CURes 2017 Year in Review

CURes had an amazing 2017 filled with research, publications, and community engagement. Before sharing our highlights, we would like to thank all of our donors, partner organizations, LMU colleagues, and funders, without whom our work would not be possible.

The CURes team embarked on a range of applied science research projects over the last year.

  • Pete Auger, Maria Curley, and undergraduate student researchers completed an urban forestry study for the City of Colton, which surveyed 8,000 trees in public spaces.
  • Michele Romolini conducted a study of stewardship organizations (STEW-MAP) in LA County through a social survey and subsequent geographic and social network maps. Dr. Romolini plans to continue this work through additional analysis and new data collection.

    Dr. Strauss and Curley at PetSpace.
  • Eric Strauss joined a team of 15 expert scientists convened by the Annenberg Foundation to study the human-animal bond and how it relates to urban ecosystems. CURes further developed our relationship with the Annenberg PetSpace in Playa Vista through student volunteers, lectures, developing educational materials, and events.
  • Romolini also completed a three-year social survey of the Baldwin Hills Parklands, which engaged 38 student research assistants over 1,934 field hours to assemble 1,729 visitor surveys. The CURes team presented these final results to the Baldwin Hills Conservancy Board in October.
  • Auger, Curley, and a team of seven undergraduate student researchers worked together to conduct the first year of a coyote assessment in Long Beach. This work will continue for another two years so that the City can better understand its coyote population.

    Dr. Auger at the Frazier Park site with one of the wolf hybrids.
  • Erich Eberts, the Research Fellow for the 2016-17 academic year and currently a graduate student at the University of Toronto, conducted research on torpor of nesting female hummingbirds using thermal imaging. Eberts worked with Dr. Auger, Curley, and students on campus, who continued surveying the hummingbird nest sites on LMU’s campus into the fall semester. Eberts will continue this work as part of a master’s thesis.
  • CURes, alongside other scientists, embarked on a wolf hybrid project in Frazier Park, CA, to learn how wolf-dog hybrids can inform us of human psychiatric diseases.

CURes continued our applied activities and educational programs in 2017.

  • Lisa Fimiani and the CURes team continued to lead tours and educational events in Ballona Discovery Park, the Ballona Freshwater Marsh, and the Ballona Saltmarsh. This is an ongoing educational initiative to work with local community organizations, like the Sierra Club, to bring children from urban centers like the LA school district to learn about the benefits of the Ballona watershed.
  • Fimiani also began her work on native gardens through the Dan and Susan Gottlieb Foundation by reaching out to local schools to work with their students on native and edible gardens and their pollinators. Fimiani is developing easy to employ garden kits for these workshops.
  • Schoene Mahmood led the CURes Restorative Justice (RJ) program with great success, engaging with communities through training workshops, community conferencing events, and community building circles. Through this, the RJ team trained over 200 educators and counselors from 12 schools in Restorative Practices and implementation. The RJ program also supported the Riverside Unified School District (RUSD) in response to their hostage crisis at Castle View Elementary School that occurred on 10/31/17. The RJ team had speaking engagements during Professor Scott Wood’s and Professor Bryan Miller’s courses at LMU, as well as at the annual “Beyond the Bench” conference in San Diego. Additionally, Mahmood attended trainings by the LA Department of Health to learn techniques for the organization to be optimally effective. Finally, the RJ program renewed funding from the Collins Foundation, Anonymous Foundation, and renewed partnerships with RUSD and Aspire Public Schools.

    K-12 teachers taking a tour of PetSpace.
  • CURes continued its K-12 educational outreach through two Summer Institute trainings for LAUSD teachers, STELLAR and QUEST programs in conjunction with the LMU School of Education, and on-going teacher workshops to develop new Urban EcoLab curriculum on native and edible gardens and pollinators, garden ecology, and the human-animal bond.
  • Auger and Curley also led an LMU study abroad course in Costa Rica over the summer that engaged students in immersive field research methods.
  • Auger and Curley, with support from the CURes team and undergraduate student research assistants, taught a two-week summer environmental science course for high school students, hosted at LMU, where they explored various urban ecology topics directly relevant to urban centers throughout the country and world, and visited local sites such as the Ballona Freshwater Marsh and the Wallis Annenberg PetSpace pet adoption center.
  • Locally and on campus, Dr. Romolini initiated a series of lectures called “Imagining a Resilient Future: Engaging the LMU Community,” where experts in their field spoke on subjects ranging from social science, global climate change issues, and re-framing environmental politics. This lecture series will continue into the Spring 2018 semester with three more lectures.
  • On LMU’s campus, CURes also co-hosted the fifth annual G2 Green Earth Film Festival, at which 18 independent environmentally focused films were screened.
  • In terms of international work, CURes published two issues of the Cities and the Environment Journal and continued to engage with the Mediterranean Climate Change Consortium (MC-4). MC-4 led a workshop at COP23 in Bonn, Germany in November and Dr. Cristina Tirado, who gave a talk as part of CURes’ 2017-18 Environmental Lecture Series, also spoke at the conference.
  • Strauss, Dr. Auger, and Curley also led students in a spring semester study-abroad urban ecology course in Bonn. Six research projects results, engaging students with local organizations and Bonn citizens, in support of the LMU and CURes mission for international collaboration. CURes will strive to further engage in projects with an international scope in 2018 and beyond.
Alex Isaev (LMU ’18) presenting at the 2017 LMU Undergraduate Research Symposium.

CURes continued to mentor undergraduate and graduate students in urban ecology research. These students presented 15 posters at the 2017 LMU Undergraduate Research Symposium. Two also participated in the 2017 Summer Undergraduate Research Program at LMU. Additionally, two graduate theses and one undergraduate thesis were produced in 2017.

  • Golly, K. (2017). Assessing the distribution of Environmental Stewardship Organizations and demographics in Los Angeles County. (Advisors: E.G. Strauss, M. Romolini, B. Gilbert)
  • Simso, E.R. (2017). Analyzing the Impact of Demographics on Residents’ Use and Understanding of Urban Green Spaces. Honor’s Thesis, Loyola Marymount University. (Advisors: E.G. Strauss, M. Romolini)
  • Sinclair, S. (2017). Analysis of micro-plastics found in Great Lakes sediments. Master’s Thesis, Loyola Marymount University. (Advisers: E.G. Strauss, Landry J.M.)

Finally, CURes researchers and faculty fellows were highly engaged in the scientific community throughout the year. First, CURes research was presented at four conferences, three in the Los Angeles area and the fourth in Minnesota. Three publications for the CURes team (in bold) were also released in 2017, as seen below:

  • Locke D.H., Romolini M., O’Neil-Dunne J.M., Galvin M., Strauss E.G. (2017). Understanding tree canopy change in Coastal Los Angeles through geodemoraphic segments and land use. CATE Journal, special issue on Climate Change in Mediterranean Cities.
  • Romolini, M., Strauss, E.G., Bruce-Eisen, S., & Simso, E.R.(2017). The Value of Urban Parklands: A User Study of the Baldwin Hills (Research Report). Los Angeles, CA: Loyola Marymount University Center for Urban Resilience. PDF
  • Kawecki, S., Kuleck, G., Dorsey, J.H., Leary, C., & Lum, M. (2017). The prevalence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (ARB) in waters of the Lower Ballona Creek Watershed, Los Angeles County, California. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 189(6), 261.

Once again, we sincerely thank and appreciate the sponsorship and community support that makes the work at CURes possible. We look forward to continuing to engage in dynamic urban ecology questions in 2018 and beyond.