GreenTalk Speaker Series, Spring 2017

  • Feb 22

    Eugene Cordero

    SJSU, Meteorology and Climate Science

    Energy and Climate Change: What's an Engineer to Do?

    Dr. Eugene Cordero is a climate scientist and professor in the Department of Meteorology and Climate Science at San José State University. His science research is focused on understanding the processes responsible for long-term changes in climate through the use of observations and atmospheric models. Eugene is also interested in the design of educational experiences that encourage social change in students to produce environmental benefits. Currently, Eugene is the founder and director of Green Ninja , an enterprise that creates educational experiences that help students design a more sustainable world.

    Chapter 9 (Cunningham and Cunningham 2017), Climate

  • Mar 1

    Margie O'Driscoll

    Nonprofit leader, Management Consultant, Strategist

    Building a Sustainable Life (and career)

    Margie O’Driscoll is a San Francisco based consultant with a long career in sustainability, social change and design. She has authored legislation, led design competitions and is currently working on a design challenge to create resiliency in the 9 Bay Area counties. She is also working with Bay Area leaders to conceive of new models for the design and construction industry.

    O’Driscoll has worked for members of Congress and the mayor of San Francisco; one of the Bay Area’s largest (philanthropic) foundations; and numerous nonprofit organizations. In this talk, she will discuss how Bay Area sustainability efforts have shaped national and international policy- and the work that lies ahead.

    Chapter 16 (Cunningham and Cunningham 2017), Env policy and sustainability

  • Mar 8

    Leslie Jacoby

    SJSU English/General Engineering (100W)

    "The Urban Falconer: Bird-Human Connection"

    Leslie Jacoby is a native Californian and professor who teaches in two departments at San José State University: the Department of English and Comparative Literature and the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering. Her academic research focuses on medieval falconry manuscripts, specifically the early technical communication used to document thirteenth- through sixteenth-century French falconry practices such as trapping, caring, and training of birds of prey. Currently, she is working towards becoming a Master Falconer.

    As a citizen scientist and volunteer for years, she has worked for several Bay Area raptor centers, including the Golden Gate Audubon Society, Golden Gate Raptor Observatory, and Berkeley Burrowing Owl Docent at the César Chávez Park.

    In her first Green Talk, Leslie will present an overview of the history of falconry, falconry practices, and the important contributions that Californian falconers make to protect the fragile environments of birds of prey.

    Two environmental issue case studies:

    1. Wind turbine threats to birds of prey
      Further, see Cunningham and Cunningham (textbook) Chapter 3, section 3.5 "Wind and Solar Energy" (pp. 317-323 in the 2017 edition)
    2. Impact of urbanization on an unusual bird, the burrowing owl

    Other Resources

  • Mar 15

    Siddharth Narayan

    University of California, Santa Cruz / The Nature Conservancy

    Nature-Based Solutions for Coastal Risk Reduction: How engineers, ecologists and economists can collaborate to bring theory to action

    Coastal flooding causes significant economic damage globally and in the USA and these risks are projected to increase over the next few decades1 (Hallegatte et al., 2013). States like Florida and Louisiana on the US Gulf Coast are vulnerable to increased damage and loss of land due to hurricanes, subsidence and rising sea levels2 (Woodruff et al., 2013). Even California saw aggravated beach erosion during the last El Niño year, a trend that could worsen due to climate change3 (Barnard et al., 2017). In addition to high densities of high-value human assets, all these coastal regions also have rich, yet severely threatened coastal ecosystems like salt-marshes, mangrove wetlands or oyster reefs. It is now being increasingly recognized that these ecosystems can, under the right conditions, act as natural defenses and reduce extents of coastal flooding and erosion4 (Arkema et al., 2013). However, there is a lot that needs to be done, in terms of transferring our general understanding of the ecological and engineering conditions that determine the effectiveness of these ecosystems to practical action in conserving, or even designing and building specific nature-based solutions for a specific problem of coastal risk.

    Filling these gaps in our understanding and practice is an inherently multi-disciplinary exercise. It involves civil and coastal engineers, flood risk mappers and managers, ecologists, economists and even policy-makers. Our team at UCSC and TNC, led by Dr. Michael Beck of TNC, are a mix of engineers and ecologists. We work together with several partner public and private sector institutions to understand when, where and how natural ecosystems can be effective and viable as defenses and how best to advance their conservation and restoration for the purpose of risk reduction. A substantial part of this work involves communicating our key findings to stakeholders and agencies responsible for managing our coastlines. For example, we recently partnered with Lloyd’s – a multi-national consortium of private insurers – to quantify the value of marshes in the northeastern USA, in reducing flood damages during Hurricane Sandy5 (Narayan et al., 2016). The findings from this study have since been communicated in various forms to private and public sector institutions in the US and around the world and will, hopefully, play a part in influencing future conservation and restoration activities on the US Atlantic seaboard. In this GreenTalk I will give an overview of recent and on-going projects within our team and elsewhere in this field, and provide examples of different ways of communicating the results of our research and converting theory to action.


    Cunnningham and Cunningham (text book), Chapter 2 Environmental Systems, Chapter 6 Conservation, Nature Reserves

    Narayan, S., Beck, M. W., Reguero, B. G., Losada, I. J., Wesenbeeck, B., Pontee, N., Sanchirico, J. N., Ingram, J. C.,Lange, G, Burks-Copes, K. A. (2016). The effectiveness, costs and coastal protection benefits of natural and nature based defences, PLosONE 11(5):e0154735.doi:10.1371/ journal.pone.0154735

    University of California, Santa Cruz; The Nature Conservancy and the Wildlife Conservation Society in association with Risk Management Solutions and Guy Carpenter and Company (n. d.), Factsheet: The Value of Coastal Wetlands for Reducing Property Damage.

  • Mar 22

    Luke Miller

    SJSU Biological Sciences

    Bio-logging on the seashore: behavioral and biophysical drivers of animal stress

    Luke Miller is a marine biologist, physiologist, and ecomechanic. He studies the effects of environmental variation on rocky seashore organisms, and applies principles from engineering and physics to predict how and when animals and algae will succeed or fail while dealing with the extremes of the wave-swept shore. Additionally, he uses a variety of custom electronics solutions to measure performance and monitor behavior of organisms that are alternately submerged by the waves at high tide and exposed to the air during low tides. The application of novel datalogging systems, for tracking both environmental conditions and biological parameters, allows us to gain new insights into the functioning of complex natural systems that contribute to California’s economic productivity and provide valuable ecosystem services.

    Chapter 2 (Cunningham and Cunningham 2017) Environmental Energy Systems AND/OR chapter 3, Evolution, Species Interactions, and Biological Communications. Miller uses technology to study intertidal ecology. The dynamics of populations and other ecological material, including many graphs, is relevant.

  • Apr 5

    Rick Bacon, Sudarshan Kurwadkar and Debbie Whaley

    Aqua Metrology Systems; California State University – Fullerton; Institute of Water, Energy, Sustainability and Technology (iWEST), Sacramento State University

    Research and policy implementation challenges for water sustainability - perspectives for engineering students. Panel Discussion.

    Panelists are also attending the 9th Annual Water Resources and Policy Initiatives Conference, "Water Management in a Changing Climate", at San Jose State University, April 6, 2017. Agenda.



    How Real-time Water Quality Data Drives Smart Decisions

    Rick Bacon has served as CEO of Aqua Metrology Systems since 2012. Prior to joining AMS, Rick held senior management and board level positions in the energy, industrial, technology, and water sectors. Rick has a keen interest in technology start-ups and has successfully led several companies in securing seed and development funding. Rick holds a degree in Land Economy from the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom and is currently completing his PhD in the Department of Education at UC Santa Barbara.

    Vulnerability of Water Resources due to Emerging Contaminants of Concern

    Sudarshan Kurwadkar is an Assistant Professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at California State University – Fullerton, California. Dr. Kurwadkar completed his Ph.D. in Civil Engineering with Environmental Engineering emphasis from the Missouri University of Science and Technology (Formerly University of Missouri – Rolla). Prior to his academic career, he worked in the Division of Environmental Quality with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. He is a Board Certified Environmental Engineer and a licensed Professional Engineer. He is an active researcher and has most recently selected for a prestigious Summer Faculty Fellowship at the Air Force Institute of Technology – Wright Patterson Air Force Base. His research interests are in the broadly defined areas of physical and chemical processes in environmental engineering. Specific examples are fate and transport of emerging contaminants such as pharmaceuticals compounds and insecticides in the environment; sorption and degradation kinetics of organic contaminants, and water quality investigations particularly water quality impact due to intensive animal agriculture operations. He actively engages undergraduate and graduate students in research activities and promotes environmental engineering education through field visits. Besides teaching and research, he enjoys outdoor activities such as kayaking and fishing.

    Committed to California’s Future – Sustainable Water and Energy Solutions

    Debbie Whaley is the founding Executive Director of Sacramento State’s Institute of Water, Energy, Sustainability and Technology (iWEST). Established in 2015, iWEST and its affiliated faculty, staff, and students are pursuing interdisciplinary research and outreach that advances the sustainability of our environment and our water, energy, and food systems.

    Growing up in the Bay Area during the 60s and 70s, Debbie’s educational and career choices were heavily influenced by the cyclical water shortages and the energy crisis that she experienced. After receiving degrees in Geography, she sought a position as a groundwater hydrologist in the engineering consulting industry. In her over 30 years of experience, she has focused on water and energy management challenges - in California and throughout North America, as well as in the United Kingdom, Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

    Background Reading

    Chapter 11 (Cunningham and Cunningham 2017), Water

  • Apr 12

    Sonia Travaglini

    UC Berkeley

    Engineering alternatives to synthetic materials using fungi

    Originally from England, Sonia Travaglini has always been fascinated with sustainable materials and joined the University of California, Berkeley to found the field of research in mycology materials. During her PhD studies in Mechanical Engineering, Sonia enjoys squishing, stretching, poking and setting fire to mycology materials to explore their properties and abilities, and in her spare time likes to support outreach to Engineers of the future.

    Mycology materials are a novel addition to the realm of sustainable materials – a recently developed and literally growing option, mycology materials are made from fungi (mushrooms). Neither a plant nor an animal, fungi can digest waste and grow a material from the mycelial roots of mushrooms, forming a bio-composite which offers reduced environmental impact and is compostable. In this talk Sonia Travaglini will introduce the field of mycology materials, summarize their latest applications, and consider their future potential.

    Chapter 14 (Cunningham and Cunningham 2017), Solid and Hazardous Waste

  • Apr 19

    Max Dunn

    Ohm Connect

    The Dirty Secret of Clean Energy

    The price of clean energy keeps falling and is becoming competitive with fossil fuel power plants. But integrating increasing amounts of intermittent renewable energy on the grid is causing problems. Can we move to a sustainable energy future, or will fossil fuels always be our dominant source of energy?

    The presentation and paper with references can be found here.

    Chapter 13 (Cunningham and Cunningham 2017), Energy

  • Apr 26

    Ron Swenson

    President, Swenson Solar (; Director, International Institute of Sustainable Transportation (

    SPARTAN SOLAR: Carbon Free San José State

    At the COP21 Climate Summit in Paris, leaders of the world issued the renewable energy challenge. Subsequently, nations, regions, states, and cities have joined the Renewable Energy Challenge; many of the world's most influential companies have committed to 100% renewable energy; universities too have committed to becoming carbon-neutral.

    If they can do it, so can we at San José State. San José State can become a living laboratory for 100% renewable energy, and the place to start is right here at the College of Engineering.

    Spartan Solar

    Chapter 15 (Cunningham and Cunningham 2017), Economics and Urbanization

  • May 3

    Jerry (Zeyu) Gao

    Professor, Computer Engineering at SJSU

    Smart City Challenges and Solutions

    More Information on Jerry Gao.
    Upcomming conference on Smart Cities.

    Chapter 15 (Cunningham and Cunningham 2017), Economics and Urbanization