For the Love of Wild Things

Rebecca Hernandez

Rebecca R. Hernandez

Assistant Professor, Earth System Science

UC Davis Department of Land, Air & Water Resources

CAMPOS Faculty Scholar

Rebecca Hernandez grew up in the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains among ample coastal sage scrub. She didn’t know at the time that it is one of the country’s most endangered plant communities, threatened by urban development and exotic species invasion.

Hernandez spent her childhood hiking and biking through the fragrant, shrubby foothills, home to a diverse mix of soils and plants, animals and invertebrates, including cottontails, monkey flowers and purple sage. “It was always a place where I could find peace and meaning, and it made a lasting impression on me,” she says. “It’s always been in my DNA to be a conservationist at heart because I care about organisms that don’t have a voice.”

Using science to reach environmental goals

Hernandez, who started teaching at UC Davis in January 2016, focuses her research on human-created problems, aiming to help us reach sustainability and environmental goals. She spends most of her time studying how energy systems such as solar, coal or natural gas impact the biosphere.

To further her work in energy ecology, Hernandez founded and co-directs the Wild Energy Initiative. The program brings together on-campus energy ecologists and interdisciplinary energy scientists to showcase their work on how energy systems interact with the earth’s systems and species, and how to solve sustainability challenges.

Hernandez also directs Aridlab, which studies human-created and natural changes to aridlands worldwide. Aridlands are water-limited habitats that comprise 40 percent of the earth’s surface and are home to one-third of humans and one-third of all farming. We need to understand them so that humans will continue to thrive there, she says.

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