Theresa Talley first learned about sustainability from her grandparents, whom had been raised during the Depression-era. They had learned to live with modest means and used resources wisely, finding new ways to use (and reuse) even small household items like plastic bags and paper towels.
“I learned how to make responsible day-to-day choices from my family,” Talley said. “It was a simple message that I clearly saw through their actions.”
Since college, Talley’s research and outreach has revealed many lessons about environmental sustainability and how humans are ultimately tasked with balancing of responsible use and conservation of the environment.
“You can’t have environmental sustainability without considering social and economic aspects of sustainability. No matter how hard we try to preserve them, humans rely on and impact ecosystems,” Talley said. “Because of that, we need to strengthen economic and social systems with fair wages, improved training, and ethical principles, so that we have stronger environmental stewardship.”
In 2012, Talley joined the California Sea Grant Extension Program as a Coastal Specialist where she uses scientific research to encourage environmental stewardship and community well-being through projects that help to revitalize our local fishing heritage, better understand our influences on coastal ecosystem services, and improve how we engage the public in science.
Talley has worked as part of team these past few years to develop a citizen science program to engage underrepresented minority groups and promote marine science literacy. In partnership with nonprofits Ocean Discovery Institute and San Diego Canyonlands, and the San Diego Bay Debris Working Group, the community science effort has linked the pathways of trash in the local canyons and watershed with the resulting marine debris downstream. Students and families in San Diego’s City Heights neighborhood have helped to restore the urban ecosystems, reduce canyon debris, and learn about the scientific method.
On Wednesday, April 19, Talley was honored as a 2017 Muir Environmental Fellow. The award, presented by John Muir College at UC San Diego, recognizes university-affiliated individuals who have significantly contributed to the cause of sustainability and environmental preservation.
“Each year, we honor individuals who have been working to make the university and the world beyond more environmentally sustainable for the future,” said John Moore, provost of John Muir College, in an email. “Theresa’s contributions include addressing coastal environmental issues, advancing the field of ecology, and raising public awareness of our local natural ecosystems. Her fishermen’s market work was also part of the decision, as it brings together research and community awareness and practice.”
In addition to her California Sea Grant Extension outreach efforts, Talley teaches a coastal ecology course at University of California, San Diego (UCSD), that focuses on southern California coastal ecosystems including coastal sage scrub, riparian woodland, rocky intertidal, salt marsh, and sandy beach.