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ESA Student Section Awardees

                                  2020 Awardees


Trailblazing Undergraduate Research

Ajisha Alwin, University of Florida













Through her research, she has contributed to the need for research to be done on careers in field research by exploring the alignment between employer expectations and the skills of incoming graduates. And she hopes that the study will serve as a reference for educators, students, and employers by offering insight into the relationship between student skills and employer expectations within the framework of workforce preparation.

“As a student who is undergoing the same process trying to navigate a research career, my aspiration is to research and educate students of the expectations, qualifications, and availability of research opportunities in the field of ecology”


Trailblazing Graduate Research

Mauna Dasari, University of Notre Dame

My research will contribute the first prospective longitudinal data set able to test how gut microbial dynamics vary between individuals and what consequences this variation may have for host development and fitness. This contribution will be significant because it will provide foundational knowledge for understanding what features define healthy microbiomes as well as how these features predict biodemographic markers of host health, including the timing of development, fertility, and survival.

“As a woman in science and women of color underrepresented in ecology and evolution, I have strived to be a relatable role model working to create a more inclusive environment for the next generation of scientists at every level of my community, and beyond”


Trailblazing Ecology Publication

Chuliang Song, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

His publication focuses on Modern Coexistence Theory (MCT) which is a leading theoretical framework for studying the coexistence of competing species.

“We present an overlooked but important property of MCT, along with two key new results and their consequences. The overlooked property is that stabilizing mechanisms (increasing species’ niche differences) and equalizing mechanisms (reducing species’ fitness differences) have two distinct sets of meanings within MCT: one in a two-species context and another in a general multispecies context. We demonstrate that the two-species framework is not a special case of the multispecies one, and therefore these two parallel frameworks must be studied independently”.


Trailblazing Work in Diversity Inclusion

Micah Miles, University of Georgia

“In my diversity and inclusion work, I broadly seek to connect insights and opportunities within ecology and scientific community at large to the marginalized communities that have been systematically underserved. From fine-scale engagement with youth and local community members to science communication content creation and dissemination on widely accessible social media platforms, I strive to develop and deliver the kind of inclusive ecological outreach that might inspire the next generation of environmental stewards. To this end, my work ultimately supports the impact of ecological research, by navigating through the paywalls and jargon of publications, to stimulate interest in and appreciation for the field of ecology across a wider and more diverse spectrum of potential future-ecologists”


Trailblazing Work in Science Communication

Mia Howard, Cornell University

Her main outreach activity has been a distance-learning science education program that she created for people incarcerated in prisons across the United States through the Prisoner Express Program at Durland Alternatives Library.

“While science communication is a useful skill in and of itself, I think that actually being able to share students’ writing with an audience that is hungry to learn about science is not only great motivation for students but also teaches them the importance of scientific outreach, especially with nontraditional audiences”.


Trailblazing Work in Education

Kabryn Mattison, Appalachian State University 

Her most recent work in the field of Ecology Education is investigating eco-grief within learning environments, and advocating for structural changes within my university, community, and eventually the ecological field as a whole.

“I want to use my voice to open up the conversation around mental health in STEM and the impacts of eco-grief on working scientists and students alike. I am unafraid of sharing my work and experiences vulnerably in order to better support those who may not be able to speak about their experiences for various structural and personal reasons. Through my own personal experiences navigating eco-grief felt due to ecological education and work within the Anthropocene, I hope to shed a much-needed light on an issue currently hidden in the darkness of taboo and shame”