Global Change Fellowship

With support from the Virginia Tech Graduate School, the Interfaces of Global Change IGEP awards four 12-month Ph.D. assistantships every academic year, intended to support students who have demonstrated commitment to and engagement within the IGC program, and who will benefit from the funding in a way that will enhance the interdisciplinary and global-change aspects of their research. To be eligible to apply for this assistantship, students should have been enrolled in the IGC IGEP for at least 12 months, have not previously received an IGC fellowship award, and be in good academic standing with their mentor(s), home department, and the Virginia Tech Graduate School.

The 2021-22 IGC IGEP fellowship application deadline is 5 PM EST April 15, 2021.

To apply for a Global Change Fellowship:

Global Change Fellowship 2021 RFP [.PDF]

Global Change Fellowship 2021 RFP [.DOC]

Applications will be evaluated by a committee of faculty using an admissions rubric that evaluates 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.

Please pay close attention to the application requirements described below. Incorrectly formatted or incomplete applications will not be considered by the admissions committee.

Application Review Criteria for Fellowship Awards:

  • Applicant’s professional credentials
  • Applicant’s level of engagement in the IGC IGEP and contributions to inclusion and diversity
  • Pertinence of student’s research to global change
  • The interdisciplinary nature of the work
  • Applicant’s plan for using the one year fellowship

Applicants should submit the following materials in PDF format, addressed to the IGC Admissions Review Committee, to Jess Zielske, IGC Program Coordinator via email at

1.   The one-page Cover Sheet

2.   A CV that includes your graduate GPA

3.   An application letter, not to exceed 2 pages (12 point font), that is divided into 3 sections that address these topics:

    • IGC IGEP Engagement: How has the IGC IGEP advanced your professional development to date, and how have you contributed to the program? How have you contributed to fostering and inclusive and diverse IGC IGEP community?
    • Research & Policy/Science Communication Statement: What kind of interdisciplinary research are you conducting and how does it relate to global change? How are you employing your IGC IGEP training related to the science-policy interface and/or science communication in your work?
    • Plans for Fellowship Use: How will you use the one-year fellowship to advance your professional development?

4.   A letter of support from the applicant’s graduate mentor, not to exceed 1 page, that explains:

    • The applicant’s progress towards their Ph.D. and notable accomplishments
    • The applicant’s contributions to the IGC IGEP and/or other service-related activities
    • How the applicant’s training will benefit from the one-year fellowship

      The faculty letter of support should be sent as a PDF file directly to the GCC Program Coordinator, Jess Zielske.

The student’s application (Items 1-3 above) should be submitted as a single pdf file by e-mail to GCC Program Coordinator, Jess Zielske; E-mail address: Label files as LAST NAME_GlobalChangeFellowshipApplication2021.



Stephen DeVilbiss


Stephen’s 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.

Advised by Drs. Brian Badgley and Meredith Steele

Noah McNeill


Noah studies the foraging behavior of brown-headed nuthatches, and the situational drivers that cause them to join large and diverse multi-species flocks during the non-breeding season. His study site is the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejune (MCBL), which is required via the Department of Defense to conserve biodiversity on federal property. By working with MCBL wildlife management to incorporate non-breeding season factor’s into the base’s management plan, he hopes to create an interdisciplinary framework for analyzing and managing bird habitat that can be utilized by other federal properties across the pine savanna region of the southeast.

Advised by Dr. Jeffrey Walters


Amanda Pennino


Amanda’s work is focused on soil-water interactions in northeast hardwood forests, looking at how soil water chemistry changes across time, with depth, and along hillslopes. Her research site is located at Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest (HBEF), located in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Through the use of multiple sampling techniques, Amanda is exploring what climatic and local environmental controls might influence shifts in soil water chemistry, particularly around precipitation events. She hopes that her work will contribute to long-term data records at HBEF, a Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network site, where her data will complement ongoing studies of mineral weathering rates, recovery of forests to acid deposition, and upslope controls on stream water chemistry.

Advised by Drs. Brian Strahm and Kevin McGuire


Isaac VanDiest


Isaac is interested in understanding how community dynamics impact an individual’s physiology and fitness. His 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. Isaac selected his dissertation topic because he believes strong conservation plans require thinking about effects of environmental change from the perspectives of physiology, behavioral ecology, organismal biology, community ecology, and ecosystem processes.

Advised by Dr. Kendra Sewall


Brenen Wynd


Brenen’s research bridges the gaps between the extant and the extinct by using microevolutionary methods applied to macroevolutionary timescales, particularly during periods of extensive global change. He currently aims to reconstruct the evolutionary diet of 41 species of living and long dead species of lemurs, to reveal not only the evolutionary history of lemur diet, but also patterns of extinction and how surviving lemurs have adapted to human-driven changes to the landscape. Although in decline, lemurs are a charismatic species and relatively well-known to the general public. This he aims to expand public interest in both lemurs and evolution by building outreach tools to share with the public how morphology influences ecology and how these together influence extinction.

Advised by Dr. Sterling Nesbitt