JMU experts can discuss Earth Day, gardening, climate and related topics

JMU News

by Eric Gorton


Gardening, community engagement, migratory birds and butterflies

Geography professor Amy Goodall and her students will celebrate 10 years of gardening at Keister Elementary School on Earth Day, Friday, April 22. 

In that time, Keister students have learned about pollinators, healthy eating and other benefits of gardening while the JMU students have participated in community service, learned about growing food and enjoyed interactions with the elementary students. 

In addition to her expertise on gardens for education and community engagement, Goodall’s research focuses on understanding the distribution and behaviors of migratory bird and butterfly species.  


Graduate psychology professor Debbie Sturm sees Earth Day as an opportunity to raise awareness about eco-anxiety, which she describes as “people’s fear of what’s happening with climate change and how it can paralyze you with enough fear that you just don’t know what to do. The whole conversation becomes: How do you move people from being anxious and fearful to doing something really productive and personally meaningful with it?” 

For her research on eco-anxiety, Sturm received the “2020 Courtland Lee Social Justice Award” from the Southern Association for Counselor Education and Supervision and the “Counselors for Climate Justice Award” from Counselors for Social Justice, a part of the American Counseling Association. 

Her areas of expertise include climate change and mental health; nature connection and mental health; and trauma. 

Air pollution’s contribution to lightning

Geography professor Mace Bentley is in the midst of a two-year lightning study supported by nearly $450,000 from the National Science Foundation. 

In the study, Bentley and his students are researching human impacts on the frequency and intensity of lightning. “We hope to better understand some of the ingredients in thunderstorm formation that have not traditionally been accounted for," Bentley said, noting that meteorologists focus on thermodynamic instability of the atmosphere. Bentley’s team is delving into what effect aerosols, tiny particles in the air, some the result of automobile and factory emissions, play. 

There is building evidence globally, Bentley said, that air pollution and other aerosols are getting drawn into thunderstorm updrafts and are changing lightning dynamics and perhaps the overall intensity of the storms. 

JMU has many additional experts from various disciplines who can speak on topics related to spring, Earth Day and climate. Many of them are listed here:


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Rob Alexander

Political Science

(Coordinator of the environmental studies minor)

  • Environmental and natural resource policy
  • Environmental conflict management

Pete Bsumek

Communication Studies

  • Sustainable communities 

Jennifer Coffman

School of Integrated Sciences

  • Environment
  • Sustainable food systems
  • Carbon footprint

Tobias Gerken

School of Integrated Sciences

  • Influence of land use and agriculture on climate
  • Climate Modeling

Jonathan Miles

School of Integrated Sciences

  • Wind and solar energy
  • Renewable energy workforce training

Wayne Teel

School of Integrated Sciences

  • Sustainable agriculture
  • Teaching environment

Lisa Tubach

Art, Design and Art History

  • Conservation efforts of coral reefs, sharks and other species
  • Art as expression of scientific and emotional quandaries of an environment in peril
  • Climate connection to art

Case Watkins

Justice Studies

  • Environmental justice
  • Climate justice
  • Interactions of humans, environments, power, equity, and justice
  • Environmental histories and geographies of the African diaspora
  • Palm oil and society

Catherine Zeman

Health Sciences

  • Environmental epidemiology and toxicology
  • Environment and health relationship
  • Complementary Alternative and Integrative Health



Contact: Eric Gorton,, 540-908-1760 

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Published: Monday, April 11, 2022

Last Updated: Thursday, January 4, 2024

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