The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Professors work to green L.A.

It may be difficult for some students to understand that CSUN is far more than a place for learning. The exchange of ideas and information may be a substantial part of why students are here, but it’s not what solely defines the university.

Shawna Dark, professor of geography at CSUN, is an example of how the work of professors and students has influence outside of the campus setting.

Since its initiation in May, Dark has been working extensively with the Southern California Wetlands Mapping Project, a team comprised of organizations working to identify and preserve bodies of water, plant and animal species in the Southland.

“Without wetlands, we would not have natural water in Southern California,” said Dark in an e-mail interview. “Wetlands also provide habitat for wildlife species and are often hot spots for biodiversity.”

The project is collaboration between CSUN, CSU San Marcos, the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project and the Prison Industry Authority.

Dark said the importance of mapping Southern California’s wetlands is in proving that they do exist because they weren’t shown on a map prior to the project. It’s also important to prevent the loss of more wetlands since 70 percent of the original acreage has been lost.

The Southern California Wetlands Mapping Project is currently working in an area that stretches from Ventura to San Diego.

“Students are an extremely important aspect of the project,” Dark said. “I employ both graduate and undergraduate students.”

Dark said she also works with prisoners at Mule Creek State Prison in Northern California. She and Danielle Bram, a geography professor at CSUN, trained prisoners to use the software essential to wetland mapping.

“That’s quite an experience but good for all involved,” Dark said.

The Prison Industry Authority provides work opportunities for inmates in the agricultural, manufacturing and service sectors.

“If they don’t have an occupation that provides ? a sense of worth, the chances of (the prisoners) coming back are greater,” said Michael Chan, the PIA subcontractor working on the project.

Chan said the opportunity for rehabilitation is the biggest benefit for the prisoners.

“Half of them (working on the project) are lifers,” he said. “When the prisoners become eligible for parole, they have to prove they’ve redeemed themselves.”

The contribution the CSUN community has made to the Los Angeles area continues to grow, with students and professors becoming more involved in nature rehabilitating work like the Southern California Wetlands Mapping project.

CSUN alumna Nidia Garcia graduated from the department of urban studies in 2005 and is now the director of outreach at North East Trees, a nonprofit organization that works to restore nature’s services.

Garcia said it’s important to work with the community to care about restoring nature for the sake of preservation, and for the important roles trees and bodies of water have on urban health.

One of their most recent projects includes the launch of the first “Green Street” in Los Angeles located on Oros Street.

The goal of the project is to protect natural resources and the community by preventing untreated water from polluting the ocean and the surrounding environment.

North East Trees directly recruits interns and employees from CSUN to work in programs such as urban forestry, urban parks development, watershed management and works with at-risk youth in planting trees and different workshops.

Anyone interested in working with Dark on this project can contact her through the Department of Geography at (818) 677-3532 or look for information from North East Trees in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at (818) 677-2904.

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