Bren School Faculty Member Receives First David A. Siegel Director’s Award
Written by Bailee Abell.
Studying environmental issues from a multidisciplinary lens is hard work—and one hardworking faculty member is reaping the benefits. Naomi “Christina” Tague is the 2017 recipient of the David A. Siegel Director’s Award, an award established in recognition of David Siegel’s leadership and commitment to developing and sustaining interdisciplinary research. Dr. Siegel served as Director of the Institute from July, 2002, through June, 2016. As the first recipient of this newly established award, Tague is an instructor and faculty member in the UCSB Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, where she specializes in hydrology and ecosystem processes.
“I am deeply honored to receive this award—I very much value being a part of the ERI and UCSB environmental science community,” Tague said. “The research that ERI supports tackles cutting edge environmental science questions, makes theoretical advances, and helps to solve pressing environmental problems. It feels great to be part of that and I am honored to be acknowledged as a valuable contributor.”
Tague was originally drawn to UCSB because of its global leadership in environmental science. “It’s an exciting place to work—the high level of science expertise combined with a culture that really does support collaboration across disciplinary boundaries is very attractive,” she opined. “It is a place that supports thinking outside of many boxes.”
Tague was nominated for the award by her colleague, fellow faculty member Sarah Anderson. Anderson—who worked closely with Tague on a program studying how land management strategy can confront the risks and consequences of wildfire—stated in her nomination that Tague “demonstrates exceptional scientific leadership and has developed thriving interdisciplinary projects.”
Tague and her team were awarded a four-year grant by the National Science Foundation with the goal of building a multidisciplinary model of human-nature interactions and wildfires. As the lead designer for the model, Tague examines how fire impacts forest health, water, and human resources, as well as how human impacts on the landscape can influence these interactions.
“Because I am one of the PIs on the project, I can speak directly to her leadership role,” Anderson wrote. “It can be tricky to lead colleagues, but I think the entire group would concur that Naomi leads. She does so gracefully and with deference to the roles and expertise of the others...Naomi thrives at conceptualizing the interdisciplinary interface and then bringing researchers together around that. For our project, we call her the ‘brains’ of the modeling.”
This research project is related to the importance of climate change, human involvement in it, and its impacts on the environment. Tague believes that society needs to understand the way our actions impact the ecosystems and water resources that humans rely on. “Understanding climate change impacts and developing strategies to mitigate the risks involved are central goals of my research,” she said. “We need to address climate change from many perspectives—adaption and mitigation—and we need well-thought-out, clear, and data-supported science to do this.”
Interdisciplinary work is highly valued at UCSB, and Tague’s work with ecohydrology showcases the importance of using multiple fields when researching environmental issues. “Ecohydrology is a two-way street: quote simply, plants use water and therefore impact both water quality and water quantity,” she said. “At the same time, water availability shapes what ecosystems look like and how they function.”
Tague explained that this interaction between hydrology and ecology is essential to understanding how climate change impacts qualities such as water resources, ecosystem health, forest productivity, and fire risk. Tague posits that ecohydrology is also central to understanding how urban design influences water resources, as well as the benefits of green infrastructure. The work of Tague and her team allows them to ask “what if?” questions and discover scientifically credible answers, linking economics with social science research that examines land management.
Tague supervises a group research project every year in which students tackle an environmental issue from a science-based yet multidisciplinary lens. Her upcoming project will address forest management in the Sierra National Forest. For more information on her projects, visit