA in southwestern Colorado, collaborating with other creative minds in the community to develop a program through which youth learned about sustainable agriculture and food justice by growing food for rural, low-income communities. During this time she also had the pleasure of working as a volunteer naturalist, leading first graders on hikes at the local nature center. Both of these experiences affirmed in her a love of working with children.

For Krysta, the sunrises, orioles, snow-covered pastures, and mountains of Colorado’s Western Slope, the work of 19th century philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, and the poetry of Mary Oliver (among many things) all contributed to a growing interest in the philosophical study of aesthetics and phenomenology, including and especially, environmental aesthetics and ecophenomenology. Just a few months into her year and a half working for St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance in northern Arizona, Krysta became fiercely interested in existentialism, but desired an existentialist philosophy that did not make any claim of human superiority to the natural world. She knew that it was officially time to formally explore these questions, and that is what she is doing while pursuing concurrent Masters degrees in Environmental Studies and Philosophy at the University of Oregon. She hopes to explore the possibility of an environmental education that is both arts-based and philosophical.

Krysta has spent most of her life in the arid Southwest, but, being from the Caribbean, prefers the climate of the Pacific Northwest. In her spare time, she can be found singing, listening to records, reading poetry, and learning about vintage fashion.

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Eliza Hernández

ehernan2@uoregon.edu

Hernández

Eliza Hernández graduated from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Cal Poly Pomona) in 2015, with a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in Biology – Zoology Option and a minor in Chemistry. During her undergraduate studies, she conducted research in the Questad Lab related to nitrogen deposition and invasion in California grasslands. After graduation, she continued with the Questad Lab as Research Technician, where she led a field experiment with the Southern California Black Walnut (Juglans californica). Eliza then transitioned into an American Conservation Experience (ACE) Interagency Botany Internship in partnership with the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service based out of Tucson, Arizona, to conduct plant conservation work across the Madrean Sky Islands. After completing her ACE internship, Eliza took a Resource Assistant position at U.S. Forest Service headquarters in Washington, D.C., to provide support to the National Reforestation and Nursery Program. While studying at the University of Oregon, Eliza plans to explore research topics related to global change, plant community ecology, and ecological restoration in California systems with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP).

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Michael Madden

mmadden2@uoregon.edu

Madden

I was born and raised in Minnesota surrounded by lakes, rivers, and forest. This helped me discover at an early age my passion for the natural world, which was kindled into a life-long pursuit when I attended the School of Environmental Studies at the Minnesota Zoo for high school. This experience showed me the joy and sense of community that comes from our connection with the natural world. After finishing secondary school, I quickly moved to the North Shore of Lake Superior to attend the University of Minnesota Duluth, graduating with a BAS in environmental education and a BA in French language and literature.

In college, I found my own sense of community and natural connection through the sport of climbing, which quickly morphed from a hobby, to an obsession, to a profession. After graduating, I moved to the Pacific Northwest to work as a mountain guide, where I took my clients and guests rock and ice climbing on the rugged glaciated peaks of the Cascade Range. I also applied these skills to various positions with the National Park Service as a climbing ranger, snow ranger, and mountain rescue technician.

These experiences helped alter my environmental passion into a thirst to understand how different societies and communities are impacted by their connections to the natural world. My time in the mountains on glaciers and snow-capped mountains exposed me the impact our societies have on the environment through climate change; I saw glaciers melting and the mountains changing. This is the focus of my academics and research at the University of Oregon and the Department of Environmental Studies; exploring the social and societal dimensions of climate change; and how communities, cultures, and peoples are affected by changing environments.

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Kylie Mosbacher

kmosbach@uoregon.edu

Mosbacher

I was raised in the southernmost patch of Northern California, spending the first half of my life in Sacramento and the second in El Dorado County, an hour west of South Lake Tahoe. There, I immersed myself in wildlife media and education that was composed of dominant narratives and viewed through dominant lenses. An eager learner, I consumed it all and emerged from high school possessed by a goal to “save wildlife” on a messianic scale.

It wasn’t until I attended Humboldt State University’s Environmental Studies Program, as a transplant from Wildlife Conservation Biology, that I was introduced to not just the concepts of interdisciplinarity and intersectionality, but the beginning of an understanding of the economic, historical, racial, and cultural dynamics of the extinction crisis. I concluded my Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies at Humboldt State in 2016, and now I enter the ENVS Program at University of Oregon ready to explore the power and privilege dimensions of wildlife conservation as a paradigm, practice, and political space, in the hope that the discipline can include environmental and social justice among its core tenets.

I have been blessed in the past few years to pursue a variety of projects toward this end, combining my love of environmental education, environmental justice, and wildlife conservation as often as I can. I am currently in the process of publishing my first children’s book, the “pilot” in a series on wildlife of conservation interest in the Pacific Northwest. “Sammich and Rumples Meet the Wolf in the Woods” will hopefully hit shelves by September of 2018!

My free time is mostly spent researching future children’s books, painting, sewing, cooking, and exploring the world with my dog, Chowder.

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Aimee Okotie-Oyekan

aokotie5@uoregon.edu

Oyekan

Though raised in Pasadena, Maryland, Aimee owes her unique upbringing to her Nigerian and British heritage. Always taught through faith that the human ability knows no bounds, she has always been a friend of adventure and trying new things. Growing up on the Chesapeake Bay meant that she was no stranger to environmental outreach programs targeting school-aged children, teaching the importance of preserving estuarine habitats as well as advocating for general environmental awareness and wellbeing.

After moving with her family to Atlanta, Georgia in 2007, Aimee set her sights on the illustrious University of Georgia for her undergraduate degree. While there to initially pursue a career in veterinary medicine, she redirected her career goals to a broader topic that would allow her to conduct research on climate change impacts while still engaging the community, particularly youth in underrepresented groups. She graduated in 2017 with a B.S in Biology and minor in Ecology, eager to see where her new found interests would lead her. A summer research opportunity at the University of Oregon looking into climate impacts on prairie plant communities further confirmed her interests in climate change research as well as environmental education and outreach. Aimee loved her experience at UO so much, she thought, “why not just attend for graduate school?” Because her interests are a bit broad, she intends to use her time in Oregon to further hone in on a particular research topic.

Outside of the sciences, Aimee enjoys creative writing and reading for leisure. She is a lover of music and dancing, as well as sports, outdoor activities, and horseback riding.

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Ben Hinde

bhinde@uoregon.edu

ben hinde image

Ben graduated with a B.S. in Sociology from the University of Oregon in June of 2017. He was both an honors student and a McNair Scholar. His honors thesis and McNair Scholars research focused on undocumented indigenous women migrating to the U.S. from Latin America. He grew up in Southern California and spent many years living Mexico. He speaks Spanish fluently and worked locally here in Eugene for many years at Centro Latino Americano, a social services agency for the Hispanic population. His research to date has helped articulate some of the strategies of survival deployed by indigenous women as both lifesaving mechanisms and forms of resistance while migrating through Latin America.

Currently, Ben chairs the Policy and Evaluation Committee (through the county health department) for youth substance abuse in Lane County and provides research based information to legislators, parents and youths. He is also the Cultural Development Chair at Buena Vista Spanish Immersion where he has created a cultural garden space that challenges traditional American ideologies of colonialism.

His interests include social justice, in particular indigenous and environmental justice. Ben is part Native American ( ¼ Seminole) and is interested in continuing research with indigenous communities, primarily the blending of indigenous knowledge (traditional forms of ecological knowledge) with current research based science. More specifically, he is interested in indigenous forms of farming, as well as indigenous forms of forest, soil and water management and how they can reshape the mainstream understanding of farming and ecosystem management. Ben believes that bringing this knowledge into the elementary classrooms will help legitimize indigenous knowledge and work towards decolonizing the minds of our children.

Ben is pursuing concurrent Masters degrees in both Environmental Studies and Sustainable Business Practices. He is the first Environmental Studies student to partner with the University of Oregon’s Lundquist College of Business. He began researching social businesses and social enterprises in 2013 after he left a career in grocery management. Because social businesses can use their profits for a “greater good” in pursuit of their mission statement, he believes this is a better business model to operate within the capitalist framework for generating positive social impact as well as long term sustainability.

Ben is married and has three children. He has lived in Eugene for almost 20 years. Ben is vegan, as is most of his family and they own a small organic farm that focuses primarily on heirloom and landrace varieties and strains. He hopes to someday retire on a sanctuary farm that offers children, seniors and all people free weekly trips out to spend time with the animals and learn about indigenous forms of gardening.

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Laura Johnson

ljohnso8@uoregon.edu

seining_4

Laura Johnson was born and raised in Lincoln, NE. Although the Midwest is not widely known for its wilderness opportunities, the open farm fields and streams near her home cultivated in Laura a love of the outdoors. Laura translated this love into her educational pursuits and moved to Eugene, Oregon in 2007 to pursue her B.S. in environmental science and biology from the University of Oregon. During her time at the U of O, Laura participated in the Environmental Leadership Program (ELP) as a member of the Stream Stewardship team. As part of the stream team Laura discovered her passion for field biology while learning in-stream survey methodologies and collecting field data.

After graduation Laura returned to Nebraska for one summer to satisfy her dream of being a camp counselor at the YMCA camp she grew up attending. Afterwards, she returned to Oregon and sought field biology experience in any capacity available: she completed volunteer work for the Long Tom Watershed Council’s cutthroat trout migration study, interned at the Friends of Buford Park and Mt. Pisgah’s native plant nursery, and collected snails in southern Oregon for the BLM and U.S. Forest Service.

Laura has worked for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) for the past two years in both the Rogue and Umpqua watersheds conducting stream surveys and monitoring both juvenile and adult salmonids. Working for the ODFW spurred Laura’s interest in learning about how ecological population models and GIS mapping are developed for use in land management. In graduate school Laura plans to explore these two research topics in addition to her interests in ecosystem ecology, ecological restoration, stream and wetland ecology, and natural resource management.

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Kaelyn Polick-Kirkpatrick

kaelynp@uoregon.edu

kaelyn picture

Kaelyn grew up in the Phoenix, Arizona metropolitan area and in May 2016, graduated from Arizona State University’s Barrett, the Honors College. Studying Sustainability and Women & Gender Studies, Kaelyn also worked on a number of projects and held several positions in student organizations and departments.

Specifically, Kaelyn served as the Director of Sustainability for the Undergraduate Student Government – working on environmental education projects and campaigns. During her senior year, she coordinated a number of events, most notably the Climate Leadership Summit, sponsored by Defend Our Future.

Kaelyn also worked as a Sexual Wellness Peer educator, developing curricula and programming for Arizona State. Sexual violence prevention and comprehensive sexuality education, consequently, became focal points of Kaelyn’s undergraduate career. While working on advocacy campaigns, she became interested in the intersections of her two passions – environmentalism and gender.

Kaelyn’s undergraduate honors thesis, titled Hiking & Hegemony: Destabilizing the Nature/Culture and Gender Binaries through Outdoor Recreation, explored the ways in which binary oppositions serve to hinder progress for those seeking environmental and gender justice. It also explored the many parallels between the social constructions – gender and “the environment” – themselves.

When she’s not studying, Kaelyn enjoys backpacking, exploring, collecting vinyl records and political organizing. She has always been drawn to Eugene’s unique culture and will continue to explore the interconnectivity of gender and the environment while studying at the University of Oregon.

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Sara Worl

sworl@uoregon.edu

Sara grew up in Beaverton, Oregon, and moved to Eugene in 2002 to pursue her undergraduate degree at the University of Oregon. After graduating with a BA in Planning, Public Policy and Management with minors in Spanish and Latin American studies, Sara worked for community development nonprofit organizations in Portland, Eugene, and Rio de Janeiro. Her path to pursue an interdisciplinary Environmental Studies masters degree began while working at the Willamette National Forest on community building and anti-racism efforts within the agency and with other outdoor- related organizations. While at the University of Oregon she will focus on the intersections of Indigenous environmental studies, critical race theory, and land management. While not at the UO Sara can be found leading youth outdoor programs, camping, baking, and spending time with her family.

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