The Darcy Aston Memorial Lecture and community gatherings is in memory of Darcy Aston, 1981 UCSB Environmental Studies Alum and beloved member of the Santa Barbara Community. Join us every year in Winter Quarter as we share ideas on how our community will balance competing demands on our increasingly scarce water resources. 

These annual lectures focus on innovative approaches to the complex issues of water quality and watershed protection with an emphasis on the things that were most important to Darcy: protection of wild places and wildlife, public health and minimizing the human footprint on earth. Lectures will be open to students, faculty and employees of UCSB, as well as the general public. These lectures also serve as an opportunity for Darcy's friends, family and colleagues to gather to honor and remember Darcy.  To contribute to the Darcy Aston Lecture fund click here.


Current Lecture:

8th Annual Darcy Aston Memorial Water Lecture 

"Bringing Back Our Wetland; Restoring a Community Treasure with the Help of Students and Residents"
By Dr. Lisa Stratton, Director of Ecosystem Management, UCSB's Cheadle Center    

Wednesday, May 3rd 2023
5:00pm –6:30pm

Hybrid attendance options:
Zoom & Interactive Learning Pavilion Auditorium 1302 (new building, next to the library on the UCSB campus)
Individuals interested in attending via Zoom, please register for Zoom link

This year’s Darcy Aston Memorial Water Lecture will feature Lisa Stratton, Director of Ecosystem Management at the Cheadle Center for Biological Diversity and Ecological Restoration (Cheadle Center) at UCSB.   Come hear the story of how this exciting restoration project came to be and how being on the UCSB Campus has multiplied the value of this project by engaging students and community in its restoration.  This restored wetland, referred to as the North Campus Open Space Project (NCOS), is a dynamic community asset.  It serves as a real-world demonstration of how nature-based solutions can help us adapt to climate change by restoring drought-adaptive native habitat and rare plant communities, attenuating floods, improving water quality and addressing sea level rise. This project also serves as a living classroom and research laboratory for generations of UCSB students, advancing our understanding of our environment and the role we can play in preserving and enhancing our ecosystems.

Before the lecture you're encouraged to watch an inspiring film about how the former Ocean Meadows Golf Course was transformed and restored back to its original natural condition. The film Bringing Back our Wetland, by Mike Love and featured in the SB International Film Festival in February, is available for free streaming before the lecture at  As this film has yet to be released to the general public, we ask this link only be used by those who plan to attend the talk.

Lisa Stratton, PhD, has been the Director of Ecosystem Management for UCSB's Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration (CCBER) since 2005. As the manager of the campus lagoon and other open space areas on campus, she has been active in pursuing opportunities to restore native habitat, improve water quality, and support biodiversity, including threatened and endangered species. She received her PhD at University of Hawaii-Manoa, her Masters from University of Wisconsin-Madison and her undergraduate degree at Stanford. She has been a change agent on the landscape committee since the inception of UCSB's sustainability commitment and worked towards promoting sustainable, non-invasive, low water landscapes that celebrate UCSB's unique location within a matrix of natural habitats and wetlands. In addition Lisa supports restoration through grants, promotes research, and works through collaboration with a diversity of local, state, and federal partners.

This is the latest in a series of annual lecturers given in memory of Darcy Aston, 1981 UCSB Environmental Studies Alum and beloved member of the Santa Barbara Community.   If you wish to contribute to the Darcy Aston Lecture Fund you may do so here.

Our Most Recent Speakers

7th Annual Darcy Aston Memorial Water Lecture 

Prior to founding the Community Water Center, Susana worked in several positions in the Santa Barbara area, including working with Darcy Aston at the Santa Barabra County Water Agency.  Susana’s experience includes planning and organizing positions at the Center on Race, Poverty, and the Environment; the County of Merced Planning Department; and Santa Barbara’s Community Environmental Council. She is a seasoned community organizer and currently serves on the Advisory Council for the Water Solutions Network and is a Steering Committee member on the Water Equity and Climate Resilience Caucus. Susana is also a co-founder and member of the board of Water Education for Latino Leaders (WELL). 

She has received numerous awards and recognitions, including: The James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award (2018); White House Champion of Change for Climate Equity (2016); “150 Fearless Women in the World” by Newsweek Magazine (2012); AOL sponsored PBS three-part series titled, Makers: Women Who Have Shaped America (2012); and “Las Fabulosas” and “Inspiring Latinas” by Powerful Latinas (2011). Susana earned a B.A. from the UC Santa Barbara while completing a double major in Environmental Studies and Geography.

"Securing the Human Right to Clean Water for All Californians" 
By Susana De Anda, the Executive Director of the Community Water Center / El Centro Comunitario Por El Agua (CWC).  They work to make safe drinking water affordable for all and to end the drinking water crisis.

Watch a recording of her talk on the Environmental Studies Vimeo page here.
View a pdf of her presentation slide deck here.

6th Annual Darcy Aston Memorial Water Lecture 

Obi Kaufman, author of the best-selling California Field Atlas, turns his artful yet analytical attention to the Golden State’s single most complex and controversial resource: water. In The State of Water, full-color maps unravel the braided knot of California’s water infrastructure and ecosystems, exposing a history of unlimited growth in spite of finite natural resources—a history that has led to its current precarious circumstances. But this built world depends upon the biosphere, and in The State of Water Kaufmann argues that environmental conservation and restoration efforts are necessary not only for ethical reasons but also as a matter of human survival. Offering nine perspectives to illustrate the most pressing challenges facing California’s water infrastructure, from dams to species revitalization, Kaufmann reveals pragmatic yet inspiring solutions to how water in the West can continue to support agriculture, municipalities, and the environment. Interspersed throughout with trail paintings of animals that might survive under a caring and careful water ethic, Kaufmann shows how California can usher in a new era of responsible water conservation, and— perhaps most importantly—how we may do so together.

5th Annual Darcy Aston Memorial Water Lecture 

Felicia Marcus is an attorney/consultant with 35 years of expertise in organizational management, policy development, program implementation, and public engagement at the federal, state, and local level. Most recently, she was Chair of the California State Water Board, with regulatory responsibility for water conservation, groundwater management, wastewater recycling, stormwater capture, desalination, water rights laws, and the state’s drinking water program. Felicia helped lead the board through the state’s worst drought in modern history. Prior to this, Felicia led US EPA’s Southwest and Pacific Region (Region IX), working extensively on air, water, and toxics issues while helping negotiate agreements, develop policy, and implement projects on state, tribal, US-Mexico border, and Pacific Islands issues. Additionally, she has held senior leadership positions with national non-profit organizations and has been a practicing attorney in the private and non-profit sectors. She currently serves on the Commission on Environmental Cooperation-Joint Public Advisory Council (US, Mexico, Canada). Felicia has a law degree from NYU and an AB cum laude from Harvard College in East Asian Studies. 

4th Annual Darcy Aston Memorial Water Lecture 

Dr. Christina Babbitt manages the California Groundwater Program at Environmental Defense Fund, where she is working to advance successful implementation of California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. In her role, she leads efforts to advance water trading policy in California and scale replicable groundwater sustainability pilot projects across California’s Central Valley. In these efforts, Babbitt focuses on building partnerships among NGOs, agencies, water districts, and agricultural partners in ways that enhance collective impact.

Prior to joining EDF in 2015, Babbitt worked as a senior associate at Blue Earth Consultants, LLC in Oakland, California, where she specialized in natural resource management and governance, institutional design and effectiveness, and strategic planning. Previously, she held positions with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Coastal Services Center in Oakland, California, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Water in Washington, D.C. Dr. Babbitt earned a Ph.D. in natural resources from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln; an MSc in environmental science from Florida International University; and a BA in international relations from Rollins College.

3rd Annual Darcy Aston Memorial Water Lecture 

Dr. Newsha K. Ajami, is the director of Urban Water Policy with Stanford University’s Water in the West program. She is a leading expert in sustainable water resource management, water policy, innovation, and financing, and the water-energy-food nexus. Her research throughout the years has been interdisciplinary and impact driven, focusing on the improvement of the science-policy-stakeholder interface by incorporating social and economic measures and effective communication.

Dr. Ajami is a gubernatorial appointee to the Bay Area Regional Water Quality Control Board. Before joining Stanford, she worked as a senior research associate at the Pacific Institute, and served as a Science and Technology fellow at the California State Senate’s Natural Resources and Water Committee where she worked on various water and energy related legislation.. Dr. Ajami received her Ph.D. in civil and environmental engineering from the UC, Irvine, an M.S. in hydrology and water resources from the University of Arizona.