My name is Renata (they/them pronouns) and I am a PhD student at Duke University in the Clark Lab, a NatureNet science fellow, and a NSF GRFP recipient. I study tree health in urban forests, specifically 1) how both volunteer and paid tree maintenance can increase tree health 2)  patterns in urban tree health through time and across geographies and 3) how to support managers and planners in designing urban forests that will support human and non-human communities with climate change.

Educational and Work Background: 

I completed my undergraduate degree in Biology (with a specialization in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology) from the University of Chicago in 2018. My minor was in Environmental Studies. That really means that I took some anthropology, philosophy, and political science classes to inform my views on environmental inequality, policy, and the role of science in pushing for change. During undergrad, I worked on various research projects, starting out in Neuroscience but moving to Ecology (and more specifically working with plants).

After graduating, I worked first as a Conservation Land Management intern for the US Forest Service at the Dorena Genetic Resource Center in Oregon. While there, I worked primarily with Lee Riley doing horticultural work and seeing how the Forest Service partnered with other agencies (like the Oregon Department of Transportation and US Fish and Wildlife Service) to do restorations. I also worked with Richard Sniezko and others to investigate the degree of local adaptation in Pacific madrone, a local hardwood species. You can see more about that project on the research page.

I next worked at the non-profit Columbia Land Trust right across the river in Washington. I supported on some of their grant writing (particularly with GIS work), community outreach, and squirrel surveys. Both my time at the US Forest Service and with Columbia Land Trust helped me see how land managers and conservation practitioners apply scientific research. These experiences help ground my approach to applied ecology research.

For full CV, see here

Grounding Vision:

I grew up in various places, both inside the US and in other countries, but have almost always lived in cities. Growing up, I thought of “nature” as being in other places, where you road trip to. Don’t get me wrong, I love spending time in national parks, going on long backpacking trips, and seeing the milky way when you’re far away from city lights. A lot of my previous research and work experiences have been in more rural areas! I just hope we can also appreciate the life and diversity (both human and non-human) that exists in urban areas.

We are in the midst of tackling an impending climate crisis, ongoing economic inequality, racial injustice, the carceral state, and colonial exploitation. Reckoning with the failures in our current social and economic system is long overdue, and I hope that we can use this opportunity to reimagine how we, as humans, live with and among the rest of the natural world. I aim to be part of that reimagining by looking at our urban forests, organizing for societal change, and interrogating some of the values embedded in ecological science.