Fireside Charla with SDSU President Adela de la Torre


 November 1, 2019

#011 - RE:BORDER and the Water We Share


Episode Summary:

In this episode, I chat with Dr. Natalie Mladenov, Dr. Trent Biggs, and Dr. Matthew Verbyla—three of our leading water researchers from the Blue Gold Group, one of SDSU’s centers of excellence focused exclusively on water research.

Our conversation touches on one of San Diego State University’s key areas of distinction, which is our connection to the California-Baja California transborder region, the most talked-about border region in the world today. 

We talk about RE:BORDER—the inaugural binational conference kicking off this November, which will explore every year key transborder issues and innovative solutions. RE:BORDER will bring U.S. and Mexican researchers, practitioners, students, public policy experts, and community stakeholders to explore how San Diego State University and its regional partners can contribute to innovative solutions for water-related challenges in the transborder region. This year's theme is The Water We Share. 

 In this episode, we discuss:

  • The challenges our region faces related to the water we share...
  • How we can create a regional platform to become the area that transforms how we use and look at water… 
  • How can we garner support to create broader and sustainable solutions…
  • Why Re:Border and how you can join us… 

Approximate running time: 

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Transcript available

“...there's a number of different social, political, geographical, even cultural factors that play into the water quality challenges that are faced on both sides of the border… And having our students be exposed to some of the solutions that have been proposed on the Mexican side of the border and vice versa, is going to be a really important factor in finding solutions.” -Matthew Verbyla

About Dr. Adela de la Torre

Dr. Adela de la Torre joined San Diego State University in June 2018, as the first woman and Latina president. She brings 30 years of service and leadership roles within institutions of higher education and shares these experiences with open arms. She has two daughters who are both married, a grandson, a husband, and three dogs! Adela discusses the challenges she faced in college, her mentors, her heart-led leadership style, and her vision to help all types of students at SDSU feel confident in their goals.

About Dr. Natalie Mladenov

Dr. Natalie Mladenov is an associate professor of environmental engineering and director of the Water Innovation and Reuse Lab. She teaches courses on engineering design to address environmental problems, sustainable water and sanitation systems, and biological, physical, and chemical process for water pollution control and water reuse. Her research seeks to understand processes that affect the mobilization of pollutants in the environment and the fate of chemicals of emerging concern in wastewater treatment and water reuse systems. Through collaborative efforts, her team has evaluated drivers of anthropogenic contamination in the San Diego River, studied decentralized water reuse systems in South Africa and Mexico, tested water quality sensors for tracking of sewage contamination and source water control, and studied controls on the mobilization of toxic trace elements in groundwater. Dr. Mladenov is passionate about promoting internationalization in engineering, exposing undergraduate students to careers in academia, and promoting decentralized wastewater treatment systems for water reuse.

About Trent W. Biggs

Dr. Trent W. Biggs has research interests in the impacts of land use on water quantity, water quality, and sediment.  Dr. Biggs and his students use satellite imagery, fieldwork, and modeling to diagnose and analyze water-related problems that impact the environment and human welfare.  His field locations include the Brazilian Amazon, American Samoa, and the US-Mexico border region. Most recently he and a team of students have analyzed the environmental consequences of urbanization on the US-Mexico border, with an emphasis on the origins of sediment that has damaged local estuaries.   He did his undergraduate degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University and Doctoral work in Geography at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is originally from Colorado; for fun he sings in the San Diego Master Chorale.

About Matthew E. Verbyla

Dr. Matthew E. Verbyla is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Engineering at San Diego State University, where he teaches courses on water, sanitation, and the microbiology processes of environmental engineering, and directs the Safe WaTER Lab. Matthew’s research aim is to better understand how microorganisms in natural and engineered water systems impact human health. Before joining SDSU, Matthew worked in engineering consulting, then spent three years in Honduras working with non-profit organizations on water and sanitation projects for small towns and urban communities. Matthew completed his graduate degrees at the University of South Florida, worked as a postdoctoral research scientist at EPFL in Switzerland. He has also consulted for UNHCR, the United Nations’ Refugee Agency.