June 7, 2004
Undergrad makes the most of her two years at
By Jennifer McNulty
Arren Mendezona doesnt want to graduate. For this transfer student
from Sierra College outside Sacramento, two years at UCSC wasnt
Arren Mendezona has embraced environmental restoration to help
undo damage to the environment. Photo:
other outstanding UCSC students are available online at http://www.ucsc.edu/students/profiles/
I love it, I love everything, said Mendezona, 22, who
is graduating in June with a degree in ecology and evolutionary biology.
I feel like the time has gone really fast.
Mendezona has used the time well, pursuing her interest in environmental
restoration through a study-abroad program in Costa Rica, and taking
extra classes to squeeze in as many environmental studies courses as
She has helped conduct research for a study of global climate change,
and oh yes, in her spare time she coordinates interpretive tours of
UCSCs upper campus, where visitors see firsthand the way the landscape
has rebounded from logging a century ago.
Born and raised in the Philippines, Mendezona has embraced restoration
as a tool to help undo environmental damage.
The Philippines is very environmentally degraded, she said.
Theres hardly any of the virgin forest left, and the coral
reefs are in jeopardy. I felt restoration was a solution to the problems
I saw around me as I was growing up.
She moved with her family to the United States at the age of 18 after
one year of college, and transferred to UCSC after two years at Sierra
Restoration is really applicable to anything, but its crucial
in the tropics, said Mendezona. Its almost like playing
God. You have to decide the level of restoration youre after,
and whether to let an area recover on its own or to push it. Its
complicated, very political, and very, very expensive.
After two quarters on campus, Mendezona enrolled in the UC Education
Abroad Program and spent spring quarter at the Monteverde Institute
in Costa Rica, participating in the Tropical Biology and Conservation
Costa Rica reminded me of the Philippines in my dreams, before
the degradation. Theyre at the same latitude, said Mendezona.
Students conducted independent research projects and presented their
work during a symposium at the end of the term. Ive never
gotten so much support in my life, recalled Mendezona, who documented
the return of saplings to a grazed pasture. Each student had two
faculty sponsors, and they were always helping us. They even delivered
pizza to us at midnight.
Returning to Santa Cruz, Mendezona crashed more environmental
studies courses. I feel like Im more an environmental studies
student than biology student, but I had more transfer credits for biology,
said Mendezona. In environmental studies, they dont just
complain about environmental degradation, they do something about it.
For her part, Mendezona coordinated public outreach for the UCSC Natural
Reserve System. As a Chancellors Undergraduate Intern, she earned
academic credit for her work with Natural Reserve director Margaret
Fusari. As the coordinator of public tours of the upper campus, Mendezona
helped ensure that school groups and visitors saw firsthand the power
of environmental restoration.
When you look at the campus today, its so beautiful, but
it was heavily logged years ago--there are still old logging roads that
cut through the redwood forest, said Mendezona.
Another highlight of her senior year was taking Michael Loiks
Plant Physiology course and participating in a weekend research
trip to the Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Laboratory near Mammoth.
In the heart of winter, she shoveled snow from shrubs to gather growth
data for a longitudinal study of precipitation thats part of a
Mendezona loved getting a chance to use state-of-the-art equipment,
and she said fieldwork gives students unparalleled access to professors.
It really creates a bond between professors and students,
she said. I felt so incredibly lucky to be in that research station,
and over the course of the weekend, he talked to every student in the
class--about the class, about life, everything.
After graduation, Mendezona will return to the Philippines to intern
in a marine protected area in Cebu. Her long-term plans include graduate
school in environmental studies.
Discussing her commitment to ecology, Mendezona described a moment
during her field study in Costa Rica.
I remember looking out over this vast forest, and my teacher
said to me, You know, 10 years ago, that used to be pasture.
And I thought, Wow, there is hope.
Return to Front Page