2018-2019 Sustainability Leadership Fellows

Bethany Avera

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PhD Candidate, Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, Colorado State University
Graduate Degree Program in Ecology
Natural Resource Ecology Lab
Fellowship Details: 
Fellowship Year: 
2018-2019
Research Focus: 

Disturbances and management in forest ecosystems can impact the amount of carbon stored in the forest system. I am studying how the outbreak of a native pine beetle and subsequent logging have impacted carbon storage in Colorado lodgepole pine forests, specifically in the soil. By quantifying the carbon in woody residues, the forest floor and in the mineral soil of an unmanaged beetle-infested stand and a logged stand I can identify the dominant sources of soil carbon. The recent beetle outbreak was climate-driven, motivating the need to identify management actions that promote forest carbon storage to help mitigate climate change.

Theresa Barosh

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PhD Candidate, Department of Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management, Colorado State University
Graduate Degree Program in Ecology
Fellowship Details: 
Fellowship Year: 
2018-2019
Research Focus: 

As a PhD student in Dr. Paul Ode's lab at CSU, I am studying the intersection of species biodiversity and environmental stewardship. Those that practice environmental stewardship often have interests in biodiversity and species composition. Species coexistence is an important component of biodiversity. However, the mechanisms and circumstances that allow species to coexist remain unclear. Instances in which humans introduce new species to ecosystems can be useful for examining the resulting species interactions and outcomes. Studying anthropogenic introductions of plants and insects, I am examining how species that share resources coexist with one another.

Whitney Beck

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PhD Candidate, Department of Biology, Colorado State University
Graduate Degree Program in Ecology
Fellowship Details: 
Fellowship Year: 
2018-2019
Research Focus: 

Freshwater algae is an important food resource for aquatic insects and fish. However, when fertilizers and other nutrient sources are added to rivers and streams, large algal blooms can form that lower stream oxygen and degrade ecosystems. My research focuses on factors that interact with nutrients to control algal growth, such as temperature, streamflow, and aquatic insect consumption. I am using Colorado-based field experiments and national modeling studies to better understand basic algal ecology to inform water quality policies and stream management strategies.

Erin Dougherty

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PhD Student, Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University
Fellowship Details: 
Fellowship Year: 
2018-2019
Research Focus: 

Floods are the second deadliest natural disaster in the U.S., with an increased risk of flooding expected due to climate change. The mechanisms by which floods in the U.S. might change in a future climate has not been explicitly examined and is the focus of my research. In order to study these changes, I developed a hydrometeorological climatology of floods over the U.S., which will motivate the specific flood cases to examine in novel, high-resolution regional climate change simulations. These simulations will allow for an understanding of how atmospheric and hydrologic processes might change in future floods.

Trevor Even

Picture of Trevor Even
PhD Student, Department of Anthropology, Colorado State University
Graduate Degree Program in Ecology
Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory
Fellowship Details: 
Fellowship Year: 
2018-2019
Research Focus: 

I am an applied researcher focusing on issues of how humans and environments interact, and how we as a global society can do so in ways that ensure long-term sustainability and ecosystem integrity. In the past this has included work on community recovery from natural disaster processes and the vulnerability of land-based livelihoods (such as ranching, outdoor recreation, and farming) to changes in climate. My current work blends anthropological, geographic, climate, and ecosystem science to investigate how different value systems, technologies, ways of understanding nature, and modes of resource governance shape water security and sustainability at the hydrological basin scale.

Desirée Fiske

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PhD Student, Department of Political Science, Colorado State University
Fellowship Details: 
Fellowship Year: 
2018-2019
Research Focus: 

The concept of the Anthropocene spurs creativity for what a new geological epoch, defined by human activities, means for society. My research re-evaluates humans' relationship with nature and the ways in which political processes will evolve in response. As politics begin to integrate the “Anthropocene” into decision-making, what implications will this have for the role of science in politics, international institutions, and human association to nature? I am exploring international connections between national parks (of similar climate and range of biodiversity), as a case of environmental management and communication occurring beyond national boundaries.

Joshua Hewitt

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PhD Candidate, Department of Statistics, Colorado State University
Fellowship Details: 
Fellowship Year: 
2018-2019
Research Focus: 

As communities prepare to face changing climates, they must anticipate long-term, local impacts. For example, how might regional precipitation change? City planners want to know how high they should build the next bridge. My research helps address this issue. Climate models can predict changing temperatures at broad scales, but struggle to predict complicated regional characteristics, like December 2020 precipitation for the city of Fort Collins. I develop statistical models to identify complex relationships in data to help scientists predict changing precipitation with climate models. These models require careful integration of interdisciplinary ideas to simultaneously account for global and local relationships.

Kevin Jablonski

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PhD Student, Department of Forest and Rangeland Ecology, Colorado State University
Fellowship Details: 
Fellowship Year: 
2018-2019
Research Focus: 

My dissertation research focuses on larkspur, a group of native perennial plants that are toxic to cattle and present numerous challenges to sustainable grazing management in the western US. Using a complex systems based approach, we are incorporating experimental research, plant surveys, agent-based modeling, and producer knowledge to generate an adaptable new framework for grazing management in larkspur habitat. The aim of this new framework is to allow cattle to graze in larkspur habitat at any time with no deaths, thereby greatly improving producers’ ability to meet economic and ecological objectives while enabling them to move away from destructive herbicides. Additionally, I am leading a collaboration with Lion Guardians, an NGO working in the Amboseli ecosystem of Kenya, to improve understanding of lost livestock, a key driver of conflict between Maasai pastoralists and large carnivores.

Megan Jones

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PhD Student, Department of Human Dimensions of Natural Resources, Colorado State University
Fellowship Details: 
Fellowship Year: 
2018-2019
Research Focus: 

My Ph.D. research looks at how natural resource conservationists are working to make their field more inclusive and empowering. The main stream of my research investigates how gender biases constrain women’s advancement to conservation leadership positions, and how women and organizations are transforming individual behaviors and institutional structures to increase gender equity. The secondary stream of my PhD focuses on conservation behavior change. For this, I am studying how Colorado residents are adopting new gardening behaviors to make their yards wildlife-friendly, how they are encouraging other residents to adopt similar behaviors, and how conservation organizations are supporting this process.

Gretchen Kroh

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PhD Candidate, Department of Biology, Colorado State University
Fellowship Details: 
Fellowship Year: 
2018-2019
Research Focus: 

Iron deficiency anemia is the most prevalent nutrient deficiency worldwide but can be reversed by increasing dietary iron. While crops can be a good source of iron, plants are also typically iron deficient because soil iron is poorly bioavailable. I begin to address this problem in my research by studying how plants regulate metabolism when iron deficient to avoid long term damage and lowered productivity. By understanding the mechanisms of how plants respond to iron deficiency, we can eventually manipulate crop plants to use iron more efficiently which will allow for increased crop productivity on limited arable land.

Courtney Larson

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PhD Student, Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology, Colorado State University
Graduate Degree Program in Ecology
Fellowship Details: 
Fellowship Year: 
2018-2019
Research Focus: 

Urban natural areas are protected for several reasons, such as preserving unique natural features, conserving plants and animals, and providing space for outdoor recreation. But can all this occur in the same place? Researchers have found that recreation can have negative effects on wildlife. My research goals are to measure and model recreation in urban natural areas and to assess whether (and how) recreation affects where wildlife are found. I hope to learn about the possible trade-offs between recreation and wildlife conservation and help devise strategies for sustaining the long-term ecological health and wild character of our natural places.

Michael Link

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PhD Candidate, Department of Chemistry, Colorado State University
Fellowship Details: 
Fellowship Year: 
2018-2019
Research Focus: 

Air pollution is a combination of gases and particles directly emitted from sources, such as vehicles or industry, and emissions that react in the atmosphere to produce pollutants such as ozone or particulate matter. I simulate atmospheric reactions of emissions such as vehicle exhaust and compounds emitted from trees in the laboratory to study what products are formed and how they form. My research provides evidence to suggest that the products formed from reactions of direct emissions in the atmosphere must be considered to understand the true impact of the emission source on air quality.

Alejandro López-Cerón

Picture of Alejandro López-Cerón
PhD Candidate, Department of Biology, Colorado State University
Fellowship Details: 
Fellowship Year: 
2018-2019
Research Focus: 

To grow, crustaceans (crabs, lobsters and shrimp) discard their outer shell and generate a new one during their molt cycle. Natural activities such as feeding, mating, and reproduction are paused through the period of molting, and some species cope with extreme environmental variations of temperature, oxygen, and humidity that may disturb molting. My research focuses on molting process regulation at DNA level, by using molecular biology analysis. My goal is to understand the mechanisms controlling inhibition of molting by environmental stress in crabs, particularly increased temperature due to changing climate; which may enhance the negative effects of stress on molting.

Sheena Martenies

Picture of Sheena Martenies
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences, Colorado State University
Fellowship Details: 
Fellowship Year: 
2018-2019
Research Focus: 

My research aims to identify the health effects of early life air pollution exposures, with an emphasis on air pollution from vehicles and industrial sources. I and the team I work with are currently working on a new air pollution model for the Denver metropolitan area that will allow us to better characterize a child’s air pollution exposure from before they were born to now. This information will allows to understand if air pollution is associated with adverse health outcomes, including childhood obesity. Understanding how air pollution is tied to health outcomes is useful for developing better environmental policies.

Molly McLaughlin

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PhD Student, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Colorado State University
Fellowship Details: 
Fellowship Year: 
2018-2019
Research Focus: 

Due to increased demand for water, states are increasingly looking to reuse wastewater from oil and gas production for agricultural purposes. This wastewater contains hydrocarbons, salts, radioactive materials and other contaminants. The environmental and health impacts of reusing this water are largely unknown. My research aims to determine if this practice is sustainable by quantifying chemical changes in soil and water. I also quantify the impact of this wastewater on the health of organisms such as wheat, fish and yeast. Our results will aid development of effective treatment techniques and minimize negative consequences from oil and gas wastewater reuse.

Ryan Paul

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PhD Candidate, Department of Bioagricultural Sciences and Pest Management, Colorado State University
Graduate Degree Program in Ecology
Fellowship Details: 
Fellowship Year: 
2018-2019
Research Focus: 

Invasions of new insect pests are a major problem in agricultural and natural systems. Parasitic wasps called parasitoids are often introduced as a biological control for pest insects, but competition and influence from the plants can affect the success of these wasps. I study how parasitoids use chemicals to compete with one another and how plant defensive chemicals affect parasitoid success in attacking hosts. My research improves our understanding of factors that affect the establishment success of insects after introductions. This information will help us predict the success of biological control introductions and lead to better control of pests.

Evan Sproul

Picture of Evan Sproul
PhD Student, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Colorado State University
Fellowship Details: 
Fellowship Year: 
2018-2019
Research Focus: 

I research the sustainability of new technologies such as biofuels and electric vehicles. In my research I develop computer models to track the energy, materials, and money that go into producing and using a new technology. From these models, I calculate the environmental impact and economic feasibility of the technology. Common results include estimates of greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution, annual revenue, and a minimum selling price. Using these results, I compare the advantages of different technologies and identify areas for improvement. Through this research I intend to increase the economic success of technologies that have a low environmental impact.

Cara Steger

Picture of Cara Steger
PhD Candidate, Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, Colorado State University
Graduate Degree Program in Ecology
Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory
Fellowship Details: 
Fellowship Year: 
2018-2019
Research Focus: 

In a rapidly changing world, humans struggle to address complex environmental “wicked problems” that require collaboration between actors with potentially conflicting objectives. My research informs the sustainable and equitable management of natural resources by focusing on the process of collaborative conservation, where diverse groups of people work together, learn from each other, and make collective decisions about resources. I use models to facilitate collaboration around an issue, evaluating how different kinds of models impact learning and decision-making. My dissertation focuses on a case study of shrub encroachment in the Ethiopian highlands to better understand and apply this collaborative modeling process.

Ali Tasdighi

Picture of Ali Tasdighi
Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Colorado State University
Fellowship Details: 
Fellowship Year: 
2018-2019
Research Focus: 

Excessive loads of pollution entering water bodies have resulted in dramatic degradation of water quality worldwide. My primary area of research is focused on water quality modeling and management for understanding the processes causing this crisis and how to alleviate their negative impacts. Specifically, I have developed a comprehensive model to simulate the impact of anthropogenic activities on hydrologic and water quality processes. I also developed a total uncertainty assessment framework for quantifying the water quality benefits of conservation practices under uncertainty. Application of this framework in water quality policy making is anticipated to secure meeting water quality improvement goals.

Thomas Timberlake

Picture of Thomas Timberlake
PhD Candidate, Department of Forest and Rangeland Stewardship, Colorado State University
Fellowship Details: 
Fellowship Year: 
2018-2019
Research Focus: 

Climate change compels societies to rethink their relationships with natural environments. I research how the U.S. Forest Service plans and manages for climate change adaptation. Adaptation, in this context, requires scientific information to inform management actions that are more flexible than traditional approaches. However, implementing these new approaches must also comport with existing policy requirements. Successful adaptation proves necessary for forestlands to continue to provide key resources that underpin human wellbeing, including drinking water for downstream communities and recreational opportunities. I intend for my research to support on-the-ground practices, while also contributing to an enhanced theoretical understanding of adaptation.

Nicholas Van Lanen

Picture of Nicholas Van Lanen
PhD Student, Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, Colorado State University
Graduate Degree Program in Ecology
Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory
Fellowship Details: 
Fellowship Year: 
2018-2019
Research Focus: 

Land management efforts throughout the western United States are increasingly geared to help recover greater sage-grouse populations, and removing conifer trees (e.g. pinyon-juniper) in sagebrush habitats is one widely-implemented management technique. Although research shows this work aids sage-grouse, scientists don’t know how this will affect several declining bird species that rely on these trees. For my PhD, I am evaluating habitat needs of both sagebrush and pinyon-juniper associated birds. I will then use these habitat relationships to develop a landscape plan to help managers target areas for conifer removal which will benefit sagebrush birds without negatively impacting pinyon-juniper associated birds.