As a young girl growing up in Louisiana, Candace Gossen loved to dig in the dirt. Now grown up, the part-time PSU environmental sustainability instructor is still digging through the dirt–this time as a scientist. Gossen recently returned from her latest research trip to Rapa Nui, also known as Easter Island, where she studied lake deposits for deforestation research.
As a young girl growing up in Louisiana, Candace Gossen loved to dig in the dirt.
Now grown up, the part-time PSU environmental sustainability instructor is still digging through the dirt–this time as a scientist.
Gossen recently returned from her latest research trip to Rapa Nui, also known as Easter Island, where she studied lake deposits for deforestation research.
A large web of thickly grown vegetation grows over the surface of the lake she studied, which made it easy for her to walk on it to gather deposits. While searching through the murky water of the lake, she found something special–carbon deposits–probably from a human hundreds of years ago.
In conjunction with the studies of her predecessor, John Flenley, Gossen has discovered five species of palm trees that once covered the now barren island. Even though she just returned home, she is already gearing up to travel to the University of Michigan to conduct further research.
When not exploring the far corners of the Earth–Guatemala, New Zealand, Egypt and South Africa are some of her favorites–Gossen lives in Portland.
“I want to learn, so I go everywhere,” she said.
Gossen is completing her research studies for her doctorate degree in the School of Environmental Sciences and Resources, and she said she has invested her entire life to teaching and promoting sustainability. She even uses her own life as an experiment.
“I have to. Otherwise I’m a hypocrite,” Gossen said.
Her Northeast Portland house is an example of how she has turned her own life into a sustainability laboratory. She converted her home with solar water heating, an eco-roof and bio-diesel furnaces. Some of her PSU and PCC classes get to tour the home, but you do not have to be a student to be able to take a look, she said. Gossen also hangs signs welcoming those interested in her house to come in and take a tour.
Gossen studied architecture while she was an undergraduate student at the University of Louisiana. After Gossen earned her degree, she moved to New York City, where she began a two-year architecture internship. During that time she became discouraged with the building and design practices of modern architecture. She said she discovered a lack of concern for sustainability and more of a focus on making buildings look innovative.
“No one was thinking about sustainability,” Gossen said.
With her concerns came a new passion. She turned her attention to studying sustainable living and left the urban landscape of New York for the deserts of Arizona, where she began work on a master’s degree at Arizona State University.
Her research at ASU led her to study the design and building methods of the ancient Hopi Indian Tribe, a nation that survived hundreds of years using sustainable building practices, particularly in their design of adobe homes. The Hopi Indians were masters at sustainable building, she said.
“We’ve gotten good at wood framing, but over time we’ve forgotten the ancient ways,” Gossen said.
At workshops Gossen attended with Hopi adobe builders, she noticed that several professional building contractors and designers were also taking the courses to learn how to develop new techniques to implement into modern design.
“In the professional field these ideas are growing,” Gossen said.
Gossen’s studies in Arizona and the practices of Hopi Indians have inspired her to blend two of her passions–architecture and environmental sustainability. While in Portland, she started a sustainable architecture company, solar 7.83, which works on designing and transforming buildings to become environmentally sustainable.
As a teacher, Gossen said, she hopes to inspire her students to become passionate about environmental sustainability and find their true calling.
“There’s always a professor that introduces you to an idea, and takes you from there,” she said.