Congratulations to Recipients of the 2020-21 IGC Fellowship!

May 8, 2020

The Interfaces of Global Change IGEP awards four 12-month Ph.D. fellowships every academic year, each covering tuition and stipend. These graduate research assistantships are awarded based on the student’s professional credentials, the student’s level of engagement in the IGC IGEP, pertinence of the student’s research to global change, the interdisciplinary nature of the work, and the student’s plan for using the one-year fellowship.

Congratulations to the following recipients of this year’s IGC Fellowships!

Stephen DeVilbiss

School of Plant & Environmental Sciences

“My dissertation research addresses the impacts of freshwater salinization on bacterial water quality and ecology. Increased salt runoff in freshwater systems is caused by numerous global change issues including agriculture, resource extraction, urbanization, and climate change. While salinization impairs freshwater ecosystems, the activities causing it are vital to human wellbeing; thus, it is not feasible to eliminate the production and use of salts in the environment. Given the wicked nature of this issue, it is critical to identify target salinity ranges that preserve ecosystem services and inform smarter salt management strategies that consider water quality, ecosystem services, and societal needs.”

The IGC fellowship will enable Steve to dedicate 100% of his time to research in his final year, as well as allow him the time to grow existing collaborations with GCC faculty, conduct additional research to enhance his doctoral thesis, and increase the impact of his work.

“I am studying the foraging behavior of brown-headed nuthatches, and the situational drivers that cause them to join large and diverse multi-species flocks during nonbreeding season. I am observing these multi-species flocks on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune (MCBL), which is required via the Department of Defense to conserve biodiversity on this federal property. To be effective in an applied manner, my study requires field ecologists to collect data, policy makers to determine management efforts, and habitat managers to implement policy. By working with MCBL wildlife management to incorporate non breeding season factors into the base’s avian management plans, I hope to create an interdisciplinary framework for analyzing and managing bird habitat that can be utilized by other federal properties across the pine savanna regions of the southeast.”

Noah McNeill

Biological Sciences

The IGC Fellowship funding will allow Noah to vastly expand his time in the field in the upcoming year. He’s also working with Pulaski Middle School teachers to develop an in-class outreach program to demonstrate primary aspects of bird biology, and this secured funding will permit him additional time to develop and implement this program in educational settings.

Isaac VanDiest

Biological Sciences

“I’m interested in understanding how community dynamics impact an individual’s physiology and fitness. My research specifically focuses on how urbanization alters arthropod communities and may therefore compromise songbird physiology and fitness. Urbanization is expanding world-wide and understanding its consequences for wildlife and ecosystem function requires thinking and working across levels of biological organization. Through my research I am working with people in the entomology, wildlife, animal sciences, and biological sciences departments to develop these perspectives.

Conservation plans tend to look purely at vital rates when making decisions, but are starting to come around on using other forms of information, such as genetics and stress physiology, to protect species before their numbers crash. My dissertation work focusing on nutrition as a vital physiological indicator of wellbeing nested among larger scale ecological data is a great opportunity to proactively implement legislation to prevent population drops that cannot be predicted with only vital rates.”

The IGC Fellowship opportunity will allow Isaac to double down on the extensive laboratory work needed over the coming year, as well as free up time for additional field projects and a continued dedication to mentoring undergraduate science students.

“My research bridges gaps between the extant and the extinct by using microevolutionary methods applied to macroevolutionary timescales, particularly during periods of extensive global change. In a nutshell, I study both living and long dead animals by looking at the evolution of tooth shape across evolutionary time. To pursue this research, I aim to reconstruct the evolutionary history of diet of 41 extant and extinct species of lemurs. Lemurs are an ideal system for investigating the evolution of diet and its relationship with extinction, as there are many recently extinct species with a robust fossil record, as well as many more currently declining species. I am collaborating with an interdisciplinary research group of anthropologists, mathematicians, and statisticians at Duke University, working together to develop new methodologies for characterizing and quantifying tooth shape. Although lemurs are in decline, they are charismatic species and are relatively well-known to the general public. I aim to expand public interest in both lemurs and evolution by building outreach tools to teach the public how morphology influences ecology and how these together influence extinction.”

Brenen Wynd


Brenen will utilize the IGC fellowship to dedicate time directly to his research, including plans to spend a full month at Duke University working with collaborators. He’s also aiming to develop an outreach project based on his research and using 3D printing or online modules that will create a toolkit to be shared on to be used by educators, researchers and the public.