ESA Selects 2021 Graduate Student Policy Award Recipients

March 15, 2021
For Immediate Release

Contact: Nicole Zimmerman, gro.asenull@elocin, Alison Mize, gro.asenull@nosila


The Ecological Society of America (ESA) is honored to announce the Katherine S. McCarter Graduate Student Policy Award (GSPA) 2021 cohort. This award provides graduate students with the opportunity to receive policy and communication training before they meet lawmakers.

ESA selected 23 students to receive the award: Evelyn M. Beaury (University of Massachusetts Amherst), Gabriel R. Chavez (University of Colorado Denver), Daniel J. Desautels (Emory University), Brooke Eastman (West Virginia University), Emily A. Geest (Oklahoma State University), Sara L. Hamilton (Oregon State University), Katherine Hayes (University of Colorado Denver), Julia L. Indivero (University of Washington), M. Inam Jameel (University of Georgia), Sarah M. Klionsky (University of Connecticut), Jasmine Kreig (University of Tennessee, Knoxville), Michael W.D. McCloy (Texas A&M University), Zechariah Meunier (Oregon State University), Micah C. Miles (University of Georgia), Zachary J. Miller (University of Missouri), Castilleja F. Olmsted (University of Pittsburgh), Melinda Paduani (Florida International University), Aradhana J. Roberts (Lund University), Milica Radanovic (Washington State University), Kate Ritzel (George Mason University), Gregor-Fausto Siegmund (Cornell University) and Jewel Tomasula (Georgetown University).

Students will meet virtually in April to learn about the federal legislative process and science funding, to hear from ecologists working in federal agencies, and to meet with their Members of Congress on Capitol Hill. This Congressional Visit Day, organized and sponsored by ESA, offers GSPA recipients the chance to interact with policymakers and discuss the importance of federal funding for science and the need for research relief for the biological and ecological sciences.

“Early careers scientists who are passionate about understanding and contributing to the world of policy are needed now more than ever,” said ESA President Kathleen Weathers “ESA is delighted to offer this opportunity for graduate students to engage with policy and policy makers.”

Click here to see a Flickr album with photos of this year’s award winners.


Evelyn M. Beaury

Evelyn Beaury is a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate and National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellow in the Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Beaury’s research focuses on how anthropogenic and environmental factors interact to influence plant invasions at the macroscale. She has always been driven to work on projects with real-world implications, so much of her dissertation work sits at the intersection of invasive species research, management and policy. Aside from research, Beaury is involved in several outreach and science communication organizations at UMass. Beaury graduated summa cum laude from the University of Colorado Boulder, receiving degrees in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and French.


Gabriel R. Chavez

Gabriel R. Chavez is a student in the Master of Public Administration program in the School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado Denver. His interest in science policy stems from his experience conducting conservation work in Washington state. He is interested in learning how to strengthen environmental policy to create more resilient ecological communities. Prior to enrolling in graduate school, Chavez worked primarily in the public sector performing conservation and environmental analysis work. Chavez holds a B.S. with a focus in Natural Resource Management from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington.


Daniel J. Desautels

Daniel Desautels is a fifth-year Ph.D. candidate in Population Biology, Ecology, and Evolution at Emory University. His research investigates the environmental determinants of disease transmission. Specifically, he studies how invasive aquatic plants alter the transmission of human schistosomes by altering the community ecology of freshwater lakes with endemic schistosome transmission. Desautels hopes to make policy recommendations about how to simultaneously manage plant invasions and schistosome transmission to maintain healthy ecosystems while also minimizing the risk of human disease outbreaks. Desautels has a passion for health and environmental policy and hopes to work as a science policy advisor after earning his Ph.D. He was a Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Graduate Fellow at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine where he learned how to use scientific evidence to create policy recommendations for Congress. Desautels earned a B.S. in Microbiology and Life Sciences Communication from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.


Brooke Eastman

Brooke Eastman is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Biology at West Virginia University. She works in the biogeochemistry lab of Dr. William Peterjohn and conducts research at the long-term nitrogen fertilization study at the Fernow Experimental Forest in West Virginia. Her research interests center on the impacts of nitrogen deposition from acid rain on forest ecosystems’ ability to store carbon. She is particularly interested in how plants, microbes and soils interact to influence the soil carbon sink, which is the largest sink of carbon on land. Eastman also collaborates with the National Center for Atmospheric Research to test different soil carbon models against observations at the Fernow Experimental Forest to ultimately improve our predictions of the exchange of carbon between the land and atmosphere. She was a participant of the first Graduate Student Climate Adaptation Partners program through the USDA Northeast Climate Hub and has recently become involved with science and technology policy through volunteer work with the Bridge Initiative at West Virginia University.


Emily A. Geest

Emily A. Geest is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Integrative Biology at Oklahoma State University in Dr. Kristen Baum’s lab. She uses applied landscape ecology to understand how anthropogenic land-use change and land management influence invertebrates, specifically grassland butterflies. Her current research is investigating how patch-burn grazing affects the butterfly community in the southern Great Plains. Outside of research, she volunteers for multiple local, regional and national volunteer organizations and was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Missouri Community College Association and Outstanding Community Service Student of the Year from Oklahoma State University for her efforts in increasing science outreach opportunities in her community. Geest earned an M.S. in Biology from the University of Nebraska Omaha researching how urban gardens affect monarch butterfly survival and a B.A. in Biology from the University of Missouri–St. Louis.


Sara L. Hamilton

Sara Hamilton is a Ph.D. candidate at Oregon State University (OSU), co-advised by Drs. Kirsten Grorud-Colvert and Bruce Menge. Her dissertation work focuses on the applied ecology of kelp forests in the Pacific Northwest and she works across disciplines to better understand the population dynamics, trophic ecology and management of these systems. Her motivation for getting a Ph.D. was to one day help improve the management and sustainable use of nearshore ecosystems. While at OSU she has worked towards this goal by co-authoring a paper on Marine Protected Area implementation, co-leading an effort to list the sunflower sea star as critically endangered via the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List, and dedicating a thesis chapter to studying best practices for managing kelp forests. Her work is supported by an OSU Provost Fellowship and an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. Hamilton originally hails from the Appalachian Mountains in Virginia and received her B.S. in Biology and Gender Studies from Bowdoin College in Maine.


Katherine Hayes

Katherine Hayes is a third-year Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of Colorado Denver. She works in the intersection of paleoecology, landscape ecology and fire science studying how ecosystems change over space and time. Her interest in fire sparked from working on charcoal records in a paleoecology lab as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Prior to her Ph.D., she studied long-term records of fire in coast redwood forests as part of her master’s research at the University of Oregon. Her doctoral research explores how increasing fires in Alaska are driving shifts in forest communities, forest carbon storage and future landscape flammability.


Julia L. Indivero

Julia Indivero is a first-year M.S. student in the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington under the supervision of Dr. Tim Essington. Her research focuses on modeling fish community dynamics to advance the sustainable management of fisheries. She received her B.A. in Biology and Environmental Studies from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut in 2017. She has previously researched ecology and conservation biology with the Organization for Tropical Studies in South Africa and Oregon Sea Grant at the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve. She most recently worked with the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory at the Marine and Coastal Research Laboratory in Sequim, Washington. She is also dedicated to STEM outreach and education and serves as a mentor with the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship Program.


Inam Jameel

Inam Jameel is a Ph.D. candidate, a current National Institutes of Health (NIH) T32 Fellow and a previous NSF Bridge to the Doctorate Fellow in the Department of Genetics at the University of Georgia. Jameel is interested in teasing apart the interactions of environment and genetic variation to produce quantitative traits in plants. His dissertation involves determining the relevancy and fitness consequences of within- and transgenerational plasticity to expression of plant herbivore defense traits and characterizing the genetic architecture of plasticity. He is actively carrying out field experiments in the Colorado Rocky Mountains as a researcher at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory. Jameel also has leadership roles in organizations that help train students in science communication, science advocacy and policy and mentoring. Jameel completed his B.S. in Biological Sciences at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Before attending graduate school, Jameel was a recipient of the Hot Metal Bridge Fellowship for post-baccalaureate study at the University of Pittsburgh and a research technician at Michigan State University and Purdue University.


Sarah M. Klionsky

Sarah Klionsky is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment at the University of Connecticut. Her research focuses on outcomes of wetland restoration on former agricultural land. She works in retired cranberry bogs, studying abiotic controls on vegetation response and how vegetation and microtopography interact to impact nitrogen dynamics. Klionsky is interested in working to advance the science, policy and practice of restoration ecology. She earned M.S. degrees in Botany and in Environment and Resources from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and a B.A. in Biology from Williams College. She also has experience working on plant conservation and management at the Native Plant Trust and as an educator.


Jasmine Kreig

Jasmine Kreig is a Ph.D. candidate in the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education which is run jointly at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Her research for her dissertation explores biodiversity and bioenergy in Iowa. Specifically, she explores how incorporating biomass feedstocks into landscapes may effect biodiversity and evaluates various harvesting strategies for ring-necked pheasants and switchgrass at the field scale. Prior to starting graduate school, she spent two years at Oak Ridge National Laboratory as a post-bachelors research associate investigating the water quality implications from growing dedicated bioenergy crops in the Arkansas–White–Red river basin. Kreig earned a B.S. in Environmental Science and a B.A. in mathematics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. While working on her doctorate, she earned a M.S. in mathematics from UTK.


Michael W.D. McCloy

Michael McCloy is a third-year Ph.D. student in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Interdisciplinary Program at Texas A&M University and a Graduate Research Fellow with the Welder Wildlife Foundation. He works in the avian ecology lab of Dr. Jacquelyn Grace and studies how bird communities respond to environmental disturbance. Specifically, his research investigates the resiliency of songbird communities following hurricanes along the Gulf Coast of the United States. His interest in science policy is motivated by a deep desire to develop sustainable, science-based policy and management initiatives that improve biodiversity conservation efforts and engage local communities. McCloy has a B.S. in Natural Resource Conservation and Management from Western Carolina University.


Zechariah Meunier

Zechariah Meunier is a fourth-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Integrative Biology at Oregon State University (OSU), co-advised by Drs. Bruce Menge and Sally Hacker. With fellowship support from OSU and the NSF, Meunier investigates community assembly processes in rocky intertidal ecosystems of Oregon, California and Nova Scotia. He is interested in how climate change, disturbance events, diseases and other species interactions influence the dynamics of community succession. Following his passion for conservation, Meunier has also published research on marine protected area establishment and the unintended consequences of biocontrol insects for threatened wildflowers. He is currently serving as the President of the Science Policy Club at OSU. Prior to his doctoral studies, Meunier completed his B.A. in Biology and Environmental Studies at Lawrence University. While at Lawrence, Meunier was awarded the Gilman Scholarship to study abroad in Madagascar and the Udall Scholarship in recognition of his commitment to environmental issues. He enjoys birding, distance running, backpacking and playing with his cat, Kamala.


Micah C. Miles

Micah Miles is a Ph.D. candidate in the Integrative Conservation program at the University of Georgia (UGA) with an emphasis in Forestry. She began her graduate education in the UGA Maerz Herpetology Lab and partnered with the National Park Service to analyze a long-term dataset that she helped contribute to as a prior intern. Her thesis employed models to quantify distribution patterns of reptiles and amphibians in the urban protected area of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Her Ph.D. dissertation research takes a strong pivot and uses qualitative methods to explore the motivations and lived experiences of amphibian and reptile conservation volunteers in the Atlanta metropolitan region. Miles was awarded the Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation and is a contributing member of the Biota Project, a non-profit science communication organization committed to empowering diverse communities as scientific stewards through education and outreach.


Zachary J. Miller

Zachary Miller is a Ph.D. candidate in Biological Sciences at the University of Missouri (MU) where he works with Dr. Candace Galen to investigate climate change impacts on pollination ecology. Using alpine ecosystems as study sites, Miller uses novel acoustic techniques alongside long-term climate and floral data to understand how shifts in climate affect bumblebee health and pollination services. His work helps to demonstrate the viability of alternative, non-lethal methods for studying important pollinators. Miller is passionate about science outreach and education. He worked on an NIH SEPA grant with MU’s Linking Science & Literacy for All Learners to develop and implement middle school science curricula, and he presently serves on the executive team of Science on Wheels, an MU-based science outreach organization. Miller seeks a career at the intersection of science and policy to help propel climate change mitigation action in Missouri. He is currently supported by an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. Prior to MU, Miller served as a Sustainable Agriculture Extensionist in the United States Peace Corps in Paraguay and earned a B.A. in Environmental Studies at Truman State University.


Castilleja F. Olmsted

Castilleja Olmsted is a third-year Ph.D. student in Biological Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh. Her research investigates the importance of soil seed banks for forest communities undergoing anthropogenic changes and maintaining crop diversity in traditional agriculture. She is also pursuing a graduate certificate in Latin American Studies and a teaching minor. Olmsted was awarded the Alfredo D. and Luz Maria P. Gutierrez Predoctoral Fellowship from the University of Pittsburgh. She currently serves as president for the Women in Science and Engineering Graduate Student Organization at the University of Pittsburgh and is a member of the Field Safety Committee and the Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Biological Sciences. Although she is a plant ecologist, Olmsted also spent a summer working with snakes at the University of Northern Colorado. Before graduate school, she earned a B.A. from Earlham College, where she double-majored in Environmental Science – Biology and Spanish & Hispanic Studies.


William Ota

William Ota is a Ph.D. student in the Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology Department at UC Riverside with Dr. Kurt Anderson. He studies the effects of urbanization, effluent and invasive species on freshwater community composition and maintenance. His study system is the urban Santa Ana River in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties, and he primarily works with endangered Santa Ana sucker and its invasive predators. Ota hopes to advance ecological knowledge of urbanized areas to improve conservation outcomes. Ota has sought science policy experiences to become an expert in relaying scientific knowledge to regulators and policymakers. He has won the 2020 UC Center Sacramento STEM Solutions competition, serves as the Government Relations Chair for UCR Science to Policy and the Scholarship Program Coordinator for the National Science Policy Network. Before attending UC Riverside, he graduated from Pepperdine University.


Melinda Paduani

Melinda Paduani is a third-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Earth and Environment at Florida International University. Currently, she is an NSF CREST Center for Aquatic Chemistry and Environment Fellow researching the ecological role of mangrove forests in sequestering microplastics and its implications for water quality management. Specifically, Paduani works in the estuary of Biscayne Bay in southeast Florida to identify the distribution and retention mechanisms of plastic debris on the forest floor, in mangrove sediments, and in water. Her ultimate goal is to work with local decisionmakers to integrate empirical research with water quality policy in South Florida and reduce plastic pollution entering the Bay. Paduani received a B.S. in Biology with an Environmental Studies minor from the University of Central Florida.


Aradhana J. Roberts

Aradhana Roberts is a Ph.D. Candidate at Lund University in Sweden at the Department of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science. She developed her passion for integrating environmental science research and human development during her upbringing in the foothills of the Himalayas in India and went on to complete undergraduate and graduate degrees in the United States in Environmental Science and Policy. Currently, for her Ph.D. research she has set up 25 study sites around the world to understand the effects of forest management. She is specifically looking through the lens of insect feeding patterns to detect carbon and soil nutrient cycling in forests with fires, logging and drought globally. Together this research furthers our understanding of how changes in forest disturbances will impact the carbon budget and improve our modeled representation of forest-climate interactions now and in the future. Roberts’ ultimate goal is to apply ecological research to benefit our communities and natural resources sustainably.


Milica Radanovic

Milica Radanovic is a Ph.D. candidate in Biology in the School of Biological Sciences at Washington State University (WSU). Her research interests explore how human activities drive ecological change in diverse ecosystems. She is identifying how environmental conditions control soil microbial communities responsible for soil greenhouse gas emissions. This work is supported by the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program. As a member of the interdisciplinary Carbon – Nitrogen Systems: Policy-oriented Integrated Research and Education graduate certificate program at WSU, she became interested in developing effective communication strategies for scientists and policymakers. She is passionate about making science education and research accessible. Radanovic earned B.S. degrees in Biology and Environmental Science from Loyola University Chicago.


Kate Ritzel

Kate Ritzel is an M.S. student at George Mason University (GMU) working in Dr. Travis Gallo’s URBANxNATURE lab within the Department of Environmental Science and Policy. Her research explores how mammals are responding to the various novel pressures presented by the urban environment. She investigates behavior adaptation in raccoons by examining behavioral responses to novel stimuli in urban and rural populations. She has served as a volunteer field interpreter with the Potomac Environmental Research & Education Center’s Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience at GMU and performed ecological restoration work with the U.S. Youth Conservation Corps. She earned a B.S. in Environmental Science and Policy and a graduate certificate in Geographic Information Systems from GMU, where she received the Outstanding Ecological Science Undergraduate Student Award. During her internship with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, she drafted key components of the 2017 Candidate Notice of Review of Foreign Species used to update federal lists of endangered and threatened wildlife and plants. For the past two years, she’s worked with U.S. Geological Survey scientists to develop website content and communicate nation-wide projects relating to land resources and climate. A 20-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, she merges a wealth of management and policy experience with a deep commitment to ecological research to develop practical solutions that conserve biodiversity.


Gregor-Fausto Siegmund

Gregor-Fausto Siegmund is a Ph.D. candidate in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell University. He studies plant populations and uses demographic tools to investigate patterns of geographic variation in life histories. He is broadly interested in how quantitative methods are applied and used in research and management and is excited to connect his graduate training with a stronger understanding of the role of science in a democratic society. He received a Graduate Research Fellowship from NSF and a Presidential Life Sciences Fellowship from Cornell University. Before graduate school, Siegmund did fieldwork at Mt. Rainier National Park and in Trinidad and Tobago. He has a B.A. in Biology with a specialization in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Chicago.


Jewel Tomasula

Jewel Tomasula is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Biology at Georgetown University. She works in the ecology lab of Dr. Gina Wimp and conducts field experiments in a mid-Atlantic salt marsh. Utilizing this ecosystem, she is investigating the role of plant genetic diversity for ecological resilience. Her research is supported by the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program. Tomasula is the President of the graduate labor union Georgetown Alliance of Graduate Employees and was a member of the negotiations team for the first collective bargaining agreement. Before pursuing graduate research, Tomasula worked at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Superfund Program Headquarters Office. Her BS in Environmental Science is from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. She grew up in New Mexico and central Texas, and she has family roots in the Texas-Mexico border community.



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 9,000 member Society publishes five 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

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