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Posts by Erica

  • I’m a…grad student? Keep calm and run on. on August 31st, 2014

    Hey Stony Brook!

    I hope your fall semester’s off to a fantastic start! Mine’s been…well, a bit “meh.”

    College can be a bit stressful, especially at the beginning of a fresh semester. For me, it is always the start that’s the most challenging (much like a race–the gun goes off and, POW, you better move!). Getting used to the swing of classes, schoolwork and juggling your other interests and responsibilities AND your own mental and physical well-being can be the ultimate challenge.

    Even after my four years as an undergraduate at Stony Brook, I still find each new semester to be a challenge. This summer I began my graduate studies at Stony Brook in the MS Journalism program, which focuses in science, technology, environmental and health reporting. To me this is exciting and slightly terrifying. This program entails endless assignments, note-taking, presentation-making, interviewing, photographing, video-graphing AND more. Plus snagging an internship some time in the not-so-distant future. What’s a journalist/runner to do?

    Will the real Wolfie please stand up?

    Post-grad life as a grad student.
    Will the real Wolfie please stand up?

    Such stressful start-of-semester situations call for a dose of calm…which can be found in a variety of forms. Here’s three quick running-inspired tips on how to ace this semester without losing your cool:

    • Know your syllabi like a well-worn trail. THOROUGHLY read each of your class syllabi and note all important dates and assignments in your calendar. Make checklists every day and slash off items as you accomplish them. By keeping organized and well-versed on what you need to do, you can feel more confident that you’ll get it done on time and in the best possible shape.
    • Don’t overtrain. It’s critical that you don’t overload yourself with TOO much to do. Yes, being an enterprising, busy bee of a student can be a good thing–but take it from me: being too busy is just a recipe for a disaster. I’ve learned that it’s ok to turn down extra responsibilities if you already have too much on your plate. It’s better to do fewer things if that means you’ll do them well. Too many things to do will hurt your mind and body. Remember: you need sleep, food, exercise…and fun, too!
    • Think like a champion. Yes, it may sound cheesy, but there is no substitute for thinking positively. Even when things don’t seem to be going your way (yup, on the first day of classes this semester I DID get a flat tire AND forgot my cell phone at a friend’s house), things will get better. It’s up to you to put in enough practice to try find your rhythm. But once you do, it’s all downhill to the finish line.

    peace. love. run.


  • Sustainability Studies Spotlight: Presenting Dr. Jesse Curran! on May 3rd, 2014

    Hey Stony Brook!

    I don’t know about y’all, but I am so excited that it finally feels like springtime around here at the Brook! Bluejays and robins are singing, the sun is shining, and daffodils and tulips are blooming…

    Flowers always remind me of gardening–something that I’ve always loved but never have really had a knack for (as a licensed wildlife rehabber, I am much better at tending to the needs of animals than the needs of plants). But, as a student in the Stony Brook Sustainability Studies Program, I have learned that spending time outside in the dirt–amongst fruits and veggies and flowers and worms and mud and rocks and microbes–is inherently healing and healthful, no matter what you are (or aren’t) able to successfully grow in the ground. I learned this both in the field–by working in the Stony Brook Heights Rooftop farm a few semesters back as well as volunteering at a local organic farm–and also in the classroom, namely, by learning from Sustainability Studies Program professor Dr. Jesse Curran.

    As a student in Dr. Curran’s SBC 203: Interpretation and Critical Analysis class last year, I remember our many meaningful discussions on the more philosophical side of the environment. Among the many things I learned–the physical interaction of the human body with and within the  environment can lead to a greater understanding not only of one’s physical self, but of their psyche and the whole universe that spins around them. Dr. Curran is a huge advocate of getting out in nature as a means of finding oneself–namely, through gardening/farming and yoga.

    Stony Brook Sustainability Studies Program professor Dr. Jesse Curran exercises her green thumb installing home organic raised-bed gardens with her husband Dylan...all over Long Island!

    Stony Brook Sustainability Studies Program professor Dr. Jesse Curran exercises her green thumb installing home organic raised-bed gardens with her husband Dylan…all over Long Island!

    Recently, I asked Dr. Curran to elaborate on her green thumb–it turns out that she and her husband own, literally, a home-grown small business–and on the connections she sees between yoga and the environment (she is an expert yogi!). Dr. Curran’s detailed responses to my dual inquiries can be found below–they’re well worth the read!

    Dr. Curran on growing a sustainable business:

    When I studied abroad in Italy, Lena Buroni, the lovely elderly lady I lived with, had what she called her orto. “Orto” in Italian refers to a kitchen garden, and because Lena lived in an apartment complex, she had a little square of earth elsewhere where she did her gardening. Years later, while Dylan (my husband) and I were travelling through Japan, we noticed how yards were used; lawns were non-existent and even the smallest spaces were converted into kitchen gardens. And so, HOGS: Home Organic Gardening Service actually began over a dinner conversation. In the spring of 2011, Dylan and I were musing on our travels, bemoaning the shady-yard of our apartment, and were still on the wait-list for a community garden in Huntington [in Suffolk County on the North Shore of Long Island]. We love talking big ideas and found ourselves saying how “someone should really start a company that installs gardens on front lawns…”  At that moment, I think, we both realized that we needed to be that someone.

    The next day, we asked friends with homes and sunny front yards what they would think if we dug up the lawns for raised bed vegetable gardens, and they were enthusiastic, and HOGS was born. Dylan gave up his work doing foundation contracting in the city and dug in, literally, full time. He has a diverse background in construction, carpentry, landscaping, organic gardening, and tree-removal, and he put his skills, experience, and passion for doing something proactive in the face of our precarious environmental situation to work.

    I was delighted because part of my dissertation work examined poet-gardeners and the importance of “living metaphors,” or poetic language that continues to open and make connections. Like a good metaphor or a healthy seed, HOGS grew by itself. People were interested—and Dylan has installed well over a hundred gardens, as well as a range of season-extenders, rain-catchment systems, and composting systems. And we always had (and have) the grounding sense that encouraging organic gardening was good in and of itself—that it is important work—and a way of contributing to the health of both people and place (and we continue to quote Thoreau’s virtue ethics from “The Bean Field” to frame these ideas).

    Having a small business surfaces all kinds of interesting questions—most importantly, what type of business model is sustainable both ethically and economically? As a CCE master gardener, Dylan is very committed to service and outreach—and has done workshops at community centers, yoga studios, libraries, etc.—and he prioritizes working with clients who want to learn and get their hands dirty.

    What is perhaps most exciting about HOGS is the way it connects us to a network of other passionate agriculturalists on Long Island. We have also noticed how, within even one season, a well-planned garden can, in a very real way, contribute to the emotional and physical health and well-being of the gardenerand it teaches much about process-orientation, systems-thinking, and local economy. Over the past several years, we have become more interested in permaculture design and adapting sustainable systems for the suburban home. And this year, Dylan’s big initiative has been to plant edible perennials and fruit trees. HOGS keeps on growing!

    Dr. Curran on yoga and the environment:

    Yoga and environment! Wow, what a question. This is a topic I write extensively on—and one that figures much into my scholarly research on the relationship(s) between poetic language, ecological thinking, and meditative philosophy. And although I teach hatha yoga asana (or postures), I am perhaps even more interested in the yogic philosophy that surrounds the physical practice. In a 1849 letter to his friend H.G.O. Blake, Thoreau wrote “Depend upon it that, rude and careless as I am, I would fain practice the yoga faithfully. . . . To some extent, and at rare intervals, even I am ayogi.” Why did one of America’s most beloved environmental thinkers identify himself as a yogi?

    Thoreau’s work at Walden involved intense self-reflection and practical critique of, and response to, what he identified as being awry in antebellum America. As many people know, more than the physical practice, yogic philosophy is an ancient system of self-discipline and ethical action. When we think about our environmental problems, many of them are rooted in out-of-control consumption patterns; hence, the need for self-discipline and ethical action.

    Yoga and meditation offer opportunities to become mindful and aware of one’s own tendencies, which is the first step in changing and evolving one’s tendencies. As one of my favorite eco-theorists, Tim Morton writes, “Meditation is yoga, which means yoking: enacting or experiencing an intrinsic interconnectedness.” It seems to me that it is important to both enact and experience the “intrinsic interconnectedness” that underlies ecological theory. Yoga’s emphasis on breathing helps illustrate this point; we often forget we’re breathing, and so, perhaps we forget how intimately we are connected to theplanet and one another.

    On a much more practical level, the physical practice cultivates a sense of grounded health and well-being, which I think is important for environmentalists and other people passionate about social justice. On a personal level, my yoga practice has helped me to gain confidence and perspective as writer, teacher, and as a participant in a community; daily, it allows me to practice social virtues such as gratitude, equanimity, patience, generosity, and compassion. As sustainability advocates, we often quote Gandhi’s powerful advice concerning the necessity of being the change one wishes to see in the world. Yoga, although by no means the only path, provides an integrative method for working with one’s mind and body in order to become an empowered, grounded, mindful, and compassionate human being.

    Thank you, Dr. Jesse Curran! I hope you enjoyed reading this interview as much as I enjoyed hearing Dr. Curran’s reflections. A well-deserved #supergreenstatus for a supergreen person! 

    Keep your eyes peeled for Dr. Curran’s classes in the coming semesters…sign up and I will guarantee you will come out a more grounded, balanced, and well-rounded person. Expect at least a couple of outdoor classes, deep discussions, great reading, and maybe even some yoga

    All for now! Happy studying for finals ;)

    peace. love. run.


  • Kerri Mahoney: Leading the Fight Against Cancer! on April 17th, 2014

    Hey Stony Brook!

    Ah, Spring on Long Island! Warm(er) weather, blooming trees and flowers, bike rides, beach days, sprawling out on the Staller Steps to soak up the sun…this swift change in seasons marks the end of yet another academic year here at SBU.

    The end of the year means it’s the perfect time to celebrate all the goals we’ve met and the achievements we’ve made over the past 10 months or so (or more, if you belong to the “intersession intelligentsia”–you know, those of the “sleep when you’re dead” mindset) as well the accomplishments that span your entire academic career. One way in which Stony Brook congratulates amazing achievers is via its Undergraduate Recognition Awards.

    This spring, the Stony Brook University Sustainability Studies Program was lucky enough to have an outstanding undergraduate snag such an award! We’d like to extend a mean, green congratulations to graduating senior Kerri Mahony!

    Kerri, who reports that she “always loved the environment and knew that it needed more care,” is majoring in Ecosystems and Human Impact (EHI) and is minoring in Geospatial Sciences (GSS). Her fascination between the intersection of human health and the environment was first inspired while she was a ninth-grader attending a two-week Brown University pre-college program. Kerri took a class on the environmental causes of human cancer and was truly inspired to help determine how to best prevent, identify, and treat the disease.

    This past fall, Kerri created her very own event–the Kick Out Cancer kickball tournament. She created the event “to have an interactive way to raise money for the Stony Brook Cancer Center” while having fun! Students, faculty, and staff attended the event and raised over $600!

    Kerri and Wolfie at the Fall 2013 Kick Out Cancer kickball tournament.

    Kerri and Wolfie at the Fall 2013 Kick Out Cancer kickball tournament.

    Ever since, she’s been dedicated to studying these connections more closely. After graduating in May, Kerri plans on pursuing her Masters in Public Health (MPH) and a Masters in Public Policy (MAPP) here at Stony Brook. Eventually, Kerri hopes to receive a PhD in Epidemiology so that she can focus on further discerning the connections between environmental toxin exposure and cancer in humans.

    As Vice President of Clubs and Organizations for the Stony Brook University Undergraduate Student Government and an active member of several other on-campus committees, Kerri is a natural and effective leader. She further demonstrates her exemplary leadership skills as research team leader in Dr. Pochron’s Earthworm Ecotoxicology lab. Thanks to her valuable skills and efforts, both in- and outside the classroom, she was nominated to receive the Undergraduate Recognition award in Outstanding Achievement: Leadership!

    Kerri was nominated by her favorite professor at Stony Brook, Dr. Pochron. Though she loves working in Dr. Pochron’s Earthworm lab, she says that her favorite class is Dr. Pochron’s EHI 340: Ecological and Social Dimensions of Disease class. Kerri took the class her sophomore year and served as TA the following year. Kerri was elated to receive the award. As she puts it:

    I am honored to receive the student leadership award and I am thankful to Dr. Pochron for nominating me. I am happy that I could help bring positive experiences to other students on campus. Looking back to freshman year I would have never thought I would win this award because I honestly wouldn’t think I would be in leadership roles.  Receiving the student leadership award shows me that I have grown as a person during my time at Stony Brook. I am happy I could “leave” Stony Brook a better place than when I started.

    We are so proud of Kerri for all of her hard work and dedication. In the future, there is no doubt she’ll serve as an amazing leader in her graduate studies, and, eventually, in a cancer research lab!

    Another day, another #supergreenstatus achieved.

    The Stony Brook Sustainability Studies Program is full of supergreen stars.

    Join us and be inspired! Remember to follow us on Twitter and “like” us on Facebook!


    peace. love. run.


    PS. Kerri will be presented with her award on the evening of Monday, April 21 at 7pm in the SAC Auditorium. Congrats again, Kerri!

  • Joy Pawirosetiko: Student Showcase at BNL Day-Friday, April 4 on April 1st, 2014

    Hey Stony Brook!

    If you haven’t already heard, this coming Friday is BNL Admitted Students Day, to be held in the Wang Center from 10am to 11:45pm. It’s a day when admitted high school students and their families will visit campus to learn more about some of the exciting research and opportunities we offer here at SBU!

    One such student is B.S Biology and MBA Healthcare Management dual-major Joy Pawirosetiko! Currently a senior here at SBU, Joy will be showcasing her studies on the long- and short-term effects of Roundup™ and fertilizer on earthworms, research that she conducted as a student in Dr. Sharon Pochron‘s Earthworm Ecotoxicology Laboratory class. For more info on this Sustainability Studies Program course, please see one of my pervious posts, “Digging for Answers.”

    Joy was born in Paramaribo, Suriname, and moved to New York in 2001, graduating from Lindenhurst High School in 2010. Here at Stony Brook, she serves as President of the Commuter Student Association and participates in the Undergraduate Student Government. In her free time, Joy can be found with her nose in a book, traveling the globe, and testing out new activities–like indoor rock climbing (which she reports is harder than it looks)!

    Recently, I interviewed this dynamic student to learn more about her Sustainability Studies Program research on earthworms. Excerpts from our conversation follow:

    Erica Cirino (EC): I am really interested in learning more about your research! Could you sum it up for us, exactly what it’s all about?

    Joy Pawirosetiko (JP): Farmers and growers desire for thriving earthworm populations because [earthworms] are a good indicator of soil health. Earthworms tend to internalize ecotoxins that are introduced to the soil through products such as pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. [My] study examined whether the addition of Roundup™ and fertilizer by many farmers and growers end up harming or hurting the earthworm population, and additionally harming or hurting plant growth.

    EC: Wow, so great that you could research such an important topic! How would we grow food if not for earthworms? How would we have trees and plants and air to breathe? Could you please discuss your results?

    JP: [My] results supported the hypothesis regarding the negative effect of Roundup™ on earthworm health and the positive effect of fertilizer on earthworm health. Weeding type (Roundup™ vs. hand-weeding) had short-term effects while fertilizer type (fertilizer vs. no fertilizer) did not. Fertilizer type had long-term effects while weeding type did not. This study could ultimately help farmers and growers maximize earthworm health, soil health, and plant growth.

    EC: Awesome stuff. How did you like the Earthworm Ecotoxicology Laboratory class, may I ask?

    JP: Taking classes with Dr. Pochron has always been such a great experience, and the lab is great. [Dr. Pochron is] definitely one of my favorite professors on campus.

    EC: Though I’ve never taken a class with her personally, I have heard very positive things about her from other students as well. What makes her classes special?

    JP: Dr. Pochron teaches in a way that makes normally difficult material more accessible. Both classes I’ve taken with her also required for a group presentation, an invaluable experience that is necessary beyond the classroom. Not only does she teach the class in an entertaining way, but she also provides advice and assistance for matters outside of the classroom. She encourages students who take her class to be proactive about their academic career. She stresses taking up opportunities and trying out for programs. She believes in the importance of research and is willing to help students who seek her assistance.

    EC: So glad you could be a part of the Sustainability Studies Program even though you are not a major or minor in our program! We are so happy to have you conducting this important research. Do you plan on continuing working in a laboratory post-graduation?

    JP: After I finish my B.S. I intend on finishing my MBA and expect to graduate by May 2015. After graduation I might look for a job as a lab technician, or something that still allows for research. I’m still a little unsure about my future plans, but it would preferably involve something in biology or healthcare (I think: you never really know where life will take you).

    Be sure to stop by the Wang Center on Friday to take a peek at Joy’s research!

    It is students like her that make a difference. 

    Joy, you are right; we don’t know where life will take us. But, it certainly seems like you are headed in a positive direction! Congratulations! #supergreenstatus for you, my friend.

    peace. love. run.



    PS. Joy was selected as URECA’s April Researcher of the Month!

  • Emily Nocito: The (Green) Jersey Girl on March 26th, 2014

    Hey Stony Brook!

    It’s time yet again to highlight another Sustainability Studies Program Student of the Month!

    In this edition, I’d like to draw attention to a hardworking Coastal Environmental Studies (COS) major and Ecosystems and Human Impact (EHI) minor:

    Emily Nocito!

    Born and raised in South Orange, today this Jersey girl can be found practicing archery (but not hunting), attending Dr. Who conventions all around the nation, and serving as the Hillel’s Women’s Wellness Coordinator, in her spare time.

    Some of her study-related activities include working in Dr. Sharon Pochron’s Earthworm Ecotoxicology Lab, serving on the e-board of the Friends of Fire Island National Seashore, and attending SBU Environmental Club meetings.

    From a young age, Emily developed a strong love of the outdoors, often hiking with her father in her town’s nature preserve. However, it was not until she enrolled in AP Environmental Science in high school that she considered environmental science as a career path. As Emily puts it, “My AP Environmental class really opened my eyes [up] to issues that otherwise would not be on my radar.” Inspired to solve some of the issues she learned about in class–climate change, deforestation, species extinction, pollution–Emily graduated from Columbia High School in her hometown determined to make a positive impact on the Earth.

    Initially at SBU, Emily enrolled as a Marine Sciences (MAR) major. Later, she changed to the Sustainability Studies Program’s COS major, desiring a major which more heavily incorporated environmental science with humanities and career leadership skills classes into the curriculum. More recently, Emily added the EHI minor, also part of the Sustainability Studies Program, so that she could learn more about the interaction and intersection of humans and the environment. Honing in on a career in restoration ecology (in particular, of the marine environment), this course of study is the perfect formula for success!

    Emily finds further purpose in attending environmental events and rallies. She finds the educational aspect of such events to be one of their most important features, as they enable people who may not know much about a given issue to learn more. At such events, Emily enjoys meeting and talking to new people, which she says is pretty easy, especially because “the people [she meets] at such functions have something in common immediately: environmentalism. In fact, the diverse environment of events and rallies mirrors both her educational goal and lifestyle: to learn as much as possible in a wide variety of different areas; a philosophy she hopes to impart on others. As Emily puts it, “We can learn from one another because there are so many different faces of it: science, philosophy, law, and writing.”

    In our books, this Jersey Girl has achieved #supergreenstatus!

    Thank you, Emily, for making a difference.

    peace. love. run.




  • Alex Santiago: The Eco-biz Extraordinaire on March 14th, 2014

    Hey Stony Brook!

    This week I would like to feature a tenacious, hardworking–and just plain awesomeStony Brook Sustainability Studies Program alum, Alex Santiago!

    An Environmental Studies (ENS) major here at the Brook, Alex declared a minor in Environmental Humanities (EHM) during her senior year, after realizing that many of the classes that she had enrolled in “for fun” would count toward the minor–classes like Dr. Heidi Hutner‘s Ecofeminism (WST/EGL 372) course. Alex quickly realized the benefits of studying the interdisciplinary curricula that is the Stony Brook University Environmental Humanities Program. She graduated last year in the spring of 2013.

    I had the great privilege of taking an Environmental Humanities course (Dr. Hutner’s Ecology and Evolution in American Literature AKA SBC321–which I HIGHLY recommend!) in which Alex was a TA. Her fierce passion for the environment, creative mind, and super-motivated attitude became readily apparent after just a few class sessions. Alex was always there to help edit and refine students’ ideas or to hook us up with amazing events, people, and internship or job opportunities.

    Recently, I asked Alex if she could highlight some of her experiences as an ENS major and EHM minor, and also to update us as to where she is now as a Stony Brook University Sustainability Studies Program graduate. Excerpts from our conversation follow.

    Erica Cirino (EC): Hey Alex! First off, going back a bit, could you please share with us two highlights from the time you spent here in the Sustainability Studies Program? Let’s say…your favorite project?

    Alex Santiago (AS): My favorite project had to be SBC 401: Integrative Collaborative Systems Studies at Sylvester Manor. The small capstone class acted as a consulting board to a nonprofit/community farm in Shelter Island called Sylvester Manor. Students came up with individual projects to help Sylvester Manor further their mission. I developed a market analysis of East End restaurants to determine whether they were interested in partnering with a historical farm and if their business would be interested in purchasing local and organic produce. The project allowed each student to take ownership of their work and apply their skills to an actual problem (and hopefully provide a solution!).

    EC: Awesome! It must have been great to apply your passion for both business and the environment in your very own project. How about another memorable moment, please?

    AS: As far as my most memorable moment goes, Attending the “Design by Nature” Sustainability Conference at the Omega Institute with Dr. Heidi Hutner’s class. The conference was incredible and students had the privilege to personally meet sustainability leaders like Josh Fox and Majora Carter– people we read about and discussed in class! The entire experience was a blessing and I’m grateful I had to opportunity to learn from some of the world’s most progressive and innovative activists/movers and shakers.

    EC: An great perk to the Program! I too, so enjoy meeting the real-life environmental heroes that we learn about in the classroom. Speaking of the classroom, how have you applied what you learned in class to what you are now doing in the “real world”?

    AS: At the moment, I am freelancing at four different positions in order to explore a number of my different passions and develop additional skills (while having some fun!).

    Firstly, I am Events Coordinator at Green Spaces, a co-working space in NYC that is home to a number of small social enterprises and startups This opportunity allows me to interact with entrepreneurs on a daily basis and gain a better understanding of the grit, hustle and tenacity it takes to run a business.

    Secondly, I am Events Coordinator of Body Local SocialsBody Local is a startup whose mission is to provide better visibility for local wellness/health resource for consumers as well as connect the NYC health and wellness community.

    Third, I serve as Community and Engagement Fellow at Imperative, a career services platform that seeks to help people discover, connect and create with their professional purpose. I help create partnerships with organizations and recruit/market to new users.
    Lastly, I am a Research Assistant to Dr. Malcolm Bowman and the Stony Brook Storm Surge Team, and I assist with managing database, media requests, publications and more.

    EC: You are a busy lady! How do you think the EHM minor and Sustainability Studies Program, as a unique interdisciplinary program, helped  prep you for these numerous eco-biz gigs?

    AG:  I believe the combination of studying the environment through both a scientific lens and artistic/social aspect allowed me to develop a very thorough, critical and empathetic understanding/perspective of today’s major environmental challenges. I believe the amalgamation of science and art provided the opportunity [for me to] develop as a stronger leader.

    EC: Well-said! What are your goals for the future?

    AS: Next year, I am starting a 2-year MBA in Sustainability Program at Bard College.

    My dreams include:

    - Start several of my own social enterprises with my best friend revolving around healthy lifestyle options
    - Create a movement in University settings that allows students to gain greater access to organic produce/healthy food choices
    - Travel to new countries to research nutrition, health and lifestyle (and have fun!)
    -Much, much more to come that I can’t even predict!
    Alex's life is all about business...and having fun!

    Alex’s life is all about business…and having fun!

    Alex, we are SO proud of you and cannot wait to see what is to come! 
    With her business-savvy, unrelenting drive, positive attitude, practical knowledge, and love for the environment, Miss Santiago is sure to go far. I think she has achieved a very well-deserved #supergreenstatus, how about you?
    Yep. Totally well-deserved.
    Think green. Think smartBe Real.
    See how far a degree in the Stony Brook University Sustainability Studies Program will take YOU.
    peace. love. run.
  • Nicole Grein: Radical Environmentalist, scuba Diver, and Savior of Sharks on February 16th, 2014

    Hey Stony Brook!

    Since we’re midway through the first full month of classes this spring semester, I thought it was about time I feature another outstanding Sustainability Studies Program student as a part of my running “Student of the Month” blog feature.

    For February, I am pleased to present to you a dedicated student who possesses a knack for writing, SCUBA diving, and shark saving…

    Nicole Grein!

    Nicole Grein, Savior of Sharks!

    Nicole Grein, Savior of Sharks!

    Nicole, who was born in Asheville, North Carolina, lived in the southern US for most of her life, save for a few years in which she and her family resided in Germany. Tucked deep away in a verdant forest on a mountaintop, Nicole’s current home is an environmentalist’s paradise: gorgeous views, quiet, and endless opportunities for hiking and exploring nature.

    Although Nicole spends much time in the woods when she’s in the South, she reports that, of all the places in the world, she has “never felt more at home [anywhere else] than…under water in the ocean.” Nicole began scuba diving while still in high school, and has “since decided to spend more time in the water than on land.”

    Nicole feels more at home under water than in her actual "home" on land.

    Nicole feels more at home under water than in her actual “home” on land.

    When in 7th grade, Nicole and her family visited Belize. On the final day of the trip, after hours of swimming, fishing, and snorkeling, Nicole lingered in the water to intently watch a school of fish that was ravenously feeding on some of the family’s leftover fishing bait. Suddenly, the fish scooted away, and Nicole, confused, spun around to find out where and why the fish had fled…

    Soon, she saw her answer: two enormous bull sharks! While most would be scared beyond consolation, Nicole thinks it was her “pure fascination [of the sharks] and [her] comfort in the water” that allowed her to stay calm while the two “curious” sharks investigated the area around her family’s boat. It was in that moment that Nicole realized her passion for sea animals, especially sharks…and marks the beginning of her role as an “Environmentalist.”

    From then on, she dedicated herself to the never-ending task of researching all-things shark and/or marine. She is so grateful to have found the Sustainability Studies Program here at Stony Brook University, as the curriculum has “broadened [her] entire perspective on life,” beyond issues related to just the world’s oceans. As Nicole puts it, as Sustainability Studies Program student, she learned that ”each system in the environment depends on another, therefore saving one [part of the environment] but sacrificing another would ultimately change nothing.”

    And Nicole is all about change. As an Environmental Humanities major and Marine Biology minor, this savior of sharks is working toward a law degree after receiving her undergraduate education, so that she can make changes and influence policies to protect her “beloved sea and its inhabitants.” And, as far as making change goes, Nicole suggests a “radical” approach:

    I think the key to change is awareness, the more everyone knows and understands then the more progress can be made. We need to become, as corny as it sounds, ‘one with nature.’ We cannot, [as humans,] cement ourselves in place on this pedestal of dominance we have sat on for so long; instead we must equalize ourselves with the environment. We are a species just as a snake and a sea cucumber are a species, we each have a purpose and ours as humans is not to destroy, but to live alongside of everything else. I may be a bit radical for some but the truth is that being radical is what has brought us to exploiting almost all of our resources on Earth. Why not try being radical in the opposite direction and saving our resources and environment?

    Well said, Nicole, well said.

    With her energy and hung-go attitude, we have little doubt that Nicole Grein will go far in her sea-worthy endeavors! #supergreenstatus achieved.

    Till next time…

    peace. love. run.


  • Environmental Media and Earth Awareness at Stony Brook! on February 1st, 2014

    Hey Stony Brook!

    First off, I hope that your Spring 2014 semester is off to a fantastic start!

    My semester surely started with a bang; somehow, I am currently juggling three internships, one independent study, an honor’s research thesis, three jobs, and I am training for this year’s NYC marathon! I’ve never been busier, but I am truly happy doing what I love: studying and solving the world’s environmental problems, so that I can help educate others on how live greener, cleaner, and more healthy lives.

    This year, I’ve been lucky enough to snag a position as a Teaching Assistant in Dr. Heidi Hutner‘s SBC325: Environmental Writing and Media course for the second year in a row!  Though the course–peppered with environmental field trips and events, visits from talented authors and speakers, and fascinating course content–is already awesome, this year’s class is sure to be even more exciting than ever before…

    That is because this semester’s class is receiving instruction from talented two-time Emmy Award winning filmmaker (think, ER, Third Watch, and Studio 60) and environmental advocate Dave Chameides aka “Sustainable Dave.” Dave, who visited Stony Brook University in Fall 2013 (see my coverage of his seminar on waste), is donating his valuable time to teach the class filmmaking in our modern digital age. With Dave’s help, students will produce their own short environmental films!

    In addition to producing their own movies, students will also be viewing and critiquing others’  films as to better refine their filmmaking strategies and practices.

    In fact, the Sustainability Studies Program is hosting our second “Sustainable Film Series,” a series of feature-length environmental flicks to be shown right on campus! Join us in Chemistry Room 370 almost every week this semester for showings of environmental films spanning a wide variety of different topics, from animals to nuclear waste. You will learn A LOT.

    We hope to see you there!

    peace. love. run.


    See the flier, below, for details on the film series:

    Screen Shot 2014-02-01 at 5.56.35 PM


  • Five Tips to a Fabulous Finish with Finesse! on December 16th, 2013

    Hey Stony Brook!

    This post is geared mainly toward my fellow Seawolf Seniors (Spring Class of 2014).

    To make sure you’re NOT stressing in April, weeks before graduation, here are five handy tips I’ve learned from other students–and from my own experiences–on how to see success come Commencement Day!

    1. Check your University email and Blackboard…OFTEN.

    All too often I hear classmates complain, “WHEN did THEY tell us THAT was due?!” (“THEY” being administration and “THAT” being one or more of myriad online forms, paper documents, or other materials necessary to graduate). Many times, students neglect to check, or simply miss the important messages that pop up in their SBMailbox or on Blackboard Announcements. In these final months of your SB career, keep on top of everything! An easy way to do this is to set your SBMail (which is set up on Gmail) to forward to your personal email address. You’ll never miss another important message again!

    2.  Keep a calendar with important deadlines.

    This tip goes hand-in-hand with tip #1. Again, I recommend that you harness the incredible power of technology and keep an electronic calendar. That way, you can easily update upcoming tasks with the click of a button. Gmail and Apple both offer great electronic calendars where you can use various colors to indicate different types of tasks. This is a great way to keep track of all sorts of things, from reminding you when to return your textbook rentals to when scholarship applications are due.

    3. Update your résumé.

    Ok so nearly four years have passed since you first began your college career. Time to remove certain items from your résumé (as much as you loved scoring free slices, chances are your future employer could care less about your stint working in a pizza parlor) and add others (think exciting internships, cool jobs, and hefty research projects). You get the idea: Be your own best advocate!

    4. Set goals.

    Some keep their goals written on a “to-do” list style piece of paper. Others record their aspirations on Facebook or Twitter so others can hold them accountable to actually go after those goals. I keep a whiteboard on my bedroom wall right next to my bed so that I can write down things I think of that I want to accomplish (best ideas usually come first thing in the morning or in the middle of the night). Visually seeing your dreams get checked off is one of the best feelings in the world! Goals can be anything: be a nicer person, get healthy, win a race, ace a test, nab a job interview… Once you set your goals, get out there and get ‘em! 

    5. Immunize yourself against the dreaded SENIORITIS!

    Ok, so we’ve all been there in high school. You know, those days where you’d rather be grabbing some egg sandwiches and coffee at the deli with friends than be sitting in your morning class. Unfortunately, much of the same thing happens in college. Make it a point to keep up your GPA during senior year. It is hard, but you can do it! Go to class, and pay attention (no texting or thumb-twiddling or sleeping allowed). Your hard work and attention will pay off in the form of good grades, and can also sometimes mean academic accolades! And, chances are, your AM professor will let you eat your egg sandwich (or, if you’re a CSH alum like I am–your classic CSH Deli “egger“) and drink your coffee in class (sweet!).


    Be good eggs, Seniors ’14!

    All for now! Good luck to those taking finals this week. And, remember seniors: YOU CAN DO IT!

    peace. love. run.




  • Justin Fehntrich: The South Shore Surfer and Steward of the Seas on November 30th, 2013

    Hey Stony Brook!

    So, it’s the last day of the month: you know what that means…

    Time for another Stony Brook Sustainability Studies Program Student of the Month Feature: November Edition!

    This month, it is my pleasure to introduce you to a classmate of mine, one with a passion for preserving the local environment, namely, the myriad of marine ecosystems that make Long Island the diverse and unique place that it is…

    Justin Fehntrich!

    I first met Justin last year, in Dr. Heidi Hutner‘s SBC 325: Environmental Writing and the Media course. My first impressions? By the skateboard propped up against his desk and his copious use of “rad” and “dude” and similar words which he peppered throughout his sentences, I immediately labeled him:

    But, after befriending Justin The Friendly Surfer and reading/listening to his thoughts on the environment and its problems and viewing his breathtaking photography (which is pretty much always focused on oceans, beaches, wildlife, or surfing) I knew there was more–Justin is truly a Steward of the Seas!

    Justin grew up in Bayshore and South Brentwood right here on the Good Old Island, just about a stone’s throw from the Robert Moses State Park and the mystical Fire Island National Seashore. From a young age his surroundings made a big impact on his values in life, and Justin reports harboring a lifelong love of the shore and sea, “spending [his] summer days building sandcastles and learning how to swim in the bay and ocean.”

    Later, Justin got into skateboarding, which eventually led to surfing. Surfing was Justin’s way of escaping–if only momentarily–the frantic and fast-paced “New York State of Mind” kind of life, as Justin puts it. Surfing connected Justin to nature and soon it became his de-facto way of life:

    Surfing sort of has this way of creeping into your life where soon everything you do revolves around whether or not there are waves. You start to wake up at the crack of dawn and drive to your favorite beach to see if you can surf before class or work, you avoid making plans on Saturday mornings in the event the waves will be good, and soon you save up some money to buy winter surfing gear because the thought of actually not surfing for 6 months sounds more ridiculous than paddling out in 40 degree water and 32 degree air, while it’s snowing, completely covered in head to toe in 5mm of neoprene.”

    Justin had finished school for a few years and had been yearning to return to the classroom, but wasn’t sure what he wanted to study.  Sitting on his board pondering such a notion during a frigid January surf session a few years ago at Lido Beach, something funny happened: a young harbor seal surfaced close by and began barking and diving and swimming gleefully. A few weeks later, Justin saw more of these slick gray spotted creatures while surfing at another Long Island beach. Justin was left feeling inspired by the numerous seal encounters…he had never before, in his lifetime of beach-going and years of surfing, “come face-to-face with a wild seal.”

    Why now? Justin wondered. He played out all of the possible reasons why he had never before seen the seals but then had suddenly seen so many in the past month: Improved water quality? New marine protection legislation? Justin was sure “that there had to be something happening here, that in [his] opinion was having a positive effect on local marine life.” Whatever was happening with the seals and the sea, Justin felt a calling to play a part in the restoration and conservation of Long Island’s marine habitats. That’s when he decided to come to Stony Brook to major in Coastal Environmental Studies.

    Last spring, Justin worked collaboratively on a film and public education project with a few other students (Isabella Bartoloni, Bryan Flynn, and Troy Petrignani). The group created–among other works–a powerful documentary detailing the causes, ongoing effects, and implications of Hurricane Sandy: a nine-minute-plus feature dubbed “Islands Made of Sand.” Justin and his group mates debuted their findings at Earthstock 2013.  This coming spring, Justin will flex his filmmaker talent, extending his advice to others and sharpening his own skills as a TA for Dr. Huter’s Spring 2014 SBC 325 course (of which fellow Sustainability Studies Program students Chelsea Moccio and I will also serve as TAs!). This year, the course will feature environmental filmmaking, and students will work with two-time Emmy Award winning filmmaker Dave Chameides aka “Sustainable Dave” aka the man who kept a year’s worth of garbage in his basement (but that’s a whole ‘nother story).

    Besides surfing and filmmaking, Justin also connects to nature through photography, something which he admits wasn’t something he quite intended to become involved in. As he says, “I sort of just like taking pictures.” Fancy equipment? No…he uses his iPhone! Hard to believe once you take a look at some of his incredible work.

    Justin’s favorite subjects to photograph are landscapes, subjects which he feels perfectly preserve the place and time that he experienced outside of the camera. To him, landscapes are spiritual, and he believes that the natural beauty of the outdoors is essential for a person’s mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. His mission?

    Maybe if I can take a picture of a really gorgeous sunset, or a picturesque beach with not a person in sight, I can influence somebody else to become more environmentally conscious.  These days there is a lot at risk with rising populations and energy demands. We have our work cut out for us as Sustainability Studies Program students here at Stony Brook.  I’d rather live in a world with blue skies, beautiful oceans and diverse wildlife, as opposed to a world with smoggy air, toxic brown sludge, and garbage laden oceans complete with dead animals covered in oil. The Earth has so much beauty for us to just sit back and enjoy. As my mother always said: “A picture is worth a thousand words.”

    Couldn’t have put it better myself.

    Justin, you have earned #supergreenstatus and more! Keep up the amazing work.


    peace. love. run.