Who We Are

We are a group of academics, environmental professionals and community partners committed to improving the quality of life in our urban communities, especially those that have been historically under-served. We have expertise in urban social-ecological science, policy, natural history, film, and educational practices.

Eric Strauss, PhD, Executive Director

Eric EDITEDDr. Eric Strauss serves as President’s Professor of Biology at Loyola Marymount University and Executive Director of CURes. With collaborative research specialties in animal behavior, endangered species management, urban ecosystems and science education, Eric has extended the model for faculty scholarship by co-founding the Urban Ecology Institute in Boston while he served as a faculty member at Boston College and CURes in LA, both of which provide educational, research and restoration programs to under-served neighborhoods and their residents. In addition, Dr. Strauss is the Founding Editor of a web-based peer-reviewed journal, Cities and the Environment, which is funded in part by the USDA Forest Service. His research includes collaborative long-term studies of coyotes, White tailed deer, crows, turtles and other vertebrates, with a specialty in understanding wildlife in urban areas and the appropriate management responses to wildlife problems and zoonotic disease. His work also includes investigating the role of green space and urban forests in supporting of healthy neighborhoods and how those features can be used to improve science education and restorative justice. He has co-written multi-media textbooks in biology and urban ecology as well as hosting multiple video series on the life sciences and ecology. Dr. Strauss received his BS in Mass Communication from Emerson College and Ph.D. in Biology from Tufts University in 1990.

Email Dr. Strauss: eric.strauss@lmu.edu


Michele Romolini, PhD, Director of Research

Michele EDITEDDr. Michele Romolini specializes in social scientific research related to urban ecology, with main areas of expertise in environmental governance and green infrastructure. As the CURes Director of Research, she works to develop new research collaborations, secure funding for projects, and integrate social and ecological research questions. Dr. Romolini leads three main projects: 1) LA Stew-MAP, a project to inventory and map the environmental stewardship activities conducted by organizations in Los Angeles, 2) LA Tree Canopy Assessment and Prioritization Project, a collaboration with University of Vermont and Savatree that uses fine resolution imagery and LiDAR data to produce parcel-level analyses of existing and possible tree canopy, and 3) Baldwin Hills Park User Study, a longitudinal analysis of park user behavior and attitudes. She works closely with faculty at LMU and other universities, USDA Forest Service scientists, and non-profit leaders. She received her PhD in Natural Resources at the University of Vermont, and a Master’s of Environmental Studies and BA in Biology at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Romolini teaches courses on both social and ecological topics, and mentors independent student research. Students are invited to contact her about research opportunities.

Email Dr. Romolini: michele.romolini@lmu.edu


Peter J. Auger, PhD, Senior Scientist & Operations Manager

Auger EDITEDDr. Pete Auger is a wildlife field biologist with particular interest in experimental design associated with animal consciousness and behavior. He has designed and conducted environmental research studies on insects, reptiles, birds and predatory mammals and has developed innovative methodology to incorporate both students and educators into these investigations.

Dr. Auger holds an undergraduate degree from Amherst College and a Ph.D. in Biology from Tufts University. He has received numerous teaching and coaching (baseball) awards at the high school, college undergraduate and graduate levels. His current research focuses on common and endangered wildlife species in Southern CA, Cape Cod, MA and Costa Rica.

Email Dr. Auger: peter.auger@lmu.edu



Shinina T. Butler, JD, LLM, Restorative Practices Specialist, Restorative Justice Project

Shinina worked as a corporate and consumer rights attorney for more than 14 years before joining the CURes team.  She obtained an LLM in conflict resolution in 2007, and she has  extensive experience mediating, facilitating and training youth and adults in diverse contexts. Her work includes conflict resolution training for students and educators and peer mediation implementation in Los Angeles elementary and middle schools.  She uses restorative justice principles to mediate youth victim-offender and family cases, and she facilitates dialogues with communities on public issues and policies.  Shinina has been working with Mediators Beyond Borders for over three years as co – team leader of their Uganda project.  The team is collaborating with local organizations in southwestern Uganda to assess land related conflict dynamics and develop a system to manage the disputes. Shinina received a B.A. from Brown University, J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania Law School and an LLM from the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution – Pepperdine University School of Law. 

Email Shinina: shinina.butler@lmu.edu


Lisa Fimiani, Gottlieb Environmental Leadership Fellow


Lisa Fimiani received the inaugural Dan and Susan Gottlieb Environmental Leaders Fellowship with Loyola Marymount University’s Center for Urban Resilience (CURes). Having served the Center as a Fellow since 2011, Lisa will expand her efforts to reach more students and teachers through the Urban Eco Lab curriculum being updated by the Center, focusing on birds and native plants as natural teaching tools of the environment. As part of her responsibilities Lisa will also serve as an ambassador to support other CURes staff members in the community with education initiatives, as well as represent CURes at events and functions. Over the past 30 years Lisa acquired extensive knowledge of birds, insects and other wildlife in Southern California as the Friends of Ballona Wetlands Executive Director for 7 years, Docent at the Ballona Freshwater Marsh for 14 years, and Board member for 20 years. Lisa has also served 16 years on the Audubon California and Los Angeles Audubon Society non-profit Boards. Her understanding of urban interfaces and nature in the second largest city in America has given her practical experience dealing with associated challenges and qualifies her as an ideal urban “naturalist.” Lisa has installed many native plant gardens and restoration sites and will be supervising the department’s efforts to put in gardens throughout Southern California as part of CURes’ initiatives. Lisa will also be working on select operational activities to ensure the Center for Urban Resilience at LMU runs smoothly and efficiently. Lisa comes to CURes from The G2 Gallery where, in October of 2017, she helped transform the focus of the environmental photography gallery and Gottlieb Native Garden into exciting new realms. Lisa got her B.A. in Mass Communications from the State University of New York at Buffalo, and is a locally certified Master Gardener and Restoration Specialist.

Email Lisa: lisa.fimiani@lmu.edu


Schoene Mahmood, Restorative Justice Specialist, Restorative Justice Project

Schoene EDITEDMs. Schoene Mahmood brings over a decade of experience implementing Restorative Practices programs at schools and facilitating court-diversion cases within the Juvenile Justice System. She currently serves as the Restorative Justice specialist at CURes. In partnership with Los Angeles area schools, Schoene provides Restorative Practices educational trainings, on-going skill-building workshops, and Community Conferencing services. Before joining CURes, she facilitated court diversion cases at the Community Conferencing Center in Baltimore, Maryland. She handled cases referred by the Maryland State’s Attorney’s Office, Department of Juvenile Services, Baltimore City Police Department, and Baltimore City Schools. She received her B.A. in General Studies with an emphasis in Psychology, Philosophy, and Business from the University of Missouri.

Email Schoene: schoene.mahmood@lmu.edu



Emily Simso, Research Fellow

Emily Simso graduated from Loyola Marymount University in 2017 with a B.S. in Biology and a minor in Environmental Science. As the CURes Research Fellow, Emily manages undergraduate research projects and interns, assists with ongoing Center projects, and works with campus groups to support sustainability initiatives. Her research interests include developing green infrastructure solutions for climate change impacts and equitable access to urban green spaces. At LMU, Emily also works for the University’s Treasurer to develop sustainable investing policies following the United Nations’ Principles of Responsible Investing. In the future, she plans to work in an inter-sectional capacity to address the social justice impacts of climate change.

Email Emily: Emily.Simso@lmu.edu



Fellows & Affiliates

Maria Curley, Science Education Consultant & Editor

Maria Curley is an education specialist, working in partnership with CURes and the Center for Equity for English Learners (CEEL) at LMU’s School of Education. In her role as an education consultant, Maria works on science curriculum for grades 4-8 as part of the QUEST grant (Quality Urban Ecology Science Teaching), to make science accessible to Long Term English Learners (LTELs) with the goal of improving their science achievement and engagement. Maria also assists with and conducts teacher professional development and provides teacher and school site support.  In addition to her support of educational initiatives, Maria also serves as Managing Editor for the web-based peer-reviewed journal, Cities and the Environment (CATE), which is funded in part by the USDA Forest Service. Maria earned a BA degree in Sociology from the University of California, Riverside in 1988, with special interests in family counseling and law.  She also earned a Master’s degree in Education in 2009 from Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. She holds a professional teaching licensure in all subjects for grades 1-6 and a professional science teaching licensure for grades 5-8.  Maria also holds an additional Sheltered English Immersion (SEI) certification for teaching ELLs. Maria has taught in all the elementary grades, and seven years in middle school science, reading, and ELA, utilizing SEI instructional strategies with ELLs in her classes.  Maria’s professional goals include continuing to work with local teachers and schools to provide quality urban ecology science education to students and to increase environmental awareness and equity.

Email Maria Curley: maria.curley@lmu.edu


John H. Dorsey, PhD, Senior Faculty Fellow 

Jogn EDITEDJohn Dorsey received his B.S. in Marine Biology (1972) and M.S. in Biology (1975) from California State University, Long Beach, then traveled to Australia where he received his doctorate from the University of Melbourne in Zoology (1982). Presently he is a Professor at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, in the Department of Civil Engineering & Environmental Science where he teaches courses in environmental, atmospheric and marine sciences. Prior to LMU, he worked as a marine biologist for the City of Los Angeles (1983-2002), focusing on marine monitoring in Santa Monica Bay and storm water management. John sits on numerous local and state technical committees dealing with water quality issues and policy, and is past-president of the Southern California Academy of Science where he remains an active member of their Board of Directors and Research Training Program for high school students. His research interests focus on the dynamics of fecal indicator bacteria in coastal waters and wetlands. John’s passion for good water quality is natural — he is an avid surfer, so most days he can be found at dawn surfing at El Porto near his home and LMU’s campus.

Email Dr. Dorsey: john.dorsey@lmu.edu


Erich Eberts, Graduate Fellow

Erich Eberts is a graduate student in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Toronto Scarborough. Erich received a B.S. in Biology from Loyola Marymount University in 2016, and served as the 2016-17 CURes Research Fellow. His research interests include avian ecology in the context of the urban ecosystem and global climate change. While at CURes, Erich worked on projects including hummingbird nesting ecology, least tern-american crow interactions at Venice Beach, and crow cognition, but his main area of interest was in developing a study to quantify the energetics associated with nesting female hummingbirds using thermal imaging. This work was a primary factor in securing his position at University of Toronto. Erich continued his affiliation with CURes as a graduate student, utilizing the LMU campus as a field site and engaging LMU undergraduates in his work.

Email Erich: ebertser@gmail.com


Gregory Ruzzin, MFA, Faculty Fellow 

Bio coming soon.

Richard Shope, EdD
, Community Science Fellow

Shope EDITEDRichard Shope is a science educator who directs research, education and workforce development programs for urban youth. He is the Vice President of the World Space Foundation; Program Development Officer at the Youth Science Center (as a Consultant with Shope Performance Group); Founding Director of Urban Science Corps; Director of EcoVoices at the San Gabriel River Discovery Center and Artistic Director of the Sci Mi Theatre.

Prior to coming to CURes, Shope was the Science Communicator and Educator for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory for 15 years, where he coordinated education and outreach programs for various flight projects at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.  Through this program, he focused on reaching urban youth and rural American Indian youth nationwide. With over 40 years of experience as a poet, mime artist, and educator, Shope is known for his abilities to communicate science through narrative mime.  He first encountered the art of mime in the midst of university studies in intercultural communications. Mentored by Marcel Marceau and Mamako Yoneyama, he has performed as a professional mime artist since 1971. He created Mimewrighting, a kinesthetic teaching method that has reached over a million schoolchildren, nationwide and throughout Mexico. Shope holds a B.A. degree at Antioch University Los Angeles; M.S.Ed. and Ed.D. degrees in Science Education at the University of Southern California. Research/Practitioner interests include: inquiry-driven informal science education and teaching for conceptual change. He has served on the Board of the California Association for the Gifted, the Los Angeles County Science & Engineering Fair Committee and the Governing Board of the Ambassador School of Global Leadership.


Sarah Bruce-Eisen, Rains Research Assistant

Sarah is a senior Biology major at LMU from Seattle, WA. She works for CURes as a Research Intern and Data Analyst through RAINS. After earning her B.S. degree, Sarah plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Astrobiology.