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Meet the Fellows

Tanya Jagdish (Albion College)

Project at: Llano River Field Station, Junction TX

Mentor: Dr. Tom Arsuffi
Mentor institution: Texas Tech University

Project Title: Effectiveness of herbicide application on invasive Elephant Ear (Colocasia esculenta) plants along Llano River.

Tanya Jagdish is pursuing a double major in Biology and Mathematics with a concentration in Environmental Science at Albion College, Michigan. She calls herself a multipotentialite with interests in ecology, dance, design and applied mathematics. As a SPUR fellow she was able to gain hands on experience in working with big data and building simple mathematical models pertaining to invasive plant management. Tanya aspires to combine her interests in math and ecology by using mathematical modeling techniques to implement better conservation policies in her home country, India.

Selina Cortez (Lenoir-Rhyne University) 

Project at: Llano River Field Station – LTER, Junction TX

Mentor: Dr. Thomas Arsuffi

Mentor Institution: Texas Tech University

Project Title: Ungulate Herbivore Effects on the Insect Community Diversity in Texas Hill Country

Selina Cortez is pursuing a General Biology degree from Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, North Carolina. Her previous experience includes animal physiology research on feeding ontology, animal husbandry, and entomology research. Selina’s career aspirations include making science and environmental education available to all minorities and low socioeconomic individuals. This inspired her to choose the Llano River Field Station which houses the Junction Outdoor School dedicated to providing first hand outdoor experiences and science education to all.

Shawna Greyeyes (Coconino Community College) 

Project at: Harvard Forest Long Term Ecological Site, Petersham, MA

Mentor: Tim Rademacher and Clarisse Hart

Mentor Institution: Northern Arizona University and Harvard University

Project Title: Witness Tree Social Media Project: Can we increase science communication with a tree via social media?

Shawna Greyeyes is a sophomore at Coconino Community College who will graduate and transfer to Northern Arizona University to finish her Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science. Afterward, she plans to obtain her Master’s degree at The University of Arizona. Greyeyes will help her community, the Navajo Nation, which has many environmental impacts such as uranium mines that have contaminated water and air quality. She plans to conduct research on the land, in the water, and air to help improve the ecosystem while improving the lives of the people who live in those areas. She also wants to create an outreach program that allows Native youth to get involved with STEM and the environment, with the goal of finding their own connection to Mother Earth.

Jenna Michelle Rosales (Lubbock Christian University)

Project at: Central-Arizona-Phoenix-Long Term Ecological Program

Mentor: Dr. Jennifer Vanos

Mentor Institution: Arizona State University

Project Title: Active transport heat exposure: how heat and UV measurements can benefit human health and ecological processes

Jenna Rosales is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Natural Resources Ecology and Conservation at Lubbock Christian University. While running for the cross country and track program. This project provided Jenna with a fresh learning experience in urban landscape ecology and atmospheric sciences. She previously has had involvement and knowledge in soil ecology and Ichthyology. The SEEDS fellowship presented her with an undergraduate research experience, which serves as valuable knowledge for her future endeavors in the science realm. Moreover, providing her with a newfound connection to other scientists that share similar interests. Jenna aspires to make an impact in ecological conservation by becoming a Game Warden. Furthermore, she hopes to continue her education studying Ornithology in graduate school in the near future.

Karina M. Cortijo-Robles (University of Puerto Rico Río Piedras Campus) 

Project at: Michigan State University’s W.K. Kellogg Biological Station

Mentors: Dr. Jennifer Lau and Meredith Zettlemoyer

Mentors Institution: Michigan State University

Project Title: Climate change may affect extinctions via altered plant-soil feedbacks


Karina M. Cortijo-Robles is pursuing an Environmental Sciences degree with a second concentration in Anthropology at the University of Puerto Rico Río Piedras Campus. Her previous experience doing field works and field trips, and her curiosity for the environment led her to find her passion for the environmental sciences and successfully apply to the SPUR fellowship. Thanks to the SPUR fellowship experience, she would like to incorporate her knowledge about research to conduct investigations about the effect of climate change or environmental factors in archaeological remains. She is also interested in making science more available to society through outreach experiences.

Jeremy Collings (he/him/his; SUNY Cortland)

Project at: Llano River Field Station, Junction TX

Mentor: Dr. Tom Arsuffi

Mentor institution: Texas Tech University

Project Title: Deer Herbivory Affects Plant Community Dynamics in the Edwards Plateau

Jeremy is a graduating senior at SUNY Cortland majoring in Conservation Biology. In high school, Jeremy was enamored with learning the names of as many plants as he could. In college, he learned that plants play a big role in ecosystems, and to understand that role takes more than just learning taxonomy. Jeremy has been involved with plant ecological research at his home institution in central New York studying plant communities, invasive species management, and nonnative earthworms. Through the SPUR fellowship, he was able to gain additional experience in plant community ecology and explore research in mycorrhizal symbioses. In addition to research, Jeremy is also passionate about promoting queer representation in STEM. Jeremy plans on pursuing a career in plant ecology such that he can spend his life learning about plants’ secrets.

Gabriela Marquez (University of Puerto Rico at Humacao) 

Project at: UREX Sustainability Network/ Corredor del Yaguazo, Juana Matos Community,Cataño,PR

Mentor: Dr. Tiffany Troxler

Mentor Institution: Arizona State University/Florida International University

Project Title: Opportunities in floodplain management for risk reduction and natural system benefits

Gabriela Marquez is pursuing a Wildlife Management degree at University of Puerto Rico at Humacao. She  is passionate about environmental management and would like to focus her graduate studies on that topic. She seeks ways in which citizens can engage in scientific research on the natural environment. Her research topic in floodplain management is a great example of how this relationship works. In October 2018, her experience with the San Juan Bay National Estuary Program made her realize how passionate she is about environmental management and science outreach. In the future, she aspires to become an environmental leader in the communities, inspiring others to appreciate their natural resources and educate them on different ways to protect them.

Julymar Rodriguez (University of Puerto Rico, Humacao)

Profile image of Julymar
Project at: Llano River Field Station- Texas Tech University, Texas

Mentor: Dr. Tom L. Arsuffi 

Mentor Institution: Texas Tech University

Project Title: Using environmental heterogeneity to understand ant community’ composition, interactions and distribution in Central Texas Hill Country

Julymar R. López is a recent graduate from the Wildlife Management Program at the University of Puerto Rico at Humacao.  Her research focuses on population dynamics and community ecology of flora (orchids) and fauna (amphibians and reptiles) in Puerto Rico. She has also worked studying ant communities in agricultural fields and their role as seed dispersers (Miami University in Ohio). As part of her SPUR Fellowship, she conducted research in the Llano River Field Station (Texas Tech University) studying ant communities and how factors like canopy cover can influence their structure and spatial distribution. Her main interests are in conservation biology and applied ecology, mostly understanding how abiotic and anthropogenic factors can regulate and impact ecological processes. Her goals are to become a professor, mentor and active researcher in the ecology


Olivia Hawkins (University of South Florida)

Project at: Llano River Field Station – Junction, Texas

Mentor: Dr. Tom Arsuffi

Mentor Institution: Texas Tech University

Project Title: Dietary overlap and ontogenetic diet shift of Guadalupe bass and largemouth bass in the North and South Llano Rivers

Olivia received a B.S. in Marine Biology and a minor in French from the University of South Florida in Tampa. She has spent three years in a marine ecology and fluid dynamics lab in which she has worked with a variety of marine invertebrates. Her main research interests lie at the intersection of morphology and ecology, particularly in fishes. She is primarily interested in locomotion and feeding, and plans to use her experience from the fellowship to develop new questions about the morphological constraints of organisms in degraded habitats as a result of anthropogenic impacts.  While at LRFS, she became familiar with some of the effects of reduced water flow in the Llano River tributaries on fish and macroinvertebrate communities, and is interested in one day returning to answer more research questions there. Olivia will be continuing her education as a Master’s student in the Ecology and Evolution Department at Kennesaw State University where she will be studying ribbon-fin locomotion in fishes. After this, she plans to continue through graduate school so that she can become a professor and mentor future young ecologists. 


Max Paine (Vassar College)

Project at: Llano River Field Station – Junction, Texas

Mentor: Dr. Tom Arsuffi

Mentor Institution: Texas Tech University

Project Title:Temperature and wind speed affect activity levels in some avian nearctic summer resident species

Max is a biology major at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. He has previously worked on projects examining the relationship between climate indices such as El Nino Southern Oscillation and North Atlantic Oscillation and irruptive migration in passerines. He also has an interest in understanding how existing models of hydrologic and sediment dynamics can be modified to account for changes in land use. As part of his SPUR fellowship he conducted research characterizing the avian community at the Llano River Field Station in terms of species richness and the abundance and relative abundance of individual species. These were used to compare the avian community composition within the different habitats at the field station. While at the Llano River Field Station, he also examined how avian activity was impacted by temperature and wind speed. This summer Max is working as a Green Infrastructure Fellow at Amigos de los Rios, a Los Angeles non-profit focused on conserving and restoring urban greenspace in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area.

Amanda Wong (University of Hawaii at Manoa)

Project at: Cornell University – Ithaca, New York

Mentor: Dr. David M. Lodge

Mentor Institution: Cornell University

Project Title:  Development of Environmental DNA Analysis Methods to Assess the Distribution and Abundance of the Invasive Aquatic Plant Hydrilla verticillata

Amanda is a senior at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa majoring in Global Environmental Science with a concentration in Sustainability Science and a minor in Botany. She is passionate about plants, especially the endemic and endangered plants of Hawai‘i, her home. Amanda researched a diverse range of topics in Hawai‘i including, native and non-native seedling competition, drought effects on seedlings, the microclimate of hybrid restoration ecosystems, agroforestry, and environmental monitoring systems. Through her SPUR Fellowship in Ithaca, New York, Amanda took part in the development of a more feasible, rapid, and cost-effective method for the detection of the invasive aquatic weed, Hydrilla, using environmental DNA. She aspires to continue to learn more about the interconnectedness of the planet that we call home by pursuing a graduate degree in plant ecology. Since she was born and raised in Hawai‘i, Amanda hopes that her experiences, knowledge, and continuous growth through learning can translate to the future generations so they will also have the opportunity to experience the native ecosystems and culture of Hawai‘i.

Kayla Cuestas (University of Arizona)

Project at: Colorado State University- Rocky Mountain Research Station

Mentor: Dr. Travis Warziniack and Dr. Duy Nong


Mentor Institution: Colorado State University

Project Title: Niche Models for Nonindigenous Species Introduced by Trade in a Changing Climate

Kayla is a senior at the University of Arizona majoring in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. She has had many bumps in the road when finding what she loves to do, but is proud to say she will graduate in December 2019 and plans on attending graduate school. After working in childcare at the YMCA and volunteering at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, she found a passion for education and outreach. Due to her participation in many different research projects, Kayla would like to have a career where she can teach and participate in research simultaneously. Kayla loves to stay active, as well as spend her time supporting her family in the things they love to do. 

Esbeiry Cordova (Indiana University of Pennsylvania)

Project at: Michigan State University W.K. Kellogg Biological Station

Mentor: Robert Logan

Mentor Institution: Michigan State University

Project Title: Fungi from multiple niches in hyper-arid environments decompose grass litter at similar rates

Esbeiry Cordova-Ortiz is a senior at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania majoring in Biology with a concentration in Ecology, Conservation, and Environmental Biology with two minors in Geography and Sustainability Studies. Esbeiry’s research interests vary greatly, she has conducted research in phylogenetics and phylogeography as part of the ongoing work she does for the Townsend Lab at IUP, a taxonomy and phylogenetics lab with focus on herpetology. As part of the SPUR Fellowship she conducted research as an REU Student at Michigan State University W.K. Kellogg Biological Station on fungal decomposers in arid environments. She plans to continue her education and receive her master’s degree that will focus on disseminating scientific writing to the general public to aid in environmental awareness. In the future she hopes help further scientific knowledge and bridge the gap between the scientific community and the general public by continuing to do research and mentoring students. 

Caitlyn Nordheim (University of Tampa)

Project at: Central Arizona/Phoenix – LTER, Arizona 

Mentor: Dr. Heather Bateman

Mentor Institution: Arizona State University Polytechnic

Project Title: Comparing lizards across urban and non-urban riparian habitats in Arizona

Caitlin Nordheim recently graduated from the University of Tampa with a B.S. Biology degree, where she worked in a conservation disease ecology lab for four years. She is passionate about conservation biology, herpetology, and understanding wildlife diseases. She had the opportunity to explore urban ecology through her SPUR fellowship in Dr. Heather Bateman’s riparian and reptile ecology lab. Here, she gained the technical skills and experience in the field that she will carry with her in her future endeavors as a conservation ecologist. Caitlin hopes to marry her passions for disease ecology and urban ecology to pursue a graduate degree in which she can study wildlife disease through the lens of an urban ecologist, in order to better inform conservation management in highly urbanized areas. Eventually, she hopes to be an ecology professor where she can provide undergraduate students with the tools needed to pursue their passions through research, much like the SPUR fellowship did for her.

Nia Riggins (Bryr Mawr College)

Project at: Harvard Forest – LTER, Massachusetts 

Mentor: Dr. Sydne Record

Mentor Institution: Bryn Mawr College 

Project Title: What does the future hold for the Harvard Forest Megaplot? Seedling Abundance, Diversity, and Mortality of a Forest in Transition

Nia Riggins is a rising senior at Bryn Mawr college majoring in Biochemistry. She currently is a part of the ecology lab at her college. Nia spent the past year identifying ants and will be analyzing soil samples this upcoming year. The past summer she did field work with seedlings.This summer she is able to further explore her interest in Entomology by interning at Cornell Agritech. Here she is working on a project about the effects of UV light on spider mites. Nia plans to pursue a PhD in Entomology. 

Clint Fallon – Colorado State University 

Host: Llano River Field Station

Project: Assessing axis deer (Axis axis) diet composition through direct observation and metabarcoding.

Mentor: Dr. Tom Arsuffi

Mentor Institution: Texas Tech University at Junction

Bio: Clint is a senior at Colorado State University majoring in Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology. He is expected to graduate next year and hopes to go to graduate school at CSU studying anthropogenic effects on herpetiles. Further down the road he hopes to be involved with public policy that promotes sustainability and focuses on protecting the environment. To that end, he has begun to participate in local water, energy, and natural resource committees within the city of Fort Collins to better understand how he can make a change. SEEDS has provide him access to a large network of professionals and promotes an environment to get more involved. In his free time Clint enjoys outdoor activities like backpacking, fishing, and trail running.

Isabel Siles Asaff – University of Texas at El Paso 

Host: Llano River Field Station

Project: Effect of riparian vegetation on macroinvertebrate behavioral drift in the South Llano River, Texas

Mentor: Tom Arsuffi

Mentor Institution: Texas Tech University at Junction

Bio: Isabel is a senior at UTEP, majoring in Environmental Science with a concentration in Biology. She was born in Bolivia, but she moved to Mexico City when she was little. Her diverse Latino background is what has shaped her interest in tropical ecology. She is very passionate about research, so she is interested in pursuing graduate education specifically working on soil ecology or biogeochemistry. In such matter, she has worked on several ecology projects from studying fungi interactions in the desert to analyzing the effects of climate change in the alpine tundra. As a SEEDS member, the National Field Trips to both Missouri and Montana have provided her with life-long experiences and a large network of colleagues and friends. For the fellowship, she developed a project using macroinvertebrates to determine a river’s health. In her free time, she also enjoys literature and philosophy as well as running and weight lifting. Her dream job is to get into academy and keep doing research as she teaches younger generations about the importance of ecology.

Leandra Gonzalez – Florida International University 

Host: Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory

Project: The Effects of Early Snow-melt on the Pollination and Seed Production of Delphinium nuttallianum.

Mentor: Dr. Berry Brosi

Mentor Institution: Emory University

Bio: Leandra Gonzalez is a senior at Florida International University. Pursuing her Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Agricultural Science. She has a strong interest in Environmental Education, especially in terms of educating children while being surrounded by nature. She has volunteered with Everglades National Park and aspires to continue working with them through internships and work opportunities. She also plans to spread the message of small-scale sustainable farming, especially in urban environments and hopefully one day, have the opportunity to run her own urban farming company to bring fresh foods to those in urban environments, without the high costs to the community economy and to the Earth. In the future, she hopes to work within different governmental positions through the USDA or EPA to conduct research on pressing issues such as global climate change, world hunger and overpopulation and hopefully have a small contribution to solving world-wide issues.

Nana Britwum – Cornell University 

Host: W.K. Kellogg Biological Station

Project: How can Monocultures be Diverse at the Genetic Level? A Case for Intraspecific Trait Diversity

Mentor: William Wetzel

Mentor’s Institution: Michigan State University

Nana Britwum is a senior in the School of Integrative Plant Sciences at Cornell University. Where she is double majoring in Agricultural Sciences and Plant Sciences. Her hometown is the lovely Lawrence, KS where she discovered her passion for sustainable agriculture.  Since high school she has been inspired to one day lead a revolution of sustainable food production that is environmentally sound. She dreams of developing salt and drought tolerant crops for women in developing countries to utilize. More times than not women are the ones who farm the land and when the economic power is placed in their hands they tend to invest back into their communities. She has dreams of giving back to her motherland by facilitating a new wave of production through the innovations of plant breeding and agriculture. She enjoys working on research projects that contribute to a larger body of knowledge that could potentially solve real world problems. On campus, she is passionate about attracting people from diverse communities to the life sciences. Nana is an Ecological Society of America SPUR fellow, Doris Duke Conservation Scholar, and a member of Pi Alpha Xi, the National Honor Society for Horticulture and the Plant Sciences.

Jerilyn Calor – University of Guam

Host: Harvard Forest

Project: Invasion Dynamic at Harvard Forest

Mentor: Dr. Martha Hoopes

Mentor Institution: Mount Holyoke College

Jerilyn Calaor attends the University of Guam, where she is pursuing a degree in Biology
with a minor in Chemistry. Born and raised on Guam, Jerilyn’s exposure to the effects of
climate change and invasive species sparked her interests in environmental research. Her
previous research experiences on Guam, in Costa Rica, and at the Harvard Forest have shaped that interest into a passion for ecology. Following graduation in May 2018, Jerilyn hopes to pursue a doctorate degree. Ultimately, Jerilyn desires to use her experiences, especially those stemming from the SPUR Fellowship, to make a difference at home.


Mikayla Domingo – Oregon State University 

Host: Cary Institute of Ecosystems Studies

Project: Effects of Diluted Wastewater on the Hudson River

Project at: Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies

Mentors: Dr. Stuart Findlay (Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies), Dr. Maria Tzortziou (City College of New York), and Dr. Liz Corbett (City College of New York)

Mikayla is majoring in Ecological Engineering at Oregon State University and is expecting to graduate next spring 2018. Her interest and love for nature started from a young age. She has always enjoyed playing at the beautiful beaches and hiking to see large waterfalls back home in Hawaii. As a result, Mikayla started to explore opportunities in environmental and ecological studies once she got to college. This has led her to multiple summer research internships and SEEDS experiences, which allowed her to travel to new places, make many new friends, and learn so much about herself and the field of ecology. Currently, Mikayla is starting to think about what she is going to do after college. She is not completely sure what is next, but would like to pursue a career in the conservation and restoration of ecosystems. She is also keeping the option of graduate school open, but would like to take a break before continuing with more schooling. In her free time, Mikayla enjoys watching TV and movies, hanging out with friends and family, skiing in the winter, and shopping all year round.

Robert Moakley – Rochester Institute of Technology 

Host: Central Arizona-Phoenix LTER

Project: Does cleaning a bird feeder improve the health of backyard birds?

Mentor: Kevin McGraw

Institution: Arizona State University

Bio: I am currently a junior at the Rochester Institute of Technology majoring in Environmental Sciences. I discovered my passion for the natural world several years ago, and my love for it deepens every single day. I believe the environment is crucial in considering solutions for the future of our public health, economy, and international relations. In my free time you can find me using my camera, hiking, camping, or chilling with my friends.

Kathryn Bloodworth (Eastern University)

  • Project at: W.K. Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan
  • Mentor: William West
  • Mentor Institution: Michigan State University
  • Blog:
  • Project Title:Understanding the effects of the bioaccessability of carbon on denitrification and microbial community structures, specifically on the NorB and NosZ genes

kathryn-bloodworthKathryn is majoring in Biology and minoring in Environmental Science at Eastern University in Pennsylvania. She is planning on pursuing a doctorate degree once she graduates in December of 2016.

As she moved from Florida to Belgium and then to New Jersey, her passion for the environment developed alongside her eagerness to help all creatures. A life of traveling from state to state and country to country also helped Kathryn to see how our world has been changing. As she entered college, her passion for all things living only grew as she began taking classes that connected her love for the world to real life issues and potential solutions. As she moves on to graduate school and eventually her career, Kathryn hopes to make a difference in the world of ecology. She is eager to research environmentally sustainable solutions to the large issues our world is currently facing.

Chelsea Hazlett (University of Florida)

  • Project at: Cedar Creek Ecosystems Science Reserve – LTER, Minnesota
  • Mentor: Kimberly La Pierre
  • Mentor Institution: University of California, Berkeley
  • Project Title: Mutualisms alter biodiversity-ecosystem function relationships under global change

chelsea-hazlettChelsea is going into her senior year at the University of Florida and will graduate with a B.S. in Environmental Management as well as minors in Leadership and Soil and Water Science. Her love for the environment came about at a young age as she got to experience first-hand the beauty of coral reefs. Her passion for their protection and that of the environment as a whole would soon follow as she watched the health of the reefs fail over the years. Although she does not get to study coral reefs she has become extremely interested in nutrient cycling, biogeochemistry, and soil sciences.

Moreover, Chelsea is currently working on two academic papers based on her independent projects at UF and at Cedar Creek. She hopes to attend graduate school to obtain her PhD and her law degree in order to be a source of change through improved policy or environmental law.

Nikita Kowal (Arizona State University)

  • Project at: Central Arizona/Phoenix – LTER, Arizona
  • Mentor: Dr. Becky Ball
  • Mentor Institution: Arizona State University
  • Project Title: The Effects of Nitrogen Deposition on Microbial Communities in Desert Soils
  • Blog:

nikitaNikita Kowal is pursuing a Chemical Engineering degree with a minor in Sustainability at Arizona State University. Her previous experience in a biogeochemistry lab as well as her passion for hiking has sparked Nikita’s curiosity in environment science and sustainability. She would like to incorporate what she learns through the SPUR Fellowship into her future endeavors in chemical engineering and integrate ecology with engineering. Being from the heart of the Sonoran Desert where water is scarce, Nikita hopes to one day go into desalination or water treatment, as her true interests lie in the water sector.

Michelle Poletti (Florida International University)

    • Project at: Central Arizona/Phoenix – LTER, Arizona
    • Mentor: Ariane Middel
    • Mentor Institution: Arizona State University
    • Project Title: Impact of interior temperatures of shaded and unshaded vehicles on children’s health- A case study in Phoenix, AZ

michelle-polettiMichelle is an incoming junior at Florida International University. She will be the president of the S.E.E.D.S. chapter there and hopes to increase student involvement. Her experiences through S.E.E.D.S. have really driven her towards scientific research. Her previous lab experience was with the Broward County Environmental Monitoring Laboratory, where she helped take water samples (ground and surface) at various sites throughout the county.

She assisted in turbidity, dissolved solids, and chlorophyll analysis. The cause of her interest in science was initially exposure to unique environments. Growing up surrounded by Everglades National Park, The Keys, and various reefs made an impactful impression on her. Her long term goal is to attend graduate school for environmental engineering with emphasis on remediation or sustainable materials. That being said, she is eager to continue to learn about science in her undergraduate career. The research that she is conducting this summer will push her out of her comfort zone while allowing her to gain valuable computer modeling skills. She is also eager to learn how the urban desert ecosystem and the natural desert ecosystem interplay.

Rebekah Sanchez (University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez)

    • Project at: W.K. Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan
    • Mentor: Kate Glanville
    • Mentor Institution: Michigan State University
    • Project Title: Nitrous Oxide fluxes in altered precipitation patterns varying landscape positions

rebekah-sanchezRebekah Sánchez is a Horticulture major at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez campus and is graduating next spring 2017. After coming to the reality of starvation around the world, she decided to study agriculture. Along the way she has learned how the predominating conventional systems are not sustainable and actually are very harmful to the environment. She considers that the contamination and degradation generated from agriculture is a matter of priority and would like to take part in the mitigation of such. After being introduced to agroecology Rebekah has become an active promoter of it since it has proven to be viable and a much healthier way to produce accessible food. She has facilitated various workshops of the advantages of seeing farms as ecosystems and how to maintain their health and productivity using methods that imitate natural processes. In the near future she plans to continue learning of sustainable agriculture in other countries as well as by partaking in research. Her long term goal is to be involved in the improvement of agricultural practices promoting sustainability and food security.

Maggie Yarnold (Loyola University Chicago)

  • Project at: Llano River Field Station
  • Mentor: Tom Arsuffi
  • Mentor Institution: Texas Tech University
  • Project Title: Ungulate Foraging Pressures on Riparian Zones Along the South Llano River

maggieMaggie is now an environmental conservation and restoration major as well as journalism, print; she is expected to graduate in 2019. Although she grew up in the vast city of Chicago, IL she developed and held onto a fascination (or rather passion) for the environment; specifically, conserving and restoring ecosystems to a reference source closer to when the greatest native species richness occurred. That being said, it was surprising that Yarnold developed an avid love for sharks and oceanic ecosystems. However, she is looking into a career path toward restoring oceanic systems and studying/conserving sharks. In her free time, Yarnold enjoys fishing, hiking, mountain biking, line dancing, etc. Yarnold has also begun to enjoy downhill skiing and has joined the ski club at her school.


Coral E. Avilés Santiago

Mentors: Dr. Tom Arsuffi
Research Site: Llano River Field Station at Texas Tech University Junction Campus.

Title: Assessment of student’s environmental literacy in a STEM based outdoor education summer program

Roxanne Hoorn – Eckerd College

Title: Population Density, Biodiversity, and Habitat Preference in Ant Species of the Harvard Forest

18619_996694267020857_5733233833732999265_nKyle Reid
University of Illinois in Chicago

Mentors: Dr. Tom Arsuffi and Dr. Tim Grabowski.
Research Site: Llano River Field Station at Texas Tech University Junction Campus.

Project Title: Guadalupe Growth Rates in the Llano River As Result of Stocking and Habitat Factors

Kyle Reid is a biology major at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His research interest include invasive species, conservation, evolution, and ecosystem services. Kyle has had two major research experiences. The first in 2013 researching the Bats of Kenya at the Field Museum in Chicago. The second in 2014 researching the echolocation of the proboscis bat at La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica. Kyle is currently researching the affect different habitats have on the Guadalupe bass, a species that helps generate the almost 75 million dollars in fishing revenue in the region.  Other interest include basketball, improvisational acting, board gaming, and a general love for all things geek culture.

Brandon D. Hoenig

DNA Barcoding of Stomach Contents Reveals Trophic Competition Among Three Species of Trout


Fellows Sponsored by the Generous Contributions of ESA Members

JulissaJulissa Hunte

Spelman College

Mentor: Dr.Joel E. Kostka (Georgia Institute of Technology)

Project Title: Cultivation of Oil Degrading Microbes and the Effect of Toxicity on Marine Ecosystems.

Julissa’s interest in the environment stems from her cultural background. Her family is originally from the island Trinidad and Tobago. As a frequent visitor of Trinidad she has seen first hand the environmental damage the island has undergone over the last few years. The environmental decline in Trinidad inspired her to pursue a degree in environmental science and introduce environmental awareness to her community. When she is not out trying to save the world through science Julissa enjoys mentoring and playing soccer. She organizes her own mentoring group at Spelman that encourages young girls in the Atlanta community to dream big and always go after their dreams. Julissa also volunteers at the Boys and Girls club of Atlanta as a soccer referee, and tries to play some pick up games with her friends whenever she has down time. Upon completion of her degree at Spelman she plan to continue my education in a graduate program or attend law school to pursue a degree in environmental law.


CarlaCarla Lopez  

University of Puerto Rico – Rio Piedras

Mentor: Dr. Alexander S. Flecker (Cornell University)

Project Title: Variation in animal-mediated nutrient cycling across a flood-disturbance gradient in Colorado mountain streams.

Carla is a senior at University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus. Her interests lie mainly in doing research in important and vulnerable rivers, especially those impacted by urban development, and the effects that this has on essential macroinvertebrate communities and other river dynamics. Carla is also very interested in outreach education activities such as doing citizen science with communities and students. As a hobby she likes to play soccer and is part of the UPR-RP team. Her other hobbies include running, hiking, and gardening.


DanDaniel Metz

Radford University

Mentor: Dr. Ryan F. Hechinger (University of California, Santa Barbara)

Project Title: A systemic parasitic infection of Pachygrapsus crassipes by an unknown ciliate.

Dan hails from the ancient, blue-hazed mountains of Appalachia. He has been fascinated with biology since childhood, when he first encountered an illustrated guide to marine life in his elementary school library. Parasites have become his primary research interest, shaped by his first encounter with the story of insect behavioral modification byCordyceps fungi. The transmission ecology of behavior-modifying parasites, coupled with the biochemical interactions between parasites and hosts, are incredibly exciting topics of study. Beyond academic interests, Dan is an avid weather buff, a fiction writer, a decent cook, and a very enthusiastic light microscopist. There are no forms more beautiful than those revealed under high magnification, and no friends more loyal than those who will follow one into a drainage ditch to collect a vial full of questionable fluids for later examination.


Fellows Sponsored by the Generous Contributions of ESA Members and the National Science Foundation

Anna Ortega
Fort Lewis College

Mentor: Dr. David Inouye, Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory

Project Title: Variations in soil moisture availability affect nectar production of three subalpine plant species in the Family Ranunculaceae.

Anna is currently a junior at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado. Her major is Environmental and Organismic Biology, and she is also earning a Geographical Information Systems (GIS) certificate. She was born and raised in Durango, Colorado – a small southwestern town, adjacent to the desert country and high alpine mountains. Growing up, she had the opportunities of exploring the desert and mountains with her family and friends. In her words, “It was from my experiences in the wild that I became passionate about the environment and the natural world.”

Anna is interested in ecological research and conservation biology. She has studied birds and plant-pollinator interactions thus far in her undergraduate career, and she plans to allow her remaining undergraduate experiences refine and shape her academic interests. She loves being outside! She has also told us “I mountain bike, alpine ski, rock-climb, and backpack. I spend a portion of my summers hiking in the alpine tundra and climbing mountains – I have now climbed 36 Colorado 14ers and many other mountains. One of my many beliefs in life is to cherish every moment with the people you love and the activities you love doing. I think it is also important to keep your hearts and mind open to others and to love adventure.”

Dianne Quiroz
University of California Berkley

Mentor: Dr. Scott Mills, University of Montana

Project Title: Developing reliable covariates for survival analyses in snowshoe hares.

Dianne grew up in Los Angeles and currently lives in Berkeley, CA. Even though she has pretty much lived in a city setting her entire life, she has always been attracted to wildlife and the outdoors. She is currently a junior at UC Berkley studying molecular environmental biology with a concentration on animal health and behavior. She is highly interested in population dynamics of vertebrate species as well as behavioral ecology. She wants to go to graduate school and focus her research on wildlife distributions and conservation of endangered species.During the course of her fellowship she hopes to study polar ecology specifically she wants to look at large mammal distributions and how they affected by climate change.

Yashira Cruz
University of Puerto Rico

Mentor: Dr. Raymond Carthy, University of Florida

Project Title: The effects of beach charasteristics on ghost crab (Ocypode quadrata) size and distribution

Yashira is a 19 year old Puerto Rican who was born and raised at the Eastern shore of the island. Her alma mater is the University of Puerto Rico, Humacoa Campus, where she is a sophomore studying Coastal Marine Biology. Her professional interests include education and outreach activities as well as research on marine ecology with a behavioral, community, populations, and conservation approach. She visualizes herself graduating from bachelors degree and moving on to a graduate program where she can continue gaining experience and knowledge and finally getting a PhD on marine ecology



Cohorts Funded by the National Science Foundation


Carlos Zayas Santiago
University of Puerto Rico
Mentor: Dr. William Gilly,
Stanford University
I am a Coastal Marine Biology major at University of Puerto Rico at Humacao. I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, as part of my undergraduate career I have been able to travel and experience research in ecology. As a member of SEEDS I have participated in travel awards and chapter activities, some of my interests include: Ecology, Kayaking, Swimming, Hiking, any outdoor activity and agriculture.

Project Title: “A Comparison of functional anatomy in squid and local hydrographic and biological pressures from two different habitats– Hawaii Sthenoteuthis oualaniensis and Monterey Bay Doryteuthis opalescens”.

Dayani Pieri
Northeastern University
Mentor: Dr. R. Michael Miller, Argonne National Laboratory 
Nature captured my heart at a young age. I grew up playing with soil, climbing trees and running through rice paddy fields in the beautiful island of Sri Lanka. The mountains around me brought me serenity and the rock collections fascinated me. In my adult life, SEEDS opened new doors for me and reunited me with nature. SEEDS granted me many amazing experiences that I never dreamed of ever realizing. Today, as I educate young children surrounded by concrete, I sigh in griefL. My goal is to unite them also with nature. Currently, I am passionate about research. My research experiences have included; invasive plant species, soil ecology and microbial fungi. I am currently conducting research funded by SEEDS at the Argonne National Laboratory; examining the relationship between bio fuel feedstock productivity and arbuscular micorrhizal fungi.

Project Title: “The effects of perennial grasses grown in interspecific and intraspecific combinations on the growth of their arbuscular mycorrhizal symbionts.”

Tiffany Carey
University of Michigan
Mentor: Dr. Kristina Stinson, Harvard University

As a resident and environmental steward in an underprivileged city, Detroit, Michigan, I continuously face environmental dilemmas that surround my community. I have witnessed and experienced the affects of illegal dumping, pollution, industrial facilities and other non-environmentally friendly acts.  My specialization during my undergraduate career has been Environmental Policy/Law and Envrionmental Justice. With this degree and focus I plan to pursue a JD in Envrionmental Law or continue my studies to obtain a PhD in Aerobiology/Epideomology. The main driver for my interest in aerobiology sprouted from my four year research focusing on Pollen and Public Health in the urban context, specifically Detroit Michigan. As I continue to develop my skills and expand my interests, I remain steadfast in believing that my current concerns and enthusiasm about ecology will one day leverage change in not just Detroit, but communities all over. I’ve been able to accomplish many of my dreams and goals during my college years, and I’m honored and blessed to make a positive impact on UM’s Campus, Detroit and nationwide.

Project Title: “Developing estimators of  ragweed pollen production from measurements of inflorescence size”.

Vincent Waquiu
New Mexico State University
Mentor: Dr. David Orwig, Harvard University
Vincent majors in Wildlife Science at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces , New Mexico.  Vincent is degree neutral, his interests include Geospatial Information Technologies, Range Management, Ecology, Forestry, and Geology. He plans to work with his tribe either at Laguna or Jemez Pueblo when he accomplishes his degree. For his fellowship research Vincent will travel to Harvard Forest in Massachusetts to study the effects of invasive insects on eastern hemlock a native coniferous tree to eastern North America.

Project Title: “The impact of co-occurring invasive insects on eastern hemlock health and chemistry.”


Cohorts Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Mattias Lanas
Stanford University

Mentor: Lee Dyer

Mentor Institution: University of Nevada, Rino.



Project Title: “Revolutionary Ecology: Multidisciplinary and Multimedia approaches to Cooling the Planet.”


Elizabeth Quimba
Oregon State University

Mentor: Fred Janzen

Iman Sylvain

Howard University

Mentor: Sieglinde Snapp
Mentor Institution: Michigan State University.



Project Title: Sustainability: Agriculture/Forestry.


Cohorts Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation 


Adriana Leiva
Texas A&M University Corpus Christi
Mentor: Lisa Ballance

My name is Adriana Leiva. I was born in Austin, Texas, but raised in Mexico. I am a Biology major, focusing on marine systems at Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi. Currently, I am working on a morphological study of Sulu Gobies (Acentrogobius suluensis) in the South Pacific. I will be working in the upper Gulf of California for my SEEDS research. The vaquita (Phocoena sinus),one of six true porpoises (Phocoenidae) that can still be found around the world, are an endemic to the upper Gulf of California and have the most restricted distribution of any marine mammal. They are vulnerable to extinction due to their rarity (the most recent population estimate was 567 individuals, Jaramillo-Legorreta et al., 1999)and restricted distribution. Biologists working on the conservation efforts of the vaquita have suggested establishing a protected zone for the long-term conservation efforts of the vaquita and/or a buyout of the fishery. Although many individuals from many institutions and countries have been involved in activities to nominally address the problem, little to no progress has been made with respect to implementing solutions. The focus of my project will be to investigate the reasons for the “implementation gap”. We will collect data through interviews of persons involved in any capacity with vaquita using standardized questions. Analysis of answers will provide a means to identify the gaps in conservation efforts.

Project title: “Why do species go extinct: A closer look at implementation gaps in vaquita (Phocoena sinus) conservation.”


Ana Elisa Perez Quintero
University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras
Mentor: Helda Morales
There in the middle of the Huitepec “arvenses” grow, good weed that helps other species grow. They don’t discriminate, even though they are so useful and appreciated, they keep their humbleness. I will study the management of “arvences” in three organic farms in the highlands of San Cristobal, Chiapas. I will always refer to “arvences’” by their Spanish name, Tzeltal, Tzotzil and Scientific names so that anyone will understand what plant it is. We will also be studying the awareness farmers and children in five rural schools have towards these weeds and why they are so important in agriculture. I am Ana Elisa and I have lived all my life in the heart of the city in Río Piedras, where I currently study Environmental Community Health at the University of Puerto Rico. Even though my life has been spent in an urban context, my family is from Morovis and has always found time to explore our island (it’s pretty easy to see it all since it’s really small). Sometimes when we didn’t have the time to travel, I continued those trips by painting, writing, or reading about the same things I found so exhilarating in science and nature. Right now my priority is to do research in ecology, so that I can acquire knowledge of different techniques that can be applied or modified for a healthier Puerto Rico.

Project Title: “Organic vs. conventional: Weed management in the agricultural systems in the suburban areas of San Cristóbal de las Casas.”

Brittany Miles
Johnson C. Smith University
Mentor: Sandra Clinton and Amy Ringwood
I am Brittany Miles from Decatur, GA and I am a junior at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina. I chose to major in Biology because science is such a major part of every day life. I find it amazing that life itself, fromthe smallest plant seed to the largest organism in the world, are all part of one big cycle. I never imagined that my academic career would lead me to the field of ecology, but Dr. Fail brought it out of me. His passion for the environment, for life, and for knowledge has inspired me. He challenges me every day to be a part of a solution. My hopes and dreams at the end of my educational career are to be armed with the knowledge and ability to make a difference, and to help the environment and people to live pure, safe, and meaningful lives. She will be working with two mentors for her fellowship, Dr. Amy Ringwood and Dr. Sandra Clinton, both of the University of North Carolina Charlotte. Brittany will be studying microbial dniversity in streams. She will be looking at their genetic make-up (some bacteria swap genetic material in order to survive), how many different species are in a sample, and any environmental factors that may have an impact on their diversity.
Colleen Cooley
Northern Arizona University
Mentors: Larry Stevens and Emily Omana
Hello. My name is Colleen Cooley and I am currently attending Northern Arizona University (NAU) as a junior studying environmental sciences with an emphasis in management. I was born and raised on the Navajo Nation, specifically from a small rural community called Shonto, Arizona. My family and I grew up with no running water and electricity and we continue to live the same lifestyle ever since my parents moved to this beautiful place I call home. Therefore, my lifestyle revolved around animals and the environment and being creative with what we had around my home. From the time I began to understand the issues within the environment surrounding the Navajo tribe, I knew I wanted to return to the Reservation and help them in any way I can, which led me into the environmental sciences field. As I grew older, I learned more and more about the many issues surrounding our environment. I believe my older sister was another reason I chose to go into the environmental field because she knew a lot about the environment and the importance of recycling. I would love to learn more about the policy aspect of managing the environment, especially with the issues the Native American tribes are facing with their lands. In addition, I’m interested in learning more about conservation with water on Native lands because I come from a reservation where water is sacred and precious to my people and strip mining has taken most of our water just to provide electricity for people in Southern California and Las Vegas, Nevada. I would like to share my knowledge about policy and management on Native lands with the Native American tribes who don’t understand why these environmental issues on their lands are continuing to affect them and why not much is being done about it.

Project Title:”Improving Springs Ecosystems Stewardship: A Rapid Multi-Cultural Inventory and Assessment Approach.”

Sarah Renteria
University of Texas at El Paso
Mentor: Jeremy Jones and Amanda Rinehart
Hello, my name is Sarah Renteria and I will be conducting my fellowship research in the Caribou Creek Watershed outside of Fairbanks, Alaska! My mentors are Jay Jones and Amanda Rinehart who study the effect of permafrost on watershed hydrology and nutrient fluxes. This summer I will be asking how phosphorus uptake varies in streams with different extents of permafrost. I’m currently at the University of Texas at El Paso and grew up in the Chihuahuan Desert. Not until I started studying ecology did I appreciate the uniqueness of the desert and really fell in love with the magic of nature. The SEEDS trip to Chiapas Mexico was my huge eye opener where I discovered my passion for ecology and people. In the future I hope to work with everyday day people with different cultural backgrounds and form the important link between science and education. Reaching out and making science, especially ecology, comprehensible to people outside the scientific community is vital in changing people’s perspective on how they live their lives and their viewpoint of nature.
Serge Farinas
Clayton State University
Mentor: Beth Middleton
My name is Serge Farinas and I’m a Biology major at Clayton State University. I was first exposed to ecology through my advisor, Dr. Boudell, who has really helped me to focus my interests. I always knew that I wanted to do something that was applicable to the environmental issues we are currently dealing with, and so far I am feeling very satisfied with the direction ecology is taking me. I have done work in forest ecosystems and feel very much at home there. Right now, I am enjoying the beginning stages of research. I feel very honored to have been given this privilege. I hope that my research will show my appreciation, as I endeavor to do something that will benefit our community.
He will be doing his fellowship research with Dr. Beth Middleton of the National Wetlands Research Center in Lafayette, Louisiana. The focus of his study will be on wetland ecology and climate change.


Cohorts Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation


Annette Cardona
Texas A&M University
Mentors: Rick Tinnin and John Williams

Hi! My name is Annette Cardona. I was born and raised in Austin, Texas. I am currently attending Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi. I am in my fourth year and majoring in ecology. I was first drawn to marine biology when my sister made me go with her and her kids to SeaWorld. I saw the famous Shamu show and became hooked. The next year I attended the SeaWorld summer camp and took an aquatic science class. When I got to college all I wanted was to work at SeaWorld or an aquarium with the animals, but I started volunteering in a fisheries ecology lab on campus and took a general ecology class and my interest began to change. Understanding how the systems, marine life, and human impact work together was very intriguing. For about the past two years, I have been becoming increasingly interested in outreach and education, and conservation; not just of the marine mammals, but of the whole ocean, down to our estuaries. I would love to be a part of creating curricula or programs for aquaria, federal programs, college outreach programs, and other related places. With outreach I can help save and preserve the ocean systems and also inspire future scientists and educators.


Jarrod Blue
Davidson College
Mentor: Scott Collins My name is Jarrod Blue and I am a junior at Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina. I’m a Biology major with a focused interest in ecology. I have always had an interest in environmental issues, but the ecology class that I took first semester sophomore year changed everything for me. I entered the class with pre-med floating in my mind as a possible career choice, but as a result of the labs and papers that we read, I quickly veered off the pre-med track and turned full speed ahead into ecology. Currently I have an interest in community ecology, and specifically with the concepts of competition, dispersal patterns, and metacommunities. Since January 2006, I have been researching the colonization and dispersal patterns of invertebrates, specifically mosquitoes, within a metacommunity framework. I am very grateful to ESA for receiving the SEEDS fellowship and I look forward to working and meeting all of you during this fellowship period and beyond!
Sheena Hillstrom
Washington State University
Mentor: Charles HalpernMy name is Sheena Hillstrom. Originally from Shelton, Washington, I am an environmental science and regional planning major at Washington State University. Having grown up with the forests of the Pacific Northwest as my playground, I have a passionate interest in forest ecology as well as in the human impact on forests from our urban environments. My interest in ecology came about last spring in my Environment and Human Life class in which we studied the relationship between humans and the environment. This summer I had the opportunity to have some “hands-on” experience working in restoration plots in Costa Rica with the Organization for Tropical Studies’ Native American and Pacific Islander Research Experience where I researched the role of decaying log microsites in a natural restoration situation. In the broader context, I found that there are ways that humans can aid in the restoration process of our natural resources. Working with other indigenous students and meeting the indigenous people of Costa Rica I had the opportunity to hear their concerns about their lands, opening my eyes to issues that need to be addressed. I look forward to meeting and working with you all!


Cohorts Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation


Chris McLaughlin
Sitting Bull College
Tony Joern 
Chris’s article in the February 2007 Newsletter
Chris was also the All Nations AMP’s featured student

I am an enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes otherwise known as the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation. I am also a paternal child of the Hunkpapa Band of Lakota Sioux and long time descendant of McLaughlin’s from Ireland.
I am currently a junior at Sitting Bull College (Fort Yates, ND) in the Environmental Science program through Oglala Lakota College. I first became interested in science at an early age, but it wasn’t until I attended Fort Berthold Community College (FBCC) that the interest was solidified. I graduated from FBCC with an AS degree in Environmental Science. It was there where I was first introduced to SEEDS, and it was FBCC and SEEDS that helped me find the motivation to continue my education in the world of science. Some of my specific interests have been the plants and animals that have traditionally sustained the people of the Great Plains; such as the juneberry, Amelanchier alnifolia, and the American bison, Bison bison.
I am sure that SEEDS has been a positive experience not only for myself, but for other students as well. SEEDS has done this by providing insight to the realm of ecology to those who may not ordinarily have the opportunity to check out such things. This has been accomplished by student awards to field trips, meetings, and the Fellowship. These awards make it possible to see and experience first hand the possibilities in ecology, and formulate ones own thoughts for the direction of their personal future. SEEDS provides an unexplainable, yet definite passion and drive in those who experience it.
My Fellowship research has done this job well, by allowing me to work with the bison that were once, and still are sacred to the Plains Indians. My fellowship research project was conducted at the Konza Prairie long term ecological research site with the help of my mentor Tony Joern of Kansas State University. My fellowship research made it possible for me to actually see how important the bison (and fire) is to the prairie ecosystem in the past, present, and future. This research has made it possible to see the many interactions that happen in an ecosystem, from the insects to the large animal life and what critical roles they play in the environment.
My only advice to those in looking at a career in ecology would be: “If you like it, do what you gotta do to get there

Colibri Sanfiorenzo
University of Puerto Rico
Mentor: Luis Garcia Barrios
Colibri’s article in the October 2006 Newsletter
Hi! My name is Colibrí. There have been two main influential people in my life in relation to my love of science and my interest in ecology: My mom (dedicated educational chemistry researcher) and Dr. Elvia Melendez Ackerman (my current advisor at my University). My mom showed me the incredible and wonderful world of science and how it can explain most of the things in this world. That is partly why I started out in college as a physics student, to try and learn how the universe and all of its components work. But, there was something missing from the experience. In the fall semester of 2003 I embarked on an exchange program to Sweden. This is where I took my first Biology course which was Landscape Ecology. This course blew my mind in both theoretical and practical hands-on experience. That was three years ago and since then ecology has been a big part of my life. When I got back from Sweden, Elvia gave me a chance (without any biology courses at that point) to be a part of the Tropical Plant Ecology and Evolution Laboratory. Working in the lab has not only given me field and lab experience, but it has put me in contact with graduate students. I have been able to see what it takes to go to graduate school. Elvia not only gave me a job as a research assistant, but she also has encouraged me to apply for courses, internships, and conferences that are part of my research interest. I participated in the fall 2004 Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) semester abroad program of Duke University in Costa Rica, an amazing experience that really put me (and anyone) to the test of either loving ecology or hating it….I LOVED IT!!! Knowing that I love to travel, Elvia mentioned one day that ESA had field trips that were a week long and a good field experience for undergraduate students. This is how I first learned of the SEEDS Program. I started looking through the website and found so many amazing things I could participate in that my excitement turned into action and soon I was applying for the SEEDS fellowship program, and to my delight got accepted!!! My first encounter with other SEEDS students and organizers was in Arizona in March 2005. That week was incredible!!!! Everyone was so energetic and overwhelmed with happiness that it kind of just stuck on you like glue. After that week I have come to realize that the SEEDS program not only helps you to achieve great science and your academic goals, but it also helps you realize that your thoughts and ideas on humanity and the environment aren’t that far-fetched and that there are other students out there that feel the way you do. This past summer I started my fellowship research with Dr. Luis Garcia Barrios from El Colegio de la Frontera Sur (ECOSUR) in Chiapas, Mexico. Working with Luis has been a real treat. He has showed me the importance of understanding and working within social aspects in the field of ecology. I am participating in the first stages of a new project that is trying to promote conservation and better management techniques in communities that live in the buffer zone of “La Sepultura” Biosphere Reserve in the Sierra Madre de Chiapas. During the months of June and July I collected data on the types of vegetation surrounding the community to give a general overview of the landscape and the relationship with the cattle production systems they generally use. This summer Luis helped me organize not only my interest in ecology, but my attitude towards life in general. I got to Mexico feeling overwhelmed and depressed with life and left Chiapas energetic, happy, and excitedly overwhelmed with what life might bring me next. The experience that I had this summer really blew me away. I had never been in charge of my own project, having to make all the decisions (with LOTS of valuable help from Luis) about funding, field work, data analysis, group organization, and time schedule. I got a taste of what it will be like to do my graduate research and I can’t wait!!!!
  Ku’ulei Vickery
University of Hawai’i at Manoa 
Mentor: Mike Heithaus
Ku’ulei’s article in the December 2006 NewsletterAloha, I’m Ku`ulei and a senior at the University of Hawai`i at Manoa, majoring in environmental studies with an emphasis in marine ecology. I am a waterwoman. I’ve played, worked, and lived on the ocean. As an ocean enthusiast, I’m a long-distance sailor, surfer, swimmer, open-water diver, oceanographer, and budding ecologist. My love for the ocean has blossomed into a lifestyle and worthwhile academic endeavor. I’m interested in endangered marine species, indigenous knowledge, endemic Hawaiian marine animals, island ecosystems, and migratory routes of sea turtles. Being a native Hawaiian, I have struggled for years to coexist in a dual relationship of western science and Hawaiian culture. Throughout this journey I’ve continued to follow the path of my ancestors, and in turn, pave the way for the future. Through SEEDS, I have the opportunity to live in Shark Bay, Western Australia for 6 months and study the food web ecology of stingrays. I’m very excited and thankful for this awesome chance to conduct my own research. I’ve also participated in two field trips and an ESA Annual Meeting. Thanks to SEEDS, I view the world through the eyes of an ecologist.
My advice to other students is to figure out what is important to you, personalize it, and run with it. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it, especially if it’s yourself.
A’ohe pau ka ‘ike i ka halau ho’okahi. One can learn from many sources.
– Mary Kawena Pukui 1983 Olelo No’eau, Hawaiian Proverbs and Poetical Sayings

  Marla Striped Face – Collins
United Tribes Technical College Mentor: Carol Johnston
Marla’s article in the November 2006 Newsletter

Marla Striped Face-Collins is a full-time sophomore/junior tribal college student pursuing dual degrees in Business Administration and Interdisciplinary Environmental Science. Marla graduated with her AAS degree in Tribal Environmental Science on May 5, 2006. She is presently attending Sitting Bull College located in Fort Yates, North Dakota, 60 miles south of Bismarck, North Dakota where she lives. She is pursuing her bachelors in both majors.
Mrs. Collins was introduced to SEEDS when she found the website through the American Indian Science and Engineering Society scholarships and opportunities website. She was very instrumental in developing the SEEDS Chapter at United Tribes Technical College and has been the Student Representative since the Chapter started in the Spring of 2005, and is a campus Green Committee participant. Marla recently received a SEEDS Undergraduate Research Fellowship for 2006/2007.

Marla believes the Lakota people are part of the complex interrelationships that exist among plants, animals, ecological systems, soil, water, and climate, and that historically there were large numbers of bison, elk, antelope, and beaver, certain types of plants, and water. She also believes the devastating decline in these indigenous animals and an increase in invasive species has had an adverse effect on the water and climate of the prairie. Marla wants to study the environmental issues, air quality, and climate change of the prairie in hopes of merging modern western science with traditional indigenous ecological knowledge while learning how to manage water and to do ecological forecasting. Marla knows this seems like a lot to study and research, but as a Lakota person, she believes that everything is in some way or another related, and that what affects one thing also affects something else or many things down the line.
Mrs. Collins receives support from her husband while pursuing her science and business courses. She received inspiration for her research project from Alice Outwater’s book The History of Water.
Marla is an enrolled Standing Rock tribal member and upon graduating with a doctorate in Environmental Science will return to her tribe with the skills and knowledge she has attained to give back to the Standing Rock community. Her advice for students of all ages, races, and ethnicities who like being outdoors is to have enthusiasm for discovering nature; to help people become more aware of their environment; and to pursue their education in environmental science with passion. From this they will gain the experience to know that they can do anything they want to do and go anywhere they want to go.


Cohorts Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Andrea Rivera
University of Hawaii at Manoa
Mentor: Hunter Lenihan

Growing up in Honduras exposed me to the fascinating world of nature and my father, who was a geologist at that time, introduced me to the field of science. National Geographic Magazines, maps, and having the rainforest as my backyard helped me develop a true interest in tropical ecosystems. At the age of thirteen, my life transformed when I moved to New Jersey with my family making me realize how negatively humans are impacting our Earth.After high school, I decided to go the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) to pursue a B.S. degree in Marine Biology, and discovered a passion to study coral reefs. During my first year, I realized that I was interested in a more expansive major that would offer more of a global perspective, targeting environmental problems. Feeling accomplished at UVI, I was ambitious to develop my education at a larger college and transferred to the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. I am currently a senior student and will graduate this spring. My major is Environmental Studies, with a Marine Option Program certificate titled “Lobster Research Management.”
This past summer, I was fortunate to be awarded with the ESA SEEDS Undergraduate Research Fellowship, and have had the opportunity to travel to the ESA Annual Meeting in Montreal, Canada and the ESA International Conference in Merida, Mexico. I learned a great deal about current ecological research and expanded networks with ecologists and related professionals. The scientific conference gave me an idea for the next ESA Annual Meeting in Memphis, Tennessee where I will be presenting my fellowship research findings. The fellowship program is a great experience that is enabling me to do an individualized research project for a year. My mentor is Hunter Lenihan from the University of California at Santa Barbara and I’ll be working in the Moorea Coral Reef Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Site in French Polynesia. I always wanted to do coral and algal research and SEEDS is making my dream come true. I enjoy the ocean, and I am in the process of becoming a scientific diver. As a result of the SEEDS program, I can do my fieldwork in the ocean and expand my understanding of coral and algae interactions. In addition, a SEEDS field trip to the Sevilleta LTER Project exposed me to dessert ecosystems for the first time.
SEEDS also helped sponsor the first University of Hawai’i at Manoa Ecology Chapter (UHMEC). As the President of the club, my involvement with outreach activities, grant applications and ecological activities has increased. The best advice I could personally give a student it to stay positive in college, because it can be very stressful at times, and to try to stay active with extracurricular activities. This will open many doors and help keep you focused. Also, once you find a program you like, don’t be afraid to apply, just get it done and perhaps you’ll experience something amazing.
In the future, I am planning to pursue a Masters degree and hopefully a Doctoral degree in Marine Environmental Science to help create a non-profit organization in Honduras. My ultimate goal is to develop applied ecological projects involving communities and help create marine protected areas in the Bay Islands of Honduras.
Muchas Gracias SEEDS for all your support, funding, advice and for making my dreams of becoming a marine ecologist true!

Christina Wong
Occidental College
Mentor: Nancy Grimm
Abstract: Desert crusts in an urban landscape: responses of N2 fixation to anthropogenic C and N deposition.

I am a senior Biology major at Occidental College in Los Angeles, California and am interested in the fields of urban ecology, biogeochemistry and ecosystem ecology. My love for science and the environment began in my junior year of high school as a member of the Student Conservation Association’s (SCA) San Francisco Urban Youth Corps Program. For two years, I participated in bi-weekly workshops that addressed local environmental issues and in community restoration projects of city parks, Toyiabe National Forest, California and Denali National Park, Alaska. SCA educated and exposed inner-city youth from underrepresented communities to the importance of nature and conservation.
My journey as an ecological researcher began in the summer of 2004 with Dr. Rebecca Ostertag, University of Hawaii at Hilo, and Dr. Susan Cordell, USDA-Hawaii, on a NSF-REU project that assessed the impacts of invasive plants on Hawaiian lowland wet forests. In the spring of 2005, I studied abroad in Costa Rica where I explored sustainable agriculture by comparing avian diversity of local sun and shade coffee plantations. This past summer, I participated in the Institute of Ecosystem Studies (IES) NSF-REU program with Dr. Katalin Szlavecz, John Hopkins University, and Dr. Richard Pouyat, USDA- Baltimore, at the Baltimore Ecosystem Studies. I evaluated the impact of urbanization and heavy metals on soil communities throughout the Washington D.C. and Baltimore metropolitan areas. As a 2005-06 SEEDS fellow, I am working with Dr. Nancy Grimm, Arizona State University and current ESA President, and Dr. Ryan Sponseller, Arizona State University, at the central-Arizona Phoenix Long-term Ecological Research (LTER) site. My project is investigating the effects of anthropogenic nitrogen deposition on N2-fixation rates of biological soil crust in rapidly urbanizing central-Arizona. Excitingly, this is my first exposure to biogeochemistry and desert ecosystems. The fellowship is a phenomenal opportunity since it combines all of my ecological interests, thus permitting me to create a project I feel is intriguing, challenging and fun. Ultimately, as an ecologist, I hope to change the common “urban perception,” that divides cities from nature, by working to restore, expose and understand urban ecosystems. In the future I see myself as an international researcher, urban planner, and policy maker who will assist in the development and design of sustainable and equitable cities.
I was introduced to the SEEDS program by Sharon Ziegler-Chong, Director of the Hawaii NSF-REU program. In November of 2005 I attended the SEEDS fieldtrip to the USGS National Wetlands Research Center in Lafayette, Louisiana. The fieldtrip allowed me to ride through swamps, critically examine marshes, interact with ecological researchers, and question, contemplate and discuss the threats confronting Louisiana’s wetlands. SEEDS has inspired me to pursue a career as an ecological researcher by providing me with a community of students and scientists who are passionate about ecology and diversifying the ecology profession. I share the knowledge and wisdom I have gained from my SEEDS experience with other students as co-founder of the Scientific Scholars Achievement Program (SSAP) at Occidental College. SSAP helps underrepresented students from under-funded public high schools successfully pursue their scientific passions. We offer student mentoring and tutoring sessions and strongly support community activities. In the future, we hope that our students will become science ambassadors by volunteering in inner-city public schools and minority communities. Recently, we received the Occidental Urban and Environmental Policy Institute Community Action award.
The best advice I can give fellow students is to: investigate and utilize all available resources, get involved in research projects, seek academic and professional advice from professors and other students, study abroad, and choose a subject and field that you truly love.

Jorge Ramos
University of Texas at El Paso
Mentor: Myra Shulman
Abstract: Population sizes, site usage, and behavior of harbor and gray seals in the Isles of Shoals, Gulf of Maine.

Since I was a child, I have always been interested in science. Being born in the US and raised in Mexico has given me the opportunity to view things with a different perspective. My dad, a dentist, always wanted to be a naturalist. Unfortunately, my dad had to follow my grandfather’s career as a dentist. I feel like my dad’s passion for the environment was passed on to me during my childhood. The things that I am pursuing now, for example a SCUBA diving certification, he did back in 1978.
I knew I wanted to study the environment; I just was not sure what part of it. I am still in the part of discovering my passion. I want to focus on one piece of this puzzle called planet Earth. I started college at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). I am majoring in Environmental Sciences with a Biological Sciences concentration. My first summer was not at all interesting. I had no idea about internships, fellowships, REU’s, conferences, summer jobs, etc. I was unaware of what was out there for undergraduate students. I ended up signing up for summer courses.
Before summer of 2004, encouraged by my professor Dr. Larry Jones and my advisor Cindy Edgar, I applied to an REU at the Environmental Science Institute at the University of Texas at Austin. I was selected and worked under great soil ecologists, Dr. Dick Richardson and his wife Dr. Patricia Richardson. I completed a research project that compared the differences in arthropod diversity in different environments.
After this experience, I felt like it was the end of my mentality of a student with the goal of just graduating. It was the beginning of a new goal, graduating with an exceptional resume. I wanted to graduate knowing great contacts, having field experience, an excellent academic record, and, of course, extensive research experience.
I discovered SEEDS the summer of 2004. I was selected to go to the ESA meeting in Portland, Oergon. After that meeting, I realized that SEEDS offered more than just travel scholarships for the meeting. I also participated in two SEEDS field trips: National Wetlands Resource Center in Lafayette, Louisiana, and the La Sevilleta LTER in New Mexico. Many students from UTEP were also very active with SEEDS so we decided to start a Campus Ecology Chapter at our university.
During the summer of 2005 I worked with the US and Fish and Wildlife Service on the Abnormal Amphibian Project at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge (KNWR). It was a great outdoors research experience where I gained new skills and strengthened others. I kept in touch with Mari Reeves, the PI of the project, and we are currently working with the PRESENCE software to model the proportion of area occupied by these amphibians in the KNWR. Later that summer I went to the ESA-INTECOL meeting in Montreal, Canada. At the meeting I received the ESA SEEDS Undergraduate Research Fellowship. I then flew to Barrow, Alaska, where I met with Dr. Craig Tweedie and his crew, who are part of BASC (Barrow Arctic Science Consortium). In Barrow, Alaska, 340 miles above the Arctic Circle, I helped different US and international scientists in their research projects: coastal erosion, hydrology, ornithology, biogeochemistry, small mammals, botany, etc.
Having received the SEEDS Undergraduate Research Fellowship, a very prestigious research opportunity, I decided to work on something that I have always wanted to experience: marine mammals. I decided to work with seals in the Gulf of Maine. My mentors for the fellowship are Dr. Myra Shulman from Cornell University, and Greg Early from the Marine Mammal Stranding Network. This research will examine two species of pinnipeds, gray seals (Halichoerus grypus) and harbor seals (Phoca vitulina), that use the Isles of Shoals as haul-out spaces. Currently there is very little knowledge to understand both of the seals at the Isles of Shoals. In order to get this baseline, we will conduct population censuses, monitor behavioral interactions, analyze male vocalization using bioacoustical analysis techniques, and their responses to human disturbances. This research will result in an extensive knowledge to understand the current behavior of pinnipeds and their potential responses to the changing environment in the Isles of Shoals.
I would like to give thanks to friends at SEEDS, Melissa, Katherine, Jason, and Jeramie. Thank you for believing in me, for all of your support over these years. I know that without SEEDS, I couldn’t be where I am right now. It’s SEEDS that has made me mature and discover my potential.
My goal for next year… graduate school!

Noemi Baquera
University of Texas at El Paso
Mentor: Jeff Herrick
Abstract: Determining vegetation coverage and changes in land use under the Quesungual slash and mulch agroforestry system.

My name is Noemi Baquera. I am from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), where I am majoring in Environmental Science. Even as a child I was interested in ecology, but back then it was known to me as playing in the dirt, not as a multifaceted and intricate concept. However, the versatility and freedom in ecology is what attracted me to this field, making it the focus of my education. My main interest in ecology is in the restoration of damaged ecosystems, where I can develop methods to monitor and return ecosystems to their natural state.
I was introduced to the SEEDS program by my advisor, Cindy Edgar, who has always encouraged me and thanks to her I was able to take advantage of this great opportunity. My first SEEDS experience was a field trip to the University of Calgary’s Kananaskis Field Station in Calgary, Canada in June 2004. This field trip was an absolutely amazing and important experience for me. I was exposed to so many aspects of ecology that I had not yet explored. It was at this field trip that I heard of the SEEDS Undergraduate Research Fellowship, where I would be allowed the opportunity to pursue and create a research project of my own. I knew that this was the next step in accomplishing my future goals in research, and, upon notification of my selection, I was overcome with joy and felt that I was truly on my way. My research for this fellowship revolves around the Quensungual Slash and Mulch Agroforestry System. This modified technique increases the water retention capabilities of the soil which ultimately decreases the amount of land depleted by agriculture, helping to conserve natural ecosystems.
Through this fellowship I was given the opportunity to attend the 90th ESA Annual Meeting in Montreal, Canada. I was able to see important research and converse with prestigious scientists from all over the world. I was able to gather information about graduate school and learn about the different opportunities available to minority students. Through these experiences I have seen and done so much, and I encourage other students to take advantage of this program because it is so exceedingly dedicated to the students.


Cohorts Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Bruce Machona
Wiley College
Mentor: Gary Lovett

Since the tender age of my life I enjoyed going out and watching the water flowing in the river and mountain hiking and studying most of the living organisms around me in Zimbabwe. I should say I became interested in Ecology when I was a child. My mother was an ecologist not by training but naturally, and she was the most influential person in igniting my interest in ecology. Unfortunately, when I went to high school, I did not take an Ecology or science course. The school system selected courses for you. So when I went to college for the first time I did my studies in Accounting. But this was not my passion, fortunately enough when I came to America I had to take many classes in Biology, which played a major role in shaping my future. The challenges that I faced included the jargon and terminology used in the sciences because I did not have a strong background in science. However, if you have the passion for something, learning will be easy. I had the determination to learn, and with good professors, I succeeded. Field trips sponsored by ESA/SEEDS helped me a lot in motivating me and it helped me improve my understanding of what is Ecology.
Thanks to ESA.

Project Title:”Effect of nitrogen addition on fine roots in an oak forest”

Julie James
Haskell Indian Nations University
Mentor: Alan Knapp

Mentor Institution: Colorado State Univerisity

I entered college as a non-traditional student at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas. I began college in Computer Information Systems. At the time, it seemed that computers were the way to go, but I quickly found I had no love for this program. I switched majors and was accepted into the Environmental Science program. This is when I knew I was going to do something I would enjoy. The instructors at Haskell have all been very supportive and influential in keeping my interests focused. Another influence has been SEEDS. I attended my first SEEDS field trip to Baltimore in November of 2003. Immediately I felt at home with the other field trip participants. The students all had some of the same ideas and interests as me. This was also my first exposure to professionals in ecology other than my professors.Through my initial involvement with SEEDS and the Haskell Ecology Club I learned of the SEEDS fellowship. I applied, was accepted, and subsequently was able to attend the August 2004 ESA conference in Portland. At the conference I was able to experience first hand what the fellowship entailed by attending the presentations of the current fellowship recipients and visiting with them.The SEEDS program coordinated a mentor match for me and has helped me stay on task throughout the year. My mentor, Alan Knapp, is extremely knowledgeable. His knowledge and enthusiasm has helped me through the tough parts of my project. My research project is studying native grasses on the Konza Prairie in Manhattan, Kansas. I am observing the growth in different water treatments and how these treatments affect the production of vegetative versus reproductive growth.

Project Title:”Phenology and allocation to flowering in C3 and C4 grasses in a mesic grassland: implications for climate change.”

Lucero Vasquez-Radonic
University of Texas at El Paso
Mentor: Rebecca Ostertag

Mentor Institution: University Of Hawaii At Hilo

I remember going to the beach with my mother, and collecting every seashell I could find. I would fill boxes full of seashells, always thinking that they were beautiful decorations of the sand, but never realizing that the ocean was full of life and value. My mother always inculcated it in me to respect nature and see it as a gift and a responsibility to humankind, not as a commodity or property. Now I realize I did not fully understand my mother’s perception of nature until I went on a trip to the Tambopata National Reserve, in the Peruvian Amazon Rain Forest as a high school student. At Tambopata I understood the importance of ecology to further knowledge, and more importantly, to conserve the earth’s natural resources and the existing human cultures. At UTEP, my advisor was great at letting us know about every opportunity available, and she was the one who let me know about the SEEDS field trip to the Kananaskis field station, and consequently, I came to find out about the SEEDS fellowship. For my SEEDS fellowship research, I am working with Dr. Rebecca Ostertag of the University of Hawaii at Hilo, studying the seed rain and the soil seed bank at the Hawaiian lowland wet forest to contribute to the understanding of the mechanisms by
which introduced species are out competing native species. This understanding is necessary so that these forests can remain as functioning systems where the native species survive competition by invasive introduced species. This information may help us understand their competitive success, proving us the tools to develop alternative control methods that could be applied at the different life stages of the plant.

Project title: “Understanding the interrelations of native and introduced species in the Hawaiian lowland wet forest through seed rain and soil seed bank quantification.”

Ricardo Colon
University of Puerto Rico at Humacao
Mentor: Alberto Sabat 

I’ve been interested in ecology since I was a little kid. I grew up surrounded by a strange mix of nature and urban development in the island of Puerto Rico. I was always marveled by the ocean and by science. My main influence comes from Marine biologists and ecologists from the University of Puerto Rico in Humacao and in Río Piedras. I had the wonderful opportunity to attend to the SEEDS Urban Ecology Field Trip that was held in Baltimore, Maryland. That was the first time I heard about the SEEDS fellowship. My fellowship mentor, Dr. Alberto Sabat, and I came up with a project to compare urchin densities in different types of coral reefs that we expect to differ in predator presence, resource abundance, and water quality. We want to know how this keystone specie is distributed along these types of environments to establish a relation, if any, between these factors and the presence of (Diadema antillarum) on the coral reefs of Puerto Rico. Ecology has an important role in the future of science. Everyone talks about biotechnology and genetic engineering, but we can’t forget the role of ecology in our world. We humans are an integral part of the environment, our actions greatly affect the ecosystem, and mother nature can have quite a vengeance if she wants. I think ecological research is a vital part in the process of saving our planet.

Project Title:”The effects of predator abundance and food availability on the abundance of the sea urchin Diadema Diadema antillarum in Puerto Rico.”

Thalia Tooke
University of Kansas
Mentor:Tracy Benning

Mentor Institution: University of San Francisco

Deciding to study ecology or environmental science came about after studying biology and chemistry, because I saw how the basics of natural sciences are used in ecology and environmental science. All the sciences are interconnected and the problems facing the world today can be best addressed with a combination of science, social science, and humanities approaches. I have overcome many challenges that consisted of learning disabilities, family illness, personal illness, not enough resources to pay for school and the basics to live, etc. I have persevered because I believed in myself and my dreams and goals.I learned about the SEEDS fellowship program by searching the internet. My fellowship project is about weed management strategies in landrace maize fields in the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico. I spent the summer interviewing 60 subsistence farmers on how they manage their weeds. The only advice I can give is to find out what it is you don’t like to do. That is the starting point to find out what it is you like to do or are interested in. What is it that you love to do (that you have a passion for)? What would you do even if you did not get paid for it?

Project title: “Weeding strategies and the potential for adoption of glysophate-based technology in traditional maize production systems in Central Chiapas.”