The University of Arizona

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Congratulations to the 2012-2013 SNRE Award Recipients

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Congratulations to all of the award recipients who were honored at the 2013 SNRE Awards Ceremony!

Outstanding Faculty Award: Dr. John Koprowski, Wildlife and Conservation Management
This award is intended to recognize an individual faculty member who personifies the ideal of outstanding teaching, advising, research and/or university service.
Dr. Koprowski investigates basic ecological questions that may be applied to real-world problems in the conservation of biodiversity. His research focuses on model species that are threatened or endangered, and ecosystems that are rare or undergoing rapid change. He was recognized for his passion for teaching and mentoring graduate and undergraduate students, and preparing them for successful careers as scientists and research professionals.



Outstanding Scholarly Achievement: Dr. Mitch McClaran, Range Management
This award is intended to recognize outstanding original contributions to scientific knowledge through theoretical or applied research.

Dr. McClaran's research is related to rangeland plant ecology and management, with particular emphasis on arid grasslands and savannas. He published close to 80 peer-reviewed papers, and gave well over 100 presentations at local, national and international meetings.  He has proven to be prolific and formidable in the art of research grantsmanship, securing funding for his research. He has taught 4 different courses, and graduated 16 students with MS or PhD over the years.  Mitch received many awards for his scholarship and teaching from the UA.

Outstanding Course: Dr. Don Falk for RNR 355, Wildland Fire
This award recognizes an excellent course that is current, comprehensive, relevant, challenging, well-taught, and highly regarded by both faculty and students.

RNR 355 provides students with a broad, balanced understanding of fire as a biophysical process. The course explores fire from many perspectives, and explores such factors as climate change, invasive species, and how fire interacts with the landscape. The course explores a variety of fire management strategies, and landscape restoration ecology. It provides a global perspective on fire, using recent fires as case studies. The course has been nominated by several students who praised the amount learned, the engaging way Prof. Falk presented the course, and the relevance of the information learned.

Special Recognition for Graduate Student Teaching: Erin Zylstra
Erin has been nominated by a large number of students for her contributions to RNR321, Natural Resources Measurements.  She has provided a class and lab atmosphere that keeps the students engaged, and helps everybody to understand the material.

Outstanding Graduating Senior: Austin Carey and Kelsey Hawkes
This award is given to a senior graduating student with outstanding contributions to SNRE, the community, and the study of natural resources.  Selection is based on grade point average, university and community activities, scholarships and awards.

Austin is a student of the Watershed program who is not only an outstanding student who routinely finishes at or near the top of his classes, but has also worked on a field project with the USDA-ARS Southwest Watershed Research Center, and puts in long hours for the NSF Critical Zone Observatory doing computer modeling of soil moisture, and volunteers for the Sky Island Alliance amongst others.  He was also nominated by SNRE for the CALS Outstanding Grad Senior award.

Kelsey is a Rangeland student whose scholarly achievements have been recognized by two UA scholarships.  She was also a top Arizona contestant at the National Meeting of the Society for Range Management.  She received a first place ranking at the undergrad poster competition at the 9th annual RISE symposium.  She is also the President for the Tierra Seca Club (student chapter of the Society of Range Management). Rather than missing the presentation of her award, Kelsey attended via FaceTime.

Outstanding Thesis: Carrie Presnall
This award is given to a Masters student who has excelled in all phases of the research program. Criteria include selection of demanding and topical areas of study, original and creative development of data gathering and data analysis, and the combination of precision, clarity and eloquence in the thesis text. This award recognizes both the student's achievement and the advisor's contribution to the Thesis.

Carrie’s research relates to conservation incentives and payments for ecosystem services, and how these improve land stewardship by ranchers, and slow ex-urban sprawl. For her thesis, she reviewed how federal policy influences environmental assessments under the National Environmental Policy Act.  This research is critical for US environmental policy. Parts of her thesis are in review for publication.  She also contributed to other publications, including a book chapter on ranching conservation.

Outstanding Dissertation: Jherime Kellerman and Taryn Kong
This award is given to a Doctoral student who has excelled in all phases of the dissertation research program. Criteria include selection of demanding and topical areas of study, original and creative data gathering and analysis, and the combination of precision, clarity and eloquence in the thesis text.

Jherime’s early research was related to the recovery of a songbird in one of the Hawaiian islands.  His dissertation related to the higher elevation habitats that some migratory birds use as stopover sites while crossing arid lands.  He concluded that flowering phenology can provide large-scale clues for the conditions of these stopover sites associated with climatic variation.  These conclusions have direct implications for natural resource management.  Two papers have already been submitted, another is in preparation.

Taryn is a key participant in a large collaborative project involving 12 institutes from 5 continents called PRACTICE (Prevention and Restoration Actions to Combat Desertification).  This initiative identifies and standardizes best practices  in restoration ecology and monitoring. She has traveled thousands of kilometers in South Africa to conduct semi-structured interviews with local participants. She has tested a novel methodology called Photovoice, which is a participatory research technique that combines subject-generated photography with critical reflective discussion. Three papers have been submitted from her thesis to international peer-reviewed journals.

Outstanding Grad Student Scholarly Achievement: Melissa Merrick
This award recognizes outstanding scholarship of currently enrolled Masters and PhD students.

Melissa’s research now focuses on the survival, space use, and natal dispersal of the Mt. Graham red squirrel.  Climate extremes and increased disturbance events currently observed in the sky islands are likely to be harbingers of changes to come due to altered climate. She has seven peer-reviewed publications with two more in press, and received numerous scholarships and grants.

Outstanding SNRE Alumnus: Andrea Litt
This award is to recognize the professional or civic contributions of one of our graduates. Their contributions may have been in the areas of administration or management of natural resource systems, research accomplishments, education, communication, or leadership in professional and civic organizations.

Andrea graduated with PhD 6 years ago at SNRE in the Wildlife and Fisheries option.  After graduation, she did 2 years of postdoctoral studies at Colorado State U.  In 2009 she secured a faculty position at Texas A&M, and in 2011 she moved to the University of Montana where she is an Assistant Professor of Ecology. Prof. Litt maintains a well-funded and vigorous research program.  She has 18 publications to her credit, with 10 other in press or in review.  She has also published an award-winning monograph

International Collaboration: Aletris Neils
This award recognizes SNRE members who have made an outstanding contribution to scientific knowledge through an international collaboration AND where this collaboration led to improved resource management strategies or practices.

Aletris is interested in the ecology of mammalian predators, particularly the caracals (desert lynx).  Her research is focused on the survival, space use, fecundity, and diet of the caracal, as it relates to species diversity, and top down ecosystem regulation.  Her primary interest is human – carnivore conflict and the management of this conflict. She founded Conservation CATalyst in 2008, an international nonprofit organization.  Aletris works closely with Namibian farmers and her work has been covered by every national newspaper in Namibia, and discussed on national radio there.

Staff Award of Excellence: Darin Law, Senior Research Specialist
This award was created to recognize dedication and outstanding contributions by a classified staff member to SNRE.

During the past year, Darin had a critical role in bringing to completion a major field experiment with extreme logistical and scientific difficulty, related to tree mortality in response to global climate change under realistic, field conditions.  This work is now in review for the first-tier journal New Phytologist. In addition, he has been helping to mentor new students, and collaborated with several other research group within and outside SNRE.  This included a project that looks at spatial patterns in plant litter decomposition in relation to UV irradiation and soil movement.

Public Service Award: Dr. Gregg Garfin
This award recognizes individuals who have provided outstanding public service through professional contributions that go well beyond university-related responsibilities, and address contemporary natural resource issues with scholarly rigor and enthusiasm.

Dr. Garfin studies climate variability and change, drought science and planning, climate change adaptation, and decision support systems. He works to bridge the science-society interface, and to transfer environmental and climate science findings and techniques from the UA to resource managers, planners, policy makers, and other decision-makers.

Student Leadership Award: Alanna Riggs and Erin Posthumus
This award recognizes student leaders in bringing together students to share and engage in relevant science related topics in the Field of Natural Resources.

Alanna is a senior double-majoring in Natural Resources and Spanish.  She has been a member of the Undergraduate Range Management Exam team, contributing the top three scores on the UA team. In addition to her impressive academic achievements, she has been involved in Tierra Seca for 3 years.  This included one semester as Vice President, and one semester as the President of the club.  Alanna also represents Tierra Seca in the CALS Agri-Life Council.

Erin (above) is a Masters student at SNRE studying species diversity and connectedness amongst species. In addition to her scholarship, she serves as the Chair of the Natural Resources Graduate Student Organization.  In this role, she made sure that the organization is both relevant and useful to grad students.  Amongst many achievements, she collaborated with faculty to develop the first Graduate Professional Development Series where faculty panels discuss career and professional development topics of interest to grad students.

Student Office Assistant: Sara Schaffer
This award recognizes contributions in the areas of office administration and commitment to ensuring that our School operates in an efficient and timely manner. The success of our School is heavily dependent on these contributions.

In addition to her broad range of office duties, Sara has made contributions to develop and formulate website content for the National Phenology Network. She also supported numerous graphic design projects, including those for information sheets distributed nationwide. Even further, Sara portrays a positive image of SNRE and the Network to the local community by participating in local events like the Tucson Phenology Trail.

Special Recognition for Service to SNRE: Katie Hughes
Katie has been nominated for her contributions to the School in a period when Prof. Matter was on sabbatical leave and Prof. Marsh transitioned to be the Director of the School. Katie’s contributions to student advising are vital to our School and our students.  To quote “She shepherds graduate and undergraduate students through the maze of a modern University.  She is a constant source of reliable information and helpful guidance.” She also assists faculty in mentoring students and in developing new courses, and provides student-related data to administrators – all within a position that is less than full time.

Special Recognition for More Than 30 Years of Outstanding Service to the UA, The Natural Products Center, The Office Of Arid Lands Studies, and to SNRE: Jan Taylor, Senior Program Coordinator
It is impossible to relate all the contributions that Jan has made to our communities during her long years of service. She has been the business manager for the NPC, providing all types of administrative services to research personnel, including welcoming new employees and ensuring that all the issues related to their employment and relocation to Tucson are handled with care, efficiency and cheerfulness. Her duties include ensuring the everyday running and upkeep of the facility: this sometimes mean coordinating extensive renovation projects unique to this off-campus facility.

She has been instrumental in grant proposal routing and submissions for NPC, and later lent her uniquely wide expertise to the larger SNRE community to ensure that proposals are submitted on time, and without administrative problems. In addition, she has managed the Sunnyside Storage Facility, involving daily contact with various UA departments, and providing them with always courteous, professional service. She is never too busy to answer questions or take care of the needs of others, even when facing strict deadlines.