Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact, August 2016

Spotlight on Lyandra Dias:  UCSF’s New Sustainability Coordinator

After a recruitment with over 100 applicants, Lyandra Dias has joined the UCSF Office of Sustainability staff as its new sustainability coordinator. With a Masters in Environmental Science and Management from the Bren School at UCSB, a BE in Biotechnology and experience in carbon accounting, life cycle assessment, communications, data management, web design and laboratory research, she brings a unique set of skills and experience to UCSF. Lyandra is already making an impact. “Lyandra has jumped in with both feet and is taking on more and more responsibilities while adapting and learning as she goes.  I am impressed with how quickly she has picked up her database management responsibilities.  Already, she is a great asset to the office,” explained Gail Lee, UCSF Sustainability Director.

We had the opportunity to explore a few questions with Lyandra.  Read on to learn more about her interest in sustainability and vision for UCSF.

1. What sparked your interest in sustainability?
I can’t pinpoint to one spark, but I have been passionate about the life sciences from very early on. I started out in the biotechnology engineering realm, and it was when conducting research on how microbes can be used as environmental pollutant detectors that I was exposed to the broader impacts of climate change. And the more I learned, the more inclined I felt to do something. These important realizations led me down what has been a path of extremely rewarding work and experiences in the field of sustainability and healthcare. It is truly joyful to now be working at UCSF in a field I am so passionate about.

2. How do you see the connection between health care and sustainability?
When you think about it, aren’t most health problems primarily tied to the environment we are in? Climate change affects our weather, the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink and either exacerbates existing health problems or sets a precedent for new ones. Long-term human health depends on the quality and continuity of nature’s resources. Currently, I think the two are viewed as separate just because the connection is not as obvious, and that is exactly what we’re working to shed light on here at UCSF - helping to make the connection between health and climate.

3. What are you most excited about in your new position?
I’m excited that through this role I get to work on direction for UCSF to be more sustainable and to achieve its goal of carbon neutrality by 2025. I love that my day-to-day work consists of working on projects that are very different from each other, from sustainability data analysis to learning more about greening lab operations. Most recently, I’ve enjoyed working on the launch of our new “Making the connection between climate change and health” campaign. I also enjoy working with members of the sustainability steering committee team and finding ways to help make stronger connections between very busy people and departments.

4. What is one thing about yourself we might not know if you didn’t tell us?
That’s a fun question! I can’t think of one big thing, but a bunch of small, somewhat quirky, things like I’m good at the hula hoop and would probably ace a hula hoop challenge (why do those not happen more often?) As a kid, I was crazy about the Harry Potter series (still am!) and named my pet canary “Hedwig” after his owl. Having grown up in a desert, my idea of a camping trip, before I came to California, used to be under vast open skies surrounded by miles and miles of sand dunes. And last but not the least, I make a mean lemon tart, so come by and let me know if you’d like me to bake some!

5. What one call to action would you ask of the UCSF community?
I know how disheartening and overwhelming climate change news can sometimes be. So one call to action I have for the UCSF community would be to stay positive and engaged. Draw inspiration from and be an inspiration to your peers, friends and colleagues. It is through remaining informed and optimistic that we can collectively minimize our environmental impact. How does one do this when all we hear about is the impending doom followed by lack of any action? I usually look to the amazing solutions and great progress already being made out there. New solutions such as producing energy from falling rain drops to the seemingly outlandish, but probable, means of sustaining food systems with lab-grown meat, have me looking at the bright side.

6. What had your experience been in your first 120 days? Surprises?  Biggest challenge?
Something that was both a challenge and a surprise to me was when I worked on two of our big annual sustainability events – it was a challenge because I had not tried my hand at event planning before and never realized how many moving parts there could be! And I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the planning process, particularly because everyone I worked with made it so much smoother and fun.