Maria Dahmus, Ph.D. - Post Doctoral Research Associate

Department of Forest Resources

Maria Dumas Maria’s research integrates environmental sociology and environmental policy. She completed her Ph.D. in May 2011 at the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin. Her dissertation examined coalitions among ‘unlikely’ partners in Minnesota that developed natural resource policy together. She is also interested in how our ideas about the ‘environment’ form and change, particularly through outdoor education and changing cultural ideals. Her Masters thesis (also at the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies) examined the American Dream in environmental education.

Before graduate school, Maria worked at the Outdoor Education Center in Texas, co-led backpacking trips in the Rocky Mountains, and taught scuba diving in the British Virgin Islands. She received a B.S. in Ecology and Conservation Biology and a B.A. in an interdisciplinary liberal arts program at the University of Texas; she also spent much time observing aquatic insects in rivers and streams.

In 2010, Maria joined TCHEP to investigate how social networks support household lawn care practices that promote water quality while maintaining a household’s preferred lawn quality and function. She is also examining the factors that influence homeowners’ lawn and yard care choices through surveys and small group discussions with homeowners in the Twin Cities. This research builds on TCHEP’s 2008 findings about nutrient fluxes in Twin Cities' households.

While not thinking about lawns and yards, she enjoys biking, swimming, and hiking.  She also loves dogs. She is interested in how people’s bonds with dogs influence community interactions, the design of urban spaces, and outdoor experiences.  She spends much of her time with her two big wonderful dogs, Mike and Sam.

Maria Dahmus completed her postdoctoral research with TCHEP in August 2012. She is now at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. She is working on integrating sustainability across the College of Arts and Sciences curriculum through various academic sustainability initiatives. She also teaches in Environmental Studies.

Cinzia Fissore, Ph.D. - Post Doctoral Research Associate

Department of Soil, Water, and Climate

Cinzia FissoreCinzia Fissore joined the University of Minnesota as a Post Doctoral Research Associate in the summer of 2007 after gaining her PhD in Forest Science at Michigan Technological University and her undergraduate degree in Forest and Soil Science at the University of Torino, Italy.

Porfessor Cinzia Fissore’s research is at the interface between soil science, terrestrial ecology, and atmospheric science, in the broad context of assessing the interactions of surface processes with, and their effect on, global environmental change.

With her work she has investigated the effects of anthropogenic and natural disturbances on soil processes and biogeochemical cycling of elements in alpine and forest ecosystem and, more recently, in agricultural and urban ones. Most of her research has focused on understanding soil carbon stabilization process rates and soil organic carbon decomposition temperature sensitivity and its implication to climate change. She also worked with collaborators at the University of Minnesota and State stakeholders to produce a report for the Minnesota State Legislature on the potential for terrestrial carbon sequestration in Minnesota.

As part of the TCHEP project, Cinzia Fissore worked closely with the other TCHEP investigators to estimate fluxes of macroelements such as carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus through households in the Twin Cities urban region and to understand how human activities and biophysical factors act as drivers of such fluxes. She was particularly interested in examining the variability of these fluxes through the households’ vegetation component.

Currently, Cinzia Fissore is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology and Environmental Science at Whittier College in Whittier, California. 

Nicholas Martini, Ph.D. – Post Doctoral Research Associate

Department of Forest Resources

Nicholas Martini photoNick completed his Ph.D. in July of 2012 in Political Science at the University of Iowa. His research has largely focused on the behavior, values and attitudes of individuals in different settings and contexts. His dissertation explored this in the context of ideology and foreign policy. In 2012, Nick joined TCHEP to investigate the causes of individual behavior and beliefs when it comes to household and yard care choices.

Nick is busy with a number of outside projects. He teaches a course in Political Science at the University of St. Thomas and is working on a number of research projects concerning public opinion and foreign policy. Outside of work, Nick enjoys exploring Minnesota with his wife and two children.


Daniel Nidzgorski - PhD Student

Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior

Daniel Nidzgorski photoDaniel Nidzgorski fell in love with ecology out in the deep woods, though his research these days finds him in Saint Paul's urban forest. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota, studying how urban trees affect the water quality of our local lakes and streams. His research compares different tree species to see if they can help reduce the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus entering local waterways and causing noxious algae blooms.

Daniel enjoys using urban ecology to bring science out into public view and right into people's neighborhoods, where he gets many questions about why he’s digging holes in the city parks or collecting leaves from the street gutters He is a member of Public Art Saint Paul's City Art Collaboratory project, bringing scientists and artists together to explore how we relate to the environment and the Mississippi River.

He is also passionate about working to increase diversity and inclusion in science and engineering, including founding Minnesota Queer Science to help shatter the glass closet. Outside of work, Daniel can usually be found out and about on a bicycle, getting around town or taking long rides exploring Minnesota's country roads.

Heidi Peterson , Ph.D.– Post Doctoral Research Associate

Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering

Heidi Peterson photoHeidi completed her Ph.D. in July 2011 in Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering at the University of Minnesota. Her dissertation focused on using a systems analysis, referred to as the Watershed Characteristics Approach, to estimate the renewable flux of the freshwater system. Upon graduating Heidi joined TCHEP to investigate how household food choices influence the upstream flux of nitrogen and phosphorus.

Prior to attending the University of Minnesota, Heidi consulted in the field of soil and groundwater remediation. She received a B.S. in Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences and a M.S. in Pedology and Land Use from Purdue University. Her decision to pursue a Ph.D. developed from her desire to further understand the engineering processes influencing the flow and availability of our freshwater resources. Heidi’s research interests include using her interdisciplinary background to evaluate how anthropogenic changes at multiple scales influence our environment.

Heidi has a passion for teaching; in addition to TCHEP, she teaches Soil and Water Conservation at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. When not in the classroom or office, she enjoys exploring nature together with her husband and three children.

Sarah Panzer Wien - M.S. Student

Water Resources Science

Sarah Panzer WeinSarah came into this project after obtaining an electrical engineering degree from North Dakota State University, after determining that she wanted to pursue work more directly related to people and their interaction with the environment.

Sarah’s master’s work focused on whether grouping households by certain characteristics (such as income, house age, and proximity to a lake) can help urban planners/policy figures better target programming and policy for better lawn management practices on an individual household’s landscape.

As a student in the Water Resources Science department, she has a more specific interest in urban water resources, which is why her work examines attitudes and behaviors that affect non-point source pollution of urban water bodies. Her research focuses on looking at whether groupings of households on the landscape, based on certain household characteristics, think and/or act similarly with respect to lawn management practices.

Throughout her work on the project, she has worked with numerous area Watershed Districts/Watershed Management Organizations to determine how information from this project can help benefit these governmental groups devoted to management of area water resources. She is also a member of the Water Resources Students in Action student group through her department, and enjoys having the opportunity to work on changes affecting students in the department, and various volunteer projects, such as raingarden plantings and park clean-ups.

Ouside work, Sarah enjoys volunteering for Big Brother Big Sister, playing soccer, running, biking, and cross country skiing. She is a youth soccer and cross country ski coach, likes to spend as much time outside as possible, and spends her weekends during the summer camping. One of her goals was to join the Peace Corps with her husband, and they are currently serving in Ghana.

Xinyi (Lisa) Qian, Ph.D. – Post Doctoral Research Associate

Department of Forest Resources

Xinyi (Lisa) Qian PhotoLisa received her Doctoral degree in Recreation, Park and Tourism Management from the Pennsylvania State University in August 2012. Her research has applied social and developmental psychology theories to examine the effect of recreation and free time use on health and well-being over the life span. Lisa joined the TCHEP team in late August, 2012, to study how personal factors interact with attitudes, norms and perceived behavioral control to influence planned and actual behaviors in terms of lawn care, energy use and car travel.

Lisa is also working on couple of projects outside the office, including publishing her dissertation work, and consulting for a project that examines free time use and alcohol consumption among undergraduate students. Outside of work, Lisa enjoys jazz, leisure reading, and exploring the great outdoors of Minnesota with her husband.

Past Team Members

Derek Burk - Research Assistant

Derek Burk photoDerek graduated from the University of Minnesota with a B.S. in Sociology and a minor in Mathematics in May 2009. During 2009 and 2010, he worked as a research assistant under Professor Kristen Nelson. Derek’s work is focused on statistical analysis of the social and psychological correlates of the flux-generating behaviors measured in the Household Survey, and he shares Professor Nelson’s interest in understanding the factors that influence households’ environmental decision-making.

Ingibjorg (Ina) Jakobsdottir - GIS Specialist

Ingibjorg (Ina) Jakobsdottir photoIna graduated with a Master's Degree in Geographic Information Science from University of Minnesota in 2007. She also has a Master's Degree in Urban Geography from Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Ina worked on the project from April 2008 till June 2010. She was responsible for the spatial aspect of the project in addition to designing and managing the database that stores the project data.

Christine Lee - Research Assistant

Christine Lee photoChristine recorded and organized the survey results into a usable dataset for the Researchers. Since completing her B.S. degree in Environmental Science, Policy and Management, Christine has been working for the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy.

Andrea Woodside - Research Assistant

Andrea Woodside photoIn May 2011, Andrea graduated from the University of Minnesota with a B.S in Environmental Science, Policy and Management, with a focus on Policy, Planning, Law and Society, and a minor in Anthropology. Andrea worked as a research assistant for Dr. Kristen Nelson since Fall 2008. Her work with the TCHEP project has progressed from household survey data entry to analysis and database management. She most recently worked on another component of the TCHEP project, focusing on urban lawns and how homeowners make decisions regarding their lawn care practices. When not at work, Andrea enjoys spending time outside camping, hiking, running and riding her bike. She also loves attending concerts and soaking up the Twin Cities’ great music and art scene.