College of Science

Department of Applied Environmental Science

Joy Larson: Project manager at Global Footprint Network

Photo of Joy Larson

I came to CSUMB because the ESSP (now ESTP) major is an integrated major. I saw it as an opportunity for me to combine my interests in science and humanities. It also turned out to be a place where I obtained problem solving skills that have allowed me to pursue my interests and concerns as they develop.

While at CSUMB, I had the privilege of working at the Watershed Institute as an intern for the Central Coast Watershed Studies (CCoWS). The things I was learning in classes were reinforced with hands on experience in the field, mainly working on projects funded by the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board. While at CCoWS, I worked in streams measuring agricultural runoff and fish habitat in addition to learning data management systems. After I completed the ESSP program, I had the opportunity to stay on at CCoWS and continue to study water quality, specifically monitoring water quality and steelhead habitat during construction of the Carmel River Lagoon Enhancement Project for the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

Motivated by a pursuit of environmental justice, I moved back to the Bay Area and started working as a consultant conducting Superfund Liability Analysis. I worked as an Environmental Scientist in teams of lawyers, paralegals, and engineers providing technical and legal support for the Environmental Protection Agency. This work exposed me to the need for industrial ecology and responsible manufacturing practices. From here I became an auditor for Scientific Certification Systems (SCS), an independent third party certifier that verifies environmental claims on consumer goods. Auditing manufacturing facilities gave me opportunities to see different types of investments that manufacturers, large and small, are making to push their respective industries in a more sustainable direction.

Witnessing market responses to these types of investments, and reflecting on the steelhead habitats that I measured and the Superfund sites I analyzed peaked my interest in Green Economy and sustainability. These converging interests lead me to my current job as a Project Manager at Global Footprint Network. Global Footprint Network is an international think tank working to advance sustainability through use of the Ecological Footprint, a resource accounting tool that measures how much nature we have, how much we use and who uses what. The conceptual framework for the Ecological Footprint is largely covered in the ESSP (now ESTP) class Ecosystems Services. With each new project there is a steep learning curve, but because of the technical skills in computer modeling and statistics that I took away from ESSP classes, I can hit the ground running.

I am very fortunate that I am in a place where I love what I do and I am applying my education every day. I feel that the systems framework and hands on learning opportunities in the ESSP program gave me the ability to actively contribute in areas as varied as fish habitat and ecology, law and corporate social responsibility, complex manufacturing systems, and economic incentives and indices. My accomplishments at CSUMB have given me the confidence to pursue my goals.