ESA Announces 2012 Graduate Student Policy Award Winners

msaGraduate students from Washington University, University of Tennessee and Florida International University will travel to nation’s capital to speak to lawmakers about investment in science

WASHINGTON, DC – The Ecological Society of America (ESA), a professional organization of 10,000 ecological scientists, is pleased to announce the recipients of its 2012 Graduate Student Policy Award.   The award affords ESA graduate student members the opportunity to participate in two days of science policy activities, including meetings with congressional offices. This year’s winners are: Matthew Schuler (Washington University in St. Louis), Sara Kuebbing  (University of Tennessee, Knoxville), and Adam Rosenblatt (Florida International University).

All three students have demonstrated their commitment to engage in public policy and the ESA Award will allow them to build on their experiences.  Schuler, Kuebbing, and Rosenblatt will travel to Washington, DC in March to participate in a congressional visits event sponsored by the Biological Ecological Sciences Coalition (BESC) and co-chaired by ESA.  The event will focus on the need for sustained federal investment in biological research and education.  The three students will meet with congressional offices, be briefed by policy leaders on federal funding issues, and meet other scientists from across the country including ESA President Steward Pickett (Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies). 

Matthew Schuler’s Ph.D. research at Washington University focuses on how land management practices can enhance species diversity in heavily managed ecosystems.  “The continued support of government funding for science research relies on our ability as scientists to publicly demonstrate why our research positively affects the lives of the general public,” said Schuler.  He has volunteered for 10 years at the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ Sandhill Wildlife Outdoor Education Center where he helped run educational programs and workshops.  He also served on the Board of the Timber Wolf Information Network, meeting with groups that included “Rod and Gun” clubs to talk about the importance of government support of wolf research in Wisconsin.  Schuler’s graduate research is supported by an Environmental Protection Agency STAR Fellowship. 

 Sara Kuebbing’s doctoral research at the University of Tennessee looks at solutions and management of invasive species.  She previously worked with The Nature Conservancy in Vermont where she developed and coordinated an invasive plant educational program.  She serves on the Board of the Tennessee Exotic Pest Plant Council, providing information on invasive plants. Her experiences have taught her that “respectful dialogue, strong scientific support, and reasonable alternatives can change even the most recalcitrant of individuals.”  Kuebbing’s graduate training is supported by a PEER Fellowship from the National Institutes of Health.

 Adam Rosenblatt’s Ph.D. research at Florida International University focuses on American alligator behavior as part of the National Science Foundation’s Coastal Everglades Long-Term Ecological Research program.  “Federal support of science and ecology in particular is crucial for progressing our understanding and conservation of animals, plants, and varied ecosystem services,” says Rosenblatt.  He’s been asked to advise a Florida state legislator on issues related to the Everglades and worked on watershed management projects as an intern for the Environmental Protection Agency.  Rosenblatt works alongside faculty at his university’s Quantifying Biology in the Classroom program to engage students in multiple related fields simultaneously, demonstrating the interdependence of the sciences and their application to complex problems.  

The ESA Graduate Student Policy Award is one of several ways the Society works to offer its graduate student members opportunities to gain public policy experience.  The Society also provides policy training during its annual meeting and by request throughout the year.  ESA graduate student members also may run-through ESA’s Student Section-to serve on several ESA standing committees, including the Public Affairs Committee, which works closely with ESA’s Washington, DC-based Public Affairs Office (http://www.esa.org/pao/) and focuses on activities to engage ecological scientists with policymakers and the media.

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