University of Georgia students awarded NSF fellowships

Athens, Ga – Two University of Georgia ecology students, Sonia Hernandez-Divers and Chrissa Carlson, have been selected to receive National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowships (GRF). Each fellowship consists of $121,500 to be given during a three-year period in support of graduate study leading to a research-based masters or doctoral degree. The fellowships are awarded on a highly competitive basis — only one out of every nine applicants receives funding. Both students are studying how birds are affected by human activity.

Hernandez-Divers, a doctoral student working under Ronald Carroll at the Institute of Ecology, is also an adjunct professor with the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine. Her environmental research focuses on emerging wildlife diseases, particularly how birds are affected by land-use change. Her research proposal is titled “Understanding the Relationship Between Disease Prevalence and Anthropogenic Activity.” Her proposal will take her to northwest Ecuador, in and around the Maquipucuna Reserve, where deforestation may be putting forest-dwelling birds at risk of exposure to human and domestic-animal pathogens. The results of her pilot study on the diseases of free-roaming chickens in Ecuador have been submitted for publication to the Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery. Hernandez-Divers is also listed in the 2005 edition of Who’s Who Among American Universities and Colleges.

Chrissa Carlson, an Institute of Ecology master’s degree student working under the mentorship of Gary W. Barrett, will use her fellowship to investigate bird diversity in urban forest patches. Her study will be conducted at the Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) site in Baltimore, Md., one of two major NSF-sponsored metropolitan research sites in the United States. Carlson’s project title is “The Relationship Between Forest Patch Avian Diversity and Landscape Matrix Cultural Resources in an Urban Watershed.” Carlson was awarded the best master’s student presentation at the 2005 Institute of Ecology Graduate Student Symposium and recently co-authored an overview of Chesapeake Bay restoration issues, which will appear in the third edition of Principles of Conservation Biology, due out in June 2005.