By Alia Wilson
With continued successes achieved through ecological research, UC Santa Cruz graduate students such as Shaye Wolf continue to follow the blueprint for green success.
Currently working on her Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology, Wolf recently spent time in Baja California studying the condition of seabird populations along the Pacific coast of the United States and Mexico. During her research, she discovered that Chevron planned to build a liquefied natural gas terminal off of the Coronado Islands, where some of the densest colonies of seabirds reside.
Wolf submitted a petition to the Commission for Environmental Cooperation in May 2005, and prompted an investigation (that began last January) questioning whether or not Mexico violated environmental laws when it signed the Chevron contract.
Just last month, Chevron withdrew its permits from the project.
From the beginning, Wolf knew that the largest colony of threatened nocturnal seabirds, Xantus’s murrelets, would have been greatly disturbed had Chevron been allowed to build the terminal. Wolf felt that there had to be a flaw in the contract, so she approached her partner and husband Doug Bevington with her concerns.
“The terminal would have a tremendous impact on the Xantus’s murrelet,” Wolf said. “Even a single light bulb can separate a chick from its mother.”
Bevington, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at UCSC, was able to identify the legal tool necessary to aid Shaye in her discovery, which he found through environmental activism with help from law clinician Jay Tutchon.
“I worked on getting groups to sign onto a petition,” Bevington said. “These were groups that had expressed concern about liquefied natural gas terminals specifically, or about the environment in general.”
He explained that such petitions have been very successful in the United States because there is a lot wrong with such terminals.
“Chevron was trying to avoid U.S. laws to be at a place where it would be harder for the government to oppose the project,” Bevington said.
Bevington hopes this victory will inspire students to continue to do what they do best: learning and being active.
“It was neat how it worked out,” he said. “I’ve been teaching my own course on social movements, and just before the last day of class, we won this victory. It shows that people from all walks of life can make change and protect what they care about.”
Don Croll, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and adviser to Wolf, said that he encourages all of his students to get involved.
“A lot of students can do research, and get published, but not all student theses can be linked to environmental decision and conservation action,” Croll said. “It is a great model for students to get connected with science and environmental conservation.”