People

See our Opportunities page for postdoctoral, graduate, and undergraduate positions available.

Matt Burgess (PI)

I am an Assistant Professor in Environmental Studies, with a courtesy appointment in Economics. I am also a Fellow of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), the Director of the Center for Social and Environmental Futures, and a Faculty Fellow of the Bruce D. Benson Center for the Study of Western Civilization. My research interests are broad, but these days largely focus on exploring possible economic growth futures and their implications for the environment and society, strategies to reduce political polarization of environmental issues, and mathematical modeling of human-environment systems. I use a combination of mathematical and computer modeling, data synthesis, and collaboration with stakeholders, in order to make conceptual advances and link them to practice.
I spend most of my spare time with my wife and two sons--activities typically include anything involving planes, buses, trucks, and bouncy balls. My other hobbies include music, basketball, and golf.
Email: matthew.g.burgess@colorado.eduLinks: CV, Google Scholar

Ryan Langendorf (Postdoctoral Scholar, co-advised by Dan Doak)

My dream is to help people live empirically, making decisions with data rather than principle or intuition. We as a society need to debate desired outcomes rather than their causes. I want to help more than anything. This is why I study causality. What is causality? Don’t worry, you are not alone. There is no single operationalized definition of it, and I would argue causality is a metaphysical concept for our intuition of the apparently mechanical interactions we experience all around ourselves. Then, perhaps more to the point, I reconstruct networks using time series.
How did I wind up building causal networks? Lots of chance and luck. You need only look to my identical twin brother to see how random our paths through life can be. I grew up with him in Chicago before studying in Maine. I then meandered through research gigs in Anchorage, Missouri, Arkansas, and Nevada before coming to Colorado and the Doak lab for a PhD studying ecosystems. But, I am actually drawn more to questions than any particular system, so since graduating I have expanded the kinds of data I work with. At Arpeggio Biosciences I use snapshots of nascent RNA transcription to understand the regulatory functioning of non-coding regions of our genomes in genetic diseases. And now, in the Burgess lab, I am studying the causal autonomy of social systems. We have tremendous troves of high fidelity spatiotemporal observational data on ourselves and our societies, but too many features are coupled such that variables can be combined into compelling stories on the causes of our roles in everything from extinction to poverty to extreme weather. These stories are particularly effective because people tend to side with the norms of their social group over scientific evidence. I try every day to create and disseminate tools able to explain the causes of these most daunting challenges we all face.
Email: ryan.langendorf@colorado.edu

Naya O'Reilly (Ph.D. Student - Environmental Studies 2022-present, Honors Student 2019-2020, UROP Fellow 2019)

I am a First-Generation Multi-Racial student from Southern California. At CU I was an Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) Fellow and received cum laude level of latin honors for my honors thesis on the socio-environmental factors and bacterial pollution in Los Angeles. Through that project I earned skills in creating meta-analysis , geo-spatial visualization in R and managing caffeine addiction. My passions include conservation, ecology and the intersectionality of environmental issues. I graduated from CU from the Environmental Studies Program with a minor in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences after three years and through a global pandemic. My curiosity and determination draws me to research and through all the hurdles that come with such a pursuit. I am currently a master's thesis graduate student in Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Sciences at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.
Email: naya.romero@colorado.edu

Ashley Dancer (Ph.D. Student - Environmental Studies)

I am an Air Force Veteran and current PhD student at CU Boulder in the Environmental Studies Department. I’m also on Denver’s Sustainability Advisory Board, Science and Research Committee. My research interests vary, but I’m currently focused on exploring possible economic and population growth futures and what these futures could mean for society, the environment, and geopolitics. I’m also interested in researching effective strategies for creating favorable environmental policy outcomes. I have experience in different qualitative social science methods and will be expanding my methodological skills to focus more on quantitative research methods and dynamic systems modeling.
I have a B.S. in meteorology, MBA in Sustainable Real Estate Development, and M.S. in Environmental Studies. The research that contributed to my Master’s thesis won a Food Studies International Award for Excellence in 2018. I was also awarded a 2021 Graduate School Diversity Recruitment Fellowship.
I currently live in Broomfield with my long-time partner, who is an electrical engineer. In my free-time, I enjoy practicing jujitsu, watching stand-up comedy, attending themed events (costumes required), listening to podcasts, and hitting the gym.
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ashley-dancer/
Email: asda9467@colorado.edu

Sarah Becker (Ph.D. Student, co-advised by Cassandra Brooks - Environmental Studies)

I am an ENVS PhD student using quantitative ecology and qualitative social science methods to guide equitable marine conservation planning. Originally from Charlottesville, Virginia, I received a B.A. in Environmental Studies from Vassar College in 2009 and a M.S. in Marine Science and Technology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2016. Between my undergraduate and Master’s studies, I worked for several years as a field technician, scientific diver, and environmental educator in the Caribbean and Bahamas. Following my Masters, I worked as a data analyst at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Gulf of Maine Research Institute on projects ranging from quantifying Pacific sea turtle distributions to climate change impact mapping to cod and bluefin tuna population assessments.
In my free time you can either find me drawing or outside hiking, climbing and skiing in Colorado, or diving and freediving when I find myself back by the ocean.
Email: sarah.becker-2@colorado.edu

Margaret Hegwood (Ph.D. Student, co-advised by Pete Newton - Environmental Studies)

I am an ENVS Phd Student and a USDA Food Technology and Food Security Fellow. I am interested in building an improved understanding of the socio-economic and environmental impacts of new food technologies. Before coming to CU, I received my B.S. and M.S. in Biological Engineering from Purdue University, where I acquired significant experience working on food security internationally through internships and research. I aspire to use my technological background to advise domestic and international governments on critical global agriculture issues. In my free time, I enjoy writing poetry, traveling, horseback riding, and exploring the outdoors.
Email: margaret.hegwood@colorado.edu

Lab Affiliates

Renae Marshall (UCSB PhD Student, Summer Research Assistant 2021, Honors Student 2020-2021, UROP Fellow 2020)

I am a senior ENVS student exploring bipartisan climate solutions related to decarbonization in pursuit of an Honors thesis. Before transferring back to my Colorado roots as a junior, I studied at Loyola University Chicago as an Environmental Policy major and Irish danced professionally around the world for two years. My goal is to study energy policy at a graduate level after completing my degree.
Honors Thesis: "Advancing bipartisan decarbonization policies: Lessons from state-level successes and failures"
Email: rmarshall@ucsb.edu

Tara Ippolito (Ph.D. Student, Neff Lab - Environmental Studies)

I am an ENVS PhD student who completed an undergraduate degree in mathematics at University of Redlands. I am interested in questions at the intersection of development, the environment, and data science. In my spare time, I enjoy trail running and making homemade pasta. I am also deeply passionate about ice cream and eat it at least once a week.
Email: tara.ippolito@colorado.edu

Lab Alumni

Henry Westfall (Summer Research Assistant, 2022)

I am senior at Fairview High School and will graduate in May 2023. My interests lie in computer science, engineering, and social science. Currently, I am studying the factors that drive political polarization through agent-based modeling, and I hope my models may help guide decisions on polarization-reduction policies. Outside of school and research, I spend most of my time leading a FIRST Robotics Competition team, The Black Knights. I also enjoy playing tennis, skiing, programming, and designing board games.

Grace Kroeger (Honors Student 2021-2022)

As an Honors student in the Environmental Studies and Economics departments, I am passionate about reducing the dangerous effects of climate change and maintaining a livable planet for all, with a commitment to progress towards a clean energy economy. My thesis aims to assess our current and projected progress on the U.S. clean energy transition by comparing estimated decarbonization rates at the utility level to renewable portfolio standards at the state level. Following graduation, I will be starting at Guidehouse Inc. within the Energy, Sustainability, and Infrastructure group as an energy consultant. I have loved Matt's lab as well, and maybe I'll come back.
Outside of school, I enjoy getting outside and mountain biking, skiing, exploring the backcountry, and curating playlists.
Thesis: "Igniting the Renewable Energy Revolution: How U.S. Electric Utility Decarbonization Targets Compare with State Renewable and Clean Portfolio Standards"

Josh Hartmann (Honors Student 2019-2020)

I am a recent graduate of the CU Environmental Studies Honors program, for which I wrote a thesis on managing the risks posed by the Emerald Ash Borer through localized policy. I plan to attend graduate school in Fall 2021, studying either US law at an American institution or international relations/politics/development at a UK institution (which I may actually be able to afford). As a first generation immigrant, I hope to make use of my international background as a foundation for a career in global cooperation and international relations in some way, particularly as they relate to climate, poverty, and armed conflict.
Thesis: "Emerald Ash Borer Damage Mitigation Policy Solutions in Estes Park, CO"

John Shapland (Honors Student 2019-2020)

I graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder in the Spring of 2020. Where I earned the Latin distinction of magna cum laude in environmental studies. My honors thesis explored forecasted 21st-century economic growth slowdowns and their impact on carbon emissions.
Thesis: "Twenty First Century Economic Slowdown and Its Impact on CO₂ Emissions in the United States"

Vincent Wroble (Summer Research Assistant, 2019)

I graduated from CU summa cum laude in Political Science with and minor in Economics and a certificate in western American studies in May 2019. I previously interned in both the Colorado State Senate and the U.S. Congress. My article on small unmanned aerial vehicles and how they can be most effectively utilized is pending publication by the U.S. Naval Institute. In my spare time, I raise puppies for wheelchair assistance.
Email: vincent.wroble@colorado.edu