Growing up in a small farming community near Corcoran, California, Dustin Pearce always knew his pursuit of education would take him to new places. He never expected his studies would also lead him back home.
A newly minted holder of a master’s degree in environmental science and management from UCSB’s Bren School, Pearce devoted his graduate work to a project centered on solar energy and conservation in the San Joaquin Valley — the very valley where he was born and raised.
“The further I try to get away from my hometown, the more I keep coming back,” Pearce joked before Bren’s 2015 commencement ceremony. “The moment I heard about this project looking at solar and conservation in San Joaquin Valley, I immediately said, ‘Whoa.’ Literally down the street from my house they had just started putting in a pretty big solar development, and I had studied conservation as an undergrad. So I kind of couldn’t let anybody else do this project at that point.
“It’s been amazing to be able to take everything I’ve learned and apply it back where I grew up,” added Pearce, who did his undergraduate studies, in conservation biology and ecology, at Arizona State University. “It’s been a really personal project for me, and it became something I’m really driven to make as good as possible.”
And on that front, by all accounts, Pearce and his colleagues on WildLight, as their project is called, have succeeded in spades.
Little more than a week prior to graduating from Bren, the WildLight group presented its work, which aspires to protect natural resources while producing renewable energy, in the Sacramento office of Governor Jerry Brown.
More meetings around the Bren-born endeavor are in the works, according to Pearce, who credits the graduate program for preparing him perfectly for whatever comes next.
“Bren is awesome, it’s just an amazing school,” he said. “The community that’s here and the relationships you build are a lot stronger than at any other program I’ve ever been part of. I’m really grateful I ended up going here and that it worked out the way it did. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”