About Us

PEOPLE

FOUNDERS AND DIRECTORS

Rebecca Hernandez

Dr. Rebecca R. Hernandez

Dr. Hernandez is Assistant Professor of Earth System Science and Ecology in the Department of Land, Air and Water Resources. She directs data-intensive and technology-driven research at the intersection of energy development, the environment, and ecological processes. Her research is motivated by the belief that every human should have access to energy in a manner that is sustainable with the Earth system. Her work on energy ecology has been published in Nature Climate Change, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Environmental Science and Technology and Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews and has been featured in the Washington Post, National Geographic, NPR, Forbes, and Scientific American.

Dr. Steve Grodsky

Dr. Steven M. Grodsky

Dr. Grodsky is a renewable energy ecologist. His research program centers on the interface between plant and animal conservation and renewable energy development. He has studied effects of bioenergy, solar energy, and wind energy on a diversity of taxa, including plants, invertebrates, reptiles, amphibians, birds, and mammals. Currently, he is co-editor of a book entitled “Renewable Energy and Wildlife Conservation” under contract with John Hopkin’s University Press (2019). Dr. Grodsky has published 20 peer-reviewed papers on renewable energy and wildlife conservation and has been invited to speak nationally and internationally at conferences on energy ecology. He has taught courses in ecology, entomology, and wildlife. Presently, he is leading several projects involving solar energy and desert plants, butterflies, and kit foxes in the Mojave Desert.

ASSOCIATE DIRECTORS OF RESEARCH

Dr. Gwen Arnold

Gwen Arnold is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Policy in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy. She investigates the governance of high-volume hydraulic fracturing (fracking), a technique for oil and gas drilling that has transformed the energy sector over the past 15 years. With a joint PhD in political science and public policy, she examines how communities use regulation, planning, collaboration, and financial investment to manage the fracking industry; how citizens gain and interpret information about fracking and its impacts; and the factors that affect the extent to which citizens engage in policy debates and discussions about fracking. Her work on these topics has been published in Ecological Economics, Energy Policy, Public Administration Review, Publius, and Policy Studies Journal, among others. She is currently funded by the National Science Foundation to examine strategies that rural communities in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia use to capture benefits from and mitigate adverse impacts of oil and gas boom-bust cycles.

Dr. Heiner Leith

Dr. Heiner Lieth

Dr. Heiner Lieth is a crop ecologist who studies the applications of photovoltaic energy production in agriculture. His research focuses on the relationship between environmental variables and soilless crop production. This research includes a variety of projects ranging from basic to applied research. research focuses on the relationship between environmental variables and soilless crop production. This research includes a variety of projects ranging from basic to applied research.  Basic research projects focus on the quantification (through the use of mathematical models) of plant and crop processes.  His applied research deals with production optimization, soilless (hydroponic) production of horticultural crops, greenhouse automation, and the development of production-management tools, particularly ones based on mathematical models.

Dr. Leslie Saul-Gershenz

Dr. Leslie Saul-Gershenz

Dr. Leslie Saul-Gershenz is an evolutionary ecologist and lecturer on the conservation of biodiversity, including within the context of energy development. She is also the Director of Conservation and Science and co-founder of SaveNature.Org. Her current research focuses on the characterization of the impact on native bees from utility scale solar development in the Mojave and Sonoran deserts. In 2016, Dr. Saul-Gershenz received a $220,000 grant from the Bureau of Land Management to support this study. Her previous research is highlighted in several books including the “The Other Insect Societies” (Harvard Press, 2006), “Insect Cuticular Hydrocarbons: Biology, biochemistry and chemical ecology” (Cambridge University Press, 2009), and “Keeping the Bees: Why all bees are at risk and what we can do to save them” (Harper, 2014), and Dr. Saul-Gershenz authored a chapter on the history of insectariums in “Encyclopedia of Insects” (Academic Press, 2009). She has also been a scientific advisor for the BBC’s series “Life in the Undergrowth” with Sir David Attenborough. Her conservation work has been featured in National Geographic, the LA Times, ABC World News, and Newsweek.

Catherine Brinkley

Dr. Catherine Brinkley

Dr. Catherine Brinkley is an Assistant Professor in Human Ecology, Community and Regional Development in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. With a PhD in city and regional planning, her research focuses on public health and design for siting decisions and impacts. She uses spatial statistics and social network analyses to understand the vast networks that connect sites of energy extraction with production and distribution, impacting the immediate environment as well as, economies, and the climate in general. Currently, she is focused on biomass resources and their use in district heating networks. She is a former Fulbright Scholar, Watson Fellow, and National Science Foundation Career Award Winner.

ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF DESIGN

Tom Maiorana

Thomas E. Maiorana

Tom Maiorana is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Design at UC Davis and the co-founder of the Product Design Lab at UC Davis. Tom specializes in product design and development, design thinking, and prototyping. His research explores the ways which low-resolution prototypes can be used to create human-centered complex systems. He is a Fellow at the John Muir Institute for the Environment and the co-architect of the OneClimate initiative. Tom is also the founder of Red Cover Studios, which specializes in product development and innovation strategy and uses prototyping as a central practice in work ranging from interaction design to fashion to organizational change. Red Cover Studios helped to conceptualize and launch the Hive at the Claremont.

STAFF SCIENTISTS

Esther Robles

Esther Robles

Esther received a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science and Management with a focus in Natural Resources from the University of California, Davis in 2017. During her undergraduate studies, she was awarded a National Center for Sustainable Transportation Research Fellowship by the UC Davis Institute for Transportation Studies for research on solar energy and parking lots. Wence’s research explores the solar energy potential of 30 of the largest commercial rooftops in the United States and technical challenges associated with such large simulations at the cell-string level in collaboration with partners, the Center for Biological Diversity and Aurora Solar, under the advisement of Dr. Hernandez.

GRADUATE STUDENTS

UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCHERS