Assistant Professor of Ecosystem Ecology
Sistla is an ecosystem ecologist who studies how soils, plants, and microbial communities respond to environmental change, and how these changes can feedback to affect larger-scale ecosystem processes and coupled human-natural systems. She is also interested in improving how scientific knowledge is used in decision-making and conservation efforts.
Previously, Sistla was a NOAA Climate and Global Change Postdoctoral Fellow based at the University of California Irvine.
Environmental conflict in the Anthropocene How do you respond when someone asks you, "Is climate change real?" "Is sea-level rise real?" "Is 'fracking' really that bad?" The past century has been marked by a myriad of environmental changes. Understanding the causes and consequences of these changes within a scientific framework is important to being part of an engaged global citizenry. The goal of this course is to introduce the field of environmental science and convey that building one's understanding of the natural world within a scientific context can help us to address the environmental challenges facing our planet. Using primary scientific literature, books, newspaper articles, film, and field trips, we will build scientific literacy to contextualize a variety of environmental problems and solutions.
Global environmental change, from increased fertilizer loads to a warming climate, is the new norm faced by the biosphere. This course will explore the scientific context of global change through a biogeochemical lens, with focus on human perturbations to the carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus cycles. This course will be split between student-led discussion of primary literature and small group field/laboratory projects.
Worried about climate change and how we will live sustainably in the future? Join us to brainstorm and assess solutions together. This will be a course for first and second year students interested in learning how to evaluate potential solutions to current local and global environmental and social problems. The course will be co-taught by faculty across the curriculum at Hampshire and will include both large lectures and breakout working groups. The course will be divided into modules focused on specific problems and potential solutions, such as how the arts can help educate and engage the public in making positive changes for sustainable living; why humans are so resistant to changing our habits; whether excess greenhouse gases can be safely stored via carbon sequestration; and how we might ameliorate losses to biodiversity due to climate change. In addition to engagement in readings, lectures, discussion and activities, small teams of students will be expected to explore a problem in greater depth and present their ideas to the class at the end of the term.
Stasis doesn't exist in nature, so what defines global change? What are its causes? Do earth system feedbacks amplify or retard human-changes? At what temporal and spatial scales do humans worry about global change and why? To explore current historical changes in science, politics, law, management, and cultural ideas about the nature of science, we will draw on primary literature, as well as films, newspaper articles, and foundational environmental science books (i.e., Silent Spring, Cadillac Desert, The World without Us). This seminar-style course will be driven by student-led discussions. The course will also include field trips to research sites studying global change phenomena and local sites undergoing change, including the Hampshire College Farm Center and solar arrays.
This course connects the ecology of New England and ongoing environmental changes with field-based scientific research integrated with art-making. The course goal is to foster the understanding that artistic expression contextualized through a rigorous scientific lens can be a tool for analysis, critical inquiry, and environmentalism that may stimulate novel forms of public engagement. Students will be introduced to natural and human-modified environments across the region through weekly field trips, primary scientific literature, and surveys of artists concerned with land use and ecology. During field trips students will record their observations and interpret the sights through collaborative scientific and artistic interventions. At the conclusion of the semester, students will be challenged to develop an integrative project based on one or more of the sites and artists studied.
Ecosystems are defined by the interactions between the plants, animals, microorganisms, and abiotic environmental features that affect them. This course will cover the flows of energy, carbon, and nutrients within ecosystems, tracing the key processes that govern ecosystem function. Through the course, we will develop the connections between organisms, abiotic factors, and ecosystem processes. The effects of environmental change on ecosystem processes (and the human connection to these changes) will be highlighted through directed readings, field and laboratory projects, as well as problem sets and student-led presentations.