Continuing To Grow

SSU Expands Nature Preserves With Launch of Center for Environmental Inquiry
May 13, 2015

Sonoma State University has launched the new Center for Environmental Inquiry to play a leading role in the study of emerging environmental challenges in the region.

The center will oversee and expand activities at SSU's three nature preserves--the Galbreath Wildlands Preserve, Fairfield Osborn Preserve, and Los Guillicos Preserve--while also increasing access to resources and technology for students, faculty and regional employers.

Claudia Luke, who is currently director of SSU's preserves, will serve as director of the new center to help make environmental understanding integral to the university experience, says Sonoma State Provost Andrew Rogerson. "We live in an age when a liberal arts education is not complete without imparting an understanding of how we are connected to the earth," he said.

A public-private endeavor, the center will build upon the work that's been done at the preserves over the last five years, including more than $650,000 raised to support research by students and faculty. The WATERS collaborative, for example, funded by the Sonoma County Water Agency, has supported more than 20 faculty to engage 1,500 students in hands-on inquiry.

"We are making a concerted effort to expand the number of programs we offer, to increase access to technology, and to build state of the art facilities, in particular at the Galbreath Wildlands Preserve," said Luke. "We have an opportunity to place students and researchers from all disciplines in the heart of one of the world's best environmental training grounds for learning what happened, how it happened and why. With the launch of this center and the expansion of our programs, we can do just that."

"The work we will do with the center is helping us recruit students to the sciences," said Lynn Stauffer, Dean of the School of Science and Technology. "With our freshman Science 120 class, we will continue to get our students onto the preserves as soon as possible to motivate them for their careers."

"The center is about more than just the natural sciences," said Richard Senghas, Chair of the SSU faculty. "Discussions about expanding the center's programs include exciting, valuable inquiry work at the preserves across a wide range of disciplines, including arts and humanities, and the social sciences." Senghas has already scheduled trips to the center's Fairfield Osborn Preserve for his fall anthropology class.

"The potential of this center is enormous," said William Silver, Dean of the School of Business and Economics. "We will be able to run experiential leadership programs on site and also to conduct studies into environmental economics."