Maria Dahmus portrait

Maria Dahmus

SCP Director; OSI Assistant Director
Ph.D., University of Wisconsin
Environment and Resources
AQU 311
(651) 962-6391
AQU 311
2115 Summit Ave.
St. Paul MN 55105


Maria Dahmus is the co-founder and director of the Sustainable Communities Partnership (SCP) and is the Assistant Director of the Office of Sustainability Initiatives (OSI) at the University of St. Thomas.  Maria seeks to collaboratively bring community-identified sustainability goals to life through experiential and applied learning partnerships with St. Thomas courses, communities, and local artists.

Maria develops and implements the strategic vision for SCP, from multi-year partnerships and project development to daily operations.  In 2017, she started the SCP Arts program. Through SCP Arts, students collaborate with local artists to translate SCP project findings into artwork, bringing to life partners’ sustainability goals for people of all ages.

Maria's primary teaching interest is interdisciplinary, experiential environmental education.  Maria worked as an experiential educator in Texas, Colorado, and the British Virgin Islands, and she has taught a variety of courses in Environmental Studies at St. Thomas. Her primary research interests are social dimensions of urban and rural ecosystems, with a particular focus on civic ecology—community-initiated efforts that promote ecosystem quality and quality of life.  Her current research also examines community mobilization to establish dog parks; her dogs, adopted from the humane society, assist her in this research.

Academic History

Research Associate, University of Minnesota, urban ecosystems (Twin Cities Household Ecosystem Project)

Ph.D., University of Wisconsin, Environment and Resources

B.S., University of Texas, Ecology and Conservation Biology

B.A., University of Texas, Plan II Honors

Biology Teaching Certificate, Grades 6-12, UTEACH, University of Texas

PADI Scuba Instructor

Courses Taught

University of St. Thomas

  • Society and Sustainability (ENVR 212)
    • Spring 2013:  Collaboration with Ordway Center for Performing Arts, Pilobolus Dance Company, Macalester College Dance Team, and University of St. Thomas Environmental Problem Solving  (ESCI 310)
  • Environmental StudiesSeniorCapstoneField Seminar (ENVR 401)
    • Spring 2013:  CityLabs partnership with the City of St. Paul, “Residential impervious cover policy in St. Paul.”
    • Spring 2014:  CityLabs partnership with the City of St. Paul, “Writing the story of the American elm in St. Paul.”
    • Spring 2015:  Collaboration with University of St. Thomas Environmental Problem Solving (ESCI 310), “Removing excess phosphorus in urban lakes through hydroponics.”
  • Theology and the Environment (THEO 422, co-taught)
  • AquinasHonors Seminars (IDSC 480)
    • Dogs! Environment, Society, and Representation (co-taught with Paul Lai, Literary Studies)
    • Native American Literature and Sustainability (co-taught with Liz Wilkinson, English)
    • Science, Activism, and Environmental Toxins (co-taught with Dalma Martinovic, Biology)

St. Olaf College

  • Environmental Politics (ESPS 276)


Dahmus, M. E., & Nelson, K. C. (2014). Yard stories: examining residents’ conceptions of their yards as part of the urban ecosystem in Minnesota. Urban Ecosystems, 17(1), 173-194.

Dahmus, M. E., & Nelson, K. C. (2014). Nature discourses in the residential yard in Minnesota. Landscape and Urban Planning, 125, 183-187.

Martini, N. F., Nelson, K. C., & Dahmus, M. E. (2014). Exploring homeowner diffusion of yard care knowledge as one step toward improving urban ecosystems. Environmental Management,  (Online).

Selected Presentations

“Sustainable Communities Partnership Public Art Initiative” (with Peter Gittins).  Together:  Artists and Scientists Building Community.  Minneapolis, MN, October 20, 2017.

“Connecting Community Partnerships with Curriculum to Strengthen Sustainability Education” (with Susan Clark and Gwyneth Maser, presenters).  The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) Annual Conference.  San Antonio, TX, October 17, 2017.

"A Systems Approach to Supporting Curricular Innovations" with co-presenter Debra Petersen.  Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).  Minneapolis, Minnesota.  October 25-28, 2015.

“Structuring an Opposition:  Collaboration and the Development of Alberta’s Tar Sands" (with Steven M. Hoffman).  International Symposium on Society and Resource Management.  Estes Park, Colorado.  June 4–8, 2013.

“Urban Yards:  Exploring Patterns in Homeowners’ Ideas of Nature and Ecological Understanding” (with Kristen C. Nelson).  International Symposium on Society and Resource Management.  Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.  June 18–21, 2012.

“Yard Stories: Linking Homeowners’ Yard Care Choices with Soil and Water in Urban Ecosystems” (with Kristen C. Nelson).  Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference.  Des Moines, Iowa.  December 4–7, 2011.

“Constraints and Opportunities for Natural Resource Policy:  A Comparative Analysis of Collective Efforts Among ‘Unlikely’ Partners in Minnesota.” International Symposium on Society and Resource Management.  Madison, Wisconsin.  June 4–8, 2011.

“Finding Common Ground:  A Comparative Analysis of Collective Action Integrating Environmental, Natural Resource, and Rural Economic Issues in Minnesota.”  Rural Sociological Society Annual Meeting.  Atlanta, Georgia.  August 12–15, 2010.

Spring 2021 Courses

Spring 2021 Courses
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Summer 2021 Courses

Summer 2021 Courses
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Fall 2021 Courses

Fall 2021 Courses
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