Richard S. Feldman

In the field of Environmental Science, Professor Richard S. Feldman adamantly emphasizes the importance of acting as an “environmental steward.” By this, he means for students to actively respect the environment and work to protect it. Feldman teaches a number of Environmental Science courses at Marist, advises the campus environmental club, and conducts related research.

What is your favorite class to teach and why?
Natural History of the Hudson Valley. It is a field-based course. We are outside just about every week for a few hours at a time and we are learning about the species that live in the Hudson Valley. My students are learning how to identify them and to appreciate their differences and their diversity. They learn skills of identification, especially of trees and flowering plants, and get introduced to identifying birds and fish. They make their own field observations into a field journal and they create their own pressed flower collection. So these are very tangible skills that they learn.

What of your own experiences do you incorporate into your classes?
I try to share what is relevant from my own background to emphasize points: whether about the natural world or environmental problems or being an environmental steward. I think that many students are very receptive to hearing about how their professor’s lives relate to the subjects that are being taught. I think it adds a little more weight to what we are teaching if we can say that we have done this. Whether it is exploring the diversity of the world (which I have done) or researching the effect of pollutants and finding solutions to environmental problems. All of that is part of my teaching and that is what I have done over the years.

In the past, you have taught classes that entail traveling with students. Are you involved in anything else like that?
In a month, I am helping another professor lead a trip to Peru. So I guess you could say it is a type of continuation (of past classes). The course is really Professor Espinasa’s but I am assisting with it. His course is called Field Biology and mine was Tropical Ecology.

What do you think students take away from this experience?
I think they are getting to appreciate different cultures first of all. Especially when it is in a less developed country, for many students this is the first time they are getting away from the conveniences of life in America. On a scientific level they are getting to explore new forms of life, new landscapes, again they are going beyond what is familiar, the climates are different. So they are thrust into the unfamiliar, both culturally and scientifically. I think this makes us more humble, maintains our curiosity and maintains our sense of awe of both the natural and the cultural world. Very importantly, I believe it makes us more sensitive to the rest of the world’s people and the life in those countries. Something that I advocate a lot is becoming a steward of the earth and I think the traveling helps to emphasize the role of each of us in being environmental stewards.

How else do you feel your classroom is unique?
I think my classroom has strengths even if they are not unique. The natural history class is unique, but my lecture classes I don’t claim to be unique. I claim to be enthusiastic. I claim to be relevant to what is happening. I claim to promote that the students stay current, that they become actively involved, that what I am teaching I believe to be of utmost importance for humanity and for the natural world and that what they are learning really matters. I don’t claim this to be unique, but to be what I emphasize - that we are not helpless, that we can make a difference, particularly as we join with others to become environmental stewards. My classroom is not just pure science; it is taking that science and making it relevant.

What projects are you working on right now?
Control of the Japanese Knotweed in the college nature preserve called Fern Tor. It is called Fern Tor Nature Preserve and is located at the North End of campus. Every summer I have one or two students who assist me with that.

What advice would you give to all types of students interested in the environment and getting involved?
One of the important clubs that we have on campus is Students Encouraging Environmental Dedication (SEED). They are the student environmental group on campus and they have a number of activities throughout the year. The other organization to be involved with is Campus Sustainability Advisory Committee (CSAC). A big thing they sponsor is Earth Week.

Watch a YouTube video featuring Professor Feldman and the Fern Tor Nature Preserve to learn more about his research.

Written by Sarah Gabrielli '18 

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Profile Tags:

Profile Type: Faculty
Academic School: Science
Campus: New York