FOUNDERS AND DIRECTORS
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 Sustainability, 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. In 2016, she was the recipient of the E.O. Wilson Award.
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 the book Renewable Energy and Wildlife Conservation published with John Hopkin’s University Press (2019). Dr. Grodsky has published over 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.
Dr. Alona Armstrong
Dr. Armstrong is currently a Natural Environment Research Council Industrial Innovation Fellow and a Senior Lecturer in Energy & Environmental Sciences. She is in the Plant, Soil and Land Systems research group within Lancaster Environment Centre and a core member of Energy Lancaster, leading the Energy & Environment Theme.
Dr. Armstrong’s research focuses on the implications of the low carbon energy transition on the local environment, including ecosystem function, properties and service provision. She uses a range of desk, field, laboratory and modelling approaches to resolve understanding, taking a positive approach – we need to decarbonise energy supplies and there will be more land take for renewable energy infrastructure but how can we do this whilst maximising environmental co-benefits? Working collaboratively with stakeholders from across sectors is central to her work. Prior to her energy research, Dr. Armstrong focused on the response of peatland carbon cycling to land management perturbations.
Dr. Sarah Jordaan
Dr. Sarah Jordaan’s research is aimed at uncovering the environmental and economic trade-offs related to energy decisions, particularly those trade-offs related to the life cycle of energy technologies. Her expertise covers the intersection of science, technology, and policy, resulting in publications that focus on not only life cycle assessment but also more broadly on technology assessment, energy policy, and innovation.
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 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 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.
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
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.
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.
WILD ENERGY GRADUATE STUDENTS
Alex Cagle (Ph.D. Student, 2018 – )
Alex is a Wild Energy Ph.D. student in the Energy Graduate Group interested in understanding the land-use, environmental, and ecological implications of solar energy deployment. Specifically, he is studying the technological, hydrological, and ecological impacts and attributes of floating photovoltaic solar energy. Alex received his bachelor’s degree in environmental science with minors in corporate social responsibility and general business from Temple University. During Alex’s time as an undergraduate researcher at Temple University, he explored various economic and environmental impacts of large-scale solar photovoltaic arrays. Alex Cagle is co-advised by Dr. Rebecca R. Hernandez and Dr. Steven M. Grodsky.
Yudi Li (Incoming Ph.D. Student, 2020 – )
Yudi is an incoming Wild Energy Ph.D. student currently pursuing an M.S. degree in Conservation Sciences under the College of Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resource Sciences. In the laboratory of Jessica Hellmann, he is currently focused on climate change adaptation issues from the perspectives of species, ecosystem, society, culture, as well as management. Yudi Li will be co-advised by Dr. Rebecca R. Hernandez and Dr. Steven M. Grodsky.
Jason Whitney (Ph.D. Student, 2019 – )
Jason Whitney is a Wild Energy Ph.D. Student with interests in the intersection between energy, ecology, and social justice. Prior to entering his program, he assisted Dr. Hernandez’s research team as a junior specialist to further the understanding of the ecological impacts of utility-scale solar energy projects and managed several interns in her lab. Jason designed and implemented an economical, cloud-ready, high resolution, data logging system to monitor abiotic changes associated with big solar. He transferred to UC Davis in 2014 with an AS in Mathematics and an AS in Biological Sciences from Mendocino College. During his undergraduate studies at UC Davis, Jason focused on strategies for environmental and economic sustainability, earning a BS in Environmental Science and Management with a minor in Geographic Information Systems in 2016. Jason Whitney is co-advised by Dr. Rebecca R. Hernandez and Dr. Steven M. Grodsky.
WILD ENERGY ALUMNI
Karen E. Tanner, Ph.D. (2020 Graduate)
In my work with Dr. Ingrid Parker, Dr. Rebecca R. Hernandez, Dr. Kara A. Moore, and Dr. Bruce M. Pavlik, I use demographic matrix models to explore the effects of microsite and climatic variability on demographic processes, to ask whether rare, common, and exotic annual species respond differently to these factors, and ultimately assess how response indicates potential for long-term population persistence. Sensitivity analyses of these models show that population growth estimates improve with higher seed bank survival rates, and indeed population performance and persistence likely hinge on belowground dynamics for these and other annual species forming persistent seed banks. Because moisture is known to negatively affect seed survival in other systems, possibly by facilitating soil pathogen attack, novel moisture gradients created by solar infrastructure may have a strong effect on annual plant population dynamics. In 2017-2019, I tested for effects of shade and fungicide treatment as well as seed age on seed viability and germination rates of native and exotic species, incorporating these data into models predicting how microhabitat conditions may drive shifts in population performance and community composition.
WILD ENERGY ALUMNI
Madison A. Hoffacker, M.S. (2019 Graduate, Pacific Gas and Electric)
Madison K. Hoffacker was the first Wild Energy Graduate Student. Madison earned her masters in the Energy Graduate Group under the advisement of Dr. Rebecca R. Hernandez. She graduated from Chapman University in 2013 with a BA in Environmental Science and Policy. As a researcher at Stanford University and in partnership with the Carnegie Institution for Science’s Department of Global Ecology, Madison was the co-developer of the Carnegie Energy and Environmentally Compatibility Model, which provides energy developers, agencies, and stakeholders guidance on siting energy infrastructure in a manner that reduces environmental impacts. Madison’s work on the use of degraded land for renewable energy development has been featured on NPR, CBS, Yale Environment 360, and Scientific American. Madison has been published in Nature Sustainability, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Nature Climate Change, Environmental Science and Technology, and Restoration Ecology and was featured in Chapman Magazine for her research impact on sustainability.