ESA Announces 2016 Graduate Student Policy Award Recipients

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, 30 March 2016
Contact: Terence Houston, 202-833-8773 ext. 224


The Ecological Society of America (ESA) has selected the 2016 recipients of its annual Graduate Student Policy Award: Brian Kastl (University of California), Kristen Lear (University of Georgia), Matthew Pintar (University of Mississippi), Timothy Treuer (Princeton University), Jessica Nicole Welch (University of Tennessee), and Samantha Lynn Werner (University of New Hampshire).

The six students will travel to Washington, DC on April 27-28 to participate in policy training and attend meetings with their US Representative and Senators. The Biological Ecological Sciences Coalition, co-chaired by ESA, sponsors the event.

On Capitol Hill, students will team with other scientists to discuss with lawmakers the importance of federal funding for the biological sciences, particularly the National Science Foundation (NSF). Participants will attend sessions about how current political and fiscal issues may impact federal agencies. ESA graduate student policy awardees will also meet with federal ecologists to learn about their work within the federal government.

“Young ecological scientists who are confident in their ability to engage within the policy sphere are needed more than ever, whether they chose to pursue a career in policy or research. Proficiency in communicating science to lawmakers to inform policy decisions is a valuable skill for ESA members to attain, and it’s never too soon to start,” said Katherine McCarter, executive director of ESA.

Brian Kastl

Brian Kastl

Kastl’s research on ecosystem services aims to inform the design of policies that support sustainable watershed management. In 2012, he was selected by The Nature Conservancy to lead a policy study in Micronesia to reduce the impact of deforestation on water security. He was subsequently awarded a travel grant to present his research at the 2013 United Nations Environment Program Global Land-Ocean Connections Conference. He is a PhD student in ecohydrology and decision science at the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, UC Santa Barbara, and a recipient of an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.


Kristin Lear

Kristen Lear

Lear worked with a Mexican non-governmental organization to develop science-based conservation policies for the Mexican Long-nosed bat. Her NSF Graduate Research Fellowship has been critical in providing professional development and in funding her bat conservation research. She is pursuing a PhD in Integrative Conservation and Forestry & Natural Resources at the University of Georgia.


Matthew Pintar

Matthew Pintar

Pintar’s graduate school experiences with the National Park Service and the US Forest Service shaped his interest in policy engagement. Internships with the Prince William Forest Park and the Sawtooth National Recreation Area provided him with unique insight into policy management decisions. As an undergrad, he studied the effects of acidification on ovenbird territory size within the Bear Brook Watershed in Maine. He is pursuing a PhD in Biology from the University of Mississippi.


Timothy Treuer

Timothy Treuer

Treuer’s NSF-funded research developed a technique using arrays of microphones, synced by GPS, to investigate how acoustically active species interact and coexist in their environment. Through participation in the Civics and Conservation Summit and the Climate Project, he led legislative and advocacy engagement efforts with Alaska’s state and federal lawmakers. He is a PhD candidate in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University.


Jessica Nicole Welch

Jessica Nicole Welch

Welch studies threats to bats caused by invasive species and analyzes the extinction risk of threatened bat species to better inform conservation efforts. She is involved with a diverse array of public outreach and volunteer work promoting science education. As Coordinator for Tennessee Darwin Day event, she applied for grants and solicited donations to offer Tennessee schoolteachers instruction on how to teach climate change and evolution. Welch has also presented at the 2012 and 2015 ESA annual meetings and served as a SEEDS mentor during the latter centennial meeting. She is working towards her PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Tennessee.


Samantha Werner

Samantha Werner

Werner hopes to provide policymakers with a better understanding of the link between agro-ecological sustainability and economic vitality through her Master’s degree research in environmental economics at the University of New Hampshire, funded by the US Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative. As an undergraduate, Werner got her start in research investigating the impact of climate change on ecosystems in northern Sweden with support from NSF. She presented her research during ESA’s centennial meeting.


The Graduate Student Policy Award is one of several ways ESA 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 may run—through ESA’s Student Section—to serve on several ESA standing committees including the Public Affairs Committee (PAC). ESA’s Washington, DC-base Public Affairs Office works closely with the PAC and focuses on activities to engage ecological scientists with policymakers and the media.

Reflections from past recipients are available on the Graduate Student Policy Award alumni network page.


The Ecological Society of America, founded in 1915, is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge, committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 10,000 member Society publishes six journals and a membership bulletin and broadly shares ecological information through policy, media outreach, and education initiatives. The Society’s Annual Meeting attracts 4,000 attendees and features the most recent advances in ecological science. Visit the ESA website at

California State Senator Darrell Steinberg named as ESA Regional Policy Award winner

ESA2014 Sacramento logo

99th Annual Meeting
The Ecological Society of America

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Contact: Alison Mize (703) 625-3628;


On Sunday, August 10, 2014, the Ecological Society of America (ESA) will present its seventh annual Regional Policy Award to California Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg during the Society’s 99th Annual Meeting conference in Sacramento, CA. The ESA award recognizes an elected or appointed local policymaker who has an outstanding record of informing policy decisions with ecological science.

“Darrell Steinberg exemplifies leadership in promoting sustainability” said ESA President Jill Baron.  “As the California Senate President Pro Tem he championed bills to foster renewable energy, clean water and parks. He sets a high standard for policymakers everywhere.”

Elected to the California Assembly in 1998 and to the Senate in 2006, Steinberg ascended to Senate leader in late 2008. During his time in the state Senate, Steinberg authored SB 375, the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008 (signed into law by Gov. Schwarzenegger), which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from passenger vehicles through transit-oriented urban growth. This year, he spearheaded a framework of permanent funding for mass transit, sustainable community development and transit-oriented affordable housing using the state’s Cap and Trade revenue, and also formulated a drought relief bill that prioritizes projects focusing on water conservation. In addition, Steinberg successfully passed legislation to modernize the California Environmental Quality Act.

“Despite the deniers who bury their heads in the sand and ignore global warming, the crisis of climate change is a very real threat. It’s a threat we need to meet head-on by embracing new concepts of where we live and work, how we get there, and how we create sustainable industries and communities,” said Senate Leader . “I’m humbled by this honor, and confident that those who follow in our Legislature will continue to carry the mantle of California’s leadership in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

ESA President Baron will present the 2014 ESA Regional Policy Award at the start of theOpening Plenary on Sunday, August 10 at 5 PM in the Memorial Auditorium of the Sacramento Convention Center.Kip Lipper, Steinberg’s Chief Counsel for Energy and Environment, will accept the award on his behalf.

Learn more about the August 10 – 15, 2014 ESA Annual Meeting.


The Ecological Society of America is the world’s largest community of professional ecologists and a trusted source of ecological knowledge. ESA is committed to advancing the understanding of life on Earth. The 10,000 member Society publishes five journals, convenes an annual scientific conference, and broadly shares ecological information through policy and media outreach and education initiatives. Visit the ESA website at