Our Instructors


Mario Picazo, PhD

I am a UCLA graduate formed both in Atmospheric Sciences and Geography who specializes in Climate Change and Extreme Weather. For the past 25 years, I have taught a variety of Meteorology, Geography, and Environmental Science courses, both at UCLA and at Saint Louis University in Madrid, Spain. As a teaching assistant during my PhD, I was awarded the UCLA Teaching Award for my outstanding contribution to undergraduate science education.

I lecture in the UCLA Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences and collaborate as a researcher with the Foundation for Climate Research in Madrid, Spain. My main interests deal with future climate scenarios and the effect they will have on crop yield in different areas of the world. My most recent research has taken me to study the sustainability of major cities around the world and the increasing problem of climate migration.

Over the past 20 years I have also worked in the media business. I started as a Chief and on air Meteorologist for Mediaset Telecinco, the leading national news network in Spain. The later part of my media work has dealt with weather related TV shows and documentaries for TVE, Spain´s National Public Television Network. In the US, I have collaborated as a Severe Weather Expert for the Weather Channel in the TV series ¨ Tornado Alley¨.  I currently incorporate academics into my role as a weather and climate expert for Pelmorex Media, one of the leading weather media companies in North America.


Thor Ritz, PhD

I am a broadly trained geographer with expertise in GIS applications and a focus on race, social struggle and the environment. I hold a doctorate from Syracuse University and a master’s degree from Hunter College, City University of New York. My research and teaching interests cover a wide array of subjects, from urban agriculture and food sovereignty to participatory GIS and urban sustainability. In my current project, which was funded by the National Science Foundation, I use historical GIS techniques to map and analyze practices of marronage—escape from plantation slavery—in the French Caribbean at the turn of the 19th century. I have also has a strong background in community geography and collaborative research via qualitative and quantitative methods. I have more than nine years of teaching experience and offer courses in cultural geography, environmental studies, world history, urban geography and globalization.




 Andrew Grant, PhD

I completed my PhD in political geography from UCLA in 2016. My work focuses on Eurasian geopolitics and urban development for migrants along the Silk Road corridor, and for Tibetans in China in particular. I have taught geography courses at UCLA, CSUN, CSUDH, and in China.


Michael Smith, PhD

I am a Principal with ENERCON in Oakland, CA, an architectural engineering, environmental, technical and management services firm providing a broad range of professional services to private, public, and government sector clients throughout the United States and internationally. My current work focuses on providing project and program management, technical analysis and review, policy development and review, and training and education focused on NEPA and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) compliance for some of the nation’s and California’s most complex and controversial projects relating to energy development, transportation infrastructure projects, approvals of genetically engineered plants, commercial space transportation operations, and rulemakings for national motor vehicle fuel economy standards. I frequently provide training and strategic advice for NEPA and related environmental compliance requirements as an adjunct faculty member at numerous educational institutions, including the UC Davis Extension Land Use and Natural Resources Program, the UCLA Extension Sustainability Program, and the NEPA Certificate Program at the Quinney College of Natural Resources at Utah State University. I have served as a Science & Technology Policy Fellow with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) at the EPA headquarters Office of Water and Office of Federal Activities in Washington, DC. I have also held positions with the U.S. Department of Interior – National Park Service in Biscayne, Glacier and Yosemite National Parks. I hold a Ph.D. in Environmental and Natural Resources Sociology from Utah State University, a M.A. in Geography and Resources from the University of Wyoming, and a B.A. in Environmental Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz.