Thursday, May 3, 2018

25 years of bringing our kids to work

The Take our Daughters to Work movement started as a job shadow day, but early ESF organizers realized that much would be out of context—and children shouldn’t be participating in meetings with privileged discussions (administrative meetings, thesis/dissertation defenses). So, the ESF Women's Caucus built a structured program, asking presenters to share some aspect of their ESF-fostered field in an interactive way—commonly through debate, models, and scaled down experiments.  For the past 15 years, sons have participated as well as daughters and kids have spent a rotation or two learning about a life skill or recreational pursuit, also shared by a member of the ESF community.

Our 2018 program welcomed children from 18(!) area schools. Parents brought 19 children; 4 came with a grandparent, sibling or aunt; 8 with family friends.  Faculty enrolled 6 children (4 of their own; 2 friends), but as has been the pattern since we started tracking, the bulk of the participants were enrolled by staff members from across campus.

We thank presenters:
 ֍Plant History – Megan O’Keefe, Forest and Natural Resources Management ֍  

 ֍Wind Turbines – Maura Stefl and  Brittany Wong, Experiential Learning and Outreach֍

֍ Yoga – Mary Hagemann ֍

֍ Great Lakes Food Web – Stacy Furgal, Environmental and Forest Biology ֍ 
֍ Stormwater Infrastructure – Environmental Resource Engineering Club (ERE Club) & NY Water Environment Association (NYWEA) ֍ 
֍Designing a Park – Prof. Maren King, Savy Kep, Shaghayegh Shahhosseini, Olivia Pinner, Remi Lynch, Maggie Pasanen, Landscape Architecture & the Center for Community Design Research֍
֍Analyzing Human-Wildlife Conflict – Dr. Andrea Parker, Environmental Studies֍
More photos available here.

We also thank:

  • Rock star chaperones:  Brad Fierke, Vizma Leimanis, Makayla Thornton, Kanika Jakhmola, Steven Grunwald, and Hollis Harrington
  • Prep team:  Heather Engelman and Nichole Angell
  • Lunch team:  Kanika Jakhmola, Dawn Jewell, Caroline Bailey, Linda McGuigan and Josh Arnold
  • photographers: Heather Engelman and Paul Otteson
  • the many offices that contributed stuff for kids to carry out activities:  ALUMNI RELATIONS and the ESF CAMPUS BOOKSTORE, pencils and magnets; SU BOOKSTORE, mugs; COMMUNICATIONS, string backpacks; OPEN ACADEMY, puzzle pens; PROVOST’s OFFICE and ESF WOMEN’S CAUCUS, lunch, snacks, color printing, potting media; GREENHOUSE, pots and space; CHESTNUT PROJECT, seed; PHYSICAL PLANT and MORRISVILLE AUXILLIARY SERVICES, set & clean up; COPY CENTER, B/W printing.  Consistent with the 2018 national program theme,  each of these individuals, organizations and offices are, indeed, agents of positive change

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Afrofuturism and the Environment

On April 12th, Robyn Reed, Head of Access Services, Schaffer Library, Union College,  lead the community in a conversation about Afrofuturism and the Environment.   Reed shared a short film titled Pumzi. This award-winning film is a Kenyan science-fiction story written and directed by Wanuri Kahiu. The film is set to take place in the future, 30 years after World War III – the water war. Life on earth is now largely nonexistent. The story line follows Asha, who curates a museum in an East African territory with exhibits including long gone plant and animal life. Asha receives a package that suggests that the planet outside her strictly enclosed community might be viable.

Struck by the possibility, Asha leaves her community to plant a seed. Trading her own security for the survival of the seed, she travels across the landscape to search for viable land. The film ends in a scene of sacrifice and hope.

Following the film, Reed facilitated a discussion, prompting viewers for their impressions; some saw themes of hope, while others saw hopelessness. The crowd praised the poignancy of the film, which projected a future in which resource scarcity has driven communities to war and insecurity. This theme is perhaps especially relevant for much of the African content, which may disproportionately feel the effects of climate change and resource depletion. 

Afrofuturism is a genre of speculative fiction that, unlike many science fiction stories, projects a future where black culture is significant and central. Afrofuturism addresses the fact that mainstream fictional futurism has failed to include black culture and black bodies from narratives. Further, as a sociopolitical thought movement, Afrofuturism expresses that solutions to social and environmental crises cannot and will not come exclusively from white voices, asserting a space for black culture in ideas for future innovation. While some see Afrofuturism as hugely speculative, like all good science fiction, it is potentially deeply prescriptive as is drives viewers to consider the possible.

Throughout her presentation Robyn Reed provided suggestions of further movies, books, anthologies, and artists in Afrofuturist genre. These include but are not limited to the anthologies Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturim and Beyond and Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora; works from authors such as Octavia Butler, Nalo Hopkinson, Nnedi Okorafor, and Samuel Delaney; art work such as Farbice Monteiro’s The Profecy series; and perhaps most notably the Black Panther movie, which has been hugely successful in theaters. To add a personal reference, much of Janelle Monet’s work has brought Afrofuturism to the popular modern music world.

This event served as a fantastic introduction the Afrofuturism. Perhaps most notably, Robyn Reed’s presentation on Afrofuturism serves to remind the ESF community to actively include the perspectives of minority individuals in conversations about environmental stewardship and the future direction of our college.

Reed's research interests include studying the intersection of race and science fiction in film and television, Afrofuturism, and information literacy. As a librarian, Reed expressively aims to combat “fake news” by guiding library patrons to more reliable sources for their work.
This event was cosponsored by the Friends of Moon Library and ESF Women's Caucus.  For more information about the Women in Scientific and Environmental Professions speaker series, visit 

As part of the requirements of FOR797, Perspectives on Career and Gender, students share responsibility for reporting on the WiSE Professions speaker series.  The preceding was written by Claudia N Victoroff, Megan Gallagher and Maisie Baronian.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Record breaking enrollment at Girls' Summit

Over 100 girls were inspired by women at ESF and in the greater Syracuse Community!  Girls learned about Paper Science, Manufacturing Engineering, Medicine, Physical Therapy, Environmental Engineering, Meteorology and other fields. Thank you so much to presenters:
Focused Physical Exam: Amylisa Christophe, Omoefe Ebhohimen, Alexis Sykes, Upstate Medical University
Evaluation & Treatment of Common Sports Injuries: Mary Mauro-Bertolo, Physical Therapist
How did it Survive? Kim Oswald, Emma Buckardt, Andrew Meashaw, Sierra Coathrup, Jessie Smith, ESF Student Environmental Education Coalition (SEEC)
How clouds Form/The Use of Clouds to predict weather: Katie St. Denis, Solvay High
Jill of All  Trades: Mel Menon, Rose DelVecchio-Darco Manufacturing; Kate Anechiarico- Haun Welding; Patty Golicki and Rebecca Plumpton, -Northeast Region Council of  Carpenters, and Salma Muse, Chloe Connors, Ailiyah Morris, and Desaree Seals. Syracuse P-TECH
Paper and Bioproducts: Dr. Biljana Bujanovic and Service Track students, ESF Department of Paper and BioProcess Engineering
Mercury in Food Webs: Dr. Roxanne Razavi, ESF Department of Environmental and Forest Biology
Designing A Green City with Stormwater Management: Isabelle Horvath, Erin Cuddihy, Elena Araya, Meghan Medwid, ESF's ERE Club
College Readiness Panel: Mel Menon, facilitator;  Panelists: Robertha Barnes (Upstate), Diana Wilson (ESF), Blessy Bethel (LeMoyne), Desaree Seals (Syracuse P-TECH/OCC), Nyell Lopez (Syracuse Univ)
Tower Challenge: Bristol-Myers Squibb

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

O’Connell demos the importance of clear communication between scientists and their audiences

On March 27th, 2018, Dr. Christine O'Connell – Associate Director and Assistant Professor, 
Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, School of Journalism, Stony Brook University, and Affiliate Faculty, in both the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences and the Institute for Advanced Computational Science – presented “Speaking about Science and Making It Count.”  This was a joint presentation of SUNY ESF’s Adaptive Peaks Seminar Series and the Women in Scientific and Environmental Professions Speaker Series. The Department of Environmental Studies and Great Lakes Research Consortium jointly sponsored the seminar with the ESF Women’s Caucus.            

Dr. O’Connell began by discussing how scientists often have trouble conveying empathy for their standpoints and being clear in communicating ways in which the audience can understand. She commented on how scientists’ use of jargon can make their presentations inaccessible to their audience. Dr. O’Connell mentioned how this tendency can be rectified by being thoughtful about the needs of the audience and thinking carefully about the choice of terms used during a presentation.  Scientists often fall victim to the "curse of knowledge," in that the more one knows about a topic, the more that individual tends to talk above the average layperson's head on that topic. In order to reach the average person, scientists must make a concerted effort to make sure topics are accessible to their listeners.  Dr. O’Connell pointed out that scientists are really bad even about communicating with each other, and around 80% of what is heard at a conference doesn't end up getting through to audiences because of that lack of communication.
Dr. O’Connell then led an activity and talked about passing an imaginary ball as an analogy for communication.  If the receiving individual is not able to ‘catch’  your pass, then often the individual who threw the ball had not indicated (using eye contact and body language) where the ball was headed. This is a useful analogy for communication; for an audience to be able to receive information, the person communicating has to be attentive to their listeners. Dr. O’Connell illustrated that one method of understanding the audience’s view is by asking questions. Then, using those questions to connect with that mode of thinking. She stressed that scientists should feel comfortable talking about themselves and being more personal, because it will increase the rapport with the audience and make the presenter more credible.  After all, people are more likely to trust information from people who they have formed a connection with.
Dr. O’Connell received her BS in Natural Resources from Cornell University and her PhD in Marine and Atmospheric Sciences from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.  Her research focuses on women in  STEM, science advocacy, and environmental communication, the connections between  science and society with a focus on marine spatial planning, ecosystem-based management, waste management, conservation planning, and ecosystem services.
The next presentation in the WiSE Professions series will be "Afrofuturism and the Environment", April 12, 2018, with a discussion facilitated by Robyn Reed of Union College.  For more information about the WiSE Professions Series, please visit or the SUNY ESF’s Women’s Caucus at

As part of the requirements of FOR797, Perspectives on Career and Gender, students share responsibility for reporting on the WiSE Professions speaker series.  The preceding was written by Jenny Frank, MS student in the Department of Forest and Natural Resources Management; Sally Guillorn,  MPS student in the Department of Graduate Program in Environmental Science;  Blake Neumann, MS student in the Department of Graduate Program in Environmental Science; and Maggie Tarsel MS student in the Department of Forest and Natural Resources Management

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Dr. Nacoulma explores Elephant Attacks on Baobab Trees in Burkina Faso

On February 22, 2018, Dr. Blandine Marie Ivette Nacoulma - a Fulbright Scholar from University Ouaga 1 Professor Joseph KI-ZERBO serving at University of California, Davis as an Assistant Professor of Environmental Science – presented “Why do elephants attack Baobab trees in protected areas of Burkina Faso? Toward the elaboration of a strategy for species conservation.”  This presentation was a join presentation of SUNY ESF’s Advaptive Peaks Seminar Series and the Women in Scientific and Environmental Professions Speaker Series. The Department of Environmental and Forest Biology Department sponsored the seminar with the Fulbright Outreach Lecturing Fund and the ESF Women’s Caucus. 

            Dr. Nacoulma discussed a variety of characteristics of Baobab trees that may indicate a high likelihood of elephant attack, in which the tree is debarked to some degree, including bark texture, bark color, tree shape, and diameter at breast height (dbh).  The research area consisted of a group of protected areas or parks with various management plans in Eastern Burkina Faso.  As this research is ongoing, final conclusions were not presented.

            The presentation began with extensive background information regarding the setting of this research: Dr. Nacoulma’s home country, Burkina Faso, which is a landlocked country in Western Africa. Dr. Nacoulma also provided a primer on the country’s “Big Two” species.  Elephants and Baobab trees are “charismatic flagship and keystone species” important to ecology and economy of the region, and “indirectly in conflict.”    The Baobab trees surveyed for Dr. Nacoulma’s research were found within three adjacent protected areas in Eastern Burkina Faso, each within a different ecological zone and with a corresponding management plans: Arli National Park, W Burkina Faso National Park, and Pama Reserve.  In these areas, debarking of Baobab trees by elephants has been observed repeatedly.  Only one other study exploring this phenomenon has been completed in Western Africa.

  Dr. Nacoulma’s research utilized feedback and input from local people to identify distinct characteristics of Baobab trees, including bark texture (smooth, rough, and cracked), bark color (pink, white, dark, and intermediate), tree shape (“broom”, flattened, round, and “sunshade”), and tree size (dbh).  Tree size was the only characteristic that had a noticeable correlation to debarking, in that larger trees were more likely to have been attacked.  No other measured characteristics had significant correlation to elephant attacks, indicating that these characteristics do not predispose the trees to attack.  Nutrient analyses are still underway.

Local people provided potential reasons that elephants attack Baobab trees, including for a nutritional supplement, as a source of water, because of a need to destroy, and because elephants compete with Baobab trees to be the largest organism on the landscape.  Finally, local people gave suggestions on how to address the problem and protect the trees, including fencing in each tree, providing additional water holes for elephants, planting more Baobab trees, and culling the elephant population. 

During the discussion the day prior and the reception following her presentation, Dr. Naclouma shared many interesting stories about her country’s economy and the financial benefits of Baobab trees. It is obvious that Baobab trees facing threats from the unsustainable tourism and illegal hunting which very common in Africa.

Dr. Nacoulma holds a Ph.D. in Plant Biology and Ecology from the University of Ouagadougou, where she focuses on the diversity, production, uses, ethno-ecology, ethnobotany and conservation of indigenous trees important for the livelihood of rural communities in Burkina Faso. Dr. Nacoulma is studying the functional traits of the baobab as a baseline for its conservation. 

The next presentation in the WiSE Professions series will be March 27, 2018 with Dr. Christine O’Connell of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science “Communicating science to the public.”  For more information about the WiSE Professions Series, please visit or the SUNY ESF’s Women’s Caucus at

As part of the requirements of FOR496/797 Perspectives on Career and Gender, students share responsibility for reporting on the Women in Scientific and Environmental Professions Speaker Series.  The preceding was prepared by:  Xue Dong, PhD student in Environmental and Forest Biology; Megan Gorss, a BS student majoring in Natural Resources Management, in the Department of Forest and Natural Resources Management Department; and Colin Mettey, a MS student focusing on Ecology in the Department of Environmental and Forest Biology.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Happy Anniversary!

Stay turned for updates on the 10th anniversary CNY Girls Summit, 19th anniversary public Women in Scientific and Environmental Professions Speaker Series (and some not-so-public meetings, as part of the concurrent Perspectives on Career and Gender seminar), and the 25th Take our Kids to Work Day Program!  Each of these works to increase women (at different life stages) in the STEM pipeline, and to change the conversation about what it means to be a welcoming, inclusive work environment that values diverse perspectives and contributions.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Panel: Strategies for Professional Success for Women in Engineering and Science.

The ERE Club hosted a panel discussion November 15, 2017, featuring current ERE graduate student Meghan Mussehl, who studied engineering at the all women's Smith College (with work experience between and throughout); ERE Advisory Council Chair and ERE alumna Meghan Platt, a recent ERE alumna; Kiana Morse, and ESF GPES alumna Hayley Effler, who both work for local engineering firms; and SU alumna Meghan Gilbert, who works for the DEC. Questions were drafted by ERE Club President Isabelle Horvath, who moderated the panel.  ERE Chair Ted Endreny welcomed the panelists, introduced and thanked Ms. Horvath, and then stepped out to encourage more candid discussion. 

Panelists echoed the empowerment brunch’s mention of the importance of mentors, strong role models, and people who told them they could do it.   Each of the panel shared instances where their recommendations were discounted until reiterated by a male colleague or supervisor, one sharing the this came more from within an organization with the common refrain “are you sure?  Did you do enough research?” while male colleagues similar recommendation would be accepted without those questions.  They have been catcalled on jobsites.  Gilbert returned the workforce after “off-ramping” to care for one of her children; Platt went part-time to better balance work and family, and notes that part-time options have become more common, without the “you won’t go anywhere” stigma that used to come with that.  She notes that men also use the flex-time options.  Others shared that particularly in private firms, that with laptops and cell phones, there is quite a bit of work that can be taken home (DEC was the exception;  all work must be done on DEC computers, phones, cameras, as they are subject to seizure through FOIL).  Their closing advice to the students:  say it with authority, believe in yourself, find yourself a mentor.