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ESA Graduate Student Policy Award Alumni Network 

Jason Aloisio (2017)

How the program impacted me: While stuck in the weeds, literally and figuratively, of my dissertation research that explores the plant colonization dynamics of green roofs, I think that I lacked an appreciation for the importance of policy in shaping the Anthropocene. However, after learning about some of the inner workings of Capitol Hill through the ESA GSPA program, it is increasingly clear to me that ecologists need to be engaged in the world of policy to achieve ESA’s Earth Stewardship goals. Engagement can take many forms and will differ for everyone, but working as a combined society of ecologists is no doubt a key component because of our collective impact that can be made a local and national scales. After the ESA GSPA program I felt energized and excited to continue to volunteer my time to serve ESA and its broader mission.

What I’m up to now: In May 2017, I graduated from Fordham University and I currently work at the Wildlife Conservation Society as a co-PI and the Program Coordinator for Project TRUE (Teens Researching Urban Ecology), an NSF funded urban ecology research mentoring program aimed at exposing pre-college students from underrepresented minority groups to ecology. I’m also planning a continental scale cycling journey that aims to better understand the current state of the Human Footprint. 

Contact email: gro.scwnull@oisiolaj

Sarah Anderson (2014)

How the program impacted me:  Through the ESA GSPA award, I learned a lot about the federal budget, how to talk to congressional policy-makers, and what my congressional offices are like.  It was an interesting mental exercise to tie the work I do every day to something a congressperson or staffer would care about, like a line in the federal budget; it gave me an appreciation for the context of my research in a broader national and societal setting.

What I’m up to now: After my PhD, I had the opportunity to work as NOAA Sea Grant John A. Knauss Fellow for a US Senator for a year working on environmental, energy, and agricultural issues and policy. Now, I am a Presidential Management Fellow at the Forest Service in Washington, DC where I work as an ecologist. 

Contact email: moc.liamgnull@01.nosredna.m.haras

Eve Beaury (2021)

How the program impacted me: This program showed me the role scientists can have in policy and how to use different communication styles to push science advocacy forward. I’ve done some policy-relevant research without knowing how to share the work in a meaningful way. This program gave me the tools to get more involved in research implementation.

What I’m up to now: I am postdoctoral research associate with the High Meadows Environmental Institute at Princeton University. I’m working to understand the biodiversity impacts of land-based climate mitigation strategies.

Contact email: moc.liamgnull@yruaeb.eve

Matthew Berg (2013)

mattBergHow the program impacted me:  The GSPA program gave my understanding of the role of science in policy (and vice versa) a huge shot in the arm. I bumped up my political savvy several notches and built relationships on Capitol Hill that I rely on to this day. I’m still plugging away at regional, state, and federal conservation policy issues regularly, meeting with elected representatives every chance I get.

What I’m up to now: I launched my own natural resources consulting firm, Simfero Consultants, in Houston in 2016. Most of my time is devoted to analyses, stakeholder engagement, and policy initiatives toward water supply, flooding, and climate issues. I also stay busy serving on the board of directors for a key regional land trust.

Contact email: moc.liamgnull@grebwehttam.rd

Drew Bingham (2014)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHow the program impacted me:  I’d say there were two main ways the program impacted me.  The first was that it inspired me to become more engaged with my local representatives.  From afar, it’s easy to become cynical and think that politicians only care about special interests.  But I realized they do pay attention to their constituents and unless we make our voices heard, they will only hear from one side of an issue.  The second impact was just to reinforce my desire to look for a job when I graduate that works on that interface of science and policy to facilitate better management decisions.

What I’m up to now: I’m still with the National Park Service and planning to graduate in December from CSU, at which point I’ll be looking to transition to a job in ecology / policy.

Contact email: moc.liamgnull@8niberd

Sydney Blankers (2015)

BlankersHow the program impacted me:  The GSPA provided me with an invaluable glimpse into the federal budget and the process of advocating for change on the Hill. I am especially grateful for the chance to connect with other award winners, as well as many insightful professionals; adding such knowledgeable and motivating individuals to my professional network is priceless. 

What I’m up to now: After receiving my Master’s degree in urban and environmental planning, I joined a sustainability-oriented planning and architecture firm in Chicago. There, I focus on incorporating science and research into sustainable urban design and policy strategies. 

Contact email: moc.liamgnull@sreknalbps 


Gabriel Chavez (2021)

How the program impacted me: The GSPA program was an incredible opportunity for me to connect my field work background with a broader policy perspective. Meeting with staffers and collaborating with fellow science-minded folks with varying backgrounds and interests helped me to gain insight into how tailored information and passionate thinking shape policy decisions. The program made me realize the impact that a group of like-minded individuals can have through focused collective action.

What I’m up to now: I am currently plugging with my Master of Public Administration degree at the University of Colorado Denver, and I aim to graduate in the Spring of 2023. After I graduate, I would like to transition into working for a large environmental nonprofit organization or working in government as a policy analyst or environmental program coordinator.

Contact email: moc.liamgnull@2991zevahc.ebag

Cleo Chou (2015)

Cleo_Chou_headshotHow the program impacted me: I am thankful to the ESA GSPA program because it demonstrated to me the numerous and varied ways by which ecologists can have a role in policy. It was inspirational to hear the stories of several Ph.D. ecologists who came from academic backgrounds and to learn about how they transitioned to science policy careers in different governmental agencies. In addition, the Congressional Visits gave me a better understanding of how Congressional members interact with and serve constituents, as well as how governmental funding is allocated. Through the GSPA program, I feel much better prepared to create a career path for myself that is at the interface of science and policy.

What I’m up to now: I am currently a AAAS Science Technology Policy Fellow with the Sustainable Landscapes team in the Office of Global Climate Change at USAID.

Contact email: moc.liamgnull@uohc.oelc 

Tyler Coverdale (2017)

How the program impacted me: The ESA GSPA award gave me new insight into the decision-making behind science funding and the inner workings of science advocacy. It inspired me to become more involved in local and national politics and to advocate on behalf of scientific causes that I’m passionate about. I plan to be a more active and informed constituent and to use the skills I learned from the staff at ESA and AIBS to more effectively petition my representatives for the changes I’d like to see.

What I’m up to now: I am currently a Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow at Cornell University working with Anurag Agrawal on the ecology and evolution of plant defenses

Contact email: ude.llenrocnull@eladrevoc

Ayo Andra J. Deas (2020)

How the program impacted me: The ESA GSPA provided me the opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals, learn more about the federal budget, how to talk with congressional policy-makers, and make a positive impact on my community. Despite COVID-19 altering our in-person visit to Capitol Hill, it was a fantastic experience to connect with ecologists that share an interest in advancing science in a sustainable way from local-to-global scales. After receiving the award, I was given the opportunity to share my experience as a Ph.D. student and ESA GSPA recipient to the subsequent cohort of ESA GSPA recipients. 

What I’m up to now: Now, I am finishing up my Ph.D. that explores how species-specific oak trees respond to the climate in the Northeastern U.S. using tree dating and satellite imagery. I am currently working on my projects with NASA’s Climate Change Research Initiative and NOAA’s Center for Earth System Sciences and Remote Sensing Technologies (CESSRST). I am also developing my educational curriculum that focuses on indigenous ways of knowing. The STEM engagement component of my project is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). This summer, I will work at NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory to work with their climate model to help NOAA’s mission to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts.

Contact email: ude.ynuc.cgnull@saeda

Lindsey Deel (2013)

Lindsey Deel for GSPA websiteHow the program impacted me:  The GSPA gave me insight into what goes on beyond science in the world of academia.  It has given me a whole new perspective on defining the goals and implications of the work I do.

What I’m up to now: I’m working on finishing my PhD in Geography at West Virginia University.

Contact email: moc.liamgnull@leed.yasdnil


Alexis Erwin (2010)

GSPA website ALEXISHow the program impacted me: I’m grateful to the GSPA program for launching my involvement in other ESA policy activities. I was elected Student Liaison to the Policy Section, helped develop An Ecologist’s Guidebook for Policy Engagement, co-organized two Symposia about the science-policy interface at our Annual Meeting, and was appointed to a three-year term on the Public Affairs Committee.

What I’m up to now: After defending my dissertation at Cornell, I spent a stint at the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines, working on sustainable agriculture. In 2013, I developed policy at the food-water-energy nexus while a Science and Technology Policy Advisor to the California Senate Energy Committee. From 2014-2016, during a AAAS Fellowship within USAID’s Africa Bureau, I led development of environmental and social safeguards for President Obama’s ‘Power Africa’ Initiative. Currently, I lead teams implementing a legal mandate (from Congress to USAID) to review adverse impacts of development projects funded by multilateral banks in which the U.S. in a shareholder, such as the African Development Bank.

Contact email: moc.liamgnull@niwre.c.sixela

Dan Evans (2011)

GSPA website DanHow the program impacted me: It strengthened my ability to communicate that scientific research is vital to maintaining social and economic progress. It helped me to understand how all of us constituents can better influence Members of Congress. And it permitted me to meet new people at the Ecological Society of America who remain friends and professional colleagues.

What I’m up to now: I’m an AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow at US AID.

Contact email: moc.liamgnull@301snave.leinad

Ann Marie Gawel (2018)

How the program impacted me: During my time in DC, I learned some great lessons about communicating with lawmakers and staffers and had the fortune of meeting 3 out of 4 of my representatives from Iowa and Guam in person. One of the most valuable takeaways from the program is my new network of amazing young scientists and influencers who comprised my cohort.

What I’m up to now: Shortly after the DC visit, I passed my preliminary exams and became a PhD candidate. I also wrapped up a field season in Guam where I co-organized a terrestrial conservation conference with local scientists and managers. I am continuing my thesis research on novel ecosystems and conservation in islands.

Contact email: ude.etatsainull@lewagnna

Emily Geest (2021)

How the program impacted me: The program inspired to become more involved in science policy and advocacy concerning invertebrate conservation. I’ve since hosted a field day for my legislative representative at my field site location. I’ve also completed a NSPN science policy boot camp, and I am looking forward to completing an upcoming science policy residency this year.

What I’m up to now: I’m currently a post-doctoral fellow at Oklahoma State University. My ongoing research uses applied community ecology to investigate how anthropogenic land use change and land management choices influence invertebrates, specifically grassland butterflies and other pollinators. Outside of research, I volunteer for multiple volunteer organizations that focus on increasing science outreach opportunities in Oklahoma. I am currently collaborating with this volunteer network to investigate how outreach and community science can be used to increase public education about the need for bees and butterflies and advocating for people to use pollinator friendly practices on their land.

Contact email: ude.etatskonull@tseege

Emily Graves (2018)

How the program impacted me: The ESA GSPA provided me with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience a fast-paced day on Capitol Hill. Prior to meeting with Congressional staffers, ESA provided us with training focused on communicating science to policy makers. This helped me craft a brief but concise statement about how federal science funding benefits not just me as a STEM graduate student, but also society as a whole. Having the chance to meet previous ESA GSPA recipients who stayed to work in the policy realm was a real eye-opener for me in terms of possible career paths. Getting to know the other graduate students in my GSPA cohort through our overlapping interests helped expand my views on science policy and the value of ecological science at a national scale.

What I’m up to now: I am a 4th-year PhD Candidate in the Ecology Graduate Group at the University of California, Davis. My ongoing research is focused on the ecological impacts of agricultural pesticides on non-target systems and applied conservation management of the Tricolored Blackbird.

Contact email: ude.sivadcunull@sevargee

Anna Groves (2017)

How the program impacted me: The GSPA program jump-started an interest in science policy careers and solidified my interest in science communication more broadly. The most valuable aspects of the program were the new connections I made and the opportunities I learned about for ecology graduate students interested in transitioning into policy and communication fields.

What I’m up to now: I graduated with my Ph.D. in 2018 from Michigan State University and spent the summer writing for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as a AAAS Mass Media Fellow. Connections there led to my current job as Assistant Editor at Discover Magazine, where I started in September 2018.

Contact email: moc.liamgnull@anna.sevorg 

Renata Poulton Kamakura (2020)

How the program impacted me: While I was aware of the relevance of policy for my research on urban tree health, I did not have any sense of how to communicate with policymakers in an effective way. The workshops gave me the tools to create short, clear, and targeted communication materials and presentations that I have used as I communicate my science to a wide array of potentially interested people. I learned most directly about Capitol Hill, but it has shifted my approach as I interact with non-profits, industry professionals, local legislators, and community members.

What I’m up to now: I am now in my third year of my PhD program in Ecology, studying urban tree health through a NatureNet Science Fellowship with the Nature Conservancy. In particular, I look at how maintenance impacts tree health and how tree health correlates to growing conditions across cities and neighborhoods. 

Contact email: ude.ekudnull@arukamak.ataner

Natalie Karmally (Hambalek) (2015)

NatalieHambalekHow the program impacted me: The ESA GSPA provided me with an invaluable opportunity of getting to learn and implement effective science communication skills at the Congressional level. The experience gave me a first-hand glimpse of the bustling life on Capitol Hill, allowed me to gain a network of like-minded professionals, and reinforced my understanding that there are many components involved in high-level policy making and science should at the very least, have a voice in those discussions.

What I’m doing now: 

After completing my Masters degree studying amphibian disease ecology from Oregon State University, I completed a year of service with Americorps VISTA in the Monterey Peninsula. Currently, I am an Operations Manager at a environmental non-profit called MEarth in Carmel, CA, whose mission is to educate and inspire youth and adults through environmental stewardship.

Contact: moc.liamgnull@kelabmaheilatan

Julia Indivero (2021)

How the program impacted me: The GSPA program gave me a better understanding of the federal budget process and the policy behind federal funding of scientific research in the U.S. Participating in meetings with congressional representatives provided insight into the behind-the-scenes working of congressional offices. I hope to use this experience to continue engaging with government at the local, state, and federal level.

What I’m doing now: I am in the middle of my PhD program at University of Washington School of Aquatic & Fishery Sciences, getting to dig into a mix of research projects, including a spatial and temporal model of walleye pollock in the Bering Sea; the impacts of shoreline restoration on nearshore fish in the Puget Sound, Washington; and modeling how climate change will cause changes in the spatial overlap between high valued target fish species and “choke” species that constrain fishing opportunities. I also serve as a mentor in the Washington State Opportunity Scholarship program, and as a board member on our department’s education and outreach organization.

Contact email: ude.wunull@vidnij

Brian Kastl (2016)

Brian Kastl_Field photoHow the program impacted me: The ESA GSPA program was an invaluable opportunity to learn effective communication skills to convey the importance of ecology research for successful policy development. Meetings with congressional offices and a US Senator shed light on strategies to address pressing issues at the state and national levels through ecology research. I am also grateful for the time that experienced science policy advisors and analysts in the ESA network generously provided to expose GSPA recipients to exciting career opportunities at the science-policy interface.

What I’m up to now: This experience on Capitol Hill instilled in me an even greater motivation to demonstrate meaningful policy applications of my PhD research on forest-based ecosystem services and water resources management. I am now better equipped to combine my academic research with my policy experience to pursue a fulfilling career at the intersection of ecology and policy.  

Contact email: moc.liamgnull@48ltsaknairb

Emily Kiehnau (2019)

How the program impacted me: The ESA GSPA allowed me to see firsthand how science and policy are interrelated. The training by ESA helped me develop a succinct narrative about my research and how federal funding of science benefits both me and society as a whole. The experience on Capitol Hill provided me with an inside look at how science funding and advocacy works in action. In addition, throughout the experience, I was exposed to a wide variety of career paths that I was not previously aware of. Ultimately, the experience informed me about how I can contribute both to policy and science either by being a politically active/aware researcher or by transitioning into the science communication/policy field

What I’m up to now: I am a 5th-year PhD Candidate in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology program at the University of Oklahoma. My ongoing research is focused on exploring the response of the Lake Mendota (WI) Daphnia community to the spiny water flea (Bythotrephes longimanus) invasion. I am using a resurrection ecology approach to directly test whether pre- and post-invasion Daphnia have developed anti-predator defenses (either constitutive or inducible) in response to the non-native predator.


Sara Kuebbing (2012)

Sara-KuebbingHow the program impacted me: The GSPA taught me how easy (and important!) it is to engage with my representatives, which I have done many times since the program.

What I’m up to now: I am an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Science at the University of Pittsburgh.

Contact email: ude.ttipnull@gnibbeuk.aras 



Kristen Lear (2016)

How the program impacted me: The ESA GSPA provided me with my first “hands-on” experience in science policy. I’d never visited a congressional office before, so the Hill meetings gave me a taste of how I can begin to incorporate policy into my own research and extracurricular activities. I still have several years left in my PhD program and am unsure exactly what I want to pursue afterwards, but I can now better see how I can apply my research and steer my career towards a direction that will have direct policy implications.

What I’m up to now: I am continuing with my PhD program in Integrative Conservation ( and Forestry & Natural Resources at the University of Georgia studying the conservation of endangered pollinating bats in Mexico through “bat-friendly” agave use and management. My work tackles both the ecological interactions between the bats and agaves, as well as the institutional and individual motivations for potential “bat-friendly” management practices within local communities.

Contact email: ude.agunull@raelk or moc.liamgnull@rael.netsirk


Charlotte Levy (2019)

Charlotte Levvy

How the program impacted me: The program gave me tools and opportunities to find my own role in policy as a scientist. Learning about federal budgets and rule-making procedures provided invaluable context for a scientist thinking about how their own work influences policy. Meeting with congressional staff showed the direct applications and the value of advocating thoughtfully for science funding through the lens of my own research.

What I’m up to now: In August 2019, I wrapped up a PhD in climate impacts of land-use change through albedo at Cornell University. As of November 2019, I will be starting a Post-Doc in Boston with the Schaaf lab. My post-doc will use some of the same techniques and practices (climate implications of land-use change through satellite data-sets), however I will be working with land trusts and local coalitions to make my findings directly relevant to issues such as solar farms and forest and farmland conversion in the New England region.

Contact email: ude.llenrocnull@222lrc

Michael Levy (2011)

GSPA website LevyHow the program impacted me: My GSPA experience gave me an experiential understanding of the lobbying and policy making processes — what had been abstract was made human and concrete. This gave me the confidence to work with policy makers and helped me define a career path at the interface of science and policy.

What I’m up to now: I am a PhD student in the Center for Environmental Policy and Behavior at the University of California, Davis where we work to understand how policies designed to protect our natural resources can be made more effective. I use quantitative and complex systems tools including statistical modeling, network analysis, and agent-based modeling to understand the dynamics of coupled social-environmental systems.

Contact email: ude.sivadcunull@yvelam, Website:

Tim Ohlert (2019)

How the program impacted me: The GSPA helped me understand what goes into the policymaking process and how scientists can be a part of that process.

What I’m up to now: I am working on my PhD in the Biology department at the University of New Mexico.

Contact email: ude.mnunull@trelhot





William Ota (2021)

How the program impacted me:  Working with the ESA policy staff and other GSPA participants helped me to understand exactly how much ESA does to connect with legislators and policymakers. I now know how I can engage in outreach and advocacy with my society members in the future. All the training helped me improve my communication skills and had an amazing opportunity to practice those skills during the legislative meetings.

What I’m up to: I am now the chair-elect of ESA’s Policy Section, Associate Editor for JSPG, and am helping the Oswit Land Trust work to rewild abandoned golf courses in Palm Springs. All of the training and experience I received in the GSPA helps me in these new roles and apply my scientific skills to policy problems.

Contact email: ude.rcunull@100atow

Caitlin McDonough Mackenzie (2013)

GSPA-website-CMMHow the program impacted me: When the awarded trip to DC to lobby for federal funding for ecological research coincided with the sequester of my field season funding, my meetings with legislative staffers gained a new immediacy. As a post-doc, I’ve led large teams of scientists writing public comments on policy proposals and I had the opportunity to meet with Congressional staffers in DC again — I certainly would not have felt as comfortable tackling these challenges without my experience with ESA’s Graduate Student Policy Award.

What I’m up to now: I’m currently a David H. Smith Conservation Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Maine under the mentorship of Jacquelyn Gill at UMaine and Abe Miller-Rushing at Acadia National Park. My research brings a conservation paleoecology perspective to climate change vulnerability assessments of alpine and subalpine vegetation in Maine.

Contact email: ude.eniamnull@hguonodcm.niltiac

Brittany West Marsden (2014)

B  Marsden PicHow the program impacted me: Communicating why our research is important and relevant is essential and one of the most important aspects of being a scientist. Sharing the impact of my graduate research with our elected officials was incredibly empowering and made me feel like I am doing my part to ensure that our government representatives are informed and scientifically literate. Interacting with other scientists who pursued careers outside of academic research during ESA’s GSPA training also made me think more deeply about how I wanted to collaborate with broad, interdisciplinary networks of scientists and policy makers in my future.

What I’m up to now:  After completing my dissertation at the University of Maryland I pursued opportunities to apply my scientific background to the policy world and became John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellow through NOAA’s Sea Grant program in 2015. I was placed in the Office of Formulation and Congressional Analysis in NOAA’s Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR). That fellowship lead to an opportunity to keep working with NOAA, where I continue to use my scientific background and skills honed in graduate school to develop strategic communications plans to build relationships with Congress, our external partners, and the Nation in support NOAA’s work.

Contact email: moc.liamgnull@ynattirb.nedsramWebsite:

Kellen Marshall (2011)

KellenMarshallHow the program impacted me: Being selected as a Graduate Student Policy Award recipient was an enriching experience that confirmed my interest in participating in the policy realm as a scientist.

What I’m up to now: Currently I am in the process of developing opportunities for conversing with policy makers to support their basic understanding of the current state of environmental issues in the state of Illinois with an organization called Vital Lands Illinois.  I am supporting this effort so that policy makers have access to basic necessary knowledge on natural resource matters, its connection to public health, education and our state’s economy using the best data available so that they may develop more informed positions on such matters.

Contact email: ude.ciunull@9hsramk

Michael McCloy (2021)

How the program impacted me: The GSPA experience introduced me to career opportunities available to scientists in the policy sector, and emphasized the impacts that advocacy and persuasive communication may have on policy-related decisions. My participation in the program taught me how to articulately and concisely communicate my research, and its importance, to a non-scientific audience in high-level meetings. After my experience with the GSPA program, I feel more confident in my ability to communicate scientific findings and have a much clearer vision of the career path that I want to take after graduate school. 

What I’m up to now: I’m currently a fourth-year PhD Candidate at Texas A&M University where I’m finishing up my research regarding the ecological resilience of Gulf Coast songbird communities. After my GSPA experience, I began working with the ESA Policy Section leadership team as the Student Policy Liaison, and was selected as a recipient of the 2022 AIBS Emerging Public Policy Leadership Award. I also serve on the executive board of a nonprofit in College Station, Texas that focuses on bird and habitat conservation in the immediate region through research and education initiatives. 

Contact email: moc.liamgnull@yolccmdwm

Ari Novy (2009)

How the program impacted me: It led to an interest in public sector jobs, which in tern led me to get a position as Public Programs Manager at the US Botanic Garden (a federal institution). Eventually, I became Executive Director of that institution, working for the US Congress to educate the public about plants.

What I’m up to now: I’m now the President and CEO of San Diego Botanic Garden

Contact email: gro.nedragbdsnull@yvona

Christine Pardo (2017)

How the program impacted me: This experience gave me confidence to speak in a realm I never thought possible for me. I also learned about the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus which my local representative co-founded. And finally, this experience inspired me to look into policy implications for my dissertation work.

What I’m up to now: After the ESA GSPA experience, I spent 6 weeks in Costa Rica taking a field course through the Organization for Tropical Studies learning valuable skills in tropical ecological research. I am now back in Miami, Florida beginning the second year of my Ph.D. and preparing for my qualifying exams.

Contact email: moc.liamgnull@72odrapjc

Matthew Pintar (2016)

How the program impacted me: It was a great first experience with Congress and policy at the federal level. It helped me gain a better understanding of the process that goes into making and advocating for science policy. It also helped me learn to express how my research is important to, and affected by, science policy.

What I’m up to now: I am currently working as a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Mississippi. My research is focused on community dynamics in freshwater systems, with a particular emphasis on the role of environmental heterogeneity and variability on dispersal and colonization in aquatic beetles

Contact email: moc.liamgnull@ratnip.wehttam

Johnny Quispe (2018)

How the program impacted me: Being selected as a Katherine S. McCarter Graduate Student Policy Award Recipient allowed me to reinforce my desire to be a science policy professional. The program complimented my doctoral training at Rutgers and inspired me to take additional coursework and workshops in science communication, and science policy. The value of being a GSPA award recipient does not end with the experience, but also provides a network of like-minded professionals that you can reach out to without hesitation.

What I’m up to now: I am currently a 4th year PhD Candidate at Rutgers University continuing my research on the ecological and socio-economic effects of sea level rise on coastal ecosystems and coastal communities in New Jersey. I have recently been selected as public policy fellow by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR). As a UCAR public policy fellow I will spend time over the next two years in Washington DC and continue to work on issues related to the socio-economic impacts of sea level rise and coastal flooding.

Emlyn Resetarits (2015)

How the program impacted me: Meeting with representatives and their staff about the importance of science funding and basic science research was an eye-opening experience. On the one hand, I was shocked by their lack of scientific knowledge. On the other hand, I was impressed by how willing staffers and representatives were to learn about the benefits of basic scientific research, especially in terms of job creation and economics. This experience taught me how to explain to the public the benefits of funding basic research.

What I’m up to now: Currently, I am finishing up by PhD in Ecology, Evolution and Behavior at the University of Texas at Austin. I also started a podcast called STEM Fatale Podcast, where we tell the stories of historical women in science. Looking ahead, I am applying for postdoctoral fellowships to study the impacts of parasites on nutrient cycling. 

Contact Emailmoc.liamgnull@stirateser.nylme

Adam Rosenblatt (2012)

GSPA website AdamHow the program impacted me: GSPA started me on the path to becoming a AAAS Science and Technology Fellow in DC.

What I’m up to now: I am now a tenure track professor at the University of North Florida.

Contact email: ude.uifnull@700esora



Jessica Rudnick (2017)

How the program impacted me: For me, the GPSA and our visits to Capitol Hill really solidified the importance of civic engagement– voicing our concerns and opinions to our elected representatives is both our opportunity and responsibility, particularly as well-informed constituents, to explain the importance of science to our everyday lives and advocate for strong federal support for science. I was encouraged to meet science-supporters from both sides of the aisle, and was reminded that our best approach to deescalating the current polarization of science is to continue to demonstrate and communicate how our work contributes to the improvement of our society, our economy, our national identity, and our everyday lives.

What I’m up to now: I am continuing my PhD work at the University of California Davis, where I am focused on decision-making in agroecological systems. In my “spare time”, I work with a group of dedicated graduate students at UCD and across the country to promote  Science Informed Leadership in our federal government. 

Contact email: ude.sivadcunull@kcindurj

Matthew Schuler (2013)

Matthew Schuler smallerHow the program impacted me:  I learned how to better communicate the importance of fundamental ecological research to scientists and non-scientists. Additionally, I learned how science policy can be shaped by ecological research, and how scientists can help shape science policy by informing Members of Congress about potential solutions to current ecological problems. I also had the wonderful opportunity to expand my network of peers and professional colleagues.

What I’m up to now: I am a postdoctoral researcher at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, working with Dr. Rick Relyea as part of the Jefferson Project at Lake George. The Jefferson Project is an interdisciplinary effort among university researchers, industry experts, and policy advocates to develop novel methods for studying threats to lake ecosystems. For the last three years, I have conducted experiments to test how anthropogenic stressors such as salinization, climate change, and invasive species affect freshwater communities. I have also been studying the consequences of urban developments on lake food webs by surveying the chemistry, algae, zooplankton, and macroinvertebrates at dozens of locations across Lake George, NY. I am working with researchers at IBM, using machine-learning to develop and test niche models of invasive species. These niche models will be used to understand the potential impact that invasive species have on freshwater food webs, and to estimate how human activities affect the niche breadth of invasive species.

Contact email: moc.liamgnull@reluhcs.s.ttam


Patrick Shirey (2010)

Shirey_Website_headshotHow the program impacted me: I’ve used my policy and communications training to aid the training of other scientists.  After completing my Ph.D. at Notre Dame in 2013, I taught Marine Biology as an adjunct professor part-time while taking care of my daughter full-time in spring 2014.  During the course, I incorporated science policy communication into student assignments, tasking the students with creating concise, one-page handouts that could quickly communicate marine science to policymakers and the public.  Following this course, I worked part-time as the first Policy Fellow for the American Fisheries Society to update their policy statements on threatened and endangered species conservation. I currently serve AFS as Chair of their Resource Policy Committee (2017-present). I have given presentations and facilitated training on policy engagement using experience and tools gained through ESA’s GSPA and COMPASS workshops.

What I’m up to now: As a Certified Fisheries Professional (AFS) and Certified Ecologist (ESA), I consult through my business Ecology Policy LLC ( and study stream restoration, mine subsidence, and environmental policy as a Postdoctoral Associate at the University of Pittsburgh’s Geology and Environmental Science Department. I will transition to a research faculty position at the University of Pittsburgh in September, 2019.

Contact email: moc.liamgnull@yerihsdkcirtap

Benton Taylor (2017)

How the program impacted me: The GSPA experience completely opened my eyes to how Capitol Hill operates, what goes into federal budget decisions, and how scientists can make their voices heard during this decision-making process. The two-part schedule of the program was perfect. I learned so much from the training session on the federal budget and the different roles that scientists often play in the federal government. The second part – actually meeting with our representatives – was equally enlightening, and gave me a much better sense of how scientists can make their voices heard in on Capitol Hill. Overall, I left the program with the feeling that scientists really can have an impact on the decisions being made in the federal government, and a much-improved understanding of how best to go about making that impact.

What I’m up to now: I am currently conducting my last season of field work for my PhD dissertation on tropical nitrogen-fixing trees. I am looking forward to presenting some of this work at ESA’s meeting in Portland later this summer, and then I plan on finishing my dissertation and graduating next spring. 

Contact email: moc.liamgnull@rolyatliennotneb

Christopher Tokita (2019)

How the program impacted me: Although I have had a stint in science policy before graduate school, I never had much opportunity to speak directly with legislators about my research and the importance that federal science funding has had on my life path. The training provided by ESA GSPA taught me how to structure discussions with policy makers in a way that is both accessible and actionable–i.e., the importance of having a clear “ask”. Not to mention, ESA helped us shape the “elevator pitch” about our research, and I now feel confident in my ability to communicate the importance of my work to people from all walks of life. What’s more, I had been considering a career in public policy after graduate school, but I had felt that I would have to choose between a policy career and a career that uses the technical aspects of research that I love (e.g., coding, data analysis). Meeting ecologists in a wide range of policy careers was eye opening. I now feel I have a clearer vision for how I could continue using my technical skills in a policy setting!

What I’m up to now: I am finishing up my PhD in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University.

Contact email: ude.notecnirpnull@atikotc

Matthew Trager (2008)

TragerHow the program impacted me: When pursuing a graduate degree in science, even one in an “applied” field, it is very easy to overestimate the role of science in policy and decision making. The GSPA trip provided a valuable reminder to me that scientists should be prepared to explain why their work is interesting or important and that, in doing so, we may encounter substantial disagreement about the appropriate roles of science and scientists in society.

What I’m up to now:  I completed my Ph.D. in ecology in 2009 and since 2010 I have worked for the U.S. Forest Service as NEPA coordinator, planner and analyst.  I currently work for the National Forests in Florida where my background in law and ecology has allowed me to provide both policy- and science-based contributions to resource management.

Contact email: su.def.sfnull@regartdm

Tim Truer (2016)

Timothy Treuer

How the program impacted me: The GSPA was an awesome opportunity to meet inspiring peers and role models and to have a chance to get my hands dirty in policy advocacy. I really enjoyed hearing about the incredibly varied career paths taken by successful PhD ecologists that have shifted to policy work, particularly because it gave me a much stronger sense of how one can make the transition from academics to policy. The GSPA has both shaped my career plans and given me a lot more confidence in pursuing them.

What I’m up to now: I am currently finishing my PhD at Princeton University in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, studying the biodiversity outcomes of different types of tropical dry forest regeneration in Costa Rica’s Área de Conservación Guanacaste. I am staying involved in science policy as I finish my dissertation through participation in Princeton’s Energy and Climate Scholars group and the Princeton Environmental Institute Science, Technology and Environmental Policy fellows program.

Contact email: moc.liamgnull@reuert.yhtomit

Johanna Varner (2014)

GSPA-website-Johanna-VarnerHow the program impacted me: The GSPA trip and Congressional Visits day was a fabulous opportunity for me to learn more about how science policy is made and how to interact with a diversity of political views about investment in basic science. I definitely feel more prepared to engage in future policy initiatives.

What I’m up to now: I am still working to finish my PhD about climate change and alpine ecosystems. I am also working to develop citizen science monitoring programs for potentially sensitive species in the mountains.

Contact email: ude.hatunull@renrav.annahoj


Dena Vallano (2007)

Dena-VelanoHow the program impacted me: The GSPA program offered me an exhilarating opportunity to communicate science to members of Congress and greatly influenced my desire to work at the interface of science and policy.

What I’m up to now: I’m currently an ORISE Research Fellow at the U.S. EPA, where I work to advance federal activities related to net zero military partnerships, community sustainability and air quality monitoring. This role expands on my experience as a AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow in the EPA Office of Research and Development (2011-2013).

Contact email:  vog.apenull@aned.onallav


Emory Wellman (2019)

How the program impacted me: This program introduced me to opportunities in the science policy world of which I was not aware. Speaking with scientists who participated in such fellowships and have made careers at the intersection of science and policy was incredibly valuable, and has led me to consider pursuing similar opportunities. Preparing for and attending Hill meetings taught me the value of speaking concisely and persuasively about my research in non-jargon terms. I hope to apply these lessons in future policy settings and meetings. This program has helped me feel more confident communicating with a non-specialist audience, which is extremely important to me – I want my research to be applied by managers and practitioners, so this communication is essential.

What I’m up to now: I am continuing my Master’s degree at East Carolina University. I am considering a number of opportunities following its completion, including pursuit of a PhD, employment at a government agency, or application to one of the fellowships about which I learned during this program. Stay tuned!

Contact email: ude.uce.stnedutsnull@81enamllew