School of forestry and environmental studies

School Notes: School of the Environment
July/August 2019

Ingrid C. “Indy” Burke |

Podcast examines nexus of environment and diversity

This spring, F&ES launched The Heartwood Podcast, a new series that examines the intersection of environmental issues and diversity. The series is hosted by Thomas RaShad Easley, assistant dean of community and inclusion at F&ES. During the eight-episode debut season, Easley speaks with guests on a range of topics, including leadership, sustainability, diversity in the workplace, music, and wildlife ecosystems. In the first episode, Easley shares his own story and the mission behind the podcast. Achieving a more inclusive community, he says, requires all members of the community—faculty, staff, students—to open themselves up. “We’re all part of the problem, but we can all be part of the solution,” he said. “I think Heartwood is 
going to help us look at the solutions by looking at ourselves.” The series can be found at

Professor receives award for research

Liza Comita, an assistant professor of tropical forest ecology at F&ES, has received a prestigious award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) that will support her research into the factors that shape the rich and persistent biological diversity in the world’s tropical forests. Comitawill receive $620,000 through the NSF’s Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) program, which supports the research of early-career faculty. During the five-year study, she will investigate how environmental variables (such as light and water availability) and biological variables (such as density and identity of neighboring plants) influence patterns of tree seedling survival and ultimately help maintain high levels of diversity in tropical forests. Comitaexpects the project will ultimately provide insights into how plant diversity is maintained, but also help scientists better predict the future composition and diversity of tropical forests in the face of numerous threats, including changes in precipitation as a result 
of climate change.

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