Dr. Thomas Henry "Taha" Rassam Culhane is a faculty member of the Patel College of Global Sustainability at the University of South Florida, Tampa, and director of the Patel College Climate Change concentration, teaching courses in the Food and Climate Concentrations. He is also the co-founding director of the not-for-profit educational corporation "Solar CITIES Inc." which helps community stakeholders solve urban ecology and development issues surrounding waste-water, solid waste, food security and decentralized clean energy production.
For the previous five years Culhane was a Visiting Faculty Researcher and full professor at Mercy College New York, teaching courses in Environmental Sustainability and Justice, Environmental Psychology and Urban Ecology and leading students on "service learning" and "voluntourism" trips to share environmental technologies in impoverished parts of the Middle East, and the Caribbean.
Culhane has been a Google Science Fair Judge for 6 years and has worked with the US Office of Naval Research and UCLA on STEM science education projects with at risk-youth. In 2010 Culhane and the Palestinian Wildlife Society introduced small scale biogas technology to stakeholders in the West Bank and Gaza through funding from the US Embassy, US AID and private foundations, and he has been working with the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies and Alumni Network, Engineers without Borders Palestine, Al Najah University, and the Eco-village Network Global Campus, and the HomeBiogas company in Palestine and Israel on a yearly basis since 2006, working to help ensure "peace through prosperity and permaculture".
Culhane got his Ph.D. from UCLA in Urban Planning, living with and working on solar energy and waste management projects with the trash recycling communities of Cairo Egypt, and his Master's in Regional and International Development working on urban agroforestry issues in Guatemala. His undergraduate work at Harvard included a year in the primary rainforests of Borneo, working on community ecology issues with hunter-gatherer tribes. His mission is to empower communities to regain ecological self-sufficiency and economic security through regenerative systems integration, believing that we have all the puzzle pieces to make thriving societies, and just need to come together and put them together.
IDS 6938 – Navigating the Food/Energy/Water Nexus
IDS 6938 – Climate Change and Adaptation
IDS 6946 – Sustainability Internship
Thomas Culhane strives to "be the nexus" in his research and personal life, putting the Food Energy Water Nexus and Systems Thinking into practice on a daily level and testing the limits.
As an urban planning graduate student in California studying disaster preparedness and social acceptance of sustainable development technologies in the late 90s and early 2000s, Culhane researched how to introduce sustainability in ghetto schools and moved into the Los Angeles urban Eco-village where he lived off-grid for several years with DIY technologies including self-installed bicycle generators, photovoltaics, solar hot water and compost-toilet technologies. He worked with the Maya people and built and lived in an off-grid research site in Guatemala that included rain-water catchment where his diet for a month consisted only of what the trees and other organisms on the property provided.
In Egypt he moved into the slums where poor residents are subjected to deprivation of water, electricity and fuel, and created a program that taught local residents how to self-provision with hand-made solar hot water systems and small wind and solar systems.
As a National Geographic Emerging Explorer since 2009 Culhane introduced his own designs for low cost biodigesters to community leaders in many African countries, including building with former Nigerian president Obasanjo at his home and community, as well as working in schools and communities in or next to wildlife reserves in Kenya, Tanazania, Rwanda, Botswana, South Africa and Swaziland to help stop deforestation, soil erosion, wildfires and indoor air pollution.
He has gone around the world teaching others to innovate, design and construct their own home scale biodigester and vertical aeroponic systems out of low-cost local materials as part of his "food-waste-to-fuel-and-fertilizer" initiative and researching the challenges of sustainable self-provisioning faced by low income residents and pioneered research into "cold-climate adaptations for small scale biogas" and efforts to bring "domestic dragon" home biogas systems into homes and communities in cold regions of the world, from Alaska to Germany to New York, Pennsylvania and Native American reservations near Standing Rock South Dakota.
Culhane is currently a board member of the Rosebud Continuum Sustainability Education Center in Land O Lakes, FL, where he and his wife live a life of "voluntary simplicity" off-grid in an RV on a suburban farm, using solar energy for electricity, cooking on food-waste derived biogas, recycling their shower water and growing a portion of their food through aquaponics, hydroponics and aeroponics.
Culhane is a member of the Clinton Global Initiative and United Religions Initiative, bringing Food/Energy/Water Nexus solutions and systems thinking to areas in need, with an active "commitment to action" to bring small scale waste-to-energy and food production technologies to areas impacted by the refugee crisis.
His service includes recent work in Baghdad, Iraq with the US Embassy and United Nations "Greening the Blue" initiative, the refugee serving areas of Jordan, eco-villages in the Palestinian West Bank, the MASHAV international development program with the Arava Institute of the Environment in Israel, and Heart in Haiti school in Port au Prince.