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Preparing passionate leaders driving change in sustainability and stewardship of the environment.

  —Our Mission

Letter from the Department Head - 2022

Department Head, Jeremy James and Assistant Professor, Yamina Pressler, lead a hike up Poly Cayon for newly admitted students during Cal Poly Open House events, spring 2022.
Photo credit: Cortney Newby


Student success

NRES students have had fun and enjoyed huge successes pursuing co-curricular activities that include competing and placing in national events in soil judging and logging to joining faculty research teams to examine key questions in restoration ecology and soil carbon management, as well as modeling how forest fuels treatment reduce greenhouse emissions. Through these and other activities, our students take full advantage of opportunities related to the hands-on learning Cal Poly provides.

By rapidly adapting to temporary shifts to online learning and to new protocols allowing in-person classes this year, our students continued to graduate quickly and secure great career positions in diverse fields such as forestry, natural resource conservation and environmental consulting, among others.

We also have seen our students work hard in professional roles in their community while completing their degree. A perfect example of this is forestry student Chanel Keller of the Esselen Tribe of Monterey County, who serves as a volunteer firefighter/EMT for Mid Coast Fire Brigade and was a first responder to the Colorado Fire threatening tribal lands last winter.  

This is an important and exciting time for students to be studying in the fields of environmental science and natural resource management. Career options are at an all-time high, and our environmental and natural resources issues are only becoming more complex. The future is very bright for NRES students. We are proud of them, and our society needs them now more than ever.    

Faculty and student research

NRES faculty continue to lead their field in research and provide critical and exciting opportunities for students to gain research experience.  These efforts are fundamental to Cal Poly’s teacher-scholar model and a key aspect to supporting Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing philosophy.

In the area of soil science, Assistant Professor Stewart Wilson, with expertise in geospatial data science, has led a new project with a number of students focused on predictive mapping of burn severity and fire impacts in forest systems. Additionally, Assistant Professor Yamina Pressler is leading a team of students to establish a network of restoration sites across the state and evaluate how restoration may benefit soil carbon and soil ecological processes. 

A focus on fire ecology, post-fire management and fire science continues to be an important research area and a main area of student involvement. This includes students working with Professor Chris Surfleet on post-fire erosion and hydrology; Assistant Professor Richard Cobb on and forest ecology and forest health; and Professor Chris Dicus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions with forest management. 

NRES faculty have also received important invitations to lead statewide research efforts advanced by agencies and industry. For example, Assistant Professor Charlotte Decock has been appointed co-principal investigator for The Grimm Family Center for Organic Production and Research at Cal Poly. And Assistant Professor Nick Babin has been invited by the California Department of Food and Agriculture Office of Environmental Farming and Innovation to lead a programmatic evaluation of its climate smart agriculture incentive programs designed to mitigate greenhouse gases. 

NRES faculty continue to serve as leading scholars in their field and provide important and exciting research opportunities to students. We look forward to seeing how this work advances in the coming year.


Environmental earth and soil science majors, Kylee Nielsen and Cody Cameron, present at the CAFES Spring Research Symposium, 2022.
Photo credit: Norah Bales


Alumni and industry partners

The foundation to student success and the ability of our faculty to prepare our future generations of professionals is built by our strong network of alumni and industry partners that have graciously given their time, professional knowledge and resources. With well over 650 students in our program pursuing dozens of different professional pathways, it takes a community of dedicated professionals to prepare students for success. 

Alumni and industry partners have given their time and knowledge by serving as guest speakers in classes, as well as giving to scholarships and student leadership development opportunities, supporting equipment purchases to support student research, and crowd funding student teams and clubs. In addition, our alumni and industry partners step forward in regular and important ways through the year in service to our NRES Advisory Council. This group of committed partners meets at least three times a year to help the department define strategic priorities and advance major programmatic needs.

There were a few unique alumni highlights this year that deserve special recognition.  Walter Ruzzo (Natural Resources Management, ’78) received Cal Poly’s Honored Alumni Award for his sustained commitment to the college and university. Eric Huff (Forestry and Natural Resources, ’92), Lauren Layne (Soil Science, ‘06), Joel Kimmelshue (Soil Science, ‘90), and Catherine Reheis-Boyd (Natural Resources Management, ’80) served on a distinguished alumni panel to celebrate the 10th anniversary of NRES. Each of these individuals have given graciously to support key student leadership opportunities in the department. 

This brief overview only touches on some of the critical ways our partners have supported NRES students. We are truly indebted to more people than we can mention that have helped our students succeed.   

Staff recognitions

NRES Department staff are the engine that keeps the department running all year long. They often represent the first stop for students and faculty when they need help. Without their support, we would be unable to accomplish what we do each year. 

There are a couple of key staff updates that deserve special recognition. Espie Wilkinson served in our front office for seven years and recently retired from Cal Poly. She provided fabulous support to our students and faculty and is deeply missed by all. We wish her well in her retirement from Cal Poly. 

Cortney Newby recently joined our staff, bringing substantial knowledge of Cal Poly operations from her time as administrative and communications coordinator for Cal Poly’s Swanton Pacific Ranch. Coupled with her strong background in agricultural communications, she will serve an important leadership role in our department.

Jeff Reimer, Instructional Support Technician, received his 25-year service award acknowledging his sustained leadership and service to Cal Poly and NRES.  Reimer has led innovation in how we plan and support almost all of our field work and has been key in helping students and faculty advance research efforts.

Finally, Administrative Support Coordinator Lisa Wallravin received the Outstanding Staff Award from the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences. She has dedicated herself to excellence and provides the critical administrative support necessary to keep the department and its many programs running smoothly.

It is a joy and privilege to work with such great students, faculty, staff, alumni and industry partners.   The work ahead is substantial and challenging but our community of partners makes me excited for the future. Thank you for all you do.



Jeremy James

Department Head
Natural Resources Management and Environmental Sciences

Read more stories in the Summer 2022 Newsletter

To make an online gift in support of the NRES Department, please use the GIVING link. If you would like to designate your gift for a specific major, scholarship, club or team, please contact Tim Northrop at

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