April 8, 2019
The Virginia Tech Graduate School honored master’s and doctoral degree students from across the university at the school’s annual awards dinner during Graduate Education Week, March 25 – 29, 2019.
Students received awards for service, teaching, research, and top dissertations and theses. Vice President and Dean for Graduate Education Karen P. DePauw also recognized the 2018 Edward A. Bouchet Honor Society inductees and the graduate students of the year.
2019 Outstanding Doctoral Degree Student in the College of Natural Resources and Environment, Sydney Hope:
Sydney Hope is a Ph.D. candidate in Fish and Wildlife Conservation and a member of the Interfaces of Global Change Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program. Sydney has conducted her doctoral research as part of the Hopkins Wildlife Ecotoxicology and Physiological Ecology Lab.
Research summary: I study how environmental changes influence animal parental care behavior, and how this affects developing offspring. Specifically, I focus on egg incubation in birds. Many types of disturbances (changing climate, extreme weather, human development) affect the ability of a parent bird to warm their eggs during incubation, and small changes in temperature can have large effects on offspring. One of my major findings is that a small decrease in average incubation temperature negatively affects the ability of wood duck ducklings to exit their nest once they hatch, which is necessary for survival.
2019 Citizen Scholar, Cristina Marcillo:
Cristina Marcillo is a Ph.D. student in Biological Systems Engineering and a member of the Interfaces for Global Change Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program. Originally from Boston, Cristina earned a bachelor’s degree from Saint Francis University. Her project was working with the community of San Rafael Las Flores in Guatemala on drinking water sampling and citizen science.
Project summary: Limited information is available describing point of use water quality in rural Guatemala, particularly regarding geologic contaminants associated with chronic health risk, such as arsenic. In December 2018, I traveled to San Rafael Las Flores, Guatemala to sample household drinking water and conduct a water-use and quality perception survey. San Rafael Las Flores is a rural town adjacent to the Escobal silver mine, which has raised community concerns regarding potential water contamination.
In partnership with a research group in Guatemala (USAC-CECON) and a local community organization (CODIDENA), I planned a water sampling campaign. The goals of this project were to provide water quality information to homeowners, understand their water use and perceptions of service and quality, as well as train citizens to use low-tech water quality field kits, which would enable subsequent community-lead source monitoring. For 3 days in December 2018, a team of researchers and community leaders sampled household water in San Rafael Las Flores for lab analysis at Virginia Tech, ran rapid-result field kits (for arsenic, E. coli, & various physiochemical parameters), and surveyed households. For over 90% of participants, this study provided the first water quality information they had ever received. Community members who sampled in December have continued to monitor household and spring/surface waters since then and stay in contact with myself for technical support. This effort is one part of my dissertation research, which analyzes water policy and contaminant exposures in VA and rural Guatemala. Through this work, I have learned an incredible amount about Guatemala, a country that is part of my heritage, and learned to work with community organizations as stakeholders.
2019 Outstanding Faculty Mentor in the College of Science, Dr. Jeffrey Walters:
Dr. Jeffrey Walters is the Harold H. Bailey Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and a founding faculty member of the Interfaces of Global Change Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Program and the Global Change Center. His research focuses on avian behavioral ecology and conservation biology, and he has worked with a number of endangered species around the world, most notably the red-cockaded woodpecker in the southeastern United States. In his home department, Dr. Walters teaches graduate courses in Advanced Conservation Biology and Behavioral Ecology and has also taught undergraduate courses in Ethology and Ornithology. In addition, he has co-taught the IGC seminars and capstone course since their inception. He currently mentors 4 graduate students (all IGC Fellows) in his own lab, and serves on an additional 16 graduate advisory committees, including those of 9 IGC Fellows.