Campus News

Doctoral student awarded Fulbright research scholarship

UGA Ph.D. candidate Laura Jen Shaffer has been awarded a ­Fulbright research scholarship to Mozambique for the 2006-2007 ­academic year. She will begin her dissertation research in ecological and environmental anthropology in January.

The Fulbright scholarship, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, includes airfare and living expenses while studying abroad. Touted as the world’s leading international exchange program for scholars, students and teachers, the Fulbright will allow more than 1,200 participants to travel overseas this year.

Shaffer, a doctoral student in the anthropology department, will be investigating how the wild plant consumption of the Ronga, a group that has occupied the coastal savannah of southern Mozambique for at least 500 years, will impact the area’s future. This region also boasts one of the most biodiverse collections of temperate forest trees in the world.

“I feel really honored to receive a Fulbright,” said Shaffer. “I hope that my work in Mozambique will help both the government and the people in the communities to develop a conservation management plan that accommodates both local people and wildlife. I also hope that my work will contribute to a greater understanding of the role of humans in African savannah ­ecosystems.”

Preparation for this project included a 10-week National Science ­Foundation-funded ethnographic study Shaffer completed at Mozambique’s Maputo Elephant Reserve in summer 2004. With the Melissa Hague Field Study Award, she traveled to Portugal in 2005 to gather additional information about the people and the region from the colonial archives and participated in an intensive language program for Portuguese, the official language of Mozambique.

“Jen had a terrific application in large measure because she worked closely with her anthropology professors, Pete Brosius and Ted Gragson,” said Steve Elliott-Gower, UGA’s Fulbright Program adviser.

“With their very strong letters of recommendations, I am not surprised that the Fulbright national screening committee was impressed with Jen’s credentials.”

Shaffer noted that her prior experience teaching environmental science and biology in a Texas high school and carrying out a public education campaign for water and energy conservation in American Samoa helped shape her future career as an ecological anthropologist and educator.