Green Gator of the Month: Danny Coenen

February 2024

Written by Sustainable UF intern Anna Mavrodieva 

Each month, the Office of Sustainability will feature members of the University of Florida community who are making a sustainable impact on a daily basis. Keep reading to meet our featured faculty for February!

Meet Dr. Coenen

This month’s Green Gator is Dr. Danny Coenen! Dr. Coenen is an Instructional Associate Professor of Environmental Science and the Undergraduate Coordinator for the School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE)

UF faculty member Danny Coenen.

Finding His Passion

Dr. Coenen is a triple Gator. He has earned his Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctorate degrees in Environmental Science and Interdisciplinary Ecology

UF Environmental Science professor and staff member, Danny Coenen

He never planned on becoming a professor but teaching a course as a graduate student helped him find this passion. He recalls thinking, “This is where I need to be, this is what I need to do,” after giving his first lecture. 

Now, Dr. Coenen’s responsibilities include writing and modifying the curriculum for SNRE’s undergraduate program, supporting students one-on-one, solving miscellaneous problems, and, of course, teaching. He says the best part of his job is working with students!

Fostering Community in Sustainability 

Sustainability is a central part of Dr. Coenen’s role at UF.  He told us about three main ways it shows up in his work:

  1. A sustainable teaching style. Dr. Coenen aims to prioritize mental health, assign manageable workloads, and treat students fairly, making learning about difficult topics like climate change more sustainable in the long run.
  2. Fostering community. Dr. Coenen is the faculty advisor for Environmental Science Alliance, an organization that fosters community among SNRE students. Community is a crucial part of sustainability as it allows people to support each other and find effective, just solutions to problems. “Groups of people can accomplish magnitudes more than individuals can,” Dr. Coenen says. 
  3. Spreading useful knowledge. Dr. Coenen’s biggest accomplishment as a UF professor is the creation of the course EVR2001, Introduction to Environmental Science. This is a general education class, taken by students who have minimal background in science or sustainability. Every year, nearly 800 students take this class, each of them developing scientific literacy, unlearning common misconceptions, and understanding the planet and their role in it a bit better. Through this class, thousands of people have been introduced to environmental science and hopefully inspired to adopt more pro-environmental behaviors and attitudes. 

Setting An Example 

UF Staff and Environmental Science Professor, Danny Coenen, outdoors while hiking.

Dr. Coenen tells his students, “You can be a better steward of the environment while simultaneously saving money and improving your quality of life.” He practices what he preaches. 

Dr. Coenen uses technologies like a hybrid vehicle and energy-saving light bulbs in his household. He is mindful of the impacts – such as the energy and water consumption – associated with the products he buys. He also supports local businesses and organizations like GROW-HUB and Working Food when he can.

One of his favorite hobbies is gardening – Dr. Coenen recently turned his yard into a sustainable “food forest.” He also loves hiking – he and his wife hope to hike the entirety of the Appalachian Trail.

Words of Wisdom

Dr. Coenen has three main pieces of advice for people who care about the Earth:

  1. Be a good role model. Being welcoming and non-judgmental when talking to others about your work will encourage them to adopt more environmental practices.
  2. Be cautious of greenwashing, both from corporations and social media. There is a lot of outdated and incorrect information out there. Be cautious of what and who you believe.
  3. Don’t get discouraged. The situation is not hopeless – we have a good chance of leaving the planet better than how we found it.
UF professor of Environmental Science, Danny Coenen, stands in the mountains.

 Submit your recommendation for a student, faculty, or staff member to be featured in a future Green Gator of the Month article!

Published: February 19th, 2024

Category: Green Gator of the Month, Highlights