Dispatches from the Future
The Evolution of Chico State
Searching through his options, the student felt anxious. It was his last week as a graduate student at Chico State and he had to make a difficult decision. His ground-breaking research at the university had landed him two tremendous job offers. One was from a consulting company in the Bay Area, a worthy and lucrative offer. The other was from the Center for Biological Diversity, where he could continue the conservation research he really liked and knew to be making a big difference. Ever since the loss of the bees, California’s agriculture sector has declined. Farmers across the state relied on the bees for pollination and yields collapsed once they were gone. His research on promoting biodiversity and local resilient species, however, was helping farmers learn to adapt, and that ‘felt’ good.
Over the past few decades the climate had warmed by about four degrees Fahrenheit and ecosystems were forced to adapt to the rapidly increasing temperatures. Long periods of drought and extreme heat forced many species to adapt or migrate. Species unable to do either, like the bees, disappeared. Early in the century, species extinction was not often mentioned. Occasionally a species like the Rhino would become extinct, but it was so distant that it did not spur any action. Once the bees disappeared, however, people panicked because the bees were central to the state’s ecosystem. Soon wildflowers began to disappear along with species that relied on them, including agricultural crops. Scientists call it the 6th great mass extinction and they don’t expect it to stop with the bees.
From a young age the student saw many species disappear and devoted his studies to the outdoors where he aimed to reduce species extinction. Fortunately, he found the perfect school to further his research: Chico State. Like the student, Chico State’s biology program also saw the loss of important species due to climate change. Understanding that their curriculum would be affected with the loss of a diverse ecosystem, they adapted. Over time, the department shifted to a more generalized approach of biology. The curriculum focused more on ecology and conservation and required students to take environmental stewardship classes and conservation labs, as well as classes from other departments. Climate change effected the entire school and many disciplines were now offering transferable environmental classes, and students gained new perspectives through the interdisciplinary work.
Without these changes, the graduate student would not have been able to research species extinction as extensively as he needed to propose solutions. Many people benefited because Chico state had the foresight to adapt to climate change, including him. The job market was very dry but after graduation next week, he will be entering the work force. Without his time at Chico State, however, he might not have been so fortunate to receive two offers. He breathed a sigh of relief. By this time next year, he will be a proud alum working to make the world a better place.
-- Thomas McNairn