Meet graduate student Danielle Kloster

Danielle Kloster2
Danielle Kloster.

Danielle Kloster is a PhD candidate in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment. She received an education in environmental science and renewable energy systems in upstate New York. At UConn, she’s studying human dimensions in roadside forest management. Here’s what she said in an interview.

Where did you study as an undergraduate?

I studied at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF) in Syracuse, New York.

What was your major?

My major was in environmental science, with a concentration in renewable energy systems.

Why did you decide to go to graduate school?

I also completed my master’s degree at SUNY-ESF in environmental science. I had been working with a professor there as an undergraduate so I continued on to do research on short rotation woody cropping systems for bioenergy purposes. I worked on shrub willow, which can be used for wood chips and pellets and also to mitigate soil erosion. Through all of this I realized that I wanted to get into human dimensions research. My research is important to biophysical sciences but I wanted to find better ways for it to benefit people directly and help them make informed decisions.

I started searching for programs and began looking at UConn. Then I found out about the National Needs Fellowship Grants Program through Chad Rittenhouse. One portion of that program funds students interested in energy infrastructure so through that I came to UConn and started working with Stormwise, which engages in managing roadside forests to reduce storm-related power outages in Connecticut but also looks at the regional scale.

Who is your advisor?

I’m co-advised by Anita Morzillo and John Volin.

What is your field of research?

My dissertation research focuses on human dimensions of roadside forest management. My component of the Stormwise project is studying perceptions of roadside forest management so I look at a number of different things.

I recently completed a media analysis on the portrayal of power outages. Using the New York Times and local newspapers throughout the Northeast, I examined how power outages were portrayed, including suggested solutions and the impacts of outages.

I’m also part of a pilot program in North Haven, Connecticut, where utility tree crews remove trees in a way that preserves logs for resale. They leave the butt log, which is portion of the tree below the branches but above the stump, longer so it can be used as a sawlog. Sawlogs are logs that are of high enough quality to be processed into lumber. These logs can be sold to a wood products company, along with any wood chips produced, and the revenue goes back to the town for tree planting programs. I discuss with the crews their perceptions of the program and, in areas where it hasn’t been implemented, what they see as potential barriers to employing it.

Additionally, I engage with homeowners to learn motivations behind their decisions to allow or deny utility companies to remove trees on their properties.

Name one aspect of your work that you like.

I really like working with people. I’ve found that interviewing the tree crews is interesting, getting to know what they are thinking and how they feel about what they’re doing. They’re excited to share their opinions with me as they don’t often get asked about their thoughts on their job.

What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment so far?

It would be working on The Collaborative to Advance Equity Through Research on Women and Girls of Color. It’s not accomplished yet, but I feel like it will be my greatest achievement.

There are over fifty universities and organizations participating in the initiative throughout the United States. My project, entitled “Women of Color and the Environment: The Role of Intersectionality in Environmental Attitudes and Behaviors,” is the only one in the College so I’m proud to represent CAHNR and collaborate with other members of the UConn community and contribute in a national sense.

My project is looking at the motivations for environmental behaviors among women of color. A lot of environmental literature has focused on either broad samples, which contain only a small proportion of people of color, or has focused exclusively on white populations. What many consider to be probable motivators about environmental behaviors, particular attitudes or concerns, may or may not apply to people of color or women of color. There are studies that suggest women of color have different motivations for engaging in environmental behaviors than white women. The behaviors may be the same but what’s driving those motivations might be different.

My research started with quantitative statistical analysis to find what variables predicted environmental behaviors and willingness to pay for environmental benefits in future. I’ve been finding that certain theories that tend to be applicable to white populations don’t hold up as well for people of color. Now I’m looking to do focus groups with women of color in the campus community, including students, faculty and local residents to find out more about their motivations for environmental behaviors. I want to know what they engage in, why they do it and what the barriers are to behaviors they’d be interested in engaging in yet don’t for some reason, such as composting, for example. Then after the focus group I’ll be doing one-on-one interviews to learn more.

I think it’s important for all parts of UConn to engage in this work and I’m excited to be a part of it.

What do you hope to do once you get your degree?

I want to stay in academia and teach.

Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?

I enjoy hiking and often take my goldendoodle along with me!

By Jason M. Sheldon