Eric Strauss, Ph.D., Executive Director
Dr. Eric Strauss serves as President's Professor of Biology at Loyola Marymount University and Executive Director of CURes. With collaborative research specialties in animal behavior, endangered species management, urban ecosystems and science education, Eric has extended the model for faculty scholarship by co-founding the Urban Ecology Institute in Boston while he served as a faculty member at Boston College and CURes in LA, both of which provide educational, research and restoration programs to under-served neighborhoods and their residents.
In addition, Dr. Strauss is the Founding Editor of a web-based peer-reviewed journal, Cities and the Environment, which is funded in part by the USDA Forest Service. His research includes collaborative long-term studies of coyotes, White tailed deer, crows, turtles and other vertebrates, with a specialty in understanding wildlife in urban areas and the appropriate management responses to wildlife problems and zoonotic disease. His work also includes investigating the role of green space and urban forests in supporting of healthy neighborhoods and how those features can be used to improve science education and restorative justice. He has co-written multi-media textbooks in biology and urban ecology as well as hosting multiple video series on the life sciences and ecology. Dr. Strauss received his BS in Mass Communication from Emerson College and Ph.D. in Biology from Tufts University in 1990.
Michele Romolini, Ph.D., Managing Director
Dr. Michele Romolini specializes in social scientific research related to urban ecology, with main areas of expertise in environmental governance and green infrastructure. As the CURes Director of Research, she works to develop new research collaborations, secure funding for projects, and integrate social and ecological research questions. Dr. Romolini leads three main projects:
- LA Stew-MAP, a project to inventory and map the environmental stewardship activities conducted by organizations in Los Angeles.
- LA Tree Canopy Assessment and Prioritization Project, a collaboration with University of Vermont and Savatree that uses fine resolution imagery and LiDAR data to produce parcel-level analyses of existing and possible tree canopy
- Baldwin Hills Park User Study, a longitudinal analysis of park user behavior and attitudes.
She works closely with faculty at LMU and other universities, USDA Forest Service scientists, and non-profit leaders. She received her PhD in Natural Resources at the University of Vermont, and a Master's of Environmental Studies and BA in Biology at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Romolini teaches courses on both social and ecological topics, and mentors independent student research. Students are invited to contact her about research opportunities.
Lisa Fimiani, Gottlieb Environmental Leadership Fellow
Lisa Fimiani received the inaugural Dan and Susan Gottlieb Environmental Leaders Fellowship with Loyola Marymount University's Center for Urban Resilience (CURes). Having served the Center as a Fellow since 2011, Lisa will expand her efforts to reach more students and teachers through the Urban Eco Lab curriculum being updated by the Center, focusing on birds and native plants as natural teaching tools of the environment. As part of her responsibilities Lisa will also serve as an ambassador to support other CURes staff members in the community with education initiatives, as well as represent CURes at events and functions. Over the past 30 years Lisa acquired extensive knowledge of birds, insects and other wildlife in Southern California as the Friends of Ballona Wetlands Executive Director for 7 years, Docent at the Ballona Freshwater Marsh for 14 years, and Board member for 20 years. Lisa has also served 16 years on the Audubon California and Los Angeles Audubon Society non-profit Boards. Her understanding of urban interfaces and nature in the second largest city in America has given her practical experience dealing with associated challenges and qualifies her as an ideal urban "naturalist."
Lisa has installed many native plant gardens and restoration sites and will be supervising the department's efforts to put in gardens throughout Southern California as part of CURes' initiatives. Lisa will also be working on select operational activities to ensure the Center for Urban Resilience at LMU runs smoothly and efficiently. Lisa comes to CURes from The G2 Gallery where, in October of 2017, she helped transform the focus of the environmental photography gallery and Gottlieb Native Garden into exciting new realms. Lisa got her B.A. in Mass Communications from the State University of New York at Buffalo, and is a locally certified Master Gardener and Restoration Specialist.
Schoene Mahmood, Restorative Justice Specialist, Restorative Justice Project
Ms. Schoene Mahmood brings 16 years of experience with Restorative Justice Practices. Before joining LMU CURes, she facilitated 400+ juvenile expulsion, arrest, and court-diversion cases referred by the Maryland State’s Attorney’s office, the Department of Juvenile Services, the Baltimore City Police Department, and Baltimore City schools. Schoene currently serves as the Program Manager of the Restorative Justice Project at CURes to develop Restorative Practices curriculum and provide educational trainings that include on-going skill-building workshops for K-12 school community members. Most recently, she has introduced Restorative Practices to the Loyola Marymount University community, extending the reach to higher-education stakeholders.
Belinda Brunelle, Senior Administrative Coordinator
Belinda Brunelle began her employment at LMU in 2001, a year after the University purchased University Hall. She began her career years in the Academic Vice President's office, now the Provost. She was responsible for processing faculty contracts, sabbatical leaves, rank & tenure, events, as well as committee work. In 2010, Belinda moved to Xavier Hall, the oldest building on campus, to support the WASC re-accreditation efforts for LMU. She also continued to manage the faculty course evaluations for the University. When Belinda was presented with the opportunity to be a new support staff member for CURes, she was immediately excited to be part of the team, knowing Dr. Eric Strauss and CURes' work. She is a great fit for CURes, as she loves nature, the outdoors (including her cattle ranch in the Sequoia National Forest), hiking, and animals!
Maria Curley, Research Assistant & Education Specialist
Maria Curley is a research assistant and education specialist at LMU, working in support of ongoing research and education grant initiatives for CURes and the Center for Equity for English Learners (CEEL). In her role as a research assistant, Maria supports grant work at CURes in a variety of areas involving animal behavior (such as coyote management, hummingbird research, and bird migration), and urban ecology (such as urban forest initiatives involving tree health and growth assessments). As an education specialist, Maria supports education initiatives embedded in many of the CURes' and CEEL grants, that support urban communities, schools and teachers. This education work involves the creation of science curriculum and resources for students at varying grade levels.
Maria earned a BA degree in Sociology from the University of California, Riverside (UCR) in 1988. She also earned a Master's degree in Education in 2009 from Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. She holds a professional teaching licensure in all subjects for grades 1-6 and a professional teaching licensure in General Science for grades 5-8. Maria also holds a Sheltered English Immersion (SEI) Endorsement for teaching English Language Learners (ELLs). Maria has taught in all the elementary grades, and seven years in middle school science, reading, and ELA, utilizing SEI instructional strategies with ELLs in her classes. Maria's professional goals include continuing to work on interesting and impactful community research projects, as well continuing her efforts to provide quality urban ecology science materials to students in order to increase environmental awareness and equity.