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ESF Graduate Students Receive GREAT Award

Syracuse, N.Y. – April 17, 2024 - Two graduate students from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) are among 27 students selected for the 2024 SUNY Graduate Research Empowering and Accelerating Talent (GREAT) award. Recognized as outstanding student researchers, Christian Bright and Leah David Rubin will each receive $5,000 in flexible funding for research expenses, professional development, and stipend supplements.

"Our graduate students are addressing the environmental issues that impact people globally with innovative approaches,” said ESF President Joanie Mahoney. “Christian's work stands to impact wetlands management and their role in carbon sequestration, while Leah's research has the potential to influence decisions not only in Maine but also in other coastal areas regarding fisheries and the livelihoods dependent on them. The ESF community applauds their dedication and welcomes this award as support for their impactful research endeavors.”

The SUNY GREAT Award program, now entering its third year, provides incentives for SUNY graduate students to compete for federal awards sponsored by agencies including the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, and U.S. Department of Energy, among others.  

Bright is a doctoral student in ESF’s Department of Environmental Science. She is studying how managing wetlands by adjusting water levels affects the environment. Wetlands are important habitats for birds and other wildlife and provide valuable services such as carbon sequestration. Bright is measuring the gases emitted by wetlands and studying how different water levels and plant growth stages impact carbon levels. Through this research, Bright hopes to discover how changing wetland plant communities and fluctuating hydrology through management may affect carbon budgets and whether they can optimize these conditions to promote greater levels of carbon sequestration over time.

Rubin is a doctoral student in the College’s Department of Environmental Biology.

Her research seeks to understand how Maine fisheries have changed over time using data from bones found in archaeological digs, records of fish catches from the past, and stories passed down through generations. Rubin also hopes to better understand how tourism and selling seafood globally affect people who fish to feed themselves, especially in Maine's coastal towns.

Rubin’s work will help Maine keep its local food sources secure, manage fisheries, and keep waterfront areas available for people who work on the sea.


The SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) is dedicated to the study of the environment, developing renewable technologies, and building a sustainable and resilient future through design, policy, and management of the environment and natural resources. Members of the College community share a passion for protecting the health of the planet and a deep commitment to the rigorous application of science to improve the way humans interact with the world. The College offers academic programs ranging from the associate of applied science to the Doctor of Philosophy. ESF students live, study and do research on the main campus in Syracuse, N.Y., and on 25,000 acres of field stations in a variety of ecosystems across the state.