Researchers & Project Advisors
Adrienne Cachelin, Environmental & Sustainability Studies
—SPARC EJ LAB Director
"The SPARC lab has provided me the opportunity to collaborate with community researchers collecting data to inform environmental justice locally while creating educational pathways for students. Working with community partners and students to pursue research projects that shape graduate and undergraduate experiences while shaping local systems is the best part of my job."
Brett Clark , Sociology
—Qualitative Methods Research Advisor
"The community research projects being pursued within the SPARC EJ Lab consistently inspire me, given the transformative insights and the pragmatic actions generated through the work. Additionally, it has been wonderful to learn so much from the students and colleagues within the lab."
Brian Codding, Anthropology
—Applied Quantitative Research Advisor
"SPARC EJ provides an incredible framework to integrate student scholars, community partners, and university researchers on an even field where everyone can work together to solve common problems. This model elevates everyone involved as we all learn from one another in the process of conducting applied research around environmental justice."
Danielle Endres, Communication
—Energy Sovereignty Projects Research Advisor
"I’ve engaged with environmental justice as a guiding framework in my research for years and have worked informally with community organizers and practitioners in projects on nuclear decolonization on Indigenous lands, climate activism, and energy democracy. As I embark on a new project that seeks to engage in more formalized community engagement methods and bring more undergraduate students into the research project, I am grateful for the SPARC EJ Lab’s networks, models, and collaborations that will deepen the centrality of tangible environmental justice outcomes from my project."
—IRC Community Garden Specialist,
International Rescue Committee
"The IRC partnered with the SPARC EJ Lab in 2019 to launch the New Roots Foodways for Health Equity Project, a collaborative photovoice research project developed by students and community members. Throughout 2020, several New Roots program members participated as co-researchers by taking photographs documenting food and its role in their lives to respond to the question: “What role does food play in your life?” The group used cameras to answer these questions, combining photos with words sharing their own individual stories. Co-researchers discussed the messages and themes they wanted to present and made a final selection of pictures representing their answer to the research question. In this way, the results of the photovoice project represent the group’s message about how food builds both identity and community. This exhibit is currently on display at the Glendale-Mountainview Community Learning Center."
Leah Joyner, California State University, Sacramento
—Food Projects Research Advisor
My involvement in the SPARC Lab began in 2017 as a graduate student enrolled in the Food Justice course (ENVST 5558), through which I co-launched a CEL project that explores the connections between urban agriculture and food equity in SLC. Since 2017, I have worked with EJ lab students, faculty, and community partners to grow several related food-justice projects. After graduating from the University of Utah, I joined California State University, Sacramento in the Department of Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Administration where I am excited to continue collaborating with the SPARC EJ Lab.
Gilberto "Juan" Rejón Magana
—Coach and Executive Director,
Hartland Partnership for Youth and Families
"Hartland Community for Youth and Families (HC4YF) is a community development organization that addresses the needs of Salt Lake County’s underserved, at-risk and underrepresented population, including people who have refugee and immigrant backgrounds or identify as Latino/a. We are excited to partner with the SPARC EJ Lab on the Growing Educational Pathways for Food Sovereignty program because this program supports HC4YF's mission to provide a pathway to college for Salt Lake County’s at-risk and underserved youth."
Kate Magargal, Honors College
— Energy Sovereignty Projects Lead
"I am a researcher and educator who works with communities and land management agencies on issues of land tenure and energy sovereignty. I started working with students on community engaged research projects in 2017. By synthesizing diverse perspectives, my goal is to identify appropriate questions and methods for research in support of community-lead solutions to inequality in the production and distribution of energy. The unique curiosity and perspective of students enhances community relationships, adding depth to the connections made throughout the research process. The SPARC EJ lab facilitates such important relationships between students, communities, and researchers."
"University Neighborhood Partners has been working with the SPARC EJ Lab and ENVST students for several years on education pathways projects, and we are now excited to co-launch the Growing Educational Pathways for Food Sovereignty program. This multi-faceted course will be co-taught by community residents and SPARC members, taking place in various learning and community garden spaces both in our local school community and at the university. We look forward bringing together high-school youth, with local and university knowledge-holders, to explore and enhance how place, food-justice and belonging at the U of U campus are connected."
Jeff Rose, Parks, Recreation & Tourism
—Unsheltered Homelessness Research Projects Advisor
"Working with students, faculty, and community collaborators through the SPARC EJ Lab has really heightened existing environmental justice projects, and also catalyzed new ones. The students are insightful and critical, and they are eager to dive in experientially to these projects. I have also learned a bunch about the other projects that are going on in the lab, broadening my understanding of environmental justice."
Jennifer Shah, Geography & Environmental & Sustainability Studies
—Water Quality Research Projects Advisor
"As an ecosystem ecologist and freshwater scientist who dabbles in urban design, EJ is a newer dimension of my research. I recognize its importance through observations of people using urban rivers in a variety of ways, including the provisioning of basic necessities. I also have been inspired by students who are passionate about building better cities for all residents – whether home is a building or simply the place and the community of people with whom one resides. Working with the SPARC EJ lab, I have been able to solidify community connections and create pathways for students engaging in community-based research."
—Executive Director, Jordan River Commission
"The Jordan River Commission collaborates with the University of Utah’s Environmental Justice Lab and other community partners to better understand and respond to the situations of people experiencing homelessness, especially those who are drawn to Jordan River as a place of refuge. We work with local, state and national partners to find long-term solutions for permanent housing and supportive services to improve their lives and living conditions. We are currently supporting student researchers as they survey, interview, and engage with this hard-to-reach population so that we can collectively envision sustainable relationships for both people, and the sensitive and heavily impacted environment surrounding the Jordan River."
"The Glendale Mt. View Community Learning Center has been working with the University of Utah’s Environmental Justice program to promote educational equity and food justice in the Glendale community for 8 years. Through the SPARC EJ Lab, we have partnered with students at the University of Utah to better understand the role that community centers play in advancing equity, how our residents experience community centers, and how the CLC can be a partner in garden based education for food justice."
"Our office is currently working with students on two projects related to food equity in SLC. In one project, students are ground truthing data that will be used to help improve tools for public administrators and policymakers better to understand the various factors influencing food security across the city, identify areas with the highest risk for food insecurity, and inform policy and program interventions to support equitable food security and access for all residents. Students will also be working with us to research how food policy councils across the country can support urban agriculture, while protecting from unintended consequences such as gentrification."
"The Edible Campus Gardens have been working with students from the University of Utah’s Environmental Justice Lab for the past several years to explore how we can continue to implement an increasingly inclusive landscape and crop variety that is welcoming to a diversity of students. Through the SPARC EJ Lab our garden stewards have been able to connect their work to the visions of our community partners and we are looking forward to co-launching the Growing Gardens Growing Communities program."
"On some parts of tribal lands in the US four-corners region, up to 80% of people depend on wood harvested from nearby forested tribal and federal public lands for their daily needs. Our research collaborative works with community partners such as Utah Diné Bikeyah and the Bureau of Land Management to better understand aspects of the cultural and economic importance of this access to wood, and how we can plan for future access. Since 2018 we have engaged with students from the SPARC EJ Lab in fieldwork, data collection and analysis, and through community outreach and presentation of findings."
Current Student and Staff project Leads and Advisors
Blanca Yagüe, Anthropology
—Food Research Projects Lead
"I am an Anthropology PhD student doing dissertation work with Indigenous peoples living in and transitioning to urban spaces in the Colombian Amazon, where I study and support food sovereignty processess. I joined the Interdisciplinary Environmental Justice Lab in 2017 when I took the Food Justice course, ENVST 5558, as part of the Interdisciplinary Graduate Certificate in Sustainability program. Apart from all the collaborative work I have done in Salt Lake City with Leah Joyner and Adrienne Cachelin, I have been conducting a food ethnography of the East Central neighborhood in Ogden for Weber State University and OgdenCAN to understand peoples' relationship to food. As an activist academic, and I am part of different gardening and food justice iniatives and movements."
Casey Mullen, Sociology
—Air Quality Research Projects Lead
"Casey Mullen is a Doctoral Candidate in the Department of Sociology. Her research interests include environmental justice, social vulnerability to hazards/disasters, environmental health disparities, and community-based participatory research. Her engagement with ENVST's Environmental Justice Lab began in the Fall of 2018 when she served as a TA for the course and worked with students on a variety of projects. Casey's dissertation research involves a mixed-methods approach in order to examine the impact of air pollution on understandings and behaviors associated with the use of personal air quality sensors. As an air quality projects lead, Casey is currently working with community partners and SPARC Lab students to explore air quality and implications for environmental justice in the Salt Lake Valley."
Ellenor Chi, Medicine
—Food Projects Researcher
"I joined the Interdisciplinary Environmental Justice Lab in early 2021, assisting with qualitative coding for Urban Agriculture and Mutual Aid: COVID & Beyond. Currently, I am working on that project and Westside Mapping and the Creation of Food Apartheid. I am a medical student at the Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine at the University of Utah and expect to graduate in the spring of 2024. As I progress through my career and begin to practice as a physician, I hope to always recognize and bring awareness to environmental justice issues. They are undoubtedly a matter of public health."
Meghan Burrows, City and Metropolitan Planning
—SPARC EJ Lab Web Designer, Food Projects Researcher
"My involvement in the EJ lab began in 2019 as a peer mentor for the Environmental Justice course. My involvement continued through work as a CEL TA and through UROP as a student engaged with the Youth Environment and Belonging project. Since that time I have been working on a community guerilla gardening project in the Central City neighborhood of Salt Lake City. I am currently in the Master of City and Metro Planning Program at the University of Utah and expect to graduate in 2023."
Nicolas Hernandez, Communication
—Energy Democracy Researcher
"I joined the Interdisciplinary Environmental Justice Lab in 2021 and will be working with undergraduate students on a project related to energy democracy in Puerto Rico. I am currently beginning fieldwork for my dissertation on the discourse of just energy transitions and energy democracy in Puerto Rico. My previous experience working with marine biologists, human geographers, and civil engineers has given me a great appreciation for collaborative interdisciplinary research projects. I look forward to working with students in the lab who will assist with data analysis and perhaps grow into co-researcher roles in this project."
Talula Pontuti, Geography
—Food Projects Researcher
"Currently, I am a master's student in the Department of Geography studying food justice, agriculture, and climate change with goals of focusing on mixed methods community-driven research. I have worked on food-related projects at the city level, worked for nonprofits doing urban agriculture, and have been involved with other community-based programs. The SPARC Lab has given me the opportunity to be the Graduate Student Lead on their Corner Store project—focusing on food access and supply chains for corner stores in Ogden, Utah. This project is in partnership with the Ogden Food Council and the United Way of Northern Utah. I look forward to the continuation of relationship building with our community and students."
Kim Yapias, University Neighborhood Partners
"I got started in the Interdisciplinary Environmental Justice lab during my last semester at the U through the ENVST 3365 class, where I worked on the Growing Educational Pathways for Food Sovereignty Project. Little did I know it would be one of my most impactful experiences as an undergrad. This project continues to grow and develop, with an end goal of creating a permanent gardens course that will be offered to high schoolers in Glendale. I am excited for the future projects that this lab will develop because as a student involved in now of the projects it's amazing how much impact and progress could be made in a semester. It excites me that this project that started as a brainstorming session in January can turn into a program that brings the community together in the form of gardening, mentorship, and education access."
Sarah Tabak , Northern Arizona University
"My involvement in the Interdisciplinary Environmental Justice Lab began in 2019 as a peer mentor for the Environmental Justice course(ENVST 3365). In 2020 my involvement continued through work as a CEL TA. I was also involved with the New Roots Foodways for Health Equity project and the Intermountain West Community Gardens Inclusivity research project. Within that time, I graduated with degrees in Environmental & Sustainability Studies and Geography. I am currently in the Sustainable Communities M.A. Program at Northern Arizona University and work as the graduate student coordinator for the NAU campus gardens."