Mark A. Dugo, PhD
Assistant Professor of Ecology
Mark Dugo is responsible for overseeing activities at CRES, including student engagement and community outreach emanating from the urban farming operations at JCSU’s Sustainability Village. A significant portion of Mark’s time and effort is applied toward leveraging resources for partnership building related to CRES. In this capacity, his primary interest is focused on fair and equitable collaborative partnerships. Mark strongly recognizes that long-term sustainability is largely hinged upon healthy relationships among stakeholders that is void of any sentiment of disenfranchisement among partners or community members. This focus on relationship quality within collaborative partnerships can hardly be more important than when the objectives are to address food security, health disparities, and socioeconomic disparities.
Academically, Mark oversees implementation and operation of JCSU’s interdisciplinary Sustainability Minor in collaboration with the Dean of the College of STEM, the Department Chair for Natural Sciences and Mathematics (NSM), as well as all other academic disciplines on campus. He has a background in the ecological sciences studying endangered species. While at the University of Southern Mississippi and the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science (MNNS), his focus was primarily on the application of molecular techniques to the conservation of anadromous and freshwater fishes. During his time at MMNS, he also collaborated in research studying the ecological consequences of non sustainable commercial aquaculture practices. One of his greatest passions continues to be teaching about, advocating for, and engaging in research concerning the biodiversity of the Southeastern United States. However, his professional matriculation led to an interdisciplinary approach to sustainability and conservation. As the human population continues to grow, the earth becomes seemingly smaller and our interdependence on each other becomes increasingly more apparent.
With intersection in mind, he earned his PhD in Environmental Science from Jackson State University where he worked as a NOAA Fellow for the Environmental Cooperative Science Center. He then served as Assistant Professor of Environmental Health at Mississippi Valley State University (MVSU) prior to JCSU. During his four years at MVSU, Mark successfully secured over $650,000 in external funding, and is enthusiastic to apply his grantsmanship for CRES activities. He also served as Co-Chair of the Itta Bena Unified Community Coalition, which is facilitated by Hope Credit Union and is aimed at strengthening relations between MVSU and the local community of Itta Bena in the Mississippi Delta. He focused a significant amount of time advocating and advising students in health disparities-based research, with particular emphasis on cancer trends in the MS Delta. The MS Delta has some of the highest health disparity ratios in the United States. During this time, he served as a Board Member for the Fannie Lou Hamer Cancer Foundation 501(C)(3) in Mississippi.
In part due to his background in the ecological sciences, he is strongly interested in drawing attention to the dependence human society has on ecological integrity, as well as the impact society has on the environment. He has also spent a significant amount of time and effort engaging with students and the community, raising awareness about the importance of ecology and environmental health. Across years of engagement, his approach has been consistently intentional to advocate for an inclusive definition of “stakeholder” that regards everyone residing within the boundaries of a watershed to have a stake, or vested interest in the management of resources within said boundaries.
Towards positive movement in terms of the sustainability of human settlement, it is imperative that the interrelationships of society and the environment, as well as the need for social justice as related to health and the environment, are communicated within a myriad of professional disciplines and among the public. Prior to joining JCSU, he served as Communications Director (2019) and President-Elect (2020) of the Alabama-Mississippi Sociological Association (A-MSA). This opportunity provided a strong interdisciplinary platform to engage in these necessary conversations related to local, regional and global sustainability and resilience. During the most recent A-MSA conference, held at Alabama State University, he chaired a session special on "Addressing Environmental Issues and Climate Change in the Social Sciences".
Mark is currently operating a National Science Foundation (NSF) project entitled “Increasing Interest in Ecological and Environmental Sciences to Broaden STEM Participation among African Americans”. Rooted in motivation theory, this project draws attention to the historical and contemporary distribution of African Americans (AA) in the Southeastern United States with particular emphasis on provisioning ecosystem services. The STEM Education intervention explored through this NSF funding emphasizes the relationship between values, identity, and interest, to foster an actualized connection to the environment. This approach is being tested as a means to motivate and empower students toward greater social justice and equity, as related to natural resources. Ultimately, it is predicted that this model will also serve as a useful framework to apply toward increasing lobbying power & capacity, to leverage for policy change, and federally incentivize investment in Southeastern US regions that have been in persistent poverty, and that are AA population aggregations in the Southeastern US.
Following the postponement of his summer 2020 face-to-face enrichment program, Mark conducted a modified virtual summer program, “Sustainability within the Ecosystem Services Framework and an Introduction to Citizen Science Engagement". The program had ten student participants, representing five universities from across four states. While working on place-based watershed scale characterizations, students explored local and regional patterns of food deserts and began identifying impediments to food security in the Southeastern United States. Mark has resumed this work at JCSU and has begun identifying student participants who are interested to further these investigations.
Additional activities that Mark has been involved in since his onboarding in the fall of 2020 has included grant writing to strengthen STEM training and research collaborations between CRES and academic units in STEM. He collaborated with the Chair of NSM, Dr. Tim Champion, and Dr. Ronda Bibbs in submitting a federal grant proposal for over $300,000, to support new project-based experiential opportunities for underrepresented minorities, focusing on the sustainable application of nanomaterials in controlled environment agriculture.