About Rachel's Work
O'Malley's dissertation work took her to Asia, Africa, Latin America and finally the upper Sacramento Valley of California--where she used theory from community ecology to help assess impacts of rice management practices on wetland insects and spiders. She is now serving on the faculty of Environmental Studies at San Jose State University in California where she focuses primarily on research topics and systems local to the San Francisco and Monterey Bay watersheds. The rich Master of Science program at SJSU allows her to continue to advise students working on sustainable agriculture and other research in Latin America and the Caribbean. She views teaching, research and service as integrally connected, so most of her current research interests coincide directly with teaching at the graduate and undergraduate levels, and service to the local community. Her research and thesis advising interests are thus reasonabley eclectic, but they fall into four general categories. Research on the ecology of the insular sand ecosystems of Santa Cruz County, California with students Jennifer Chu, Caitlin Bean, Annie Murphy, and Kirsten Hill provides her the opportunity to help conserve, manage and restore highly endangered insects, mammals, and plants in these systems. This research ranges from plant/herbivore work with the Zayante band-winged grasshopper (Trimeritropa infantilis) and the Mount Hermon june beetle (Polyphylla barbata), to basic demography, distribution and genetics of the Santa Cruz kangaroo rat (Dipodomys venustus venustus), to plant/pollinator relationships of the Robust Spineflower (Chorizanthe robusta var. robusta). The second major research vein concentrates on urban ecology and policy. Working with students she supervises urban ecology research ranging from urban coastal watershed and riparian mitigation, monitoring and restoration, to greenbelt trail use and invasive species, to environmental justice and the environmental impact assessment policy in both California and Jamaica. Building on her long term interest in sustainable agriculture, O'Malley maintains a working relationship with the Center for Agroecology at UC Santa Cruz, and advising students in research on reducing farm runoff and understanding aphid/enemy dynamics in Broccoli in Santa Cruz County, California. Internationally, she supervise students working on ecological impacts of banana production, shrimp farming and cacao in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Colombia, respectively. O'Malley is fundamentally interested in strengthening environmental education and keeping it tied to environmental practice and participation. At the university level, she is experimenting with strategies for incorporating service learning into traditional courses, and supervised a student who is working on a project that assesses garden and Lifelab programs in Berkeley, California elementary schools.