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Photo: Paul Kirchner Studios

The Berkeley Connect program opens up the extraordinary resources of the university to you: the extraordinary students on our campus. By joining, you will become part of a community of like-minded faculty, mentors, and students that will provide a supportive environment in which to exchange and discuss ideas and goals. Berkeley Connect will help you to make the most of your time at the university as you learn more about the major in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management (ESPM). We’re excited to get to know you!

Message from the Director

Erica (Bree) RosenblumESPM’s Berkeley Connect co-directors, graduate fellows and I are delighted to invite you to join us for a semester of fun, idea exchange, mentoring and, of course, connecting with the Berkeley campus! Berkeley Connect in ESPM is all about building community. Our main goal is to provide a safe and relaxed space where students of all stages and ages, and with shared interests in environmental science, policy and stewardship, can teach, learn, and support one another. Interested in meeting folks who share your interests? Curious about career opportunities after graduation? Seeking input from peers, grad students and professors on your ideas or educational path? Looking to learn more about environmental clubs on campus? Wanting to develop and hone those communication skills? Berkeley Connect in ESPM is here for you!

Erica (Bree) Rosenblum, Faculty Director, Berkeley Connect in ESPM

Program Description

Berkeley Connect links undergraduate students with experienced mentors in ESPM. These mentors lead small groups of 10-20 students in regular meetings; they also meet with students One-on-one to provide guidance and advice. The core of the Berkeley Connect program is a one-credit, pass-fail course that is designed to create a community of students with similar intellectual interests. There is no homework associated with Berkeley Connect: no exams, no papers, no quizzes. Instead, small group meetings focus on sharing ideas and learning new skills within the ESPM majors as a way to foster friendships and provide a supportive intellectual community for Berkeley undergraduates.The only requirement for joining Berkeley Connect in ESPM is that you have an interest in the field of study. You do not have to be in one of ESPM’s majors (CRS, ES, FNR, MEB or S&E) to participate! Undeclared freshmen and sophomores are welcome, along with entering junior transfers and juniors and seniors who have declared the major.

Every semester, Berkeley Connect sponsors a wide range of activities and events for participating students.  They include:

  • small-group meetings led by your mentor;
  • One-on-one meetings with your mentor;
  • special events, including informal lectures by professors and guest speakers, and panels on career options, graduate school admissions, and other topics;
  • and visits to Berkeley resources.

At the heart of Berkeley Connect is the relationship between you and your mentor. The Berkeley Connect mentors are advanced graduate students or recent PhDs in ESPM, who are chosen both for their demonstrated commitment to undergraduates and for their scholarly achievement. They are dedicated to providing the kind of close-knit community and One-on-one attention that can be hard to find at a large university.

When you sign up for Berkeley Connect, you will join one of several small groups of participants in ESPM. Your small group will be led by your mentor, and will meet every other week during the semester for an hour-long dinner discussion sessions. Discussions will focus on key intellectual issues within ESPM as well as key skills you need to succeed in the major. Above all, the small groups will focus on building connections among students, so that each group becomes a supportive community for all participants.

You will also meet with your mentor One-on-one at least twice during the semester, once to get acquainted, and a second time just before Tele-Bears, to discuss your plans for completing your major. Your mentor also has Office hours every other week, during which you are free to show up and ask questions, talk over your day or your week, discuss what you are learning in class, or just have an informal conversation.


Erica Rosenblum, Director
Erica (Bree) RosenblumErica (aka Bree) is an Assistant Professor of Evolutionary Ecology in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. Erica studies the processes that generate and impact biological diversity. She is particularly interested in both sides of the evolutionary speciation/extinction “coin” and in determining the mechanisms of rapid adaptation of animals to changing environments. Erica works across levels of biological organization (from genes to phenotypes to behaviors to community assemblages) and uses a variety of methodologies (from genomics to field ecology). Topically, many of her projects focus on reptile and amphibians in the western US.  Currently, she is studying disease-related declines in amphibians and ecological speciation in lizards.

Contact: Rosenblum@berkeley.edu

Laura Lammers

Laura LammersLaura is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Geochemistry in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. She studies the chemistry of fluid-mineral interactions in the environment to understand the fate of nutrients, contaminants and carbon. Her group seeks to relate macroscopic phenomena to their fundamental, molecular-level controls using coupled computational and experimental techniques. Current projects are related to the roles of clay interfaces in regulating soil radiocesium mobility, mechanisms of mineral growth and dissolution (carbonates and phosphates), the roles of mineral-aqueous interfaces in regulating bulk physiochemical properties such as interfacial tension and wettability, and the use of stable isotopes to probe surface processes.

Justin Brashares 

Justin BrasharesJustin is an Associate Professor of Ecology and Conservation in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management. Justin has worked on wildlife projects and with rural communities in Africa and North America for more than 20 years. His work extends beyond traditional ecology and conservation to consider the economic, political and cultural factors that drive and, in turn, are driven by, changes in biodiversity. When not trying to convince people that wildlife is more than just neat to look at, Justin can be found with his kids at a Cal soccer game or walking his embarrassingly small dog, Alfie.

Contact: Brashares@berkeley.edu

Berkeley Connect Mentors

Ignacio Escalante Ignacio Escalante is a PhD candidate in the division of Organisms & Environment within ESPM. He studies the behavior and ecology of daddy long-legs from the rainforest in his home country of Costa Rica. Ignacio earned his Bachelors and Masters in Biology at the Universidad de Costa Rica. He has served as a teaching assistant in field ecology classes, on-campus labs and lectures, and has also served as a mentor for undergraduate students in Costa Rica as well as Cal. His past experiences as a mentee and a mentor continuously influence his career as a teacher and a researcher. When he is not sitting in front of a computer analyzing videos of daddy long-legs (whilst singing out loud and entertaining his lab mates), he is enjoying live music in the Bay Area and/or munching on a California burrito.

Karina Klonoski Karina Klonoski is a PhD candidate in the Organisms and Environment division of ESPM. After graduating from Bowdoin College with a degree in Biology, Karina spent several months chasing tamarins through the Amazon Rainforest in southeastern Peru, and then transitioned into a job as a research associate at a biomedical research institute. These diverse experiences helped shape her current research program, which integrates field-based research with lab work to study the evolutionary biology of poison frogs in Madagascar. When she’s not in the field or the lab, Karina enjoys hiking, photography, and traveling. Teaching and mentoring have been the most rewarding parts of her graduate career, and she is excited to continue this work through Berkeley Connect.

Laura WardLaura Ward is PhD candidate in the Organisms and Environment division of ESPM. She received her bachelor’s degree from Saint Mary’s College, where she majored in a unique great books program. From there, Laura worked in disability services and went on to pursue medicine by volunteering at Children’s Hospital Oakland and completing a post-bac pre-med program at Mills College. Her experience at Mills revealed her passion for teaching and environmental biology. While exploring various research opportunities, she became fascinated by wild bee conservation and ecology, finding childlike joy in chasing bees through the field and looking at their fuzzy, pollen-covered bodies under the scope. Laura now studies the impact of neonicotinoid insecticides on wild bees and honey bees in northern California agriculture. In her downtime, she enjoys hiking with her dog, practicing yoga, strolling through farmer’s markets, and playing the guitar. Laura believes mentorship is an invaluable part of academia and is thrilled to be joining Berkeley Connect this year.

Jenny DurantJennie Durant is a PhD candidate in the Society and the Environment division of ESPM. She holds an MFA in nonfiction writing from Saint Mary’s College of California. Her research interests are in food systems, sustainable agriculture, and environmental justice. Her dissertation focuses on national honeybee declines and looks at the relationship between almond growers and commercial beekeepers in California’s Central Valley.  In addition to her research, Jennie has been teaching and mentoring university-level students for over twelve years as a lecturer and GSI, and she is thrilled to continue that work through Berkeley Connect. She also became a mom in 2016 and is happy to chat about her experience juggling the roles of student and parent at UC Berkeley.


Week Format Notes
Jan 17 Full group

(staff mtgs)

Opening reception: Community building activities


Jan 22 Sections

(staff mtgs)

Introductions: Semester orientation


Jan 29 Sections

(staff mtgs)

Skill development I


Feb 5 Office hours


Individual meetings: *Required meeting with your fellow


Feb 12 Sections

(staff mtgs)

Current Environmental topic I
Feb 19 Office hours


Individual check in: Drop in meetings with your fellow


Feb 26 Sections

(staff mtgs)

Skill development II (faculty visits?)


Mar 5 Office hours


Individual check in
Mar 12 Sections

(staff mtgs)

Current Environmental topic II


Mar 19 Office hours


Individual check in: Drop in meetings with your fellow


Mar 26 Spring Break


No meetings


Apr 2 Sections

(staff mtgs)

Skill development III


Apr 9 Office hours


Individual check in: *Required meetings with your fellow


Apr 16 Sections

(staff mtgs)

Current Environmental topic III


Apr 23 Sections

(staff mtgs)

Closing: Semester wrap-up!


Apr 30 Full group Optional study break activities



To find sections for the upcoming semester, search the Schedule of Classes for ESPM 98BC (for first-year and sophomores) or 198BC (for juniors and seniors).

To help you meet other students who share your experiences and perspectives, Berkeley Connect sections are designated as lower division (first-year students and sophomores), new junior transfers, and upper division (juniors and seniors), but you can enroll in any section that fits your schedule and credit requirements.

How to Sign Up

To participate in Berkeley Connect in ESPM, you enroll in a designated section of ESPM 98BC or 198BC (one unit, taken on a Pass/Not Pass basis). Many students chose to enroll for more than one semester. Participation is NOT restricted to declared majors.To sign up, enroll in a Berkeley Connect section when course registration opens.  Please see the Berkeley Connect Sections listed above under “Schedule.”

**Read the schedule notes carefully—different Sections are designated as primarily for lower-division (freshmen and sophomores), upper-division (juniors and seniors), or junior transfer students.

If you are interested in participating in Berkeley Connect, but course registration is not currently open, you can join the Berkeley Connect Mailing List, and you will be sent more details when the next semester’s information becomes available.

Contact Us

Please see our FAQs.  If you have additional questions about Berkeley Connect in ESPM, please contact:Prof. Justin Brashares, 13 Mulford Hall, phone: (510) 643-6080, email: Brashares@berkeley.edu

You can also contact the central Berkeley Connect office  at berkeleyconnect@berkeley.edu or (510) 664-4182.

Links & Resources