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Woman standing in a hallway that's mostly white. There's a sign above her with a transmitting green and blue earth that says Digital Storytelling Studio below it.

Eva Sideris

Mighty Oak Monday: Eva Sideris

Major: Environmental Studies 
Concentration: Environmental Policy, Planning, and Law  
Home States: New York (Buffalo) + New Mexico  
Class of ’23  
Eva Sideris’s life is a tale of two states: New York and New Mexico. She grew up in Buffalo, New York, but spend summer with her grandparents in rural New Mexico. From that part of the country, she has memories of farms, green gardens, and the Rio Grande River. Every year, she noticed, it got smaller and smaller until one year it dried up.  

“If the river was changing so much,” Sideris remembers thinking, “how will that change my relationship with the land?”  

She learned the culprit was environmental manipulations dating back to the 1800s. Agricultural systems installed in New Mexico would significantly alter the landscape. Coupled with years of poor water management, limited precipitation due to climate change, and wildfires over the past 50 years exacerbated the problem. When Sideris saw the river as a teen, she was witnessing a cutoff at the nearest dam upstream — a result of recent water shortages. The river’s droughts have been more frequent, heightening her sense of urgency about environmental challenges.  

The once vibrant trees at her grandparents’ house dried up over time. Rain became scarcer, impacting the farmers she knew in the community. Her interest led her to ESF, where she enrolled in Environmental Studies (ES) so she could nurture her childhood interest of photography.  

During her second year at ESF, Sideris answered a social media post from a classmate seeking assistance on a video project on refugees that used fishing as a means of survival. Her work with the group—which included fellow ES students Natalie Davey, Sofia Rater, Adam DeSorbo, and Lily Kramer—gave her the confidence she needed to take a class associated with ESF’s Digital Storytelling Studio (DSS) 

At the DSS, students can check out audio and visual equipment to support projects. The studio also serves as a space where students can work on and edit their creations.

There, Eva produced a documentary on a chicken’s journey from farm to plate. She did such a good job with the film, Sideris was invited to attend the 2022 Planet Forward Summit. The summit is an annual event bringing together the best and brightest budding environmental storytellers to amplify their voices and provide learning and networking opportunities from seasoned professionals.  

With each project, she applied her growing storytelling skills to seek genuine connection and uplift voices. Her growing curiosity compelled Sideris to be a Planet Forward correspondent, something she was initially resistant to doing.  

“I didn’t think I had that competitive journalist edge to tell stories on that level,” Sideris explained. “Once I started, I quickly realized I didn’t need that edge, just passion.”  

This Spring, Sideris was named a finalist in Planet Forward’s Storyfest competition for her piece “Finding water on top of the world | Water issues of New Mexico.” The multimedia presentation brought the experience of tween and teen years to a personal focus, as she told the story of “Farmer Dan,” a Northern New Mexico farmer who works to secure water for his crops.  

“I want to amplify the voices of people like Farmer Dan,” Sideris said. “Storytelling has the power to give voices to those who are often overlooked and ignored.”  

Sideris will earn her degree this May. She doesn’t know yet what her future holds but knows with deep conviction that she wants to continue raising up voices and being an environmental storyteller.  

Learn more about ESF’s Environmental Studies Program.   

Eva Sideris' New Mexico piece was funded by the Betsy and Jesse Fink Career Development Program. The program helps cover the cost of travel and living expenses associated with career development opportunities for students. Thanks you to the donors that make the program possible. Learn more about the Betsy and Jesse Fink Career Development program