Combating climate change takes hundreds of decisions by millions of people to change small daily habits as well as big governmental policies.
Chapman University alumni Taylor Krause ’16 and Sara Wanous ’17 are part of those efforts in their work with the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, an organization that puts the emphasis on citizens.
Krause made a Chapman connection with the grassroots environmental advocacy group after approaching her senior year uncertain about career plans with her chemistry degree. Her academic advisor, Jason Keller, Ph.D., associate professor of biological sciences, suggested she sit in on his environmental science and policy seminar to hear a series of outside speakers. One of them was the legislative director for Citizens’ Climate Lobby, and Krause was smitten with the cause.
A Foot in the Door
“I wanted to intern for them, so I threw them an application,” said Krause, who added a minor in environmental science and policy and started as an unpaid intern with the Citizens’ Climate Lobby in September 2016. Within months, she was hired full time as an assistant to the organization’s executive director, Mark Reynolds, managing a wide array of duties at the nonprofit’s headquarters in the San Diego area.
This fall, she’ll be moving to Washington after earning another promotion to the Citizens’ Climate Lobby governmental affairs division, a team of five employees in the nation’s capital that includes two paid lobbyists. It’s an exciting move for Krause, yet important work is also done away from Washington.
The idea is that much of the lobbying is done by volunteers spreading the word in their communities and contacting their own representatives to seek support for climate solutions.
“The way that we’re organized nationally is mostly on a volunteer basis,” Krause said. “We have 40 staff and 90,000 supporters, including international chapters, but mostly in the United States.”
Opportunities for Others
Chapman’s connections with Citizens’ Climate Lobby efforts have only grown. The fall after graduating, Krause returned to the seminar where she first learned about the organization, this time as a presenter, and helped start an ongoing tradition of Chapman students visiting Washington twice a year for national Citizens’ Climate Lobby conferences. On those trips, students have lobbied their own representatives, among them former Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez ‘82, who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1997-2017 and recently donated her congressional papers to the Leatherby Libraries.
“It’s kind of a lot to organize to get a group across the country,” Krause said. “Sara took that on, and that made my job very easy.”
The Washington trips ultimately led to the job Wanous holds as the nonprofit’s membership coordinator.
“I was really so in love with Citizens’ Climate Lobby from my first experience in November of 2016 when five of us went, that from that point on, I was trying get my name thrown in the hat,” said Wanous, a double major with degrees in economics and environmental science and policy. “I knew it was a group of incredible people and I wanted to work with them and their mission.”
Krause was able to get Wanous onboard, telling her supervisors she knew “this really wonderful applicant” for temporary work during the nonprofit’s busy holiday season. The temporary role turned out not to be temporary: Wanous was hired full time within a couple of weeks and now works to coordinate the tens of thousands of new supporters who join Citizens’ Climate Lobby each year.
Keller, head of Chapman’s life and environmental sciences faculty as well the Wetland Biogeochemistry Laboratory, praises Krause and Wanous for their work, and for the way they have “exemplified the ‘Chapman First’ mindset.” The two also return to campus to speak at seminars and serve on panels, most recently after the screening of the “Chasing Coral” documentary in Folino Theater, one of many campus activities surrounding Earth Day on April 22.
The Roles of Research
Other opportunities for Chapman students have included the recent Citizens’ Climate Lobby regional conference in February at Cal State Los Angeles, where two students were honored for their research posters.
Emily Hanna ’18, a biological sciences major who will attend graduate school at UC Irvine next year to pursue a degree in public health with an environmental health emphasis, took first place for her poster on her research of a process called methylotrophic methanogenesis in northern Minnesota peatlands.
Jessica Rush ’18, a double major in biological sciences and Spanish, took second in the poster contest with her work on a different aspect of the peatland ecosystem. In a separate competition, she was selected for an April trip to Washington to present a poster on her research titled, “Effects of Temperature on Humic Substance Reduction in a Northern Minnesota Peatland.” Rush was one of 60 students selected nationally for the Council on Undergraduate Research “Posters on the Hill” competition, and one of only three from California.
Like Hanna, Rush works in the wetlands lab with Keller and Cassandra Zalman, Ph.D., assistant instructional professor.
Originally focused on pre-med studies, Rush has changed her mind and will work as lab manager in Keller’s wetlands lab for a year before pursuing a Ph.D.
“I joined Dr. Keller’s lab my sophomore year and took physiology my junior year. I found myself loving research more and more,” she said.
The Citizens’ Climate Lobby poster competition was her first interaction with the organization, she said, but it sparked a recognition for her.
“You know why your research is important, but scientists have to leave the lab sometimes. It takes research and advocacy to see change.”
Featured image at top/Citizens’ Climate Lobby staffer Sara Wanous ’17, center, with Chapman students (from left) Kelvin Hoppel ’18, Matthew Sahli ’18, Haley Miller ’18, Rebecca Felix ’18 and Courtney Bonilla ’18, in green jacket, exploring Washington before the November 2017 conference.