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Olyssa Starry
Interviewed by Tammy Newcomer


Featured Graduate Student - April 2011
Name: Olyssa Starry
School: University of Maryland, College Park
Graduate status: PhD Student
BES committee member: Dr. Richard V. Pouyat
Schools for previous degrees: American University (Washington DC), Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, VA),
Major: Plant Sciences and Landscape Architecture
Hometown: Enola, Pennsylvania



Experimental greenroof platforms with Sedum album in the foreground. (Photo courtesy of Olyssa Starry)
Tammy: How would you describe your field of study/research to a friend who is not in your graduate program?
Olyssa:I am studying the role of Sedum species in the greenroof water cycle.
Tammy: What inspired you to go into this field of study?
Olyssa: I have always been interested in both hydrology and urban environments; working on greenroofs is a great way to merge these two interests. This research direction probably also had a little to do with a 1996 study-abroad trip to Vienna and laying eyes on the Hundertwasser Haus.
Tammy: Why did you become involved with BES?
Olyssa: I first heard about BES 6-7 years ago when a good friend of mine living in Baltimore sent me an Urbanite article with a BES reference. When I moved to Baltimore to be part of the "water in the urban environment" (NSF, IGERT) program at UMBC, I decided to get more involved because I am very inspired by the types of research projects that are being undertaken by BES members.
Tammy: What do you most enjoy about being involved with BES?
Olyssa: I have really enjoyed attending events hosted by the BES like the annual meeting where I can learn about other research being conducted in Baltimore. Contacts made at meetings like these have led to small collaborative educational projects that were very gratifying.
Tammy:What types of outreach activities to you do to engage communities in your research? Have you found that some activities work better than others?
Olyssa: Most people I meet are pretty enthusiastic about greenroofs; I have led a number of tours of my research site, and I look forward to doing more hands-on outreach activities in the future. Iíve constructed a small greenroof model that comes in handy at presentations.
Tammy: What is your favorite stress-reduction activity?
Olyssa: I highly recommend the Sun am. ashtanga class in Baltimore at Charm City Yoga midtown studio.
Tammy: What are your plans for after graduate school?
Olyssa: Itís sometimes difficult to think too far ahead, but I am planning to stay in Baltimore and look for teaching/research opportunities here.
Tammy: Name at least one achievement you are proud of.
Olyssa: I would have to say my homemade sourdough bread is near perfection.
Tammy: Do you have any advice that you would give to a new BES graduate students?
Olyssa: Read the "modest advice for graduate students" by Stephen Stearns.