Mason has moved to virtual instruction. Find out what you need to know to be prepared. Visit Mason’s Coronavirus Information page.
Jessica Roberts and Sarah Farinelli, PhD students in environmental science and public policy, are friends, roommates and now, Fulbright fellows.
They met via Mason’s Environmental Science and Policy Department and encouraged each other to apply for the prestigious fellowship. Roberts’s research is on the reintroduction science of two species of parrots in Brazil, focusing specifically on the release of birds who have been rescued from the illegal trade of exotic wildlife. Farinelli will go to Nigeria to work alongside the Biodiversity Preservation Center and study the geographical patterns of the African manatee and conservation implications, using drones to assess habitat use of these animals.
Both research projects stem from the need to fill a gap in academic research. Farinelli said it was hard to conduct research on the African manatee as an undergraduate because of how little information is available, and Roberts said there is plenty of work to be done on reintroduction science.
David Luther, an associate professor in the Department of Biology and PhD advisor to both students, said Farinelli and Roberts are self-starters and natural leaders. He added that both focus their research on the bigger picture, something he said researchers can sometimes lose sight of.
“They are not just interested in the science behind it but also the bigger picture involving locals in the community and engaging the community,” said Luther.
Through her adventures in volunteering and working in conservation with AmeriCorps in the Sierra Nevada, the Wildlife Center of Virginia and Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, Florida, Roberts realized there is much rehabilitation work being done for animals, but little is known about the animals after they are reintroduced into the wild and whether these rehabilitation methods are helping. Better survey of these animals pre- and postrelease can help inform rehabilitation methods.
“Once we get our act together with habitat protection,” said Roberts, who will work with the Brazilian nonprofit Instituto Espaço Silvestre, “how are we going to be prepared to release these animals into the wild?”
Farinelli, who completed a BS in biology from George Mason before starting the PhD program, will also survey animals in the wild in order to better inform conservation efforts. She is working on surveying techniques using drones, both aerial and underwater, to track the African manatee’s movements, which will help set a starting point for conservation by knowing what areas to focus on and how to best do so.
“The hunting pressure, we suspect, is the most intense in Nigeria out of the 21 range countries of the African manatee,” said Farinelli, who added that one of her research questions involved identifying the drivers of manatee presence in villages where they are hunted.
Farinelli will leave for Nigeria at the end of the summer, and Roberts heads to Brazil early next year.
Posted May 21, 2019 by Mary Lee Clark
Many local marine biology and ecology teachers and their students will benefit from the legacy of a George Mason University alumna and longtime elementary school teacher through a new fellowship program. The Ann C. Powel Memorial Scholarship Fund enables a K-12 teacher to spend a summer at the Potomac Environmental Research and Education Center (PEREC), thanks to director R. Christian “Chris” Jones’ endowment in his late wife’s name.
Jones recently finalized the $100,000 endowment that will annually offer a teacher the chance to work with one of the PEREC researchers during the summer. The stipend will allow the selected teacher to spend the summer researching aquatic systems while working with faculty members and devising a cumulative lesson plan that can be taken back to school in the fall and shared with students and other teachers via PEREC’s website.
Jones said he could think of no better tribute to his late wife of 25 years, who passed away in December 2013 after a lengthy illness.
“When you lose your spouse, you want to do something to celebrate her life,” Jones said.
Powel, who had earned undergraduate and master’s degrees at George Mason, had been an ardent fan of marine research since spending a summer in North Carolina at the marine lab run by Duke University and working daily with staff members there.
“She just found that incredibly inspiring and motivating,” Jones said.
Keenly aware that his wife had paid her own way for such a very memorable experience and that not all teachers could afford to do likewise, Jones wanted to make that kind of opportunity available to more educators.
Summer 2018 will mark the first time the stipend has come directly from the Ann C. Powel Memorial Scholarship Fund.
“It’s the best way to honor her,” Jones said.
Adapted from a story by John Hollis.
George Mason University has been selected by the Department of Homeland Security to lead a consortium of universities and law enforcement agencies to investigate patterns of criminal activities and forensics, and develop strategies to predict and disrupt transnational crime.
The 10-year, multimillion-dollar grant is among the largest research awards the university has received, with $3.85 million committed for its first year of operation.
George Mason University, on June 10, dedicated a library to University Professor and famed conservation biologist Thomas Lovejoy.
The Thomas E. Lovejoy Library, named for the “godfather” of biodiversity, is located in the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation (SMSC) in Front Royal.
“In the world of conservation, he’s like the Rolling Stones,” said Cody Edwards, SMSC’s interim director. “He’s one of the founding fathers in that field, which is why having his library at the school makes a lot of sense.”
The library contains books and papers Lovejoy wrote about his extensive research and experience in the field. Lovejoy, a University Professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy, who coined the phrase “biological diversity,” supported moving his materials to SMSC.
“The logic of providing an actual library on conservation biology was more than compelling,” said Lovejoy, who also held the biodiversity chair at the Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment in Washington, D.C. “Having been engaged at Front Royal from the very outset makes this a very special honor to have it named for me.”
Mason President Ángel Cabrera, Provost S. David Wu and Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute Director Steven Monfort also attended the two-hour dedication.
Lovejoy received his bachelor’s degree and PhD in biology from Yale. In 1965, Lovejoy was invited to study birds in the Amazon by his freshman-year advisor, ornithologist Philip Humphrey.
His trip to the Amazon influenced him to establish a conservation program at the World Wildlife Fund-U.S., which he led from 1973 to 1987.
Lovejoy has also served on the science and environmental councils under Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and currently serves as senior fellow at the United Nations Foundation.
In his speech at the library dedication, Lovejoy spoke about the importance of written words, especially books. He said he hopes to influence future generations seeking to learn and advance in conservation practices.
Adapted from a story by Noor Khan
The Bernie L. Bates Foundation has been awarding academic scholarships and book grants since its inception in 1995. But there was always an urge to create a more lasting legacy.
“We wanted to support a cause,” said Duke Haggins, the foundation’s vice president. “We don’t want to do this just for now, we want to do this years from now, even if we’re not here.”
So the foundation, with the Psi Alpha Alpha Chapter of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc., created the Bernie L. Bates and Psi Alpha Alpha Chapter Scholarship Endowment. The goal is to recognize, with $1,000 scholarships, the scholastic achievements of minority undergraduates at George Mason University who pursue degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
That the endowment is tied to George Mason is not an accident.
The Bates Foundation, located in Alexandria, Va., has long admired the academic and community achievements of Mason’s Eta Delta Delta Chapter of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Haggins said. The chapter recently received a service award from Fairfax County’s BeFriend-A-Child program for its mentorship of local youths.
“They always talk about the environment [at Mason], that it’s a great place to be on campus,” Haggins said of Eta Delta Delta’s members. “We could not think of a better place to [establish an endowment] than at a great organization like George Mason.”
Scholarship recipients will be chosen by Mason’s Office of Student Financial Aid, using criteria provided by the foundation. Though the scholarship is open to all students, there is a strong preference for it to be awarded to a male minority. Recipients must have at least a 3.0 GPA.
“This award is just the type of scholarly support that the fraternity is known for and is desperately needed at an institution like George Mason,” said Professor Rodney Hopson, Eta Delta Delta’s university advisor. “As a relatively young institution, [Mason] needs more support geared toward male students of color whose interest lay in science.”
Isaiah West, president of Eta Delta Delta, said the endowment and scholarships are what his fraternity is all about.
“I like the fact that we’re so dedicated to the betterment of minorities and the community around us,” the senior kinesiology major said. “I couldn’t be any more proud of what our chapter and our graduate chapter has been able to do.”
Adapted from story by Damian Cristodero.
Sharon Dorsey, a junior and track team member, had a summer internship at the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. The environmental science major with a concentration in ecology sees herself one day working for Fish and Wildlife Services.