2022 North American Cohort 

 Click on a fellow's image to learn more about them 

ines.png

Programa de Estudios Socioambientales
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

andres.png
Andres Clarens

University of Virginia, Environmental Engineering

Rachelle Gould.jpg
Rachelle Gould

University of Vermont, Environmental Values and Environmental Learning

bonnie keeler.jpg
Bonnie Keeler

University of Minnesota, Environmental Policy

terry.png
Terry McGlynn

California State University,

California Desert Studies Consortium

Ashlynn Stillwell.jpg
Ashlynn Stillwell

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign,

Civil and Environmental Engineering

Natalie ban.jpg
Natalie Ban

University of Victoria, Marine Conservation and Ethnoecology

EvansSarah_headshot_larger.jpeg
Sarah Evans

Michigan State University’s Kellogg Biological Station, Soil Biologist

Stephanie Green.jpg
Stephanie Green

University of Alberta, Marine Global Change Ecology & Conservation

john.jpg
John Lin

University of Utah,

Dept. of Atmospheric Sciences

Tuyeni Headshot 1.jpg
Tuyeni Mwampamba

Institute for Ecosystems and Sustainability Research,
Universidad Nacional Autonóma de México

rodrigo.png
Rodrigo Vargas

University of Delaware,

Plant and Soil Sciences

headshot.jpg
Nandita Basu

University of Waterloo, Global Water Sustainability and Ecohydrology

Eviner headshot.jpg
Valerie Eviner

University of California, Davis, Ecosystem Management and Restoration

randall hughes.jpg
Randall Hughes

Northeastern University, Marine Biodiversity and Conservation

Damon Matthews NEW.jpg
Damon Matthews

Concordia University,

Climate Science and

Sustainability

Malin Pinksy.jpg
Malin Pinsky

Rutgers University, Ecology & Evolution

CayelanCarey_headshot.jpeg
Cayelan Carey

Virginia Tech,

Freshwater Scientist

Sathya_Gopalakrishnan_NEW.jpg
Sathya Gopalakrishnan

The Ohio State University, Dept. of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics

LekeliaJenkins.jpg
Lekelia Jenkins

Arizona State University, School for the Future of Innovation in Society

pamela.png
Pamela McElwee

Rutgers University,

Human Ecology

sara.png
Sara Soderstrom

University of Michigan,

Environment and Sustainability Management and Organization

Inés Arroyo-Quiroz

Programa de Estudios Socioambientales Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

What environmental or sustainability challenge is top-of-mind for you and why?

Profoundly transform our collective understanding of and relationship with wildlife and the natural world. In more concrete terms, advance in efforts to prevent harm or criminal offending against the environment and the biota before the act has been committed, and incorporate broader conceptions of victimization and harm than those provided by strictly legal definitions and/or certain traditional beliefs and practices.

ines.png

What was a key moment, or an inflection point in your career where you made the decision to focus on the work you are now doing?

To tell the truth, since I was in primary school, I was determined to devote myself to animal studies, and also to be a detective. Then, when in middle school, I used to read the newspaper while waiting for my mom to return from work, and was shocked and intrigued by the regular informative notes on wildlife trafficking in Mexico. Since then, I started collecting this sort of news non-stop, until now. Professionally, I began working on wildlife use and conservation in 1994, when I wrote a thesis to obtain my Biology degree on a novel Mexican method aimed at classifying species at risk using information about range, population size, habitat and ecology, use and/or trade, and threats; a dissertation led by one of the most experienced and recognized conservationists in Mexico, who furthermore inspired me to continue pursuing my career in this much needed area of applied research. 

 

Without worrying about what is realistic or time-bound, what skill or knowledge do you most hope to acquire from your fellowship year?

I hope to improve my abilities and capacity to communicate and engage more effectively with national and international networks. With this at hand, I could be less overwhelmed by the competitive and hostile environment of the academia and conduct myself in a more clear and hearty way when I have to participate in seminars, meetings and workshops where I have the challenge to address varied audiences and required to interact, formally and informally, with stakeholders from different sectors and from diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds from all over the globe.

 

Natalie Ban

University of Victoria,
Marine Conservation and Ethnoecology

What environmental or sustainability challenge is top-of-mind for you and why?

Declines in marine biodiversity are devastating in their own right, and also for people whose culture and livelihood is deeply connected to the oceans. How can we protect marine biodiversity while meeting the needs and desires of people? How can we respect and braid multiple knowledge systems to work towards a healthy ocean? How can academics such as myself support and uplift the original Indigenous stewards of our oceans? These are examples of questions that my research addresses through collaborative partnerships.

Natalie ban.jpg

What was a key moment or an inflection point in your career where you made the

decision to focus on the work you are now doing?

I’ve always been at my happiest spending time outdoors, and fell in love with the natural beauty and people of the place now known as British Columbia when I moved here after my Master’s. Working for a small NGO to advance marine conservation taught me just how little we know about the oceans, and the paucity of successful protections. I am extremely thankful to the many Indigenous collaborators and friends who have helped me understand their long-standing stewardship and authority, and my research is now devoted to supporting marine stewardship and conservation solutions with partners and collaborators that uplift and uphold Indigenous leadership, and create a better world for all (people, other living creatures, and places).

 

Without worrying about what is realistic or time-bound, what skill or knowledge do

you most hope to acquire from your fellowship year?

I’d like to learn more about diverse strategies and approaches for influencing policy, especially when much of the relevant policies are built upon systemic racism and injustice. I’m also very excited to learn from all the other amazing fellows, and look forward to supporting each other and building long-lasting collaborations.

 

Nandita Basu

University of Waterloo,
Global Water Sustainability and Ecohydrology

What environmental or sustainability challenge is top-of-mind for you and why?

Increasing incidences of eutrophication and groundwater quality impairment from nutrient pollution threatening both human and ecosystem health. A changing climate aggravates these challenges, with incidences of harmful algal blooms rising precipitously in the last decade. Research in our lab focuses on exploring the ways in which climate, land use and management practices impact water

headshot.jpg

quality in anthropogenic landscapes. Can we understand the most

important drivers of water quality degradation? More importantly, can we then use this knowledge to develop innovative solutions that improve water quality and protect our ecosystems, without  thwarting economic growth?  These are some of the challenges and

questions that inspire me, and they require collaborations across disciplines, as well as with

societal partners.

What was a key moment or an inflection point in your career where you made the

decision to focus on the work you are now doing?

Growing up in India, water pollution was an intricate part of my life. As an undergrad, I studied

the Kolkata wetlands, a 125-square km area of natural and human-made wetlands, lying

downstream of the city of Kolkata in India.  These wetlands not only provide flood defense

against rising sea levels, but are an amazing example of a coupled natural and human system,

where salt marshes and settling ponds coexist, where nutrients from the cities’ waste is used for

sustaining fish farms and agriculture, and this recycling of waste protects the river Ganga on

which the city sits. I realized how developmental pressures and lack of awareness are slowly

eroding away such natural filters in the landscapes. I had already decided on studying

environmental issues, but these experiences fueled my interest in the field of human-environment interactions and water quality challenges. 

 

Without worrying about what is realistic or time-bound, what skill or knowledge do you most hope to acquire from your fellowship year?

At the local scale, I would like to be able to learn how to work effectively with societal partners

and engage in solution-oriented research. At the regional and global scale, I would like to learn

how to communicate my science more effectively, and participate in policy discussions that can

potentially trigger long-term change. I imagine that I would be building and developing networks

beyond my fellowship year, and learn by example from others over a longer period of time.

 

Cayelan Carey

Virginia Tech,
Freshwater Scientist

What environmental challenge is top-of-mind for you and why?

Freshwater quality and quantity are being increasingly variable globally due to human activities, threatening critical ecosystem services such as drinking water, fisheries, and hydropower. We need new tools and approaches to help guide management and conservation to protect our freshwater ecosystems while fully engaging communities in decision-making.

CayelanCarey_headshot.jpeg

What was a key moment in your career where you made the decision to focus on the work you are now doing?

I grew up in the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York during the peak of the acid rain crisis. Witnessing lakes that I loved become too acidic to support life motivated me to become a freshwater ecosystem scientist. As a result of these experiences, my research program aims to understand how human activities are altering freshwater ecosystems and in turn, how changing water quality alters human decision-making.

Without worrying about what is realistic or time-bound, what skills or knowledge do you most hope to acquire during your fellowship year?

I am passionate about learning new ways to engage and build community with diverse stakeholders to initiate environmental change. I want to gain the skills to work more effectively with managers from water utilities, governmental officials, and homeowners to co-design and co-produce water solutions. For example, I am currently developing ecological forecasts of future lake water quality that will be disseminated to stakeholders. How best should I engage managers and decision-makers in this process? What types of forecast visualizations would be most effective for a broad audience? How do I scale this project from five lakes to hundreds to help provide decision-makers with the tools they need to improve water quality management? These are a few of the many questions that I am excited to answer during the next five years.

 

Andres Clarens

University of Virginia,
Environmental Engineering

What environmental or sustainability challenge is top-of-mind for you and why?

Climate change is the most pressing sustainability challenge today because of the rapidly intensifying impact it is having on people and places around the world. To avoid the worst of these impacts we

andres.png

must decarbonize rapidly across the economy and that can only happen with new technologies and new tools for assessing our progress. Our group is committed to both these activities. We develop new technologies (for example, low carbon cements) and new tools for assessment (for example, systems-level tools for studying industrial decarbonization).

What was a key moment or an inflection point in your career where you made the decision to focus on the work you are now doing?

I have been working on decarbonization and CO2-utilization since my second year in graduate school. The urgency of this work has only increased in the time since because we continue to delay on aggressive decarbonization. Fortunately, there have been encouraging signs emerging all over the place this past year as governments, corporations, and other institutions have committed to achieving net-zero emissions. 

Without worrying about what is realistic or time-bound, what skill or knowledge do you most hope to acquire from your fellowship year?

Given how many changes we need to make to our infrastructure systems and how quickly we need to make these changes, I worry that traditional modes of translating science into practice may not be good enough. I want to develop the skills to most effectively partner with decision makers. I believe that the research questions that we are asking in our lab will also be more robust and more impactful if they are formulated with an understanding of the fundamental gaps in our knowledge but also with input from the users of that knowledge.

 

Sarah Evans

Michigan State University’s Kellogg Biological Station,
Soil Biologist

What environmental or sustainability challenge is top-of-mind for you and why? 

A key challenge in the top of my mind is: how can our agricultural systems be economically viable, just, sustainable, and still preserve our natural resources and biodiversity? This question is made even more complex as changing climates test the resilience of our food and ecosystems.

EvansSarah_headshot_larger.jpeg

What was a key moment or an inflection point in your career where you made the decision to focus on the work you are now doing?

I studied ecology in Costa Rica as an undergraduate, and was fascinated at how ecosystems behaved and land was used in this region, in such contrast to those in the temperate region where I grew up. I gained an appreciation for soils as an important part of an ecosystem and agro-ecosystem. It was amazing to me that so much of a tropical forest is contained in the plants, that when you burn or chop down the plants to make way for agriculture, you are left with a very poor soil. The different biology and ecology of other systems means they respond differently. I still think about this today – how our natural resources – and even our livelihoods – all comes back to the soil. 

Without worrying about what is realistic or time-bound, what skill or knowledge do you most hope to acquire from your fellowship year?

 I hope to learn how to develop networks broader than the university, and establish partnerships and projects with diverse groups. I think by working with partners, I could do the science that’s needed to create win-win solutions for people and conservation.

 

Valerie Eviner

University of California, Davis,
Ecosystem Management and Restoration Ecologist

What environmental or sustainability challenge is top-of-mind for you and why?

Human well-being depends on the resilience of our ecosystems, and we are pushing them to the brink. The increased size, frequency, and devastation of wildfires, floods, and droughts are a direct result of

Eviner headshot.jpg

climate change and land use change. We’re not only putting more stress on ecosystems, but we’re also degrading the key mechanisms by which ecosystems withstand these stresses- by decreasing biodiversity, spreading invasive species, and decreasing soil health. Can we manage our ecosystems to decrease these natural disasters, and more quickly recover from them? Can we mitigate climate change and restore the ecological drivers of resilience? These challenges require collaboration between scientists and land managers with diverse expertise- and require us to work at spatial and temporal scales beyond that of the typical ecological experiment.

What was a key moment or an inflection point in your career where you made the decision to focus on the work you are now doing?

When I started graduate school, I thought I had to make the choice to focus on environmental research, and that I’d volunteer “on the side” to address issues of human well-being. Fortunately, in my 2nd year of graduate school, I realized I could do research that pushes the cutting edge of ecology, by addressing pressing questions of land managers. Questions of scale, context-dependence, and systems-level understanding are the most complex to address, but are the gaps that limit effective decision making. Figuring out how to do this well is a work in progress, and I’ve been fortunate to have amazing mentors and collaborators on this career-long journey.

Without worrying about what is realistic or time-bound, what skill or knowledge do you most hope to acquire from your fellowship year?

I’d like to learn more about the most effective approaches to enact lasting changes in how humans impact the environment. My current work is with local to regional partners, who have been eager to collaborate. How do we broaden these collaborations to include communities that may be hostile to an environmental ethic, or the idea of climate change? How can local efforts feed into national and international efforts to have the most impact? 

 

Sathya Gopalakrishnan

The Ohio State University,
Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics

What environmental or sustainability challenge is top-of-mind for you and why?

An interest in understanding ubiquitous interdependencies between human decisions and biophysical processes that impact natural resources, specifically coastal and water resources, motivates my

Sathya_Gopalakrishnan_NEW.jpg

research. How can coastal communities adapt to climate? Are current policies sustainable? Are local short-term adaptation strategies maladaptive at regional or national scales and over longer time horizons? In answering these policy-relevant questions, I work closely with geoscientists to demonstrate that the evolution of the coastal economic zone cannot be fully understood by methods in economics or coastal science alone, but in fact depends intricately on complex interactions between economic and coastal systems. Scientists predict that in the coming years we will see rising sea levels, increased frequency and intensity of tropical storms. At the same time, more and more people are choosing to live in the coastal zone, and 100s of billions of dollars of coastal real estate and infrastructure are at risk. I explore questions that can help navigate public policy challenges – at local and regional scales – as we continue to adapt to changing environmental conditions and climate risks.

Without worrying about what is realistic or time-bound, what skill or knowledge do you most hope to acquire from your fellowship year?

I think we are at a critical juncture where the need to transform scientific research into actionable policy is more pressing than ever. Academics cannot remain content sharing findings with each other to advance knowledge; peer-reviewed publications are not ends in themselves. Through the ELP fellowship year, I want to learn the skills needed to engage with diverse users of knowledge, including students, policy makers, and local community organizations, grow as an environmental economist in taking research to discussions at policy tables and collectively advancing sustainable solutions. I want to broaden my lens of inquiry with an inclusive and trans-academic research agenda that can be co-developed with and by community partners, rather than policies developed for communities. What are the questions that matter for local community adaptation solutions? What can we learn from local experiences and how can we incorporate bi-directional learning in advancing research?

 

Rachelle Gould

University of Vermont,
Environmental Values and Environmental Learning

What environmental or sustainability challenge is top-of-mind for you and why? 

I find this question difficult to answer, but perhaps what is top-of-mind is humans’ growing disconnection from the non-human world that supports us. In our increasingly globalized society, it is increasingly easy to live without ever interacting directly with the systems that provide us with everything we need to survive and that also absorb our wastes. Given my interests in values and learning, I think about the fundamental importance of this disconnection from reality almost every day.

Rachelle Gould.jpg

What was a key moment or an inflection point in your career where you made the decision to focus on the work you are now doing?

My experience in Bhutan, combined with deep and thoughtful mentorship before, during, and after my time in the country, strongly influenced my understanding of the complexity, nuance, and richness of environmental issues at many scales. The experience, which was the fulcrum of my Master’s work, allowed me the honor of embedding myself in a cultural context deeply different from any I had previously known. My Bhutanese hosts, colleagues, and friends taught me an immense amount about different ways of understanding human-nature relationships, why they matter to people, and how they are often deeply intertwined with many aspects of life, especially in nonmaterial ways. That understanding constantly influences me, even nearly 15 years later.

Without worrying about what is realistic or time-bound, what skill or knowledge do you most hope to acquire from your fellowship year?

Thinking big-picture, I would like to help build support for transitions to sustainability that is broad, diverse, and powerful because it connects to people’s deepest understandings of what makes life fulfilling and meaningful. I study the nonmaterial aspects of ecosystem services because I think there is immense power in widespread understanding that we depend on ecosystems – not just for our food and fiber, nor for just regulating our global systems, but to understand what it means to be a human organism in these wild times. My work in relational values, cultural ecosystem services, and environmental education could lie at a powerful intersection to bring that realization to a wider audience, and I hope that the fellowship will help me move toward making that reality.

 

Stephanie Green

University of Alberta,
Marine Global Change Ecology & Conservation

What environmental or sustainability challenge is top-of-mind for you and why? 

We are depleting and redistributing ocean biodiversity at an unprecedented rate. I am interested in developing scientific tools that help decision-makers and communities forecast where the biggest changes will occur. What will our oceans look like in the future? How can coastal communities respond to adapt and sustain their livelihoods? Where might we be able to halt and reverse the most severe declines?

Stephanie Green.jpg

What was a key moment or an inflection point in your career where you made the decision to focus on the work you are now doing?

My plans for a law career took a turn after spending a year researching Pacific salmon in coastal British Columbia, where I grew up. These mighty fish thread their way through a maze of industrial, urban, and agricultural development, only to find their spawning grounds fundamentally changed by a warming climate. The interdependence of our actions—local and global—and the deep relationships that formed between First Nations and scientists to understand such a complex system fueled my passion for bringing people together to understand and solve complex conservation problems.

Without worrying about what is realistic or time-bound, what skill or knowledge do you most hope to acquire from your fellowship year?

Through the program, I hope to build skills and collaborations to break down institutional barriers, effectively work across jurisdictions and cultures (especially those in conflict with one another and the environment), and take authentic action to attract and promote diverse leaders within my network.

 

Randall Hughes

Northeastern University,
Marine Biodiversity and Conservation

What environmental or sustainability challenge is top-of-mind for you and why? 

I am motivated to integrate ecological and social science to inform effective and equitable marine conservation and management practices that promote the resilience of nature and people to climate change. Enhancing equity and representation, both in science and among stakeholders engaged in these efforts, is critical to the success of these efforts and is a key tenet in my research program.

randall hughes.jpg

What was a key moment or an inflection point in your career where you made the decision to focus on the work you are now doing?

My graduate research highlighted the value of diversity within species for productivity and resilience in ecological communities. At the same time, I became increasingly aware of the systemic inequities that create a lack of diversity in the human communities engaged in the scientific process and in management decisions. These two threads have converged through time, leading to my current focus on the role of diversity and equity in human-natural systems for habitat restoration and climate adaptation.

 

Without worrying about what is realistic or time-bound, what skill or knowledge do you most hope to acquire from your fellowship year?

I want to enhance my skills for cross-cultural communication, for developing diverse networks, and for finding alignment on shared goals and directions. 

 

Bonnie Keeler

University of Minnesota,
Environmental Policy

What environmental or sustainability challenge is top-of-mind for you and why? 

Water! The provision of clean water is essential to human health, cultural values, biodiversity conservation and our recreational and agricultural economies. Ensuring everyone has access to clean water is also critical for addressing persistent environmental injustices in urban and rural watersheds. Growing up in a water-rich state

bonnie keeler.jpg

(Minnesota), it was easy to take water for granted. The more I studied sustainability, the more I grew to appreciate the urgent threats to clean water, both locally and globally. I am committed to directing my resources and expertise to solve the water challenges most relevant to communities and decision-makers.

What was a key moment or an inflection point in your career where you made the decision to focus on the work you are now doing?

As a graduate student I struggled to connect my academic research with practice. When an opportunity arose to contribute to a legislative report, I was eager to apply my expertise to a “real-world” problem. Central to the report was a recognition that clean water was often invisible, undervalued, and overused. I was frustrated that much of the science and economics on water and water values was not policy-relevant. At that moment I decided to refocus my dissertation on the value of clean water - work that continues today.

Without worrying about what is realistic or time-bound, what skill or knowledge do you most hope to acquire from your fellowship year?

I’m excited about the international scope of the ELP cohort. I’m eager to expand my network of collaborators and learn about sustainability challenges in other contexts and disciplines. We all need opportunities to get out of our disciplinary comfort zones and I’m hoping that the program challenges me to see sustainability issues from new perspectives and feel more connected to a global community of like-minded scholars.

 

Lekelia "Kiki" Jenkins

Arizona State University,
School for the Future of Innovation in Society

What environmental or sustainability challenge is top-of-mind for you and why? 

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), because we are in a precious moment in time when people and organizations are seriously focused on and investing in DEI. It is critical that we seize this once in a generation moment of social and political will to improve DEI in ocean studies, environmental sciences, and sustainability.

LekeliaJenkins.jpg

What was a key moment or an inflection point in your career where you made the decision to focus on the work you are now doing?

My time at Duke Marine Lab as a graduate student. I came there focused on terrestrial conservation, but my path into marine sustainability became clear as I learned more about ocean problems and connected these to my childhood pastimes of fishing and crabbing.

Without worrying about what is realistic or time-bound, what skill or knowledge do you most hope to acquire from your fellowship year?

Building, leading, and sustaining equitable coalitions.

 

John Lin

University of Utah,
Department of Atmospheric Sciences

What environmental or sustainability challenge is top-of-mind for you and why? 

The COVID-19 crisis has underscored the importance of solid science, scientific communication, and collective leadership. Likewise, the same importance holds for two closely-linked issues that I have worked on for many years: air quality and climate change. Atmospheric pollutants, just like COVID-19, respect no

john.jpg

borders. Similar to the novel coronavirus, climate change and poor air quality adversely affect people around the world, and the impacts are unequal, with disproportionate hardship being borne by society’s poor and marginalized. As an atmospheric scientist, I would like to leave the world with cleaner air and a stable climate, by participating in science-based solutions. Depressed economic activities from COVID-19 have led to improved air quality and reduced carbon emissions, showing the potential benefits that can be realized by reduced emissions.  Can we achieve such steep emission reductions, absent a health crisis and severe economic hardship?

What was a key moment or an inflection point in your career where you made the decision to focus on the work you are now doing?

I first became interested in environmental issues in high school, when I read about the Earth’s finite resources and how human society is depleting those resources. I later learned further about air quality problems and climate change in college and graduate school, when I knew vaguely that I wanted to pursue a career to try to do something about these issues. However, tackling air quality and climate change gained urgency and became personal when I became a father. Holding my tiny daughter in my arms, I thought about the Earth that she would be living in, and what kind of environment she and her children will experience. When we went hiking in the forest, I wondered how much of the glorious natural beauty will be available for the next generation?  At the zoo, I thought about whether the magnificent animals we were watching would still be around for my children’s children? In short:  what kind of Earth will I be leaving for my children and future generations?  Can I do something about it?

Without worrying about what is realistic or time-bound, what skill or knowledge do you most hope to acquire from your fellowship year?

I would like to be able to work with diverse stakeholders (potentially across national borders) towards science-based solutions to air quality and climate change issues.  I would be interested in gaining skills to engage stakeholders that may be disinterested or even hostile to the proposed solutions.  

 

Damon Matthews

Concordia University,
Climate Science and Sustainability

What environmental or sustainability challenge is top-of-mind for you and why? 

For the past decade, I have focused my research and other academic activities on the global challenge of limiting climate warming to the limits specified in the Paris Agreement, while also encouraging a transition to more just and equitable societies. I try in my research to connect our understanding of climate science and the climate system to policy discussion and the framing of climate action targets that are consistent with global climate mitigation goals.

Damon Matthews NEW.jpg

What was a key moment or an inflection point in your career where you made the decision to focus on the work you are now doing?​

As a young environmental activist involved in efforts to protect the rainforests of coastal British Columbia, I decided that I would pursue an education in environmental science as a way of contributing to the scientific understanding of environmental challenges and the rationale for increasing societal effort to solve these problems. My affinity with quantitative analysis led me to take up climate modeling during my graduate training, which has allowed me to contribute to scientific and policy discussion surrounding one of the world’s most pressing environmental concerns.

 

Without worrying about what is realistic or time-bound, what skill or knowledge do you most hope to acquire from your fellowship year?

I would like to build my knowledge and comfort level around facilitating multi-stakeholder discussions and communicating about scientific knowledge with decision makers and other members of the general public. I would like to feel like I am helping to advance solutions to the climate crisis and that I have the expertise and connections to others that will allow me to help push the envelope of action and ambition around both domestic and international climate goals.

 

Pamela McElwee

Rutgers University,
Human Ecology

What environmental or sustainability challenge is top-of-mind for you and why? 

My work primarily aims to understand how global environmental changes—whether biodiversity loss or climate change or unsustainable development—affect community and individual vulnerability and how policies can help or hinder longer-term resilience. While most of my research takes place in Southeast Asia,

pamela.png

and I have a long-term commitment to Vietnam in particular, these questions are front and center for many parts of the world, including here in the US. Additionally, I try to ensure my research and teaching highlights the interconnected nature of global challenges, for example, by having students discover how the food they eat is affected by global temperature increases or is a driver of deforestation in areas thousands of miles away from their consumption choices.

What was a key moment or an inflection point in your career where you made the decision to focus on the work you are now doing?

I was involved in both science and politics early on, and I double majored in environmental studies and political science. These two passions were recognized when I was the first undergraduate in the US to win both a Goldwater Scholarship for science aptitude and the Truman Scholarship for public service. But I really confirmed this was a sweet spot for me when I worked as an intern my junior year of college in the Senate for Al Gore and later in the Clinton White House environmental office, where for example I got to run the interagency group that came up with the first Executive Order on environmental justice. I had a wonderful time there, but realized that I wanted to be the person who did the science that informed policy rather than vice versa, and so I went back to grad school for my PhD. But I’ve always valued those years of seeing politics made up-close, and the experience has influenced how I approach work I currently do with science-policy platforms like the IPCC.

Without worrying about what is realistic or time-bound, what skill or knowledge do you most hope to acquire from your fellowship year?

I would like to master leading large-scale collaborative research projects that are truly integrative, and which can catalyze innovative solutions. Recent studies have shown that social science research on environmental challenges tends to be less oriented to practitioners. Thus, learning skills in collaboration and design of transdisciplinary use-inspired projects would be extremely helpful to center social science questions to inform sustainability transitions.

 

Terry McGlynn

California Desert Studies Consortium,
Faculty Director

What environmental or sustainability challenge is top-of-mind for you and why? 

I’m concerned about rapid changes in biodiversity. The combined effect of climate change and land use change is a threat worldwide, from arid ecosystems to tropical rainforests. Many species will no longer be able to persist where they are currently located, and some may not have anywhere to go. Responding to this challenge will involve building many partnerships that transcend geographical and societal boundaries.

terry.png

What was a key moment or an inflection point in your career where you made the decision to focus on the work you are now doing?​

I remember first being alarmed about climate change in a seminar course during my last year of college, when we dove deep into Senator Gore’s newly published book, called Earth in the Balance. That’s part of why I became an ecologist. It took a couple more decades for me to realize that more scientists have to take the lead in policy and public engagement. This was inspired by my son, who while in high school, has been advocating for climate action and has been organizing for climate awareness in his school.

 

Without worrying about what is realistic or time-bound, what skill or knowledge do you most hope to acquire from your fellowship year?

My work has placed me among researchers, land managers, educators, and policymakers, and the concerned public. I want to learn how to build coalitions to inform evidence-based policymaking, and how to become a more effective communicator to broad audiences.

 

Tuyeni Mwampamba

National Autonomous University of Mexico, Sustainability Science

What environmental or sustainability challenge is top-of-mind for you and why? 

Charcoal is the primary cooking energy for millions of households and food vendors in the Global South that is often perceived as problematic i.e., as a threat to forests, a contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and a “backward” energy that should swiftly be replaced by cleaner fuels. Calls to reform the sector advocate

Tuyeni Headshot 1.jpg

formalizing and “greening” the charcoal value chain as a fundamental step to achieve sustainability. However, such policies are usually top-down, designed without actors’ participation and informed by none-comprehensive assessments of the sector and its actors. Studying charcoal provides me with an opportunity to closely examine the complexity of some socio-environmental decisions and to better understand how science and research can hinder or advance decision-making, particularly in the forest sector.

What was a key moment or an inflection point in your career where you made the decision to focus on the work you are now doing?

In 2009, soon after arriving in Mexico, I accompanied a fellow Postdoc to his study sites only to realize how similar the issues in the charcoal sector in Mexico were to those in Tanzania. Until that moment, I had no intention to pursue charcoal as a prominent theme in my career, even though my first publication was about charcoal. The charcoal sector presented so many questions to answer and possibilities of interdisciplinary research including cross-Atlantic South-South comparisons. It was impossible to ignore the pull factor.

Without worrying about what is realistic or time-bound, what skill or knowledge do you most hope to acquire from your fellowship year?

I would like to acquire skills to navigate the policy environment for effective communication of science and to be able to convene strong, effective transdisciplinary and multicultural teams to look at the charcoal issue with more scrutiny. I’d like to develop the skills to lead such teams and to be able to maintain their momentum over time, staying focused and consistently delivering.

 

Malin Pinsky

Rutgers University,
Ecology & Evolution

What environmental or sustainability challenge is top-of-mind for you and why? 

The ocean is being rapidly transformed by climate change, disrupting both the species that live in it and the human communities that rely on them. My research focused on understanding what changes are ahead for ocean life, how we effectively conserve ocean species facing climate change, and how we can continue to use ocean resources sustainably.

Malin Pinksy.jpg

What was a key moment or an inflection point in your career where you made the decision to focus on the work you are now doing?​

For me, the inflection point came as two events spaced a few months apart. The first was standing on the bridge of a research vessel as it crossed the Drake Passage south of South America. Fin whales suddenly surrounded the ship, marking an invisible line where ocean currents bring food to the surface at the Antarctic Convergence. It was a reminder that the ocean might look featureless, but that flat surface hides incredibly rich life. The second was, ironically, standing next to a photocopier in Washington, DC a few months later. I was copying an at-the-time recent report arguing that ocean policy in the US was largely based on the outdated idea that the ocean was only to be exploited, not conserved. I realized there was a real need for new science to inform the next generation of ocean policy.

 

Without worrying about what is realistic or time-bound, what skill or knowledge do you most hope to acquire from your fellowship year?

I want to learn how to build and lead larger teams of people to address environmental issues at the science-policy interface. There is so much to do to change the world, far beyond what one person can do alone. I'd love to learn different models for team-building and -leading from people who have done it well, from fund-raising to setting strategy to people- and time-management. Shadowing someone or a few people sounds attractive.

 

Sara Soderstrom

University of Michigan,
Environment and Sustainability Management and Organization

What environmental or sustainability challenge is top-of-mind for you and why? 

So many communities have been adversely impacted by COVID-19 - long term environmental and social inequities exacerbated the impact of the virus on families, businesses, and local governments. How can we reimagine local business and community support to build towards more sustainable futures? How can we address the disparate impacts and historical racial and environmental injustices through networks of business, government, and non-profit organizations?

sara.png

What was a key moment or an inflection point in your career where you made the decision to focus on the work you are now doing?

When I was a kid, my Dad, a physician, was active in protesting mercury pollution in the Great Lakes due to disparate health outcomes, particularly on women. I remember hearing a business argue against spending money on remediation and pollution prevention. I wanted to work to flip that focus - how can business innovate to do good? What can motivate that change? 

Without worrying about what is realistic or time-bound, what skill or knowledge do you most hope to acquire from your fellowship year?

I'd like to learn more about building partnerships - both locally and at the state or national level - that cross business, government, and non-profit organizations, while integrating research. I've spent so much time early in my career observing what others are doing, but less facilitating those connections. I hope to move to a role that builds partnerships and fosters connections towards more sustainable local communities, and taking time to learn from others who do this will provide me with helpful models.

 

Ashlynn Stillwell

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign,
Civil and Environmental Engineering

What environmental or sustainability challenge is top-of-mind for you and why? 

Water and energy are critical resources for supporting life, and they are closely connected while also facing major challenges in a changing world. How do we supply adequate amounts of water and energy of proper quality when and where we need it? How can we use those water and energy resources most efficiently? How do we properly balance water needs across conflicting uses? How do we minimize externalities from water and energy use?

Ashlynn Stillwell.jpg

What was a key moment or an inflection point in your career where you made the decision to focus on the work you are now doing?

When I was working in engineering consulting, I was designing air pollution control and water/wastewater treatment systems for coal-fired power plants. While the work was interesting and challenging, I kept thinking beyond those few power plants. I wanted my work to focus on broader energy and water systems and their connections, and I wanted to realize a future beyond coal. That drive led me to study engineering and policy together.

 

Without worrying about what is realistic or time-bound, what skill or knowledge do you most hope to acquire from your fellowship year?

I want to learn how to build trust with communities for co-creating knowledge together. In communities experiencing environmental injustice, trust has often been broken, and yet those communities know their challenges and solutions better than anyone else. I want to learn how sustainability research can co-create knowledge and solutions, with communities for communities

 

Rodrigo Vargas

University of Delaware,
Plant and Soil Sciences

What environmental or sustainability challenge is top-of-mind for you and why? 

We are living a critical moment for the future of the planet and humanity. Our world is increasingly interconnected and local-to-global actions have greater potential to change the flows of mass, energy and species across the planet. Consequently, an ultimate goal is to understand how ecosystems will respond to different

rodrigo.png

scenarios of global environmental change. Furthermore, we must provide knowledge to make informed decisions to manage ecosystems and preserve the environmental services they provide. These are the challenges that interest me and have shaped my career as an ecosystem ecologist studying the global carbon cycle. Addressing these challenges require international collaboration and expertise from multiple disciplines with the ultimate goal to secure the future of humanity and our planet.

What was a key moment or an inflection point in your career where you made the decision to focus on the work you are now doing? 

When I was in my second year of my undergraduate degree, I had to make a decision to select a topic for my undergraduate thesis. At that time, I was working as a river rafting guide and I was spending a lot of time outdoors appreciating nature. I was seeing first-hand how nature (such as hurricanes) and humans can change pristine landscapes in a matter of days. Thus, I decided that I wanted to learn how ecosystem processes are influence by global environmental changes.
 

Without worrying about what is realistic or time-bound, what skill or knowledge do you most hope to acquire from your fellowship year?

I am eager to learn more about the vision and skills related to "knowledge to impact" to become a better agent of change. Moving away from the norm of one-way knowledge sharing is critical to convey a clear message and engage different stakeholders to work together toward a common goal. Furthermore, deepening of awareness of my leadership style and developing skills to better navigate conflict to identify effective operational roles will be invaluable in my leadership development.