Hi! I’m Dr. Sara Via, Professor and Climate Extension Specialist at the University of Maryland College Park.
I’m trained as an “ecological geneticist”, which means that my research involved studying evolution in action in contemporary populations. After getting my PhD at Duke University (1983) and doing postdoctoral work at the University of Chicago, I held faculty positions at the University of Iowa and Cornell University. In 1997, I moved to the University of Maryland, College Park as Professor of Biology, where I continued my research and taught Evolution and Introductory Biology.
Teaching Introductory Biology was what moved me toward my “second career” in climate change education. Every year when I updated my lectures about human impacts on ecosystems, I became more and more worried about climate change. By 2013, I was so alarmed that I knew I needed to find a meaningful way to help address it. Given all the time I spent over the years devising simple ways to present complicated scientific topics to students, it seemed like I might be able to use this skill to help people see the need for climate action. Figuring out how to explain climate change and its impacts in plain language and talking with people about solutions available to everyone has been some of the most interesting and satisfying work I’ve ever done.
In 2020, I started a “Climate and Sustainability” webinar series that touched on a wide array of topics including healthy soil, strategies for regenerative landscaping and gardening, impacts of climate change on health, and individual solutions to climate change. This was such a great experience for me that I decided to do more webinars in 2021– see the webinar tabs in the menu for details.
In 2017 I started a collaboration with the Maryland Department of Agriculture on soil health and how farmers can use various management practices to store carbon in agricultural soils. I’ve also been really lucky to be one of Maryland’s representatives to the Natural and Working Lands group of the US Climate Alliance, which focuses on how to increase soil carbon sequestration in agriculture. Motivated by this work, I wrote a comprehensive “plain-language” report, “Increasing Soil Health and Sequestering Carbon In Agricultural Soils: A Natural Climate Solution,” that will be published in 2021 by the Izaak Walton League of America and the National Wildlife Federation.