Professor Diane Husic Wins Conservation Fellowship

Diane Husic, professor and chair of biological sciences, has been selected a TogetherGreen Fellow. She is one of just 40 conservation professionals in the nation to receive the award.

Fellows were selected for their leadership potential, skills, and commitment to engaging those not previously connected to the environment. Supported by a conservation alliance of Audubon and Toyota, the TogetherGreen Fellowship offers specialized training in conservation planning, the chance to work and share best practices with gifted conservation professionals, and assistance with project outreach and evaluation. Each Fellow also receives $10,000 toward a community-focused project to engage local residents in conserving land, water, and energy, and contributing to greater environmental health.

Dr. Husic's grant-funded project will involve phenology: the relationship between seasonal natural events (such as leaves changing color in fall, the budding of fruit trees, migrations, and insect hatchings) with weather and climate variations. She envisions a network of educators, students, and interested "citizen scientists" who will monitor key ecological events and species.

"It is important to connect people in meaningful ways to environmental problems and make them seem less distant to their daily lives," she said. "This project will get people outdoors observing nature!"

Diane Husic (middle left in photo) is one of forty conservation professionals chosen to receive a TogetherGreen Fellowship. Fellows attended a training workshop in September (above); each will receive a $10,000 grant toward a community-focused project. Dr. Husic's project will establish a network of citizen scientists to monitor the relationship between natural seasonal events and weather and climate variations.

The data will be useful to scientists, especially "as the state engages in climate change adaptation planning," she says. (Professor Husic is participating on the State's Adaptation Working Group for Natural Resources.) She has begun to organize representatives from local environmental education centers, parks, and recreation areas in a five-county area (Pike, Monroe, Carbon, Lehigh and Northampton) in preparation for the collaborative project, which she hopes to launch in March 2011. The project will involve Moravian students, who will help design the programming, collect data, and "mine" historical data related to phenology.

In early September, Professor Husic participated in a TogetherGreen training workshop at the National Center for Conservation Training in Shepherdstown, W.V.  "It was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had both professionally and personally," she noted. The training included sessions on community leadership, strategic communication and planning, diversity training, "just" sustainability, working with the media, and more. 

Dr. Husic's environmental research work at the Lehigh Gap Nature Center near Palmerton—a collaboration between students, faculty members, and local conservation groups—has had a transformative effect on both the student researchers and the Superfund site itself. Together with Dan Kunkle, LGNC director, she also runs educational workshops for K-12 teachers and the public at the site. In addition, she co-leads (with Hilde Binford, associate professor of music) a Moravian delegation given civil society observer status at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Last year, the group of students, alumni, and faculty attended the meeting in Copenhagen; this December, a group will attend COP16 in Cancun.