ESA Selects 2022 Graduate Student Policy Award Recipients

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Rounak Patra, a UT Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science Graduate Student, Is Among the Cohort

The Ecological Society of America (ESA) is honored to announce the Katherine S. McCarter Graduate Student Policy Award (GSPA) 2022 cohort. This award provides graduate students with the opportunity to participate in a virtual Congressional Visits Day.

These students learn about the legislative process and federal science funding before meeting virtually with their Members of Congress to discuss the importance of federal investments in the biological and ecological sciences. Additionally, GSPA recipients will explore policy career options. Ecologists who work in federal agencies will share their career paths and how a scientific background can be applied to informing policy.

“It is very rewarding and encouraging to see our ESA graduate students interested in the science-policy interface and to hear directly from decision makers the importance of receiving critical information on the ecological systems that their constituents are interested in. The valuable, hands-on experience this ESA award provides these young ecologists in essential science communication and listening skills will enable them to successfully engage in the policy realm,” said ESA President Dennis Ojima. 

ESA selected 44 students to receive the award: Amanda Alva (Auburn University), Isabella Betancourt S. (Stony Brook University), Ian J. Brackett (Ohio State University), Jessica A. Bryzek (West Virginia University), Abigail J. Costigan (Stony Brook University), Amelia-Juliette C. Demery (Cornell University), Julie Donohue (Western Colorado University), Anastasia Dulskiy (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), Sarah Gao (University of San Francisco), Benjamin Gerstner (University of New Mexico), Devon Gorbey (University at Buffalo), Jessica E. Griffin (University of California, Davis and San Diego State University), Elijah Hall (University of California, Riverside), Andrew M. Hoyt (Trent University), Kristen M. Jovanelly (Dartmouth College), Amanda L. Komasinski (University of Georgia), Katie LaPlante-Harris (University of Missouri), Abigail Lewis (Virginia Tech), Samuel A. Mahanes (University of California, Irvine), Zachary Malone (University of California, Merced), Claudia I. Mazur (Boston University), Kelly B. McCrum (University of Georgia), Cassandra Maria Luz Miller (University of New Mexico), Benjamin Moffat (University of Miami), Tim D. Morris (State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry), W. Kody Muhic (Old Dominion University), Jessica G. Murray (Utah State University), Laura P. Nicholson (University of Florida), Rounak Patra (University of Tennessee, Knoxville), Rachel E. Pausch (UC Santa Cruz), Samuel P. Reed (University of Minnesota), Mae Rennick (University of California, Santa Barbara), D’amy Steward (University of Guam), Colin P. Sweeney (The Ohio State University), Corinne Sweeney (University of Georgai), Krti Tallam (Stanford University), Tara Ursell (University of California, Davis), Leena L. Vilonen (Colorado State University), Lynn Von Hagen (Auburn University), Heidi R. Waite (University of California, Irvine), Matthew Walter (University of Delaware), Tanner A. Waters (University of California, Los Angeles), Nicholas Wright-Osment (University of Alabama), and Sophie Zhu (University of California, Davis).

Members of the cohort will visit with federal legislators on February 16 and 17.


Rounak Patra

Rounak Patra is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Biosystem Engineering and Soil Science Department. He investigates the role of long-term conservation agricultural practices in subsoil C storage under the joint supervision of Dr. Sindhu Jagadamma and Dr. Debasish Saha. He is passionate about capturing excess atmospheric carbon through practical agricultural solutions, and he plans to use his academic training to develop effective communication strategies for relaying scientific knowledge to policymakers and local stakeholders. Before attending graduate school, Rounak worked under the supervision of Dr. Robert John Chandran to investigate the decline in plant diversity and its socio-economic consequences in the foothills of the Sikkim Himalayan region. He graduated from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research in Kolkata with a master’s degree in life sciences. He grew up in Kolkata, and he has family roots in West Bengal, India.

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Rounak Patra

Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science