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Thursday, December 18, 2014

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Rosen Fellowships Take ESF Students into the Field

Students pursue research interests in U.S. and abroad
12/11/2013

ESF sent its first Rosen Fellows into the field during the summer of 2013 to work on projects ranging from mining-related water quality to medical ethnobotany from a female perspective.

The four students, two undergraduates and two graduate students, returned to campus in the fall to resume their studies.

Teagan Dolan: An unconventional summer

Dolan is a junior environmental studies major, focusing on policy, planning and law. The Rosen Fellow­ship funded a summer of study in West Virginia during which she worked for a non-profit organization, Coal River Mountain Watch, that advocates for communities affected by coal mining, particularly projects that involve mountaintop removal.

Dolan evaluated stream quality with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, used geographic information systems to illustrate the change in quality and landscape of pre- and post-mining sites, attended mine permit hearings and participated in anti-mountaintop removal advocacy.

"My summer was not conventional in any way, shape, or form," Dolan reported. "I now understand the vast complexities of working for small grassroots groups, communicating in marginalized communities, and translating science to policy."

Megan Ewald: 'Luckiest person on the planet'

Ewald is a junior environmental studies major, focusing on policy, planning and law.

After years of following grassroots sea turtle conservancy, Ewald used her funding to spend two months working with El Grupo Ecologico de la Costa Verde, an environmental organization dedicated to the preservation of endangered marine turtles, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Ewald surveyed local beaches to detect, relocate, and incubate nests to help ensure the survival of endangered turtles. She also assisted in community outreach.

"The number of times I thought to myself, 'I'm the luckiest person on the planet,' this summer were innumerable," Ewald said. "At the risk of sounding cliche, this summer truly was a life-changing experience. It reaffirmed my desire to work for environmental conservation in developing countries, and taught me valuable skills that will one day help me to do so. I was immersed in a totally different culture and language, learned about the functioning of grassroots organizations in developing countries, and had a ton of fun along the way."

Stephanie Smith: Found a dream assignment

Smith is studying for a Master of Professional Studies degree in conservation biology.

With support from the Rosen Fellowship, she conducted a medical ethnobotany study with women from the Ngobe and the Guna tribes of Panama, exploring indigenous health systems from a female perspective in an attempt to conserve and preserve local customs while transcending gender bias in research.

"Through the course of this study it was made apparent that much of this traditional way of being is currently being lost. Many of our study participants lacked knowledge on culturally important plants historically used as wild edibles," Smith wrote in her report on the experience.

"The Rosen Fellowship has allowed me to realize my ethnobotanical niche in life," she stated. "This was truly one of the best experiences of my life. I was given the chance to explore everything I set out to do on my ethnobotanical quest. I experienced different worldviews, took part in my dream assignment, made lasting connections and bonds that I intend on researching with for many years to come."

Anna Ebers: Bringing solar power to rural Mexico

Ebers is a Ph.D. student in forest resource management, focusing on monitoring, analysis and modeling. The Rosen Fellowship supported her travel Mexico, to further develop her existing non-profit venture, SunRazors. This venture seeks to electrify off-the-grid rural areas with clean solar power.

Ebers had already raised funds through donations in exchange for Mexican handicrafts created in a village she hopes to electrify by 2014. Her travels allowed her to gather data about the village conditions, build trust and give demonstrations to the local populations.

In writing a summary of her experiences, Ebers stated, "I have witnessed people's daily interactions with solar technology and can better understand local conditions and challenges. Now I know that the biggest issues with solar systems are financing problems, as well as system maintenance which is currently not provided."

"All these achievements would not be possible without the generosity of the Rosen family," Ebers wrote. "I would like to express my deepest gratitude for believing in me and my dream for a solar future in remote Mexican villages."

The deadline for the next round of Rosen Fellowship applications is Feb. 3. The program will focus on undergraduates.

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