Department Chair’s Message


Dear all,

Welcome to the new academic year!

It has been a year since I began leading the Environmental Science & Policy Department (ESP) and many exciting events have occurred during that period.

First of all, I want to welcome our new Term Assistant Professors Kathy Morrow and Joris van der Ham. Kathy will be teaching courses in environmental microbiology and molecular ecology. She comes to us from the University of New Hampshire where she was a postdoctoral research fellow working on the microbial communities of coral reefs and the evolutionary ecology of sponges and their microbiome under a NSF Dimensions of Biodiversity Grant. She received her Ph.D. in Biology from Auburn University in 2011. Joris has been at Mason since 2011 as an ESP Instructor and Undergraduate Advisor. More recently, he and his students are investigating the variation in succession patterns of dipteran assemblages of carrion communities, and how these patterns are affected by environmental factors. Starting in the Fall of 2017, he has been appointed Undergraduate Program Coordinator and he will help our Undergraduates develop a path to academic success.  In addition, he will be closely working with STEM programs and developing innovative  ways to facilitate the transfer of NOVA students to Mason.

A special recognition goes to our recent Ph.D. graduate Dr. Chelsie Romulo and doctoral student Rachel Golden Kroner for winning first and second place for the College of Science at the Mason 3MT™ event last March as part of the Mason Graduate Interdisciplinary Conference. It is inspiring for our current graduate students that jobs are available after graduation, Chelsie was offered a tenure-track assistant professor position in Environmental and Sustainability Studies at the University of Northern Colorado!

This month, the Potomac Science Center will officially open its doors.  Mason’s new 50,000  sq. ft. environmental research and education complex is located at the Belmont Bay development near the mouth of the Occoquan River. This magnificent facility houses one of its key components, the Potomac Environmental Research and Education  Center (PEREC) which will occupy much of the space in the new waterfront building.  The facility will provide wet labs for teaching and research, lecture rooms, offices for faculty, graduate students, and other researchers, a spatial analysis laboratory, and a library/resource center.

ESP embraces local, regional and global environmental issues by turning science into policy, building upon a strong foundation of partnerships, high level educational programs, field applications and leadership in extension and outreach for a diversified community.  Our faculty have demonstrated to policy makers and the general public the centrality and solutions available to pressing water and watershed issues, the conservation of biodiversity, and the One Health approach to ecosystems and sustainability. We will continue to work with our faculty, staff, undergraduate students, graduate students and scientists to strengthen our unique programs and provide technical advice to businesses, other educational institutions, NGOs, and government agencies. ESP works closely with other departments and colleges within the University providing our students truly interdisciplinary opportunities. ESP offers two undergraduate degree programs, a Bachelor of Science degree in environmental science, and, in collaboration with the School of Interdisciplinary Studies,  a Bachelor of Arts degree in environmental and sustainability studies. Our recognized Ph.D. program in Environmental Science and Public Policy is truly interdisciplinary, where practically any faculty at the university can be involved as advisors or committee members. Also, our master’s program in Environmental Science and Policy is growing – this is due to the increasing need for trained environmental professionals who can address problems of land and water management, land use and urbanization, wetland loss, microbial ecology, bioremediation, conservation biology, and ecosystem conservation. I invite you to visit us anytime. Call the department to arrange a visit at 703-993-1043.

Looking forward for another exciting year!

A. Alonso Aguirre