Have no fear, UCSB’s sustainability champion is here.

Environmental studies professor David Cleveland was recently named to the new position of sustainability champion and will hold the post for the remainder of the school year. Mechanical engineering professor Eric Matthys was also named and will assume the role in 2010-11. The campus’ sustainability champions were each awarded a $25,000 grant to conduct research and employ graduate or undergraduate assistants, and they were asked to teach a freshman seminar on their subject matter.

According to a university press release, the Academic Senate’s Work Group on Sustainability introduced the concept of the sustainability champion to commend faculty leadership in sustainability efforts.

Cleveland’s work in sustainability began in the early 1970s with his doctoral dissertation when he studied the relationship between fertility rates and environmental and agricultural changes in an African village.

Cleveland said he felt privileged to be named the first sustainability champion on campus.

“I am very honored to be chosen as the inaugural sustainability champion for UCSB,” Cleveland said. “I also feel challenged to help increase the breadth and depth of the conversation on campus about sustainability.”

Cleveland plans to use his grant to work with undergraduate students on a community project to analyze the Santa Barbara County agricultural and food system.

“We are looking at everything from the effect of converting farmland to houses to the effect of migrant farm labor in Santa Barbara on food and agriculture in southern Mexico, from how the county food system contributes to climate change to how we can grow more food we can eat locally,” Cleveland said.

Matthys’ research has focused on developing technologies to make industrial energy systems more efficient, work he has carried out on buildings on UCSB’s campus.

In a press release, Matthys said he plans to draw heavily on student involvement.

“I’d like to involve students in spreading the knowledge and message,” Matthys said. “I’d like to have a similar [champion] position held by a student that would be doing things from a student’s perspective in helping spread the word about saving energy among other students.”