2021 David R. Keller
Environmental Ethics Symposium

Women, Gender, and the Environment

Watch the recorded session through the embedded player or click below to find specific session recordings.

Our theme this year is focused on women working in environmental activism, research, and policy and discussions on how gender intersects with concerns for the natural environment. Presentations will highlight a few of the many different fields where gender and environmental issues materially or conceptually intersect: youth activism, indigenous rights, politics, outdoor recreation, and water science.

Schedule of Events

Wednesday, October 20th

9:00 a.m to
9:50 a.m.

Panel Discussion

"The Next Generation of Leaders"

Chloe Loveland, Biology Undergrad Researcher, UVU

Aarushi Verma, Sunrise Movement & Wasteless Solutions

Muskan Walia,  ACCESS Program, University of Utah

Moderated by:
Hilary Hungerford, Associate Professor, Geography, UVU

session video

10:00 a.m to
10:50 a.m.


"Settler Colonialism, Environment, and its Impacts on Indigenous Women"

Michelle Brown, Chair, MMIW+ Utah

Moderated by:
Thomas Bretz, Assistant Professor, Environmental Philosophy, UVU

session video


11:00 a.m to
11:50 a.m.


"All Forward: Negotiating Sexual Harassment in the Whitewater Rafting Industry"

Maria Blevins , Associate Professor, Communication, UVU

Moderated by:
Hilary Hungerford, Associate Professor, Geography, UVU

session video

12:00 to
12:50 p.m.

Keynote Address

"Women in Leadership: Planting for the Future"


A portrait of Luz Escamilla

Sen. Luz Escamilla

Utah State Senator,
District 1


Senator Escamilla holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Marketing and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Utah.


On November 4, 2008, Luz was elected to the Utah State Senate to represent Senate District 1, becoming the first Latina elected in the Utah State Senate and the first immigrant elected in the Utah State Legislature. She is serving her fourth term in the Utah State Senate after being reelected in 2012, 2016, and 2020. Senator Escamilla serves in the senate leadership team as the Senate Minority Whip.


In 2005 she was appointed by Governor Jon Huntsman as the first Director for the State Office of Ethnic Affairs. In this position, she oversaw the Directors of Asian, Black, Hispanic/Latino and Pacific Islander Affairs. For 14 years, she worked at Zions Bank where she most recently served as the Vice President of Community Development. At Zions Bank, she also worked as the Hispanic/Latino Market Manager and was the Director of Zions Bank Business Resource Center. Most recently, Luz accepted the position of Chief Operations Officer and Partner at MiCARE Network, a Utah-based healthcare startup focused on innovative solutions to care management. 


Luz lives in the west side of Salt Lake City with her husband, Juan Carlos, and their children.

session video


1:00 p.m to
1:50 p.m.


"Women and Water Science"

Weihong Wang, Associate Professor, Earth Sciences, UVU

Sara Porterfield, Water Policy Advocate, Trout Unlimited

Melissa Stamp, Project Coordinator, Utah Reclamation Mitigation & Conservation

Moderated by:
Michael Weeks, Lecturer, History and Political Science

session video


2:00 p.m to
2:50 p.m.


"Perfect Climate for Hunger: What it Means to be a Woman in the Global Climate Crisis"

Julie Ramos, Food Security and Clean Water Program Manager, Latter-day Saint Charities

Moderated by:
Michael Weeks,Lecturer, History and Political Science

session video

Speaker Bios

This is a picture of Maira Blevins

Maria Blevins

Maria Blevins Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of communication at Utah Valley University. Her research focuses on conflict and organizational and environmental communication. Before becoming an academic, she was a whitewater rafting guide for twelve years. Her current research focuses on sexual harassment in the whitewater rafting industry. She is a founding member of A-DASH, an anti-discrimination organization for river professionals. She received her BS in Outdoor Recreation Management from the University of Maine and Machias, MA in Communication from the University of Montana, and her Ph.D. from the University of Utah. 


This is a picture of Michelle Brown

Michelle Brown

Michelle Brown is a Dinè activist born into "The Water Flows Together" Clan. She is committed to serve her community and bring attention to everyday and historic issues that indigenous peoples face with emphasis on Murdered and Missing Indigenous Peoples. She currently serves as Chair to MMIW+ Utah and relies heavily on her belief that learning is an ever evolving process and that spiritually can be transformative at any stage of life especially when you place that energy back into your community.  


This is a picture of Chloe Loveland

Chloe Loveland (she/her)

Chloe is an undergraduate research student at UVU and majoring in biology. Her goal is to study marine biology in the Arctic during graduate school. She is interested in marine mammal behavior and physiology as well as biological oceanography, particularly as it relates to climate-ice interaction. Science education and communication are important topics to her, and she would like to do more work to support those who educate others on the intersectionality between climate and Indigenous peoples and the effects of the climate crisis on Native and Indigenous communities.


This is a picture of Sara Porterfield

Sara Porterfield

Sara Porterfield is the Water Policy Associate for Trout Unlimited’s (TU) Western Water & Habitat Program. Sara’s love of the Colorado River began during family road trips across the West. After college, she worked for the Colorado Outward Bound School where she has guided trips since 2005. After graduating from CU Boulder with a PhD in History, Sara founded Tributaries Consulting in 2018 to bring historical perspectives to the Western water community through research, writing, education, and public outreach. She started with TU in 2019, where she connects federal policies and programs with on-the-ground projects and with TU’s Colorado River Basin staff on the big issues facing the river today. 


This is a picture of Julie Ramos

Julie Ramos

Julie Ramos has worked for Latter-day Saint Charities—the Humanitarian arm of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saintssince 2017, managing the Food Security and Clean Water portfolios. Prior to joining LDS Charities, she worked as the Grants Manager at United Way of Salt Lake and spent 5 years working in Washington DC for Ashoka, an organization that finds and supports social entrepreneurs throughout the world. Julie holds a Masters in Public Administration from Brigham Young University with an emphasis in nonprofit management. 


This is a picture of Melissa Stamp

Melissa Stamp

Melissa Stamp works as a project coordinator for the Utah Reclamation Mitigation & Conservation Commission and serves as the lead coordinator for the Provo River Delta Restoration Project. Prior to joining the Commission in 2015, she worked as an Education Assistant at Red Butte Garden and spent 12 years as an environmental consultant on various water resource projects in Utah and other western states. She holds an M.S. in Watershed Science from Utah State University and a B.A. in Geography. 


This is a picture of Aarushi Verma

Aarushi Verma (she/her)

Aarushi founded a campaign alongside Sierra Club to commit Granite School District to 100% clean energy by 2030. She also serves as a speaker for Wasteless Solutions, a food waste diversion nonprofit, and is currently working on creating a youth guidebook to waste diversion education. In 2019, she represented the organization at the 68th UN Civil Society Conference and won the Rainforest Alliance Follow-the-Frog Giveaway for her food waste prevention advocacy. Aarushi also serves as a coordinator of the Salt Lake City Sunrise Movement Hub, where she works to elect Green New Deal champions to government.


This is a picture of Muskan Walia

Muskan Walia (she/her)

Muskan (Moose-Con) is a second-year student at the University of Utah Honors College, studying math and philosophy. In June 2020, Muskan launched a campaign with the Sierra Club Utah Chapter to commit Davis School District to a 100% clean electricity transition by 2030, and in all energy sectors by 2040. Muskan is a leader and mentor at U-YES, Utah Youth Environmental Solutions Network, where she supports the development of a new youth-based climate curriculum aimed at providing educational resources, mentorship, and organizing tools to young people in Utah to advance climate justice.


This is a picture of Weihong Wang

Weihong Wang

Dr. Weihong Wang is an Associate Professor in the Department of Earth Science at Utah Valley University. She graduated with a Ph.D. degree in Marine Science from the University of South Carolina in 2008. Her research interests include anthropogenic impact on wetland ecosystems, GIS and Remote Sensing applications, and Energy Use and Sustainability. Her current research is focusing on nutrient loading to Utah Lake and land use land cover classification within the Utah Lake Watershed using GIS-remote sensing techniques.

This event is sponsored in partnership with UVU's College of Science.

The symposium series is named in honor and memory of David R. Keller, who served as director of
the Center for the Study of Ethics from 1999-2013. Among his many virtues, David was a champion
for environmental stewardship and sustainability.