Dr. John Weishampel
Professor and Associate Dean, College of Graduate Studies
May 2016

Q: What does Sustainability mean to you?
A: It is the ability to live within our natural resource means so that we are not in ecological debt to our children and grandchildren. It means that the natural resources used (e.g., forests, soils, fish) are allowed to continually replenish and wastes generated (e.g., carbon dioxide, pesticide pollutants) are allowed continually returned to their original, less toxic states within human generational timeframes.

Q: Describe the class you teach.
A: I teach multiple courses. The first is Introduction to Environmental Science (EVR 1001). It used to be called Biology and the Environment (BSC 1050). This is a General Education Program course that fulfills a science requirement. I think it is a fun overview of how natural systems (e.g., hydrologic, biotic, geologic) work and how we impact them and what strides can we take to minimize these impacts. Another is Global Environmental Change. This is an honors course where students explore environmental data and relationships in the Anthropocene. These often have a spatial context so we use geographic information system (GIS) and remote sensing to visualize them. Students develop simulation models to better understand the drivers and dynamics of natural systems. I also teach Landscape Ecology (PCB 6328C), which is a graduate course, where students learn about the reciprocal relationships between ecological spatial patterns and processes.

Q: What do you do at UCF to advance sustainability initiatives?
A: Beyond teaching about sustainability, my research, which involves undergraduate and graduate students, has a general focus on understanding historic and current impacts on environmental systems. We can examine the remains of civilizations that thrived for centuries then collapsed. We can examine how our current activities (e.g., deforestation, pollution leading to climate change) may also lead to instabilities in life-supporting natural systems.

UCF is like a city. We can help promote UCF as a model of sustainability learning what works to reduce our ecological footprint. I serve on the UCF Sustainability Advisory Committee where we advocate “to advance environmental stewardship, economic vitality and social justice.” My role as Associated Dean and Director of Interdisciplinary Studies for the College of Graduate Studies has empowered me to support efforts that bring in speakers like Susan Hassol, who is one of the foremost communicators of climate science, and financially support the Crossroads Project: Rising Tide performance.

Q: How can students get involved in your work?
A: By taking advantages of research opportunities that are often advertised through the UCF Office of Undergraduate Research or applying to graduate programs in Biology, Conservation Biology, and Environmental Sustainability at UCF.

Q: What is your vision for sustainability?
A: Sustainability should be a fundamental concern of all people. I would like to see our economy mirror our understanding of ecological systems. We know growth based on ever increasing resource use is not sustainable. We need to gauge the health of an economy based on true quality of life issues (e.g., education, life span) rather than consumer (e.g., money exchange) metrics.