CURes in Review: Looking Back on 2020

Happy New Year! 2020 was certainly a year of difficult and tumultuous events. Still despite global and personal challenges, CURes has reached new heights in our research, partnerships, and community involvement. To celebrate our accomplishments, we’ve compiled a list of twenty-one things CURes has accomplished in 2020. 


1. Regarding our Culver City Coyote Research, we radio-collared our first coyote, Baldwin, and ear-tagged a juvenile coyote, Culver. We also collected more than one million camera trap images in Culver City and collected more than 100 scat samples for DNA analysis.

2. Our research with the LA River STEW-MAP has made significant progress. We completed statistical analyses and a soon to be published Story-Map of results from our survey LA River stewardship organizations. We also made progress on analyzing stewardship networks and mapping stewardship turfs.  

3. We embarked on a study of restorative practices implementation in Southern California, building our research team and designing methods based on the Empowerment Evaluation approach. 

4. As part of our San Bernardino Climate Organizations Project, we completed an inventory and map of 79 organizations engaged in activities related to climate adaptation and resilience for San Bernardino County. Read our Report on San Bernardino Climate Adaptation Organizations or visit our map


5. In partnership with TreePeople and Chapman University, CURes debuted new interactive tree cover map tools on our website! This data viewer tracks not only the tree cover of an area in LA County, down to the parcel size, but also the percentage of shrub, grass, dirt, permeable and impermeable surfaces that could be considered for planting.

6. CURes, TreePeople, and the Gateway Cities Council of Governments partnered on a community-based tree planting prioritization process with the City of Lynwood. During Lynwood Tree Summits in December, Managing Director Dr. Michele Romolini guided participants on the tree canopy mapping and in taking a survey designed to gather community priorities for planting trees. 

A Zoom call of people looking at a shared image of the Ballona Discovery Park sign7. Adapting to the need for social distancing, The Center for Ignatian Spirituality and CURes hosted two virtual tours of Ballona Discovery Park in May and August. Executive Director Dr. Eric Strauss and Gottlieb Environmental Leadership Fellow Lisa Fimiani guided guests through a series of photos of the Park alongside Father Randy Roche, SJ, Director of the Center for Ignatian Spirituality. Click here to view one of the recorded tours!

8. As a follow-up to the virtual tours of Ballona Discovery Park, Executive Director Dr. Eric Strauss and Gottlieb Environmental Leadership Fellow Lisa Fimiani expanded on their discussions about the Ballona Wetlands during the Park tours to include the past, present and future of the Ballona Watershed, explaining “what’s next” with regards to plans to restore 600 acres of the Ecological Reserve. The EIR has been certified by the State with a proposed plan, however, the Army Corps of Engineers must weigh in with their analysis now.  Our Center provided attendees with links to articles and websites to better understand the complex history and need for restoration going forward. Click here to view the recorded session. 

Lisa Fimiani stands in her backyard while holding two books.9. Once the Ballona EIR was approved and certified, our Center submitted a letter of support and joined hundreds of other organizations and individuals in working towards a restored Ballona Wetlands. We also support open, regulated trail systems for Angelenos and for underserved populations and indigenous Gabrielino Tongva community to have access outside of permitted tours. These tours are offered by Friends of Ballona Wetlands, Los Angeles Audubon, and other organizations, who cannot keep up with the need for unrestricted access by Californians who paid to make the Ballona Wetlands an Ecological Reserve. You can also read our comments in local news sources here

10. Over the summer, Lisa Fimiani participated in the Friends of Ballona Wetlands 4th Annual Migration Celebration on August 29th by giving a tour of her home garden. As part of the Grow Native! Sustainable Gardening Webinar, she also gave insight for starting a sustainable garden and more information on native plant species. Click here to view the recorded session.

Events and Programs: 

11. Our Gottlieb Native Garden Green Earth Film Festival postponed its debut in April at the Playa Vista Campus to a virtual presentation in November. With the ease of online viewing, over 200 audience members from around the globe signed up to view the films. Thanks to the expert ability of Festival Coordinator Jared Nigro; insightful interviews and commentary by Dr. Eric Strauss, Dr. Gregory Rubin, and Dr. Michele Romolini; a special guest lecture by journalist Jim Robbins about his latest book; and the generous support of the Gottlieb Native Garden, CURes and SFTV was able to deliver a unique virtual experience. 

12. In November, Dr. Strauss gave a talk entitled “Building Resilience Through Biodiversity—The City as a Solution” and participated in an expert panel at the Los Angeles Biodiversity Symposium. 

A Zoom call of people as they look at a shared image of a tree graph13. Dr. Michele Romolini was a speaker at the Rain or Shine:Soaking Up Success Symposium Series on the benefits of green infrastructure in October. Dr. Romolini spoke about CURes’ work on tree prioritization in the Gateway Cities, highlighting the importance and value of engaging communities in decision-making. 


Restorative Justice: 

14. With support from an anonymous donor, the CURes RJ Project launched the Southern California Restorative Practices Consortium. The consortium brings together higher education institutes, Archdiocesan and public school districts, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations with the goal to increase collaboration and idea exchange, to research restorative practices implementation and establish lessons learned across organizations, and to create a regional model that can be replicated.  

15. RJ Program Manager Schoene Mahmood was invited to provide services to units across campus, including trainings, presentations, and restorative conferencing. 


16. Dr. Eric Strauss and the Gottlieb Native Garden team completed editing a Hummingbird book, which has been printed and will be available in hardcover this spring! 

A picture of a city skyline with overlaying text that reads "Cities and the Environemnt, Volume 13, Issue 2....and well wishes"17. Dr. Romolini was one of the co-authors of a BioScience article, “Theoretical Perspectives of the Baltimore Ecosystem Study: Conceptual Evolution in a Social–Ecological Research Project,” which described the advances in the two decades of urban ecology research in Baltimore, MD. 

18. The Cities and the Environment (CATE) Journal, housed at CURes, published its 13th volume, including two issues and 29 total articles. CATE had nearly 30,000 downloads in 2020. 

Personal Achievements:

A collage of our student interns under text reading "welcome new interns!"19. Welcome new interns! Last semester, we welcomed Indie Heuman, Melinda Saadatnejadi, Lily Maddox, Gwyneth Garramone, and Jules Burke to our student intern and research team. We also welcomed University of San Diego doctoral student Gwynn Alexander as our newest Restorative Justice Fellow.   

20. We voted! With the tumultuous events of the past election, we’re proud to say that we did our part in using our voice and our votes for local and national change.  

21. We weathered a pandemic. Our staff and students quickly adapted to the virtual learning and research environment, and though it has posed its own unique challenges, we’re proud of our CURes family for their resilience and determination.