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Katherine S. McCarter Graduate Student Policy Award

Applications for the 2022 Graduate Student Policy Award are closed. Applications for the 2023 Graduate Student Policy Award will open in late 2022.

Are you a science graduate student interested in the intersection between policy and science? ESA invites you to apply for the 2022 Graduate Student Policy Award (GSPA), which will be virtual.

Offered each year, this award gives graduate students hands-on training and science policy experience including interacting with congressional decision-makers, federal agency officials, and ecologists who work in the science and public policy arena.

Many past recipients are currently working in public policy and many view the ESA GSPA as a stepping-stone to policy fellowship such as the AAAS Fellowship or the NOAA Knauss fellowship. Other past recipients pursue a research career, but find the public policy knowledge gained from the experience provides a foundation for interacting with policymakers,

Several one to two hour training and prep sessions will occur in late January and February 2022 over Zoom. Virtual Hill visits will be held Feb. 16-17. Participants are required to attend the trainings and must be available Feb. 16-17 for Hill meetings.

Additionally, we highly urge students to use their new policy skills and meet with their Member of Congress or staff in person in their state after the GSPA concludes. ESA staff will assist in arranging the meetings.

Applications are due 11:59 pm EDT Dec. 12, 2021

The 2020 Graduate Student Policy Award cohort. L-R: Tiffany Betras (University of Pittsburg, Callie Chappell (Stanford University), Claire Couch (Oregon State University), Ayo Andras Deas (City University of New York), Bradley Strickland (Florida International University), Ed Higgins (University of Oklahoma), Harrison Watson (Princeton University), Renata Kamakura (Duke University),  Natali R. Ramirez-Bullon (Florida State University),  Alexander Killion (University of Michigan) and Mayda Nathan (University of Maryland).

Overview, participants will receive:

  • Policy and communications training, including information on the legislative process and in federal science funding.
  • An opportunity to hear first-hand from ecologists currently working in federal agencies about their policy careers.
  • The experience of meetings with congressional policymakers on Capitol Hill to discuss the importance of federal investments in the biological and ecological sciences, with a primary focus on the National Science Foundation.

ESA will host a Congressional Visits Day to promote federal investment in the biological sciences, particularly through the National Science Foundation. Participants receive communications training and learn about the federal budget and appropriations process and the political landscape.  After the trainings,  participants meet with congressional decision-makers to discuss federal support of research and education in the biological sciences.


Applicants must be an ESA member and reside in the United States. Graduate students may be seeking a masters or a Ph.D. Past GSPA recipients are not eligible to apply.

Application Instructions:

You will complete the Google online form and upload your application materials to the form:

  • A one-page cover letter outlining your interest in science policy and relevant experience.
  • A one-page statement that reflects your insights and perspective on the importance of federal support of science and ecology in particular. Extra credit for examples of ecological success stories (i.e. where investment of federal dollars had a tangible return, particularly for your home state and if you have received NSF funding).
  • A one-page resume.

Applications are due at 11:59pm EDT Dec. 12, 2021.

***** How well you follow the submissions instructions will affect your score. Please submit your application as one Word file and save your file as LastNameFirstNameGSPA (i.e. SmithJaneGSPA).****

View pictures from the 2019 GSPA Hill Day here.

View the ESA Graduate Student Policy Award Alumni Network page here.

Listen to the interview podcasts of former winners here

To view the full list of past recipients, click here.

Questions? Email gro.asenull@nosila or gro.asenull@elocin.