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

  —Our Mission

Spring 2020 Newsletter

From the Department Head

Chip Appel with his wife and two daughtersThe picture of my family and me was taken last June during a trip with my extended family to Lake Tahoe. We “hiked” to Angora Lake and then my wife Beth and I bribed our daughters with a lemon popsicle to jump off a 15-foot rock ledge into some very cold water on the far side of the lake. A lemon popsicle can go a long way sometimes! We planned to do something like this again this summer, but had to cancel our plans due to COVID-19. This is one small example of how the Coronavirus has changed the world’s collective plans and caused loss in many different ways. Despite all the changes and loss we have all experienced over the past few months, I have experienced hope and admiration in watching the NRES faculty and staff respond to the new challenges of this time.

I began my role as department head in early January 2020 after the somewhat sudden passing of Dr. Greg Brown. Greg did an excellent job leading and serving our department over the last nearly four years and he delighted in cultivating relationships among faculty and staff.  I definitely miss him and I speak for the entire department when I say that we are grateful for the time we had with Greg. He impacted me personally in very positive ways, and he left the department in great shape -- a telling sign of an excellent leader.

Being department head has given me the opportunity to work more closely with my faculty and staff colleagues, which has led me to a much deeper appreciation for the great people that I get to work with every day in the Natural Resources Management and Environmental Sciences Department. This appreciation and admiration has grown as I have watched them respond to switching the way we achieve our mission of providing ethical, science-based education and research in the sustainable management, protection and restoration of land resources related to soil, water, forests, range, wildlife and related environmental values in response to COVID-19. We have an incredibly efficient, helpful, innovative, kind, and fun staff in Lisa Wallravin, Espie Wilkinson, Jeff Reimer, and Craig Stubler. These individuals make every day better for everyone in the department (ask anyone, it’s true!), and I am grateful for them. We have great teachers, who are also creative researchers. These faculty members work hard to teach their courses in engaging and meaningful ways and to conduct rigorous lab and field exercises (we cannot wait to have the opportunity to do this again) with their students that embody Learn by Doing. They are successful grant writers, give undergraduates and graduate students opportunities in research, and most importantly, are collegial and collaborate well with each other. I am impressed by them! Our lecturers bring great expertise and effort to the classroom. I have had the opportunity to observe many of them teaching over the past several months, and they are good, thoughtful educators and nice people. Last (but not least), our graduate instructional assistants and undergraduate student assistants are integral to our operations as they -- in unsung fashion --support our faculty, lecturers and staff in ways that lead to great efficiencies in accomplishing our mission.

My time as interim department head will finish in mid-June. We are in the process of performing an international search for a new department head and colleague that will hopefully begin in time for the start of fall quarter. We are also in the process of hiring faculty members in Environmental Management and Protection, Forestry, and Soil Science-Restoration Ecology. These positions were set-up before the pandemic, and we feel very fortunate to be able to fill some important holes in our faculty roster in light of what is happening in the world.

It is too early to tell exactly how our courses will be taught this coming fall and into the near future. One thing for certain is that Cal Poly, the CAFES, and NRES are committed to providing high quality, Learn by Doing instruction while keeping the health and safety of our students, staff, and faculty at the forefront. Presently, we have and continue to develop creative ways to deliver Learn by Doing focused curricula online and very much hope to have the opportunity to be in the field, at Swanton Pacific Ranch, in the lab, and the classroom face-to-face with our great students in the near future.

Thanks for your support of the NRES Department!

Gratefully and sincerely,



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