Meet our Alumni

Claire Dormody

claire-dormodyI was born and raised in Seward, Alaska, a small tourist town on the Kenai Peninsula. However, my family has always had close ties to the Monterey Bay area in California, and since about the age of 12 I spent winters there while I attended school, and summers up north. I was extremely fortunate; living in California gave me access to a much better education, but summers in Alaska let me keep the connection to my home, and growing up in both these areas gave me access to wonderful experiences camping, hiking, fishing, and exploring nature. On top of that, the move back and forth means I developed a love for travel when I was very young, which has only grown in adulthood.

I graduated with my undergraduate degree from UC Davis in 2014, where I majored in Technocultural Studies. The major is very much tailored to each individual, and in my case meant studying media and its place in our society, including the ways it’s used in marketing and advertising. I also spent some time studying audio software and sound engineering, which provided a really interesting practical component to a lifelong love of music. In the summers I continued to spend my time at home in Alaska, working in the commercial fishing industry with my family as I had since the age of 16. Although it’s a very physically demanding job, and left no time for much summer recreation, it’s an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Since graduating Davis I have moved to California full-time. I will probably always think of Alaska as home, but there are many more opportunities available to me here, in the lower-48. Though I spent some time working in marketing, I’ve found it’s just not for me, and I’m excited to begin my studies at San Jose State. I hope to focus on the commercial fishing industry and the ways in which it needs to be amended and improved for the sake of the oceans and fish we harvest, as well as for the people who make it their living.

Ideally I’d spend all my free time travelling, but when that gets impractical I’m happy to stay home and read, play some board games, and spend time with our ever-increasing menagerie of animals.

Alycia Ellington

alycia-ellingtonI was born and raised in the Bay Area (San José and Mountain View). My entire childhood was focused around extra curricular activities like cheerleading, girl scouts, and volunteering. I have always been passionate and empathetic towards animals and the environment, but was first introduced to the study of the environment when I took APES in high school, and have been in LOVE ever since!

I completed my B.S. in Environmental Studies, with a concentration in Natural Resources Management and Conservation, from SF State in Spring 2016. My favorite experience in undergrad was having the opportunity to have an academic internship with the Facilities and Maintenance Volunteer department with the National Park Service, where I got to work on several restoration projects throughout San Francisco and the Presidio. Throughout my entire undergrad, I worked as a gymnastics and cheerleading coach, gaining over 7 years of experience with youth from 18-months - 17 years old.

After graduating, I have held several environmental positions, from being a naturalist with YMCA Camp Campbell in the San Cruz Mountains to an AmeriCorps Outreach Campaign Coordinator with Rising Sun Energy Center. Most recently, I served a second term with AmeriCorps at San Mateo County Office of Education as an Environmental Literacy Fellow, where I was able to gain experience within the education system and got the opportunity to help develop curriculum for another SMCOE program.

As an Environmental Studies grad student, I look forward to studying environmental education, and restoration and conservation. I am very passionate about working with youth, and I believe the world becomes what we teach. I want to be able to help provide youth with the knowledge and tools they need to lead sustainable lives, while connecting them to their natural environment through experience-based lessons.

During my free time I enjoy going to the gym (especially body combat class), going on hikes, cooking, hanging out with friends, taking naps, watching warrior games, and going to drag shows. A fun fact about me is that I am obsessed with pickles and Mexican food (separately)!

Joia Fishman

joia-fishmanI was born in the Bay Area and have lived in the East Bay for most of my life. While growing up, I spent many hours exploring and volunteering in the East Bay Regional Park system. These experiences growing up gave me a great appreciation for urban wilderness and the natural world in general. I also took up birdwatching around the time I was in middle school and have continued this hobby ever since. I especially enjoy watching shorebirds at the Hayward Regional Shoreline.

I completed a B.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from UC Santa Cruz in 2018. During my time there, I became interested in botany and restoration ecology, specifically wetland restoration ecology. One of my favorite jobs in college was one where I would hike all over campus identifying and collecting plant specimens. While volunteering for a graduate student at Elkhorn Slough, I realized that I wanted to pursue a career in wetland restoration, especially as we are experiencing a global loss of these important ecosystems.

Since graduating, I helped start a local phenology monitoring program in the native plant garden at a local high school. It was a great experience using my botany knowledge to help create a curriculum where students could monitor and better understand the plants they were already caring for. I spent time working in a horticultural nursery, where I honed my plant identification and general plant knowledge. I have also spent a summer working on a long-term riparian monitoring project for Pinnacles National Park.

At San Jose State, I hope to study wetland ecology and restoration in urban environments. I am very interested in urban restoration and how to create healthier urban ecosystems.

In my free time I enjoy playing music, birdwatching, hiking (and doing a little plant identification on the way), swimming, and dancing. I also enjoy reading and eating spicy food. One of my goals during graduate school is to further increase my tolerance of spicy food. Fun fact: I once stood on a glacier.

Lupe Franco

lupe-francoI was born and raised in the small predominant Latino community of Boyle Heights in Los Angeles. Living in the city, my parents were never outdoorsy people and so neither was I. I realized my love for the environment in college after taking a Natural Disasters class that sparked my interest in the relationship between climate change and humans. I pursued a Bachelor of Science Degree in Geology from Cal State Los Angeles and received a GIS certificate from Pasadena City College. After graduating I became a CivicSpark Fellow for the Sustainability Department at the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG). During my time with CivicSpark, I worked on the Green Region Initiative, Climate Adaptation Framework, and was a project manager for BE a Spark for Changea volunteer program assisting the non-profit Blueprint Earth in their cataloging efforts out in the Mojave Desert. My research interests primarily lie on Climate Change research and Environmental Justice. During my time at SCAG, I was awarded for my Storymap ‘The Environmental Injustice that Homeless Face’ touching on climate issues affecting the homeless living in Southern California. I hope to further delve into climate issues and fight for equity and climate justice!

My hobbies include finding cute dogs to pet, picking up pretty rocks while on hikes, re-watching Gilmore Girls for the hundredth time, and making Spotify playlists. An interesting fact about me is that in LA I was in an Aztec Dance group for about 10 years, I hope I can find a new team in San Jose.

Heidi Giancola

heidi-giancolaI was born and raised in Massachusetts, and grew up in a small town called Lunenburg. When I graduated high school, I moved out to San Diego to attend San Diego State University. I now hold a B.A in Anthropology with a minor in Sociology. I have a love for travel and experiencing other cultures. During my undergraduate I studied abroad in Canterbury, England. I also did a two month backpacking trip around Europe by myself and explored many different cities. After graduation I received a certification at San Diego State to teach English as a foreign language. This certification allowed me to move to Tokyo, Japan and teach English.

Anthropology inspired my desire to understand how humans interact with their environment. Through travel, I developed a fascination with cities and city life. With different cultures and communities there are different views of the environment and how it should be treated. My research goals are to understand the complexities of urban agriculture. I want to explore how to create sustainable agricultural land in cities, how biodiversity plays a major role, and how communities perceive or participate in urban farming. 

As most people going into studying the environment, I have a love for the outdoors. I enjoy hiking and playing soccer. I’m a big fan of the beach and reading by the ocean. I also dabble in pottery and enjoy spending my time experimenting on the potters wheel.

Joie De Leon 

joie-de-leonBorn and raised in San Jose, I grew up in a home that always had a pet and this nurtured my love for animals. When I was young, I had a fascination with all the marine mammals at Sea World and even decided I wanted to train Orcas when I grew up. Although that dream changed, I still had a curiosity for wildlife and ecology. This curiosity guided my path to the Biology Department at SJSU where I graduated in 2012 with a B.S. in Biology with an emphasis in Conservation and Organismal Biology. My courses with lab field trips were my all-time favorites including Aquatic Ecology and Fishery Biology and Management. Being out in the field and working in rivers, creeks, streams, and lagoons gave me a deeper appreciation for aquatic life and introduced me to the beautiful open spaces all around the South Bay. After Graduation, I interned at the Santa Clara Valley Water District for over 2 years as a Student Wildlife Biologist while working towards a Geographic Information Science (GIS) Certificate at West Valley College. I also volunteered for multiple Graduate Students and was able to work with Kangaroo Rats and other small mammals at Pinnacles National Park, with California Red-Legged Frog in Santa Cruz County, and sampling California Tiger Salamander populations in Sonoma County. These experiences have pushed me to pursue my Master’s Degree where I am interested in continuing to work with aquatic creatures and concentrate on California Tiger Salamanders. Amphibians are a charismatic group of animals that not many people get to see and I would like to share my fascination and help others understand the importance in conservation to help protect these animals. In my free time (when I have some!) I like to bike ride with my boyfriend around the Bay Area and read while hanging out with my dog Xena and my cats Momo and Todo.

Peter Hilkene 

peter-hilkeneMy name is Peter Hilkene and I was born in Austin Texas to English parents, but I was  raised in Gilroy, California. I Completed my undergraduate studies at UC Davis where I earned a Bachelors of Science degree in Environmental Science and Management. By the end of the four years I had become deeply interested in the management of water in California, and California’s energy Policy, both I believed to be tackling some of the biggest environmental issues facing the state of California. I wanted to apply myself to working in these areas and I started looking for jobs where I could work within these topics. After graduating from UC Davis I took a job with Montrose Environmental group Air Quality Services division. Here, I would climb smokestacks gathering and analyzing samples to determine how much of a certain pollutant was being emitted from the stack. Using the results to determine whether they were in compliance with emissions regulations set by the local air district. I primarily worked on projects at Bay area refineries and natural gas turbines. Towards the end of my time there I had begun to manage a few projects of my own at the Chevron Richmond Refinery and Valero Benicia Refinery. Working at these places furthered my belief that a transition to renewable energy sources is desperately needed and as a student In the Environmental Studies Masters program I plan to focus my work on this transition. My hobbies include golfing, soccer both playing and watching (Go Quakes), and Brewing beer. A fun fact about me is that I once got to play a Basketball game in High School at Oracle Arena.


Sara Khosrowshahi Asl

saraSara has developed an interest in environment and agriculture from her early years. She has spent most of her childhood at her parent’s orchards and vineyards. Sara was born in Reading, England. She was raised in Iran, and now lives at Los Gatos, California. She got her Bachelor of Science in Water and Agriculture engineering. Her interests are in water management, water quality, ground water modeling and sustainable agriculture. During her bachelor years, she had some experience on forecasting the Reservoirs Inflow and Designing Irrigation Systems of farm lands. She has written a paper on optimizing a model for protection of flood areas. Also, she was awarded for her device called field drain filter test during her bachelor years. She has worked on designing a combination of drip and surface irrigation system for agricultural fields. She loves to spend time and go on adventures with her family of three. On her free time, she volunteers at her son’s school and does fundraisings for homeless and kids’ education. Besides that, she loves to cook and have get-togethers. One of her favorite things to do is to sit in a local coffee shop and read a book. Finally, she always finds time for meditation and long walks.

 Julia Larson 

julia-larsonI can catch dragonflies with my bare hands, or I did once which ought to allow me to make that claim. I have a B.A. of Environmental Studies and a B.S. in Cognitive Science from UC Santa Cruz. I've spent the last 5 years working as a firmware and software engineer for controlling scientific equipment and cameras. I've decided to pursue a Masters at SJSU in order to help bring the wonderful technologies being worked on in Silicon Valley to the world of environmental conservation.

Nanako Oba

nanako-obaI was born in a city called Utsunomia, the largest city in Tochigi Prefecture in Japan known for their famous strawberries and tasty dumplings. I do not remember the time that I have spent there since after 6 months I was born, my family and I moved to Santa Clara, CA. I have spent almost 11 years there, growing up with the beautiful nature of California. I was a child who loved to read illustrated reference books of animals, plants, space, etc. Furthermore, enjoyed visiting to places such as the forests and the beaches. These experiences in the Bay Area had led me to become very curious of science and the environment.

After my family and I have moved backed to Japan, I enrolled to Japan Women’s University in Tokyo majoring in Chemistry and Biology. During my undergraduate years, I had an opportunity to go to SJSU as an exchange student for a year and decided to choose classes from the ENVS program! It was a whole new experience for me. I was thrilled and have enjoyed my time there learning and interacting with the students/faculty. Moved by their passion of caring about the nature, that triggered me to becoming even more environmentally aware.  Since graduating collage, I have experienced several jobs including laboratory works, plus regulatory works/consultant of chemical substances where I have communicated with the Japanese companies and wonderful colleagues in Japan and from other countries such as the UK and Korea who have diverse backgrounds.

I am ecstatic to be back at SJSU! In my very new chapter as a graduate student, I plan to study more about forest management and hoping to gain further knowledge in other areas as well in order to contribute to the society in the near future.

My hobbies include drawing, arts & crafts, and taking pictures with my polaroid camera (Still practicing!). I do love to open up and experience new things. Also, a huge fan of animals, especially cats! Now that I am back in California I am looking forward to visit to beautiful places where I can enjoy nature!

Ryan Phillips

ryan-phillipsI always had a passion for the environment and biodiversity as I spent much of my childhood in nature as my family instilled in me key environmental values. I was born in Santa Cruz, California and grew up in the Santa Cruz Mountains, but currently reside with my wife, Wendy, and daughter, Farrah, in Campbell. My Bachelor of Science in Wildlife, Fisheries, and Conservation Biology with a specialization in Ornithology from the University of California at Davis prepared me well for a career as a wildlife biologist. After graduating from UC Davis in 2004, I was hired as a Field Biologist with The Peregrine Fund on the Belize Harpy Eagle Restoration Project. After living in Belize for three years and witnessing the persecution of raptors I founded the Belize Raptor Research Institute to give locals opportunities in research and conservation. I returned to California and received a teaching position at De Anza College in the Environmental Studies Department and later became the Program Coordinator for the Wildlife Science Technician Program in the Department where I currently teach fourteen different courses. This has allowed me to combine the classroom and the field studies courses as a way to impassion and inspire students about conducting research. In the process, I have been able to show that science is not intimidating, but exciting—as it is truly a discovery and exploration of questions. To further inspire future environmental biologists I co-founded the Talon Ecological Research Group, a local non-profit organization, to give early-career biologists and students an opportunity to gain experience. As a Talon Biologist I am currently working with Tricolored Blackbirds and Burrowing Owls. In my spare time I band raptors at the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory. I have published numerous papers related to bird ecology and have presented at various scientific conferences. My research interests are in bird ecology, specifically movement patterns, human interactions, and symbiotic interactions, as it relates to wildlife conservation. I am honored to be part of SJSU’s Environmental Studies Graduate Group and having Dr. Trulio as my adviser to fulfill my goal of obtaining a graduate degree.

AnaLisa Viramontes (Campos)

analisa-viramontesI graduated from San Jose State in 2019 with my Masters. I received my Bachelors in Urban Planning at CSU Northridge. While at SJSU, I worked at Transportation Solutions as a Student Coordinator and I even met my husband through the ENVS department, Michael Viramontes! I currently work at Recyclist as a Technical Project Coordinator. Recyclist is a software company that helps municipalities report and track their recycling compliance ( In my spare time I love video games, playing with my 10-year old puppers, paddle-boarding & kayaking around So-Cal! Fun Fact: Back in 2016, I was contacted by someone through Facebook claiming to be a relative per Turns out I’m 100% related to the producer of Sharknado! Since then, we spend News Years or Hanukkah together every year at his totally Sharknado-y home in Los Angeles!