Author & Contributor Bios

Aparna Katre

I am an eternal optimist, thinking about how the world around us can be better and brighter than it is today. Growing up in India and experiencing life in many large cities around the world, I now live in Duluth, MN, working as faculty and Director of the Cultural Entrepreneurship program at the University of Minnesota Duluth. I am privileged to study topics about sustainable development that have perplexed me, including those of small cities like Duluth.


Beth Mercer-Taylor

I got curious about energy systems as a child experiencing the depths of the 1970s oil crisis in Cleveland, but I didn’t turn into a zealous clean energy advocate until I moved to Minnesota in 2001 and met people who had a real passion for transitioning away from fossil fuels. In addition to leading up sustainability education programs at the University of Minnesota, I do a lot of community organizing and politics.  Offering students opportunities to get involved in current efforts where environmental justice and sustainability intersect is very rewarding and important to me. I believe that sustainability efforts need to center justice and reflect the voices of and priorities of Black, indigenous and communities of color.


Clement Loo

After spending the first few decades of my life trying to avoid frostbite growing up in the Canadian north, I now teach Environmental Studies and work in Equity, Diversity, and Intercultural Programs at UMN Morris. My teaching and scholarship focuses on food justice, the intersection of sustainability and equity, and identifying how academics can be better partners with communities. I spend my free time fishing, riding scooters, or aimlessly wandering around outside.


Cynthia (ChiJu) Wu

I was born and raised in Taipei, Taiwan, and during my junior year of high school, I became an exchange student in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. Living in a small town taught me to appreciate the beauty of nature.

I enjoy exploring the woods in the fall, looking at all the vividly colorful leaves. Working at the Institute on the Environment introduced me to a new level of sustainability; I’ve become familiar with social and climate justice, and as a communications assistant, I’ve been able to share with others my sustainability journey and tell the stories of experts widely.


Jess Larson

I was born and raised in Minnesota, and spent my early days learning at the elbows and kitchen tables of my grandmothers, aunts, and mom. Those skills feed my work as an artist and educator at the University of Minnesota Morris, examining relationships of clothing, handwork and gender roles.




Kimberly Byrd

My enchantment and fascination with the natural world began early with a love of animals, who I saw as ambassadors for other worlds. When I was 17, an extended hiking trip in the Wind Rivers of Wyoming sealed the deal. I teach lecture-based and experiential learning courses on sustainability, environmental ethics, ecological integrity, resilience theory, environmental psychology, and transformational learning at various universities in the Twin Cities. I live in Mahtomedi with my three delightful children and two overly enthusiastic dogs, and I love travel and adventure. I consider my house one big art project, and I love to cook and entertain. Curious minds are always welcome at my table. Come say hello!


Kristin Osiecki

I am a proclaimed city girl, aware of my surroundings and enthralled with industrial beauty. Swirling air plumes choked with pollution, sizzling welding sparks from old factory windows, and the decrepit and abandoned buildings covered in graffiti. As a health inequity and environmental injustice researcher, I try to understand the complex relationships between humans, nature, and place in our communities. I am a very passionate public health assistant professor at UMN Rochester, and embrace engaged and experiential learning inside and outside the classroom. I am begrudgingly finding my inner Minnesotan outdoor goddess, with primitive camping, kayaking, and buckthorn eradication.


Peter Levin

I grew up playing out in the New Mexican sunshine, where I started my own relationship with nature. Since then I’ve worked with people from preschoolers to youth to professors to support their understandings of the world we live on. I received a MS in Environmental Education with a focus on early childhood education. Currently, I am teaching middle schoolers life science while pursuing a doctorate in science education at UMN Twin Cities.


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Embodying Sustainability: Stories from Our Headwaters Copyright © 2021 by Clement Loo; Aparna Katre; Beth Mercer-Taylor; Kimberly Byrd; Kristin Osiecki; Jessica Larson; and Peter Levin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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