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. 


Upcoming Darcy Aston Memorial Lecture:

Obi Kauffman


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.

Monday, February 22, 2021
5:30pm – 7:00pm
Zoom link (Opens at 5:20pm on Monday, February 22)

Our Most Recent Speakers


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.