April 8, 2019

Past Fellowships

Changing Agriculture in a Changing Climate: Exploring Farmers’ Responses to Climate Change via Multispecies Ethnography 

Across the Southwestern United States, the already pervasive effects of climate change foreshadow a stark future for farmers. While there is substantial quantitative research regarding the impacts of climate change on agriculture, there is minimal qualitative research to ground abstract statistics in the lived experiences of farmers. Julia’s master’s research aimed to understand how farmers in southwest Colorado are experiencing and responding to climate change, and the more-than-human interactions involved in these processes. Read more here.

A Future of Ranching in the San Luis Valley, Colorado 

By area, livestock grazing is the single largest land use across the San Luis Valley, across the state of Colorado, and across the United States. While livestock producers are not often seen as conservationists in environmental spaces, ranchers steward private and public landscapes that provide ecosystem services and support plant, wildlife, and human communities across the West. Kathleen’s research investigated the future of ranching under ongoing, 21st-century drought, and the ability of ranchers to adapt and respond to increasing social and environmental pressures. Read more here.

Assessing Restoration Outcomes on Natural Gas Well Pads in the Upper Green River Basin of Wyoming 

The Jonah Field is a large natural gas field in southwestern Wyoming leased to energy operators by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The development of natural gas infrastructure is a large-scale disturbance on big sagebrush plant communities in this region. Reclamation is the mandated form of restoration meant to stabilize these disturbances after mineral extraction and return the ecosystem to its pre-disturbance state. Damaris’s research assessed historic restoration outcomes on well pads based on the seeding methods that were implemented and the age of the well pads since development. Read more here.

Global change effects on soil greenhouse gas exchange and carbon storage along a temperature gradient in the North American Central Grasslands 

Most ecosystem and earth-system models predict soil organic carbon losses from temperate grasslands as temperatures increase. However, the magnitude of that loss is uncertain and the influence of other global change factors on the temperature sensitivity of decomposition remains poorly understood. Uthara’s research explored how historical temperature regimes interact with global change factors (i.e., warming, nitrogen deposition) to influence soil carbon storage and greenhouse gas exchange in semi-arid temperate grasslands. Read more here.

Modeling Radiation Use Efficiency in Big Sagebrush Understory 

Sam’s research focused on gathering field data to pair with remotely sensed imagery to then model a physiological plant trait called radiation use efficiency. Radiation use efficiency is the proportion of incoming solar radiation that is converted to biomass. Decreases in efficiency of plants has been shown to correlate with stress and decreased production and understanding variables that can influence stress can aid in future management decisions. Sam was particularly interested in the environmental variables that are related to spatial variability of radiation use efficiency in the understory of big sagebrush. Read more here.

See 2023 Fellowships in action!

Wreckreation? Livelihood, Labor, Work, Play, and the Environment in the Rural American West 

Industry, based on landscape, has been foundational to the American West’s cultural and ideological underpinnings. The extraction and  outdoor recreation industries are two of these core industries, both reliant on the vast public lands and natural resources of the West. For her Master’s thesis, Mara explored community change within the context of transition from extractive natural resource use to the “non-extractive” natural resource use of the outdoor recreation industy. Read more here.

Energy Use and Access on the Hopi Reservation 

Delaney worked with the Hopi Utility Authority to better understand electricity and energy use on the Hopi Reservation. Her research examined energy burden, both in its monetary manifestations as-well as its emotional and temporal manifestations. Through semi-structured interviews she determined the current energy paradigm and use patterns of households and sentiments regarding electricity. Her research focused on understand household energy burdens holistically as well as residents’ perceptions and preferences regarding electrification. Read more here.

Impact of Climate Change on Plant Community Composition in Western Wyoming and Implications for Wildlife Migration 

Increasing temperature and changing precipitation patterns with climate change will have substantial impacts on plant communities, particularly in water-limited drylands. In western Wyoming, these climatic variables could result in a shift in plant community composition from cool season (C3) species to warm season (C4) species. Altered resource-level dynamics have the potential to then make changes to wildlife behavior, and migrating ungulates tracking spring green-up through the region could be particularly susceptible. Read more here.

Investigating Shrub-Grass Interactions in Big Sagebrush Ecosystems Across the West 

In temperate drylands, the amount and timing of precipitation interacts with soil texture to determine patterns of seasonal soil water availability at different soil depths. The coexistence of grasses and woody plants in these ecosystems has been attributed to partitioning of soil water resources, with grasses relying on resources in shallow soils, while woody plants rely on those in deeper soils. Yet, in ecosystems where grasses and woody plants coexist—such as big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt.) ecosystems in western North America—the consequences of soil water resource partitioning on competition remains unresolved. Read more here.

Elevating Native Led Bison Restoration Stories on the Great Plains 

Ross partnered with Tanka Fund, a Native led non-profit on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. Tanka Fund’s mission is to return bison to native land, lives, and economies across North America. Ross provided support to the Tanka Fund through the creation of a promotional storytelling campaign that highlighs Indigenous bison caretakers and the importance of their work to ecosystems and local communities. Read more here.

Clay, Silt, Sand, and Data: Revealing Soil Organic Carbon on Native Lands 

Council for Watershed Health
Raffa supported Indigenous data-empowerment efforts by researching how Tribal Nations may engage with soil carbon markets, which offer compensation to land managers who build up Soil Carbon on their land through regenerative rangeland practices or agriculture. He worked with Aude Chesnais (Native Land Information Systems), Dr. Justin Farrell (Yale), and Dr. Kyle Whyte (Univ of Michigan) to analyze soil carbon on Native land across the West, and how carbon stock may change in the future with altered land management strategies. Read more here.

Community-led water resilience in the Los Angeles River Watershed 

Council for Watershed Health
Ryanna supported the Council for Watershed Health (CWH) in promoting integrated regional watershed management in the greater Los Angeles region. Her projects included supporting Watershed Coordinators with the Safe Clean Water Program, an initiative that captures and cleans stormwater while generating new opportunities for open space preservation. Read more…

Proposing County Payment Reforms that Incentivize Conservation of Public Forestland 

Oregon Wild
Shannon worked with Oregon Wild, a non-governmental organization in Oregon dedicated to the conservation of forests and wildlife across the state. She researched and developed an alternate model for the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) legislation, which has provided payments to historically timber-dependent counties in order to support them as timber harvests decline. Read more…

Enhancing working lands in Colorado 

Oregon Wild
Darya’s main project was facilitating the Colorado Coalition to Enhance Working Lands (CO-CEWL). CO-CEWL works to improve the resilience and productivity of Colorado farming and ranching lands through the creation of viable agricultural businesses and rural communities, protecting open space, and increasing the ecosystem service benefits of working lands. Read more…

Impact of Variable Grazing Pressure and Climate Change on Big Sagebrush Plant Communities

Associated with rising temperatures, altered precipitation patterns are predicted to create novel climates contributing to changes in the distribution of potential vegetation. This is especially true in drylands across the American West, where the annual distribution of precipitation influences water availability, which is directly related to the competitive advantage of grasses or shrubs. Read more…

Perceptions of Water Export in Colorado’s San Luis Valley

Cloe spent the summer in Alamosa, Colorado, where she conducted independently-led research on the San Luis Valley’s response to past and ongoing attempts to export water out of the region. The San Luis Valley is a high alpine desert in southern Colorado known for its long and enduring agricultural tradition and as a top national producer of potatoes. Read more…

Long-term sustainability of wildlife crossing structures for species movements across US highway 93 in Western Montana

Structures that allow wildlife to safely cross highways, including overpasses, landbridges, and wildlife underpasses, are increasingly attracting the attention of organizations that want to minimize wildlife-vehicle collisions and improve road permeability to wildlife movements. Read more…

Impact of global change and land use on biogeochemical dynamics in Southwestern Wyoming

Uthara’s research focused on the interactive effect of global change scenarios and land use practices on soil carbon and nitrogen dynamics in sagebrush ecosystems of the American West. Drylands contain about 20% of the world’s carbon stock, with the majority being held in slow-cycling belowground pools. Read more…

(Green) Infrastructure in Oregon

Lily was a Financial Analyst Intern with the Natural Infrastructure Initiative at the World Resources Institute (WRI). She researched the relationship between resilient water utilities and environmental health. Read more…

Forest Collaboratives and Habitat Connectivity in the Northern Rockies

Laura was a Conservation Connect Fellow at the National Forest Foundation (NFF) and a U.S. Media and Storytelling Intern at the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative (Y2Y). Based in Missoula, MT, she coordinated and facilitated forest collaboratives in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge and Idaho Panhandle National Forests with NFF. Read more…

Impact of land use change policies on carbon sequestration capacity of natural and working lands in the US Climate Alliance western states

The Nature Conservancy 
Kyle worked with The Nature Conservancy, North America Natural Climate Solutions Team. He completed a regional land use planning policy analysis for a group of Western States that are part of the US Climate Alliance (Oregon, Washington, California, New Mexico, Nevada, Montana, Colorado). Read more…

Assessing Climate Change Impacts to Waterways Near National Parks in the West

National Parks Conservation Association
Humna worked with the water conservation team at National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) to assess anthropogenic threats to western waterways that run through or close to national parks. Recent policy rollbacks in legacy environmental laws, including the Waters of the United States Rule under the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), are threatening the quantity and quality of park waterways. Read more…

Pursuing Better Stewardship and Better Futures: Centering Native American Histories and Perspectives

Reid worked with post-graduate fellows at Yale Forests to create a public reading group centered on Indigenous nations, especially the Nipmuc Nation in the Northeast. The organizers collaborated with Tiana Wilson-Blindman, as well as Meghanlata Gupta of Indigenizing the News, to highlight Native issues told from Native perspectives. Reid and his colleagues published weekly posts that centered on content from Native authors, podcasters, researchers, and storytellers. The posts were published through the Yale Forests Instagram account and through a separate listservcreated specifically for the reading group.  Read more…

Simulating the Recovery of Big Sagebrush Communities from Disturbances Due to Oil and Gas Extraction

Damaris’s research focused on the recovery of big sagebrush communities to these disturbed areas. During this fellowship, she will collect data to describe the community composition and soil characteristics at well pads to use as inputs to a simulation model. Read more…

Soil Health and Soil Carbon Sequestration in Regenerative Agriculture

Mad Agriculture, Colorado Collective for Healthy Soils
Darya worked with Mad Agriculture, an organization focusing on regenerative agriculture out of Boulder, Colorado. She assisted the organization with projects in two realms: policy and soil carbon sequestration. Her policy-related work included projects in conjunction with the Colorado Collaborative for Healthy Soils and preparing a grant application aimed to increase farmer engagement with soil health management practices.  Read more…

Eco-Sensible Crop Farming in the Northern Great Plains of Montana 

Vilicus Farms
Tim worked this summer at Vilicus Farms, a 10,000 acre, organic, dry land (not irrigated) specialty grain and pulse (edible legumes like beans and lentils) farm. A New Haven native and long-time NYC resident, he departed from his city roots to farm in big sky country for the summer to learn first-hand how sustainable, eco-sensible farming can be done at scale. Read more…

Non-Consumptive Water Rights as a Landscape Conservation Tool

Rocky Mountain Biological Lab
Margot’s independent policy analysis investigated the governance structures in Colorado that allowed non-consumptive water rights to be claimed by private entities and how this has impacted the regional landscape. Non-consumptive, or in-stream water rights, ensure that at the location where the rights are claimed, the amount of water will not change in quality or quantity due to upstream uses. Read more…

Soil Texture and Plant Concentration on Oil Well Pad Reclamation Sites in Wyoming

Jon investigated the relationship between soil texture and the concentration of woody plants and perennial bunch grasses on oil well pad reclamation sites in Wyoming’s sagebrush steppe. Soil texture is an important factor in soil water storage, because it affects water movement speed through soil.  Read more…

Land Trusts and Water Conservation

Colorado Open Lands
Abbey worked with the nonprofit land trust Colorado Open Lands to learn about private land conservation in the West as a Summer Conservation Fellow. She assisted with conservation and stewardship activities such as monitoring conservation easements from satellite imagery, landowner outreach, and researching innovative methods of water conservation.  Read more…

Improving Aquatic Habitat Connectivity in the Snake River Headwaters

Trout Unlimited
Bryce was the Conservation Intern for Trout Unlimited’s Snake River Headwaters Initiative, a project in partnership with Wyoming Game and Fish Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, local governments, and various non-profit organizations. By measuring fish entrainment rates in agricultural diversions from the Snake River and its tributaries, surveying barriers to fish migration, and engaging in other types of field work in the Jackson area, Bryce worked to protect and restore fish habitat in the Snake and Salt River watersheds of Northwestern Wyoming. Read more…

Understanding Community Perceptions of Recreation and Wildlife in Jackson Wyoming

Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative
As Jackson Hole’s visiting population increases exponentially and recreation use continues to climb, Bryce and Bea worked with the Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative to investigate how to balance Jackson’s growing recreation habits while preserving its existing ecosystems and wildlife. By conducting interviews with Jackson recreators, the team hoped to gain a greater understanding of the motivators and interests of different recreation communities. Read more…

Investigating the Socioecological Importance of Pinyon Forests for Paiute Communities in the Great Basin

Bridgeport Paiute Indian Colony and U.S. Forest Service
Paul’s project investigates socioecological change affecting Paiute communities in California and Nevada. It examines the cultural importance of pinyon forests on lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service and focuses on the development of new approaches to forest management that promote Paiute traditional foods and silvicultural practices. The Great Basin is experiencing increasing frequency of destructive fire, invasion by nonnative species, and loss of habitat for native plants and animals. Paiute communities with strong cultural ties to traditional land use practices and foods are impacted by these changes across the region. Read more…

Exploring the Ecological Impacts of Wildfire in Coniferous Forests in Sierra Nevada

Forest Services, Region 5 & the University of California-Davis
Zhi’s ecological research in the central Sierra Nevadas explores the role of wildfire in forest ecosystems. Large, severe fires have been increasing in recent decades and present major economic and ecological challenges in the western United States. Through collaborating with US Forest Service researchers and the University of California-Davis, Zhi leads a team of four to collect floristics and other ecological data in the coniferous forests burnt by the Rim Fire, a fire burning more than 257,000 acres of the Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite National Park in August 2013. Read more… 

Benthic Macroinvertebrate Survey of Canyon Creek 

The Nature Conservancy, Tensleep Preserve
Joshua’s research surveyed benthic macroinvertebrate communities of Canyon Creek at The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) Tensleep Preserve in order to (1) assess the current communities of this river section, (2) analyze the impacts of two subterranean limestone sink systems and a human diversion on these communities, and (3) provide data and voucher specimens for future studies. Invertebrates of quantitative subsamples from six sites on the creek have been identified to genus level, and a qualitative voucher collection representing the identified invertebrates has been provided to Trey Davis, manager of Tensleep Preserve. Read more…

The Impact of Surface Water on Desert Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis nelsoni) Movement Patterns

California Department of Fish & Wildlife
Though the relationship between resource selection and animal distribution has been thoroughly investigated, few studies link animal movement patterns to resource utilization. By examining animal movement proximate to resource utilization, Danielle hopes to understand the degree of prioritization given to obtaining a resource and contribute to this growing field of study. Desert bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis nelsoni) movement to water in the Mojave Desert comprise her study system. Read more…

Exploring the Interface of Religious Life and Environmental Politics in Montana

Leif is researching independently in northwest Montana where faith-based environmental organizing sets the stage. Three emerging organizations seek to empower religious congregations to take up environmental advocacy — Montana Faith & Environment Coalition, Faith and Climate Action Montana, and Montana Interfaith Power & Light. Through interviews with advocates and faith leaders, Leif is beginning to answer questions about the opportunities and challenges for work at the intersection of religion and environment in the mountain west. Among them: what has been the relationship between religious life and environmental politics and how is that relationship changing over time? What is the status of the ecumenical movement and can the environment be a focus for interfaith work? What kinds of values do religious communities hold regarding their landscape and what language do they use to discuss those values? Read more…

Increasing the Pace and Scale of Conservation in the Tetons through Collaboration

LegacyWorks Group
Shea Flanagan is working with LegacyWorks Group in Jackson, Wyoming to accelerate community-driven impact to advance large-scale conservation efforts in the Teton region. She is assisting the team in executing projects that advance four major goals: 1) increase the ability of local conservation partners to work collaboratively on community- and regional-scale projects, 2) enhance water availability for human and environmental needs in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, 3) protect wildlife migration corridors and winter range for regionally significant species, and 4) expand free-market conservation tools available to local partners.  Read more…

Spatiotemporal Patterns in the Observed Spread of Chronic Wasting Disease Across North America

Meghan is conducting independent research that aims to explore spatiotemporal patterns in the historic and ongoing spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) across North America. CWD is an always-fatal neurodegenerative affliction of captive and free-ranging members of the deer family — i.e., mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, and moose — that has increased in both geographic extent and local prevalence since first being detected in the 1960s. More than merely threatening deer populations, CWD also jeopardizes the widespread ecosystems in which deer play important roles, as well as the multiple industries that rely in some way on the secure existence of abundant, healthy deer. Read more…

Governance and Storytelling Along the Colorado River

The Nature Conservancy, Colorado River Program
Lucas is working for The Nature Conservancy’s Colorado River Program (CRP). His focus for the CRP is two-fold: first, Lucas is researching environmental governance and finance models to facilitate the creation of a water fund for the Colorado River delta. This work entails outreach to stakeholders and coordination with existing environmental funds to glean best practices. The second part of Lucas’ work is focused on storytelling along the Colorado River, to highlight conservation success stories and explore where work still needs to be done. Read more…