Conference Speakers and Agenda

Here are short biographies of the currently scheduled speakers at the Saturday, December 1,  “National Energy Conference 2018 -- Climate Issues Update.”

Following the speaker information is the agenda of speaker panels.

See more details, and RSVP now to assure your place, at the Conference page.

For more information, contact Conference Coordinator Logan Thorne, 304-657-5455 [email protected]; or Friends of Blackwater, PO Box 247, Thomas WV 26292 304-345-7663, [email protected]

Keynote Speaker

Emily Calandrelli

Emily Calandrelli poses for portraits in the studio Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016 for the WVU Magazine The Last Word.
Emily Calandrelli, “The Space Gal,” is an acclaimed science communicator, Emmy-nominated television host, featured as a correspondent on the Netflix series “Bill Nye Saves the World,” and an executive producer and host of FOX's “Xploration Outer Space,” which airs in 100 million households each week.  She is also the author of the popular children’s book series, “Ada Lace Adventures” whose story centers on a mystery-solving 8-year-old girl with a knack for science and math, and which aims to promote STEM literacy among children. Emily has been featured at speaking engagements presented by Google, Pixar, The Space Foundation, and many more premiere organizations. She holds a B.S. in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from West Virginia University, and an M.S. in Aeronautics and Astronautics and in Technology and Policy from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She was raised in Morgantown and currently resides in San Francisco, CA.


Ann Chester

Ann Chester
Ann Chester, Ph.D. is the founder and director of Health Sciences and Technology Academy (HSTA) a campus/community partnership program initiated in 1994 which reaches out to 9th-12th grade under-represented students across West Virginia and supports them towards college and professional school.  HSTA has welcomed Friends of Blackwater’s “Kitchen Klimaate Science” programs into classrooms acros West Virginia.
Trained as a plant ecologist at Virginia Polytechnic and State University, San Diego State University and Duke University, Dr. Chester has taken her love of science and her expertise in engaging communities in partnership with higher education to help others capture their own potential. Dr. Chester’s work has been recognized nationally and regionally by the Association of Public Land- grant Universities (2010), Howard Hughes Medical Institute (2010,2006), and Crisis Magazine (2006). She received the national Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring in 2018 for the 2015 cohort of nominees.

Climate Change Communications

Amy Hessl

Amy Hessl
Amy Hessl is a professor of Geography at West Virginia University. She coordinates the Montane Forest Dynamics Lab at WVU, using information stored in the growth rings of trees to study the interaction between climate variability, ecosystem processes, and human activities in forested systems. In addition to regional research on topics including climate-induced forest transformation in northern West Virginia, Dr. Hessl and her graduate students have done extensive work on multiple continents, pursuing questions related to the climate of the Mongol Empire, climate change in modern Mongolia, and, most recently, past climate of Tasmania. The lab has published work in several scientific journals including the American Meteorological Society's Journal of Climate and has been covered in media publications such as the New York Times and the Economist. Dr. Hessl received a Ph.D. in Geography and Regional Development from the University of Arizona, Tucson in 2000, a M.A. in Geography and Recreation at the University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming in 1996; and a B.S. in Conservation and Resource Studies and a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of California at Berkeley in 1992.

Brandi Gaertner

Brandi Gaertner is a doctoral fellow in the division of Forestry and Natural Resources at West Virginia University, where she studies the effect of climate change on Mid-Atlantic surface water resources. Brandi is a recipient of the prestigious STEM Mountains of Excellence Ph.D. fellowship in water resources and works on the Mountain Hydrology Laboratory at WVU, studying watershed processes, patterns, and trends to better understand how these systems respond to climate change. Since May 2018, she has been on the faculty of the Environmental Science department at Alderson Broaddus University. She has her M.S. in Environmental Biology from Clarion University of Pennsylvania, where she conducted research on the effect of large woody debris on brook trout populations in Pennsylvania. Additionally, she has her B.S. in biology with a minor in chemistry from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Tina Cartwright

Tina Cartwright
Tina Cartwright is an Associate Professor in the College of Education at Marshall University, where she leads several initiatives in science education, including elementary and secondary science education programs. Tina's teaching interests focus on the preparation of elementary and secondary science teachers and student understanding of climate change. Dr. Cartwright came to Marshall in 2007 as program director for the MU-ADVANCE program, a National Science Foundation-funded initiative that seeks to increase the role of women in science and engineering careers. Prior to her time at Marshall, Dr. Cartwright was director of the Applied Meteorology program at West Virginia State University where she developed and implemented a bachelor and associate degree program in Meteorology. Dr. Cartwright also served as the West Virginia State Climatologist from 2005-2008. She holds a B.A. in Geography from West Virginia University along with an M.S. and Ph.D. in Meteorology from Florida State University.

Michael Svoboda

picture of speaker Michael Svoboda for climate change conference
Michael Svoboda is an Assistant Professor of Writing in the University Writing Program at George Washington University and a Sustainability Fellow in the GW Sustainability Collaborative, which coordinates research, academics, and public engagement in sustainability. In his writing classes he alternates between the related themes of communicating climate change and political psychology. Since 2010, he has also been a regular contributor to Yale Climate Connections, for which he has examined how climate change is treated—or neglected—in advertising, movies, news media, political cartoons, political speeches, and TV dramas. His Jan 2016 WIREs Climate Change article, "Cli-Fi on the Screens," offers a comprehensive survey of fictional representations of climate change in film and on television; an update is planned for 2020. Dr. Svoboda holds a B.S. in Communication Arts from Cornell University and an M.A. in Speech Communication and Ph.D. in Hermeneutics from Penn State University. In between his M.A. and Ph.D., he owned and operated a bookstore, and from 1992–1998 he produced and hosted a weekly radio book revue on WPSU, the NPR affiliate operated by Penn State.

Dylan Selterman

Dylan Selterman is a professor in the department of Psychology at the University of Maryland-College Park. He is a social psychologist by training, with a background in developmental psychology as well. Dr. Selterman’s research interests include the dynamics of interpersonal relationships as well as morality and ethics. He may be most widely-known for his extra credit assignment that went viral and was covered in publications such as The Washington Post and National Geographic. The exercise illustrates Garrett Hardin’s ”tragedy of the commons,” which encourages moderated consumption by posing catastrophic consequences for abundant self-interest without regard for society. Using these principles Dr. Selterman has developed an interest in climate issues and activism, which rely on collective action and reducing consumption. Recently joining as a volunteer for Citizens’ Climate Lobby, he has developed strategies based on these principles to aid in CCL’s goal of gaining allies in Congress and the public. He holds a B.S. in Psychological and Brain Sciences from Johns Hopkins University, as well as an M.A. and Ph.D. in Psychology from Stony Brook University.

Josh Murphy

Josh Murphy
Joshua Murphy is a research assistant with the Center for Climate Change Communication at George Mason University, where he studies journalists and the challenges they face while reporting on climate change. Josh is a member of the Climate Matters in the Newsroom research project, which is aimed at identifying and understanding the needs of journalists who wish to report on climate change as a local issue.
He has held several positions within the mass media industry prior to graduate school, with the most notable being two years spent in radio from 2012-2014. The main goal of his current work is to understand and reduce barriers to climate change discussions/topics in the media in order to foster broader conversations about the issue in society.  He holds a B.A. in Media Production & Criticism and an M.A. in Health Communication from George Mason University, where he is currently finishing his dissertation to earn his doctorate by Spring 2019.

Controlling Methane Emissions

Andrew Williams

Andrew Williams is the Director of Regulatory and Legislative Affairs for U.S. Climate and Energy at the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). Andrew oversees EDF’s efforts to improve environmental performance and oversight of oil and gas production activities in the Appalachian Production Basin. He manages technical experts and policy advocates, and works with state officials, industry partners and NGOs. Andrew specializes in oil and gas law, energy finance, air quality policies, and corporate engagement. Before coming to EDF, he served as Vice President and General Counsel for Hickory Creek Ventures, a consulting firm devoted to advising customers on topics related to national energy trends, policy development, and emerging environmental issues. Andrew earned a B.S. in Environmental Science from Oklahoma State University and a J.D. from Oklahoma City University School of Law.

Joshua Fershee

Joshua Fershee
Joshua Fershee is professor of law in both the Center for Energy and Sustainable Development and Center for Innovation in Gas Research and Utilization at the WVU College of Law. In his research and teaching, Mr. Fershee focuses primarily on business and energy law, and has specific expertise in subjects such as energy infrastructure and safety, hydraulic fracturing law, renewable energy, and climate change risk and mitigation. His courses include Business Organizations, Energy Law & Policy, and The Energy Business: Law & Strategy. During his time as a practicing attorney, Mr. Fershee represented individuals and groups in matters before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), the U.S. Department of Justice, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, state utility commissions, and state and federal courts. Joshua earned a B.A. in Social Science from Michigan State University and a J.D. from Tulane University Law School. While at Tulane, he acted as Editor-in-Chief of the Tulane Law Review.

Zachary Barkley

Zachary Barkley
Zachary Barkley is a methane researcher in the Department of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science at Penn State University. In this capacity, Zachary works on NASA’s Atmospheric Carbon and Transport-America (ACT-America) project with the guidance of Dr. Kenneth Davis, calculating methane emissions from natural gas infrastructure in the United States. Zachary received both his B.S. and M.S. in Meteorology from Penn State University and is a native of northeastern Pennsylvania, where the natural gas industry has seen tremendous growth in recent years. His close proximity to the industry's growth allows Zachary a personal insight into the socioeconomic impacts, both positive and negative, of natural gas development. Zachary’s graduate work focused on estimating methane emissions from natural gas production in the Marcellus shale play of northeastern Pennsylvania and, more broadly, exploring the global consequences of local emissions from a climate perspective.


Kenneth Davis

Kenneth Davis
Kenneth Davis is a professor of Atmospheric and Climate Science at Penn State University. During his tenure, he has led several groundbreaking field studies to improve detection of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. These include NASA’s Atmospheric and Carbon Transport-America (ACT-America), the NACP Midcontinent Intensive regional study (MCI), and the Indianapolis Flux experiment (INFLUX). His research group uses a variety of comprehensive measurements and models to quantify the sources of carbon dioxide and methane in the climate system. Dr. Davis’s teaching and research interests include atmospheric physics, earth-atmosphere interactions, observational methods, and climate change ethics. He holds an A.B. in Physics from Princeton University and a Ph.D. in Planetary and Atmospheric Sciences from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Derek Johnson

Derek Johnson
Derek Johnson is a Research Assistant Professor in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department at West Virginia University, where he conducts research studies into areas such as alternative fuels, natural gas use, and methane emissions. Since 2013, his research teams have been awarded approximately $2.5 million in grants among several studies designed to investigate fugitive methane emissions from natural gas throughout the entire supply chain. Most recently, along with Dr. Omar Abdul Aziz, Dr. Johnson was awarded a three-year grant of more than $320,000 from the National Science Foundation to study methane emissions from gas well sites, with the mission of using new technology to better quantify lost emissions and reducing the current uncertainties between studies. Prior to his current position, Dr. Johnson was an engineer for CONSOL Energy, Research and Development. He holds a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from West Virginia University.

Omar Aziz

Omar Aziz
Omar Abdul Aziz is an Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at West Virginia University, with research interests into a diverse group of climate-related subjects including water resources engineering, wetland and forest biogeochemistry, carbon sequestration, and greenhouse gas emissions. He has studied the effects of CO2 and climate change on various hydrologic resources, including the Upper Mississippi River and Mackenzie River Basin, among many others. Earlier this year, along with Dr. Derek Johnson, Dr. Aziz was awarded more than $320,000 to study fugitive methane emissions from natural gas well sites. In 2015, Dr. Aziz was awarded the National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award, the most prestigious NSF award in support of junior faculty, given to those who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through research, education, and the integration of both into the mission of their organizations. He holds a B.S. from the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, Dhaka, an M.S. from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, and a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.

Putting a Price on Carbon

Kurt Waltzer

Kurt Waltzer is the Managing Director for the Clean Air Task Force (CATF). He is responsible for ensuring that CATF has the strategic and operating capabilities it needs to carry out its mission. In this role he provides oversight and support of organizational management and administrative activities, as well as ongoing development and implementation of organizational strategy. In addition, Kurt maintains a focus on Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Sequestration (CCUS) development and deployment under the Fossil Transition program. Kurt was an early advocate of CCUS in the environmental NGO community and has been working to promote it since 2001. He has led the development of federal and state incentive policies for CCUS and helped facilitate support for CCUS projects. He's authored and co-authored several reports and articles, as well as managed several economic analyses on low carbon fossil technology. Kurt holds an MBA from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan and bachelor's degrees in biology and economics from The Ohio State University.

Jim Probst

jim probst
Jim Probst is the owner of Probst Furniture Makers in Hamlin, West Virginia and serves as West Virginia State Coordinator for Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL), a national grassroots organization with the laser-focused goal of implementing a revenue-neutral carbon fee and dividend system. Such a system imposes a fee per tonnage of fossil fuels to the producer, returning the revenue to American households via a monthly dividend. Twice a year, Mr. Probst leads a group of climate-concerned West Virginians to Washington, DC for CCL’s conferences, which focus on lobbying members of Congress and their staff for common sense climate solutions. He is also active in planning and promoting climate-related events around West Virginia and persistently works to grow CCL’s membership around the state.


Solar Opportunities and Obstacles

Evan Hansen

Evan Hansen is the president of Downstream Strategies, a Morgantown-based environmental consulting firm, where he explores resource and environmental problems and solutions for water, energy, and land by managing research teams, performing scientific analyses, and developing computer tools, among various other responsibilities. Mr. Hansen has considerable experience working with watershed organizations and agencies on regulatory issues, has conducted training workshops for watershed organizations to promote informed public participation, and has managed projects and researched opportunities for a variety of renewable energy initiatives. He has also provided consulting services in numerous Asian and African countries. Along with Joey James, Mr. Hansen co-authored a 2017 study which examined the prospects of large-scale solar on degraded lands in West Virginia. He holds a B.S. in Computer Science and Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and an M.S. in Energy and Resources from the University of California-Berkeley.

Autumn Long

Autumnheadshot JPG
Autumn Long is the West Virginia Program Director for Solar United Neighbors, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to representing the needs and interests of solar owners and supporters. Autumn works to grow the state's community of solar supporters by providing education on the benefits of residential and commercial solar, advocating for solar-friendly laws and policies, and managing local solar co-ops across the state. Her written work on renewable energy has been published in local and regional media. Leading by example, Autumn resides on a solar-powered homestead in Harrison County, WV. She holds a B.Phil. in Anthropology from the University of Pittsburgh and an M.A in Geography from West Virginia University.

Conference Organizers

Tom Rodd

IMG_0020 (1)
Tom Rodd is the Project Director for Friends of Blackwater's Allegheny Highlands Climate Change Impacts initiative.
He attended Berea College as an Agriculture and Industrial Arts major and has a B.A. in General Studies from Fairmont State University.  He graduated from the West Virginia University College of Law in 1982, where he served on the Law Review Editorial Board and then worked as a Law Clerk for the Hon. James Sprouse of the Fourth U. S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
After working with Legal Aid, as Staff Counsel to the WV House of Delegates, and as an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney in Morgantown, his private law practice included award-winning statewide litigation and advocacy on environmental and consumer protection, energy efficiency, and toxic torts; representing citizens, local and state government, and advocacy groups. He also served as Director of the Consumer Protection Division of the WV Attorney General, and as Senior Law Clerk to Justice Larry Starcher of the WV Supreme Court.
Following his retirement from law practice in 2013, he was a participant in "Climate-Smart Conservation Strategies" (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Shepherdstown WV 2013) and "Turning Climate Impacts into Action" (Union of Concerned Scientists Climate Impacts Collaborative, Washington DC 2013).  He was the lead organizer of Friends of Blackwater’s 2014, 2015, and 2016 Climate Impacts Conferences; and is the creator and banjo-picking presenter (“Chef Tom”) of FOB’s  “Kitchen Klimate Science” programs in WV schools.

Logan Thorne

A West Virginia native and 2017 graduate of West Virginia University, he received a B.A. in Political Science to go along with a minor in Business Administration from the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences. In his senior year at WVU, Logan became involved with the Model United Nations Club, a decision which ultimately led to a growing personal interest in climate and energy issues. Upon graduation, he began volunteering with local and national conservation groups including the Morgantown Green Team, a group tasked with the goal of advising city officials on matters related to environmental sustainability, and attended Al Gore’s Climate Reality Leadership Training in October 2017. Since December of 2017, he has been a member of the Board of Directors for the West Virginia chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby, a national grassroots organization with the laser-focused goal of implementing a revenue-neutral carbon fee and dividend. Logan was hired as a program assistant by Friends of Blackwater in April of 2018 with the primary responsibility of coordinating the 2018 National Energy Conference. He lives in Morgantown with his beautiful dogs, Newman and Millie.

Conference Agenda

National Energy Conference 2018 – Climate Issues Update  

Speaker Agenda

9:00 – 9:10       Welcoming Remarks

Ann Chester, Director, Health Sciences and Technology Academy, West Virginia University

9:10 – 10:30      Communication: Our Most Important Tool for Solving the Climate Crisis

Joshua Murphy, Research Assistant, Center for Climate Change Communication, George Mason University

Michael Svoboda, Assistant Professor of Writing, George Washington University, Contributor, Yale Climate Connections

Dylan Selterman, Lecturer, Department of Psychology, University of Maryland

10:30 – 10:45    Morning Break

10:45 – 12:00    Climate Communication in the Academy, the Laboratory, and the Classroom: Voices of Experience

Amy Hessl, Professor of Geography, West Virginia University

Brandi Gaertner, Assistant Professor of Environmental Science, Alderson Broaddus University, Doctoral Candidate in Hydrology, West Virginia University

Tina Cartwright, Associate Professor of Science Education, Marshall University, Science Education Specialist, Cabell County Schools, Former WV State Climatologist

12:00 – 1:15      Lunch

Keynote Address

Emily Calandrelli (“The Space Gal”), MIT-engineer turned Emmy-nominated science communicator, correspondent for Bill Nye Saves the World, Executive Producer and host of FOX’s Xploration Outer Space, author of science children's book series, Ada Lace Adventures

1:15 – 2:45       Methane Emissions: What is the Present Danger, and What is Achievable?

Zachary Barkley, Researcher, Department of Meteorology and Atmospheric Science, Penn State University

Kenneth Davis, Professor of Atmospheric and Climate Science, Penn State University

Derek Johnson, Associate Professor, Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, West Virginia University

Omar Abdul-Aziz, Associate Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, West Virginia University

2:45 – 3:30       Methane Emissions: Surveying the Legal Landscape

Joshua Fershee, Professor of Law, West Virginia University College of Law

Andrew Williams, Director of Regulatory and Legislative Affairs for U.S. Climate and Energy, Environmental Defense Fund

3:30 – 3:45       Afternoon break

3:45 – 4:30       Solar Power in Coal Country: Obstacles and Opportunities

Evan Hansen, President, Downstream Strategies

Autumn Long, West Virginia Program Director, Solar United Neighbors

4:30 – 5:15       Putting a Price on Carbon: Where are We Headed?

Kurt Waltzer, Managing Director, Clean Air Task Force

Jim Probst, West Virginia State Coordinator, Citizens’ Climate Lobby

5:15 – 5:30       Closing Remarks

Rafe Pomerance, Chairman, Arctic 21, Former President, Friends of the Earth