Three UC Davis students named Switzer environmental fellows

Source: John Stumbos University of California, Davis

Three UC Davis graduate students—Angela Doerr, Sarah Moffitt, and Meredith Niles—have been awarded prestigious fellowships for outstanding environmental scholarship from the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation. Twenty-two such awards were made this year to students from New England and California.

“We are very grateful to the Switzer Foundation for again choosing UC Davis students for its highly regarded fellowship program,” said Jan W. Hopmans, associate dean in the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “It is worth noting that all three awardees are conducting research on sustainable management practices for natural or agricultural ecosystems. These students recognize that informed policymaking demands a working knowledge of interdisciplinary science and that our top-ranked graduate groups are the best place in the world to get that education.”

“Today’s environmental issues are increasingly complex and require an ability to translate scientific, ecological, and social knowledge across disciplines and apply it in real-world settings,” said Lissa Widoff, the Switzer Foundation’s executive director. “The 2013 Switzer Environmental Fellows are at the cutting edge of science and policy and will be supported with funding, professional coaching, and a network of leaders to help them achieve results. Their problem-solving abilities and innovation will make a difference.”

The program began in 1986 and now has a network of more than 530 fellows. Each student will receive $15,000 to help them complete their degrees and advance skills and expertise needed to address critical environmental challenges. Their work covers a broad range of studies, including environmental policy, economics, conservation, public health, journalism, architecture, environmental justice, and business law, as well as traditional environmental science such as biology, chemistry and engineering. This year’s fellowship recipients from UC Davis are:

Marine scientist Angee Doerr studies lobster fishery in Bahamas

Angela “Angee” Doerr, a doctoral student in the Ecology Graduate Group, focuses on the sustainable use of natural resources. Her thesis work examines the intersection of policy, resource economics, and marine ecology in the Bahamian spiny lobster fishery. She is one of the first scientists working to develop a baseline of the use of small artificial habitats—locally known as “lobster condos—in the fishery there. She also serves as a subject matter expert for the U.S. Navy Civil Affairs Command, travelling internationally to both teach and present on aquaculture and sustainable fishing practices. Doerr earned her MBA while in the Navy through American Military University and holds a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science from Duke University.

“Angee was a rising star in the Navy before coming to UC Davis to study natural resource policy and I know her commanding officer was not happy to lose her to graduate school,” said Doerr’s faculty adviser, environmental science and policy professor James Sanchirico. “Since coming to UC Davis, Angee has continued her trajectory. She is a natural leader and I have no doubt that Angee will make important contributions to the management of natural resources during her career.”

Coral reef studies lead Sarah Moffitt to climate science

Sarah Moffitt, a doctoral student in the Ecology Graduate Group, is working at the interface between oceanography, earth science, and ecology. Her dissertation research is focused on rapid environmental change in upper ocean ecosystems, specifically the western continental margin of North America. Her goal as an ocean and climate scientist is to improve communication among climate scientists, policymakers, and citizens. She graduated from Western Washington University with a Bachelor of Science in Biology, during which time she worked on coral reefs in the Caribbean region of Costa Rica and in Bermuda. She then spent two years working for NOAA’s Coral Reef Ecosystem Division in Hawaii as a coral reef specialist and scientific diver.

“Sarah truly embodies the word ‘interdisciplinary’ when she approaches a scientific problem,” said Moffitt’s faculty adviser, UC Davis geology professor Tessa Hill. “She sees things from the perspective of an ecologist, an oceanographer, and a climate scientist. With her dissertation work, she is trying to accomplish an admirable task—trying to extract lessons from the recent ‘paleoclimate’ record to understand what future, anthropogenic climate change holds for marine ecosystems.”

Farmer perceptions on climate drive Meredith Niles’ research

Meredith Niles, a doctoral student in the Ecology Graduate Group, examines the variables that cause farmers to adopt climate mitigation and adaptation techniques, and farmer perceptions of climate change and environmental policy. Her research is centered on New Zealand and Yolo County, Calif. She worked with a New Zealand research institute, participated in the Climate Action Reserve workgroup, and served as a board member of the UC Davis Agricultural Sustainability Institute. Her ambition is to work in public service at the interface of science and environmental policy. Niles is a summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa graduate in political science and environmental studies from the Catholic University of America.

“Meredith’s research focuses on public policy and decision-making in the context of agriculture and food systems,” said Niles’ faculty adviser, environmental science and policy professor Mark Lubell. “She has completed important empirical research on how farmers perceive and respond to climate change in New Zealand and California. As a Switzer fellow, Meredith is a proven leader with a deep commitment to doing research at the interface between science and policy.”

This is the 27th year of the Switzer Environmental Fellowship Program of the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation.

Fellowships are merit-based and rigorously competitive. Candidates must be recognized for their leadership capacity by their academic institution or by environmental experts. Applications are evaluated based on demonstration of environmental problem-solving, critical analysis and communication skills, relevant work and volunteer experience, necessary scientific or technical background for their field of study, the applicant’s career goals, and the potential of the candidate to initiate and effect positive environmental change.