"The program prepares people to bring food security, energy security and water security into the twenty-first century!"

A changed major led to teaching, consulting and designing new ES programs

Michael Simpson, chair of the Department of Environmental Studies at Antioch University New England (AUNE), entered college as a pre-med student, but in his junior year, changed his major to environmental studies. Now 57, Michael has been an AUNE environmental studies core faculty member for more than two decades, directed the Resource Management and Conservation program for thirteen years, and recently became chair of the ES department.

A licensed wetlands scientist, he boasts more than twenty years’ experience as a consultant and manager on wetlands, watershed and pollution-prevention projects. Beyond that, he actively researches and consults on the impact of climate change on land, infrastructures and communities, and was instrumental in developing AUNE’s new MS in Environmental Studies concentration in Sustainable Development and Climate Change (SDCC).

“The program prepares people to bring food security, energy security and water security into the twenty-first century,” he said. “It is unique in that it does not look at change in climate in isolation, but considers such dynamics in the context of changes in land-use, population, technology and the resultant economy. This degree program concentration embraces complexity and necessarily must be trans-disciplinary and cross-boundary.”

A NOAA Grant Helps Prepare a Community

Under a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Michael is currently helping to spearhead a project to prepare communities for impacts from changes to land use in the context of climate change trends. This project combines research with practice and service to the community. The study site is the seven communities around Lake Sunapee, New Hampshire. The project necessarily involves a collaborative initiative between AUNE and the local watershed organization, the Lake Sunapee Protective Association. In addition, scientists from across the country form an eight-member interdisciplinary team of researchers, who will advise local communities on how to protect storm water and drinking water systems from climate change and population growth, assess the impact of climate change on the watershed, and help communities determine ways to curtail runoff and cut drainage system costs.

In addition to his grants and work with AUNE, Michael has operated his own environmental consulting firm since 2004. His clients include numerous local, national and international organizations including the Town of Peterborough, New Hampshire, where he assessed wetlands, and Dartmouth College, where he revamped composting facilities. Recently, for the International Rescue Committee, he undertook a two-year project in postwar Liberia to develop small businesses for environmental work, such as re-establishing clean-water and waste-removal systems to eradicate cholera, typhoid, plague, and the like.

Providing Support for the U.N.

At the request of the United Nations, for the past three years Michael has assessed solid-waste systems in twenty cities around the world, including San Francisco, Bangalore, Cairo and Rotterdam. In May 2010, he’ll submit his findings to the U.N. General Assembly.

Despite his busy schedule, he still finds time to serve on the leadership boards of various environmental organizations, including the New Hampshire Association of Natural Resource Scientists, the Corporate Wetlands Restoration Initiative and New Hampshire Wetland Scientists.

Above all, Michael is excited about AUNE’s new environmental studies SDCC concentration. He plans to create a hybrid program, designed to attract more international students, incorporating a limited residency requirement with online courses. “AUNE is the oldest grad school involved in environmental studies in the United States, and the second largest,” he noted. Michael says the SDCC program will be very successful in getting people jobs. “That’s because students get a current and applied program rather than just ivory-tower information.”