The Watershed Institute has a number of its own faculty as well as affiliated faculty. Dr. Karen Mumford was hired in 2011, and Dr. David Soll will begin teaching at UW-Eau Claire in fall 2012.
Dr. Karen Mumford
The Watershed Institute of Collaborative Environmental Studies (WICES) has been very pleased with the work of its first hire, Dr. Karen Mumford, over the 2011-2012 academic year. Dr. Mumford has taught courses in a number of disciplines, supervised student research of commuting and the carbon footprint at UW-Eau Claire, and brought new ideas to the Steering Committee, the Watershed Institute's board.
Dr. Mumford's studies and work have been focused on environmental issues throughout her academic and professional careers. She majored in biology and religion at St. Olaf College, and believes this was the beginning of her interest in the interdisciplinary ways that both science and religion help people understand the world. She studied Fisheries biology for her master's degree from Iowa State University. Later, she earned an environmental planning degree from the University of Iowa that allowed her to work for a year in the Office of the Governor of Illinois. Dr. Mumford completed her doctoral degree in Conservation of Biology from the University of Minnesota.
She has taught at a number of universities, including Emory University in Atlanta, where she was part of the multi-university Healthy Places group. Dr. Mumford's background in policy was an asset because the group examined how land use decisions and design impacts both environmental and human health. While in Atlanta, her research examined how mixed use developments and parks can play important roles in promoting healthy places for people as well as plants and animals. Her most recent teaching position was at the University of Minnesota-Morris, where renewable energy infrastructure and conservation led the school to be the first to achieve carbon neutrality. Inspired by this experience, she continues to engage in campus sustainability research.
Dr. Mumford was drawn to UW-Eau Claire because of its focus on interdisciplinary research and teaching, and the opportunities for collaboration with students and faculty. Last year, she taught an Honors course called Cars, Culture, and the Environment in which students developed and conducted research on commuting habits among members of the campus community. Under her supervision, students conducted short intercept surveys of UW-Eau Claire students, faculty, and staff to find out why they drove to campus, how far they had driven, and if they would consider any other transportation options. With the help of Martin Goettl in the Geography department, Dr. Mumford and her students mapped the residential locations of survey respondents to determine driving distances to campus and proximity to bus routes and bike paths. Although 56% of the drivers indicated that they had no other option besides driving a car to get to school, the maps suggested that many of these drivers lived close to the bus lines. "I would like to continue this research in the future to discover why people aren't taking the buses or biking.Is it the weather, convenience, having to transport children? Figuring out why people make the choices they do when alternatives exist might help in creating policies and programs that assist people in using alternatives," she says.
Currently, Dr. Mumford is co-teaching Tracking the University's Carbon Footprint with Dr. Jim Boulter. Students in this course are collecting and analyzing data to determine UW-Eau Claire's carbon emissions. As part of the American Colleges and Universities Presidents' Climate Commitment, students will present their findings in a report to the Chancellor. In addition, students will suggest policies and strategies to help UW-Eau Claire move toward carbon neutrality. This course epitomizes Dr. Mumford's interest in working at UW-Eau Claire. "The carbon tracking course provides me with the opportunity to team-teach an interdisciplinary course where students get to apply course materials and their skills to tackling a real-world issue – reducing the University's carbon footprint," she says. The Watershed Institute believes collaborative student-faculty teaching and research on environmental issues is important, and is grateful for the opportunities that Dr. Mumford and her courses provide.
In her free time, Dr. Mumford enjoys fishing, skiing (both downhill and Nordic), tennis, and especially spending time at her family cabin in northern Wisconsin. She loves living in Eau Claire's beautiful landscape of rivers, hills, and woods, and is excited to work with both the campus and community on sustainability issues. "We know how to exploit and develop nature and how to set it aside to preserve it," she says. "What sustainability asks is what lies between – how do we interact with natural systems in ways that are both ecologically and socially sustainable? I am thrilled to be examining sustainability in the contexts of the Watershed Institute, UWEC's amazing students, faculty, and staff, and the rich community of which we are a part." The challenges of sustainability impact many people, from farmers to city planners to university students, and the Institute is thrilled to have Dr. Mumford on staff to help Eau Claire contribute to addressing these challenges.
Dr. David Soll
The Watershed Institute of Collaborative Environmental Studies (WICES) is excited to welcome its newest faculty member, Dr. David Soll. He came to UWEC from Lafayette College, in Easton, Pennsylvania, where he was a post-doctoral fellow in environmental studies. Prior to his post-doctorate work, Dr. Soll taught at two Boston area universities, Bentley University and Brandeis University.
Dr. Soll is currently teaching three courses: History 346/546 - Am Env History, Honors 303, and Liberal Studies 201 - Intro Liberal STudies Seminar. In his classes, Dr. Soll wants students to make connections between systems, like governmental systems and water systems, for example.
"Solving environmental problems requires mastery of biological and governmental systems," he said. From his teaching experience Dr.Soll explains, "Students understand environmental problems like water pollution. They learn in science classes where the pollution comes from and how it influences the ecosystem. Despite the evidence that the pollution is bad, companies and people keep polluting and students have a hard time understanding why things don't change". Dr. Soll's expertise in governmental policy and history allows him to shed light on the relationship between scientific evidence and the policy that restricts it.
"When trying to solve environmental issues, eventually you will bump into governmentand their policies about the environment," Dr. Soll said.
Dr. Soll's main environmental focus is on water; He is excited to study and explore the waters in the Midwest. He is in the final stages of his book, Empire of Water: An Environmental and Political History of the New York Water Supply. The book is going to be published by Cornell University Press and will be avaiable in the spring of 2013. It follows the history on the water supply in one of the biggest cities in the world. His next research project will focus on comparing urban water supplies in the developing world.
Dr. Soll's teaching style urges students to think about how their lifestyles tie into larger environmental issues. He said this teaching method is a great starting point when teaching about the environment.
"As humans we tend to be self-centered, but once we discover how our lifestyle fits into larger environmental issues we can understand how the system works," he said.
In the coming semesters he will be teaching classes on environmental history and environmental policy. Many of these classes will be hybrids joining political science and environmental science.
"I am impressed with the emphasis on sustainability and engaging students," he said. "I have team taught before and enjoyed it. I am excited about the bundling of classes and I believe it is the next innovative point in education."
Besides fulfilling the role of a professor, Dr. Soll is a husband and a father. He lives in the Twin Cities with his wife Sara and ten year old son, Max. Dr. Soll enjoys the outdoors in his spare time; he goes hiking, biking and boating.
"Every few years I meet up with friends and go hiking in northern New Mexico," Soll said. "I am really into State Parks and I believe they are an underused resource," he says.
Please join WICES in welcoming Dr. David Soll to UWEC. We are proud to add such a talented and knowledgeable person to our team.