Stanford University
Hiker in the hills

Stanford Earth Fund 2020-21 Annual Summary

Students descend a golden ridge in the North Cascade Mountains. Photo by Hannah Shabb, MS ’21.

Your support strengthens Stanford Earth

Every student has been lifted by your generosity and, for that, we thank you. Gifts through the Stanford Earth Fund were crucial in enabling the school’s immediate response to evolving needs through the 2020-21 academic year. With your gift, you made a difference for our students by investing in exceptional academics, critical research training, and personal and professional development opportunities like those described below.

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During this time of great change, I remain grateful for our Stanford Earth Fund donors. Your generosity has been instrumental in helping all of our students navigate an ambiguous year while fulfilling meaningful educational and professional opportunities.

This was possible because of you

Why I Give ...

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“I give to the Stanford Earth Fund to nurture my roots, from which I grew to become who I am today. By giving back, I honor not only the technical skill that I learned, but also the moral and ethical integrity that I received from my Stanford experience.”


– Paul Atkinson, ’71, MS ’73, PhD ’76 Petroleum Engineering


Annual gifts through the Stanford Earth Fund are more flexible than endowed funds, providing critical resources to rapidly adapt research and educational programs to changing circumstances. Creative modifications to existing programs this year enabled students to safely experience meaningful learning opportunities such as summer undergraduate research, graduate mentorship training, and field education.

Climate and community

Earth Systems major Bless Romo, ’22, got a crash course on developing, conducting, and analyzing qualitative interviews as a summer researcher in the Social Ecology Lab. Working remotely, she partnered with a climate justice nonprofit organization based in a small town on the central coast of California that is helping its community adapt and flourish as the climate changes.

“Getting to hear people’s experiences and narratives in their own voice is very powerful," says Romo. "Interviews are also great for understanding behavior, and one of the things we’re trying to do with this protocol is to understand how individuals and communities act in regard to environmental challenges.”

Refining mentorship skills

Mentoring an undergraduate student researcher this summer brought Emily Lacroix (left), PhD candidate in Earth system science, full circle. Her own opportunity to participate in soil carbon research as an undergraduate provided the spark that led her to graduate school, where she studies the factors that influence microbial respiration—and therefore carbon dioxide emissions—in agricultural soil.

Although fieldwork was put on hold during the pandemic, Lacroix was able to acquire soil from farmlands across the country and taught rising sophomore Gabby Barratt Heitmann how to collect and analyze DNA from the samples

“It feels nice to continue this legacy of thoughtful mentorship,” says Lacroix. “We also have a lot of fun in the lab, and it brings me great joy to see my students gain skills and confidence. It’s one of my favorite things to do as a graduate student.”

Advancing virtual field education

Unable to bring students to the field in 2020-21, Stanford Earth’s field education program brought the field to students with advanced virtual resources for locations ranging from Death Valley to Pebble Beach. These immersive visual tours can incorporate maps, video, and audio to provide a broad range of learning experiences. Even when in-person trips resume, these resources will enhance learning by augmenting field experiences, improving accessibility, and preparing students to participate in efficient, safe, and effective trips.

Explore virtual field trips

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With the support of Stanford Earth Fund donors, our students are cared for holistically, every year, with a suite of professional and personal resources that enrich their Stanford experience.

Plans into action

In addition to expanding its outreach programming last year, our DEI Office published a new action plan for accelerating diversity, equity, and inclusion at Stanford Earth. The plan is a roadmap outlining current and future efforts around diversity curricula and training; broad enhancements to the student, faculty, and staff experience; improved engagement; expanded hiring outreach and student recruitment; and measures for progress.

Read the plan
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Co-curricular training

In 2020-21, an average of two professional development workshops each month offered opportunities for students to leverage the school community and stay connected. Faculty-led Pro Seminars included Writing Op-Eds with Associate Professor of Geological Sciences Jane Willenbring and Juggling Life, Family, and Academia with Associate Professor of Earth System Science James Holland Jones. The popular peer SkillShare program broadened to include topics such as Code Management for Reproducible Research and Teach the Teachers: Setting the Foundation: Starting with Learning and Working Backwards.

March Madness Career Series

March Madness Career Series: Launching Your Career Search, a five-part series concentrated in the month of March, helped students gear up for the job search and look ahead to leaving the Farm. As a complement to workshops such as Getting Started on Your Non-Academic Job Search and Leveraging the Alumni Network, structured discussions with alumni representatives from different sectors offered insight into a variety of careers and fields.

Transformational tools

This year in EARTH 200P Professional Development Practicum, Stanford Earth students were guided in building out their own professional portfolios. Some articulated their teaching methodologies and research statements for the academic job search. Those seeking careers outside of academia developed professional materials such as portfolio websites that showcase their skills, creativity, and passion.

Meet our Students

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For more information:


Nicholas Heinzen

Associate Director of Annual Giving and Alumni Relations


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