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., Director of Research
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.
Peter J. Auger, Ph.D., Senior Scientist
Dr. Pete Auger is a wildlife field biologist with particular interest in experimental design associated with animal consciousness and behavior. He has designed and conducted environmental research studies on insects, reptiles, birds and predatory mammals and has developed innovative methodology to incorporate both students and educators into these investigations.
Dr. Auger holds an undergraduate degree from Amherst College and a Ph.D. in Biology from Tufts University. He has received numerous teaching and coaching (baseball) awards at the high school, college undergraduate and graduate levels. His current research focuses on common and endangered wildlife species in Southern CA, Cape Cod, MA and Costa Rica.
Belinda Brunelle, Senior Administrative Coordinator
Belinda Brunelle started at LMU in 2001, a year after the University bought University Hall. She began her LMU years in the Academic Vice President's office, now the Provost. She was responsible for faculty contracts and sabbaticals, 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 course evaluations for the Office of Assessment. 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 Fores), hiking, and animals!
Shinina T. Butler, JD, LLM, Restorative Practices Specialist, Restorative Justice Project
Shinina worked as a corporate and consumer rights attorney for more than 14 years before joining the CURes team. She obtained an LLM in conflict resolution in 2007, and she has extensive experience mediating, facilitating and training youth and adults in diverse contexts. Her work includes conflict resolution training for students and educators and peer mediation implementation in Los Angeles elementary and middle schools. She uses restorative justice principles to mediate youth victim-offender and family cases, and she facilitates dialogues with communities on public issues and policies.
Shinina has been working with Mediators Beyond Borders for over three years as co – team leader of their Uganda project. The team is collaborating with local organizations in southwestern Uganda to assess land related conflict dynamics and develop a system to manage the disputes. Shinina received a B.A. from Brown University, J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School and an LLM from the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution - Pepperdine University School of Law.
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.
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 over a decade of experience implementing Restorative Practices programs at schools and facilitating court-diversion cases within the Juvenile Justice System. She currently serves as the Restorative Justice specialist at CURes. In partnership with Los Angeles area schools, Schoene provides Restorative Practices educational trainings, on-going skill-building workshops, and Community Conferencing services. Before joining CURes, she facilitated court diversion cases at the Community Conferencing Center in Baltimore, Maryland. She handled cases referred by the Maryland State's Attorney's Office, Department of Juvenile Services, Baltimore City Police Department, and Baltimore City Schools. She received her B.A. in General Studies with an emphasis in Psychology, Philosophy, and Business from the University of Missouri.
Emily Simso, Research Fellow
Emily Simso graduated from Loyola Marymount University in 2017 with a B.S. in Biology and a minor in Environmental Science. As the CURes Research Fellow, Emily manages undergraduate research projects and interns, assists with ongoing Center projects, and works with campus groups to support sustainability initiatives. Her research interests include developing green infrastructure solutions for climate change impacts and equitable access to urban green spaces. At LMU, Emily also works for the University's Treasurer to develop responsible investing policies following the United Nations supported Principles of Responsible Investing. In the future, she plans to work in an inter-sectional capacity to address the social justice impacts of climate change.