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.
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.
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.
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 guest lectures from experts in the field of climate change and sustainability. 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.
This course is part of an integrated science learning experience combining microbiology, biogeochemistry, hydrology, and mathematical modeling using the new Hampshire College Kern Center, built to the Living Building Challenge Standard, as a case study. Students will meet twice a week to explore the science behind the systems of the living building in their specific discipline. Once a week all three classes will meet together to complete interdisciplinary projects, share expertise, and form a collaborative science learning community. Students will read and share primary literature, complete problem sets, and work collaboratively on projects. We will learn about the campus living building from the architects and design engineers, take field tours, and meet faculty across campus engaged with the project. Students who complete this course may choose to continue their work using the living building in NS280, Integrated Sciences II: Collaborative Design Projects, during the spring semester. Students enrolled in NS-132T: Water, Carbon, and Nutrient Flows, will focus on the inputs and outputs of water, carbon and nutrients from the living building using a systems approach. We will learn methods for measuring the quality and quantity of water and the nature of nutrient cycling throughout the building. Basic topics will include the hydrologic cycle, biogeochemical cycles, carbon footprint and offset analyses, greywater recycling, and stormwater reuse.