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Alumni Association Grant Recipients

Carrick Palmer

Carrick Palmer

Class of 2018
Major: Environmental Studies
Hometown: Elmira, NY

With generous financial assistance from the ESF Alumni Association, on March 6th, 2018 I had the opportunity to attend the 14th Annual Adirondack Research Forum (ARF), a relatively informal gathering of a variety of people who have done work in or have a strong connection to the Adirondack Park.

The ARF was held at the Adirondack League Club in Old Forge, NY, and put on by ESF alumni Barry Baldigo '82 as well as scientists from Cornell's Adirondack Fisheries Research Program. There were great presentations throughout the day on a range of topics from acid deposition to ecological maps, and I was interested to learn about all of the different work being done within the Park. At the ARF I was able to present my research poster from my project: "A Comparative Study of the Benthic Macroinvertebrate Assemblages of Two Central Adirondack Streams". My study was completed last fall in Huntington Wildlife Forest, making comparisons to data gathered 30 years ago in Big Sucker Brook and Little Sucker Brook by Jonathan Kennen. Though I found surprisingly minor differences, my project highlights the need for more work to be done to assess the potential fluctuations related to disturbances such as climate change. Attending the ARF was a new and notable experience for me, receiving critiques from professionals who have spent years working in the Park and in fields related to my interests. It was also a wonderful opportunity to meet and converse with many great scientists, including ESF alumna, Margaret Murphy. Overall, I found the entire experience to be informative and enjoyable, and I look forward to attending again in the near future.

Molly Welsh

Molly Welsh

Ph.D. Candidate
Department: Environmental Science

I recently attended the 2017 Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in New Orleans, Louisiana. At this meeting, I volunteered at the Student and Early Career Scientist Conference, "Fostering a Resilient Scientific Community." At this conference, panelists described coastal resilience efforts in New Orleans from ecological and social viewpoints. I also learned about strategies for creating effective citizen science programs through examples of tracking ocean currents along the Gulf Coast through the public release of drift cards. This conference contained professional development workshops, such as a science communication workshop with a reporter from public radio, a workshop on building better data practices with the director of AGU's Data Management Assessment Program, and a workshop on developing a support network.

During the main conference, I gave an oral presentation entitled, "The Influence of Cross-Vane Restoration Structures on Riparian Zone Hydrology," which described the impact of in-stream boulder structures on groundwater levels and flow in the near-stream vegetated buffer zone. This research shows that agricultural stream restoration leads to high groundwater tables in the near-stream zone, which may potentially lead to high rates of pollutant processing. During this conference, I was able to speak with members of state and federal agencies about the use of restoration in watershed management. I enjoyed attending sessions on the impact of land use on pollutant loading, the unique characteristics of the aquatic-terrestrial interface, and new advances in measurement and modeling of water chemistry and movement.

I also convened and chaired a panel, "Forging Successful Partnerships Between Academia, Government, Non-Profit Organizations, and Industry: The Student's Guide to Gaining Experience in the Non-Academic Realm." This panel consisted of scientists, policymakers, and natural resources professionals who provided advice on how to form interdisciplinary collaborations, adhere to deadlines when working in a group environment, and effectively become a research-entrepreneur. The panelists emphasized the importance of building trust between partners and communicating science to elected officials and the public, in order to bridge the gap between science and action. Overall, the conference inspired me to consider new avenues for research and helped me critically evaluate how to use my science to inform management.

Brenna Galligan

Class of 2017
Major: Environmental Studies
Hometown: Boonville, NY

I recently graduated from SUNY ESF in the December 2017. I majored in Environmental Studies and focused my attention on communication and education. I'm interested in the social aspects of environmentalism and am most passionate about urban environmental education and the act of reconnecting people to green spaces, especially in cities. I hope to one day join an organization that works with youth at-risk and help them cultivate relationships to their environment, whether that is done through growing food, exploring urban green spaces, or participating in hands-on natural science activities.

Several months ago, I submitted a grant proposal to the Alumni Association with hopes to gain financial support in my travels to Ecuador. In January, I will travel to Bahía de Caraquez, Ecuador with the Global Student Embassy (GSE) for ten days. While in Ecuador, I will work alongside local students in their greenhouses and participate in student-driven projects throughout the estuary. Additionally, I will visit rural communities and help support sustainable agriculture initiatives and reforestation projects. This trip will allow me to enhance my skills in environmental communication and gain experience in working with people of diverse backgrounds, which will be especially important before entering the work force as a new alum of SUNY-ESF.

Receiving this grant means the world to me. As a single mother, pursuing extracurricular activities at SUNY-ESF has been difficult, whether it's attending an evening event on campus or traveling abroad with one of the colleges affiliate organizations. Before I graduated from SUNY-ESF I dreamed of traveling abroad to collaborate with people of diverse backgrounds, both culturally and professionally. I didn't think this dream was possible because of financial restraints. When I stumbled upon this grant, I found hope and thought that my dream may actually become a reality. Thanks to all of you, I can now pursue my dream of traveling abroad and gain rich hands-on experience before entering the workforce without the financial burden. As a new alum of SUNY-ESF, I look forward to the day that I can help another student pursue their dream!

Hajar Faal

Hajar Faal

4th Year Ph.D. Candidate
Major: Forest Entomology
Home Country: Iran

I used the ESF Alumni Association grant to attend the annual meeting of the Entomology Society of America in Denver, CO. I am working on the chemical ecology and behavior of an invasive woodwasp, which can kill healthy red and scotch pines. It was a great opportunity for me to meet other chemical ecologists working with insect pheromones. I asked them for advice on how I can improve my knowledge and be a better researcher, as well as the steps I can take towards starting my post-doctoral career. Surprisingly, I received a post-doc offer from one of the best researchers in my field. I also met with a chemist scientist from Canada to discuss my results, and to request his help in identifying an important chemical for my research. I am very happy with my fruitful trip to Denver, and I feel more confident about my research and the path I chose. I even spent a day hiking in Rocky Mountains, whose features, vegetation, and roadways resemble the Zagros Mountains of Iran, my homeland.Thank you ESF Alumni Association for helping students reach their goals!

Chelby Kilheffer

Chelby Kilheffer

Ph.D. Candidate
Program: Environmental and Forest Biology, Fish and Wildlife Management

I used the SUNY ESF Alumni Grant to attend the Virginia Sea Grant Graduate Fellow Symposium in Glen Allen, Virginia in February 2018. The first day of the symposium consisted of a professional development meeting with staff of the Wakefield National Weather Service Field Office, a site visit to a vulnerable coastal community in Norfolk, Virginia, and a tour of Norfolk by a renowned coastal resilience professor from Old Dominion University. On the second day of the symposium, graduate fellows gave TED-style talks to the conference participants and presented posters of their research. I presented a TED-style talk, a poster, and I served on a panel called "Strengthening Meaningful Relationships". I was also able to talk to many undergraduate students and beginning graduate students about my experiences in graduate school and hopefully provide insight to them as they continue their journeys. The symposium provided an incredible opportunity to network with other graduate students in various stages of professional development, local and federal agency partners, and academics from several institutions. There were internship and research opportunities only available to symposium attendees available through several organizations during the symposium's career fair. Without the aid of SUNY ESF's Alumni Association, I could have missed this great opportunity, and for that I owe them great thanks!

Mike Reubens

Mike Reubens

Class of 2018
Major: MS, Environmental Resources Engineering;
MPA at Syracuse University
Hometown: Ransomville, NY

This grant graciously funds an experiment testing physical properties of a green roof media incorporating the ResoFoam(TM)(TM) material in Scrub Daddy(R) sponges. Green roof media must be lightweight, porous, and well-drained, yet able to retain enough moisture for plants to survive during the dry summer months. Based on my personal use of the Scrub Daddy(R), the material seems to fit these criteria, and is described as non-toxic on the company's website, so the material could be of use for green roof applications.

I have also hypothesized that the Scrub Daddy(R)'s thermally-dependent properties could influence green roof performance. The Scrub Daddy(R) becomes rigid and holds less water when it is cold, and is pliable and retains more water when it is warm. In Syracuse, as well as in other major cities around the world, summers are hot and dry and winters are cold and wet. During a storm in the summer, the green roof media is dry and able to hold a relatively large volume of stormwater during and in the immediate aftermath of the storm. Water on the rooftop then makes it back into the atmosphere in a short period of time due to heat and plants transpiring, which means the next time it rains, there will be room for water storage. In the winter, plants are dormant and there is less evaporation. As a result, when it rains or as snow melts, there is less space to store water, green roof performance is inhibited, the water becomes runoff and contributes to Combined Sewer Overflows and urban runoff pollution.

To evaluate how this will affect green roof performance, I will be assembling soil columns to measure properties of the green roof media with and without Scrub Daddy(R) material, in the form of the Big Daddy(TM) block sponge. A factorial experiment will be conducted to test hydraulic conductivity; field capacity, which is the amount of water retained in the media after gravity drains excess water; and porosity of the soil columns. The soil columns will be filled using an existing green roof media mixed with three levels of ResoFoam(TM): 36 cubic in. of ResoFoam(TM), 18 cubic in. of ResoFoam(TM), and no ResoFoam(TM) material as a control. Of the columns with ResoFoam(TM), different shapes will be tested, including cubes, cylinders, and the leftover edges from cutting cylinders from the Big Daddy(TM) block. Soil properties will be affected by the assembly process, so half of all columns will be assembled with the green roof media and ResoFoam(TM) moistened with cold water, and half will be assembled moistened with warm water.

Receiving this grant from the ESF Alumni Association has been a remarkable opportunity for me. I am grateful that I am able to pursue a research interest that is separate from my thesis work. With the means to move forward with the Scrub Daddy(R) green roof experiment, and with the soil column casings nearly completed, I contacted a representative from Scrub Daddy(R) about implementing this idea. Brimming with interest in finding a sustainable and beneficial use for scrap material from the manufacturing process, they invited me to a conference call with Scrub Daddy(R) CEO Aaron Krause later this May. With assistance from and a shared vision with the ESF Alumni Association, I look forward to seeing this idea come to fruition from its humble beginnings hunched over a kitchen sink.

Lisanne Petracca

Lisanne Petracca

Class of 2018
Graduate Student
Department: Environmental and Forest Biology

Visiting Tsholotsho village lands at the boundary of Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe.

Thanks to the support of the SUNY-ESF Alumni Association, I was given the privilege of performing a three-week visit to Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, to witness first-hand a groundbreaking program that seeks to reduce conflict between African lions and the people who live alongside them.
The lion (Panthera leo) is an iconic symbol of the African continent and yet occupies only 13% of its historic range. Human-wildlife conflict is one of the greatest threats to the persistence of African lions, as lions are often killed in retaliation for their killing of livestock. The Lion Guardians program, conceived in Maasailand, Kenya, is a conflict mitigation program that hires local tribesmen to serve as "Lion Guardians." The Guardians, in addition to monitoring lion numbers and movements, reduce retaliatory killing of lions via hazing practices (e.g. chasing the target lion on foot) that prevent lions from entering village lands.

The Hwange Long Shields Lion Guardians Program has been operating in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, since 2012. This area currently has 27 GPS-collared lions (17 female, 10 male) and telemetry data from ~110 individual lions dating back to 1999, which makes the Hwange lions one of the most studied lion populations in the world.

Part of my dissertation research focuses on the effects of Lion Guardian chase events on lion spatial and behavioral ecology. Are there certain age classes that are more amenable to chasing as a deterrent method? Are repeated chases effective in reducing problem behavior? To what extent does the program affect long-term use of village lands, and at what scale is avoidance occurring? Answering these questions will ultimately improve the Lion Guardians paradigm, channeling patrol efforts when and where they are most needed for long-term success.

As I am relying on data that have already been compiled, my Ph.D. was designed to be entirely desk-based. What is fantastic about the ESF Alumni Association Grant is that it allowed me to see Hwange National Park with my own eyes, to gain a better sense of the complicated dynamics between lions and people. My three weeks in Hwange National Park led me to be embedded with the Lion Guardians, to witness a "day in the life" of a Guardian receiving an alert that a lion is near village lands and having to respond quickly and efficiently to protect both lions and livestock. I spent days camping in the village lands, seeing people herding livestock in the day and hearing the knocking down of trees by elephants in the night. Most importantly, I was able to feel connected to a place that I never thought I would have the chance to see.

I am indebted to the SUNY-ESF Alumni Association for giving me this opportunity.

Nathan Kiel

Nathan Kiel

Class of 2019
Major: EFB – Conservation Biology

Collecting data at Guppy Falls on the first species tested, Hepatica (Anemone acutiloba).

I was fortunate enough to receive $250 from the Alumni Association this past Fall to put towards my summer research project. This project investigated the limitations of certain vascular plants to reestablishment in post-agricultural forests, particularly as it relates to seed dispersal by ants and seed predation by rodents. I used the Alumni Association funds to purchase nearly all of my materials necessary for the execution of this experiment. This included cage material to exclude rodents from seeds, zip ties to build the cages, Tanglefoot to exclude ants from seeds, and a field notebook. In this sense, my experiment ran successfully as a result of the Alumni Association, and this fact is not lost on me. Upon the completion of this project at the end of the summer, I will begin writing this up as my Honors Thesis. Into next spring, I plan on working with Dr. Gregory McGee and Geoffrey Griffiths, PhD candidate in Ecology, to write a journal-quality paper to be submitted sometime in the near future. I am very grateful for the Alumni Association making this all possible for me and for providing me with an opportunity to further both my academic career and my professional development.