Students confront significant and complex environmental, economic, and social justice issues.

St. Edward's University provides sustainability-related research opportunities both on campus and abroad, many of which are partnerships between students and faculty. Learn about research opportunities by visiting the Fellowships Office or the Office of Sponsored Programs, or by talking to your academic advisor or faculty instructor.

The university offers several sustainability-related degree programs for both undergraduate or graduate students. Undergraduates can major in Environmental Science & Policy or Environmental Chemistry, while graduate students have the Professional Science Master’s in Environmental Management and Sustainability (MSEM) program.

Faculty not only play an essential role in the classroom, but they also inspire students with their own sustainability research and endeavors. They teach a wide range of courses, from Environmental Controversies in Austin, to Ligerian Ecology, to Biodiversity Conservation.

Student Projects and Research Highlights

Several Professional Science Master’s in Environmental Management and Sustainability (MSEM) students conducted projects at Wild Basin:

  • Andrew Barrick MSEM '17 and Nicole Minicone MSEM '17 investigated biological indicators of water quality in creeks in and around Wild Basin.
  • Aaron Waters MSEM '17 and Jamie Carpenter MSEM '15 evaluated chemical parameters of water quality (both current and historic) in the Bee Creek watershed, in and around Wild Basin.
  • Chris Johnson MSEM '15 and Greg Washington MSEM '17 studied the vertebrate biodiversity at Wild Basin, finding deer, coyote, and rabbits to be the most dominant vertebrate species on site.

Several undergraduate students are currently conducting projects at Wild Basin:

  • Narda Salinas '17 is investigating the vegetation communities in a historic dumpsite at Wild Basin that underwent ecological restoration in the 1980s. James LaManna '15 is assessing the ant diversity in this same site. The goal of these projects is to evaluate the effectiveness of the original restoration efforts 30 years down the road and describe the current ecological conditions.
  • LaManna is also conducting research on the Vireo Preserve (adjacent to Wild Basin). He is comparing ant abundance and diversity at managed and unmanaged sites.
  • Mia Moore-Garcia '17 is investigating trail use patterns at Wild Basin (both temporally and spatially). Her project also explores the role of environmental psychology in hiker behavior.

The Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS), Costa Rica, has four biological research stations for tropical biology research and is a consortium of 56 affiliated universities. Graduate students in SEU's MSEM program spend three weeks in Costa Rica at OTS’s La Selva and Las Cruces stations studying tropical ecology and field research techniques. 

Student Awards and Scholarships

Aaron Waters

Environmental Management graduate student Aaron Waters MSEM ’15 was named a U.S. Presidential Management Fellowship winner. The U.S. Presidential Management Fellowships began in 2003 to ensure the federal government’s civil service included trained and educated specialists. Each year, 7,000 people apply, and from this group about 1,500 are chosen for interviews (finalists). If accepted, the individual ‘interviews’ for jobs at various departments and then is placed in a yearlong internship with the strong potential of full-time employment. Waters also worked as a graduate assistant during his first year in the MSEM program. Learn more about his role as the Environmental Health and Safety intern on campus.

Kathryn Michelle Benavidez

Environmental Science and Policy major Kathryn Michelle Benavidez ’14 received the 2014 BSS student research award for her research as a McNair Scholar on ocelot conservation in South Texas.  She presented her research at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research and the Texas Academy of Science annual meetings where she was awarded second place for outstanding undergraduate student presentation. After graduating from St. Edward's, Michelle was accepted into master's programs at Texas State University, Iowa State University, and St. Edward's. Michelle chose to enroll in the MS program in Wildlife Ecology at Texas State University where she received a graduate assistantship funded by the USDA. While at Texas State University she researched human influence on the prevalence of Leptospira in small invasive mammals on small Puerto Rican dairy farms. After receiving her MS in Wildlife Ecology she joined the Primate Environmental Endocrinology Lab in the Anthropology Department at Indiana University Bloomington to earn her PhD. For her dissertation work, she is investigating human influence on the relationship between gut microbial diversity and health of wild Howler monkeys in various location throughout Panama.

Monica Rivas

Environmental Science and Policy major Monica Rivas ’14 has devoted her research to sustainable architecture. As a McNair Scholar, her research on Green Roofs and Living Walls: Systems: Their Role in Austin’s Sustainable Development was accepted for publication by their undergraduate research journal. She also presented this research while part of a summer program at the University of California, Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design where her design was featured in the Tenderloin National Forest Gallery. After graduating from St. Edward's, Monica entered into the Masters of Architecture program with a concentration in Sustainable Design at the University of Houston.

 Janelle Sylvester

Environmental Science and Policy major Janelle Sylvester ’14 was awarded a $1,500 scholarship from the National Recycling Coalition (NRC) in 2012 and received a year of membership to the NRC. Her paper, Impact of White-Tailed Deer Browsing on Plant Species Composition in the Central Texas Hill Country Preserves, was awarded the 2013 BSS student research award as well as the outstanding undergraduate paper at the 2013 International Interdisciplinary Conference on the Environment. As President of Students for Sustainability, she oversaw the expansion of the student garden and Earth Week activities and consistently led the fight for the Green Fund. In 2014, Janelle won the highly competitive TROPIMUNDO Scholarship and began her MS program in Tropical Ecology at Université Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium in the fall of that year. After graduating from the program in September 2016, Janelle began assisting with long-term, ongoing research in the Luquillo Experimental Forest (LEF) in Puerto Rico as part of the Luquillo Long-Term Ecological Research (LUQ-LTER) program. The project she works on examines how climate-related change may affect the abundance and distribution of organisms along an elevational gradient found in the forest. 

Sustainability Faculty and Their Research

Approximately 11% of faculty members currently engaged in research are focusing on sustainability. You'll find them and their research subjects organized below by school:

School of Behavioral and Social Sciences:

  • Peter Beck: Environmental sustainability and public policy. Dr. Beck and Michael Wasserman, PhD, former MSEM faculty member currently at Indiana University, have been awarded a $250,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study the influence of different land use patterns on forest and primate conservation in Costa Rica. The grant funds five MSEM students each spring (through 2019) to conduct field research for 10 weeks in Costa Rica. Additional information about this and other research grants can be found here
  • John Cotter: Sustainable Texas agriculture, viniculture
  • aconcili [at] (Amy Lynn Concilio): Invasive plant species, native plant species
  • rachaeln [at] (Rachael Neal): Human behaviors and environmental impacts
  • bdugelby [at] (Barbara L. Dugelby): Ecosystem management and sustainability
  • Scott Swearingen: Water conservation, water supply and recovery

School of Natural Sciences: 

  • Gary A. Morris: Air quality, ozone, and the troposphere. Dr. Morris has three current sustainability-related grants that he is bringing from his previous university. One is from NASA and two are from the Texas Center on Environmental Quality. His grants support his work with monitoring air and water quality by collecting samples from various sites on a regular basis, and his providing analysis of results. Additional information about these and other research grants can be found here
  • Bill Quinn: Forestry, native forests, sustainability. Dr. Quinn is also overseeing a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Forest Service for ongoing training of interns and newly-hired graduates working for the Forest Service. 
  • lisago [at] (Lisa Goering): Food safety, food chain security 
  • patricib [at] (Patricia Baynham): Anti-microbial qualities of plant extracts
  • jportuga [at] (Santos Portugal): Ecology and biology of ticks
  • kopec [at] (Richard Kopec): Dr. Kopec is overseeing a National Science Foundation grant of approximately $2.5 million in support of STEM student scholarships, Science Living-Learning Communities, and summer join faculty-student research projects. Additional information about this and other research grants can be found here
  • Raelynn Deaton Haynes
  • teresamb [at] (Teresa Bilinski)

School of Education:

Presidential Excellence Grant Awards

St. Edward’s University provides institutional support for faculty research through its Presidential Excellence Grant Awards for summer research projects.  Although these grant awards are not limited to research on sustainability, faculty who wish to apply for sustainability research grants are encouraged to do so.