Department Chair’s Message

Dear all,

Welcome to the Environmental Science & Policy Department (ESP)! This past year has been remarkable providing many challenges but also key opportunities that are strengthening the programmatic offerings for our undergraduate and graduate students.

First of all, I want to welcome our new graduate program team. Dr. Ingrid Visseren-Hamakers has kindly agreed to take on the responsibility of being our new Graduate Program Director, Dr. Joris van der Ham has expanded his role as Graduate and Undergraduate Coordinator, and Mrs. Susan Cheselka, who many of you know for her outstanding role supporting students, staff, and faculty at the front desk, is our Graduate and Undergraduate Education Support Specialist.

Finally, last April we hosted the dedication ceremony of the Potomac Environmental Research and Education Center (PEREC). PEREC, one of the key components of George Mason University’s new Potomac Science Center, focuses on Potomac River restoration and local sustainability practices, so that the local ecosystem will be healthy for years to come. We translate our research into award winning and engaging field programs for K-12 students and the larger community. PEREC has led long-term research on Gunston Cove, recognized as an international case study for  ecosystem recovery. Also, it has been preparing plans to lower Green House Gas Emissions.

During the past academic year, we have worked hard in bridging the natural and social sciences to strengthen our interdisciplinary programs and new faculty are being hired to provide a broader support to our fields of expertise. Dr. Jennifer L. Salerno will start this fall as Assistant Professor of environmental Microbiology. Jen is not new to ESP. She actually came as a postdoctoral research associate in 2014 directing research to determine the impact of oil spill contaminants on microorganisms colonizing artificial reefs and corals in the Gulf of Mexico. This past year she served as AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow/Foreign Affairs Officer with the Department of State in Washington D.C. Dr. Salerno will be teaching courses in environmental microbiology, molecular ecology and coral ecology health and conservation. Dr. Salerno received her Ph.D. in Zoology from University of Hawaii-Manoa, Honolulu. Dr. Diego Valderrama is joining our team as Assistant Professor of Marine Conservation and Policy. He will be teaching courses in Marine Conservation, Marine Policy, Applied Ecology, Statistics and Ecosystem Services. Until recently, he was Associate Professor at the School of Management in University of Los Andes in Bogota, Colombia. He worked for several years with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Rome, Italy, as Aquaculture Officer in Economics and Fishery Planning Analyst. Diego received a Ph.D. in Environmental and Natural Resource Economics from the University of Rhode Island examining the economic management of marine resources.

A special recognition goes to one of our Ph.D. students Susan Howard, who will start as Term Instructor/Assistant Professor in Health, Medicine and Society at the School of Interdisciplinary Studies here at Mason. It is inspiring for our current graduate students that jobs are available before graduation and multiple and exciting job opportunities await our students in the near future.

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 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. I invite you to visit us any time. Call the department to arrange a visit at 703-993-1043.

Looking forward for another exciting year!

A. Alonso Aguirre
Chair