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2005-2006 Fellows

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.