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Current Fellowship Awardees
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2018 Fellowship Awardees

Our fellowship winners are the soul of our organization and have impact across many different scientific fields. If you would like to apply for a fellowship yourself, find out more information here.


You can find interviews with each of our fellowship awardees by clicking on their names!


Adele Lewis Grant Fellowship / Nell Mondy Fellowship / Eloise Gerry Fellowship

Kathryn L. Ranhorn

Postdoctoral Fellow

Harvard University

Early Human Social Demography: The Late Stone Age at Kisese II Rockshelter, Tanzania


The Eastern African archaeological record plays a central role in studying the origins, diversification, and survival of modern humans. Our understanding of human behavior during this time period, however, is poorly developed due to a lack of sequences with reliable chronologies. Kisese II rockshelter in central Tanzania has a 6-m-thick deposit that spans the Late Stone Age, the time period when human technologies began to resemble that of modern foragers. Recent re-excavation of the site, led by the applicant, revealed over 5,000 artifacts spanning 45,000 to 4,000 years ago. Using this high-resolution dataset, the research proposed here will establish the timing and tempo of technological change at Kisese II, and test if these changes are linked to shifts in forager mobility. This research relies on 3D quantitative approaches to stone artifact study, measuring characters that the applicant verified through experimental study. By returning to her field site, studying the collections she has excavated, and obtaining new dates for the artifacts, this research will ensure the applicant’s success in establishing Kisese II as a benchmark sequence in human evolutionary studies. This work will have implications for our understanding of early human social demography prior to the dispersal of humans from Africa.


Nell Mondy Fellowship / Vessa Notchev Fellowship / Monique Braude Fellowship

Chequita N. Brooks

PhD Student
East Carolina University

The Application of Iron-Oxidizing Bacterial Mats for Benzene Contaminant Remediation:  An Environmental Study


The molecules benzene, toluene, ethyl-benzene, and xylene (BTEX) are introduced in groundwater by leaking underground storage tanks. This is an ongoing issue due to the toxicity of BTEX to humans and wildlife. Unfortunately, the BTEX molecules, especially benzene, are recalcitrant and highly mobile in waterways making removal difficult. The removal of benzene has primarily centered on developing methods for aerobic or anaerobic degradation in groundwater; above ground benzene contamination has largely been ignored. Contaminated creeks and streams are dynamic systems due to features such as the oxic-anoxic interface; groundwater benzene bioremediation techniques cannot be readily employed because of the unique oxic conditions. This study proposes to collect microbial community data, along with nutrient and benzene concentrations, from a naturally occurring iron-oxidizing bacterial mat in a benzene-impacted stream in Greenville, NC. Pairing microbial community data with nutrient and contaminant concentration will allow me to determine the in situ benzene remediation potential of iron mat communities at the oxic-anoxic interface. As BTEX is a ubiquitous contaminant, the use of iron mats for the removal of benzene could be implemented in similarly impacted locations, helping to address this national issue.


Nell Mondy Fellowship

Clarice Esch

PhD Student

Michigan State University

The ghost of trees past: how long do plant-soil feedbacks persist to influence current tree seedling dynamics?

Individual trees directly modify the soils they occupy, which in turn can affect survival and growth of tree seedlings–a process known as plant-soil feedbacks (PSFs). PSFs are critically important in understanding tree species composition and maintenance of species diversity in forests. Yet, the persistence of PSFs after a tree has died remains an underexplored, but likely phenomena. Persistence of PSFs could be influenced by the type of mycorrhizal fungi with which trees associate. Tree-mycorrhizae associations are dominated by two types, “ecto-” (EMF) or “arbuscular” mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) which differ in their biology and elicit different PSF responses. In a greenhouse study, I aim to understand the influence of mycorrhizal type (AMF vs EMF) on the direction (positive or negative) and the duration of PSF legacy effects on the seedlings of 6 temperate forest tree species. To span variation in time since tree death, I will collect soils near live trees and stumps of trees that have been harvested 1–10 years ago. Seedlings will be grown in these soils (of varying time since tree influence) and monitored for growth and survival. PSF legacies could be key to explaining current seedling dynamics as well as informing forest management and restoration.


Nell Mondy Fellowship / Jean Langenheim Fellowship / Hartley Corporation Fellowship

Meagan E. Wengrove

PhD Student

Oregon State University

Putting science behind resilience: Living shoreline alternatives that limit scour potential


Between 50% and 80% of our coastlines are eroding and climate projections show increased extreme storm event intensity and duration into the future. Historically, in response to extreme events, coastal engineering solutions have looked toward sea-walls, revetments, and breakwaters for protection. However, during extreme events, traditional hard seawall and revetment barriers can create more coastal damage and increased urban flood elevations when compared to nature-based shorelines. Flexible and living shorelines are a new resilient nature-based alternative for coastline safety buffers; however the dynamic response of these systems to storm events is not well characterized. This effort focuses upon addressing the physics behind various design choices used in living shoreline practice. Many living shoreline designs use a slope toe sill to stabilize the foot of a flexible vegetated structure, however, guidance and reasoning behind using different toe materials and shapes is not constrained both from an engineering standpoint and a habitat perspective. This effort will experimentally address this gap in knowledge by measuring the turbulence generation and scour potential of four sill materials (rock, timber, coconut coir logs, oyster bags) that have varying degrees of exposure to the flow field forcing, with full scale laboratory generated waves simulating extreme event intensity.


Nell Mondy Fellowship and Elizabeth Weisburger Fellowship

Lalanti Venkatasubramanian

PhD Student

Columbia University

Establishing a Mechanistic Relationship Between Neuronal Stem Cell Identity and Progeny Motor Neurons in Adult Drosophila Neuromusculature


Most neural circuits comprise of neurons that form distinct and highly stereotyped connections. However, the developmental logic of post-mitotic neurons is largely variable and dependent on the overall architecture and function of the neural circuit they belong to. Motor neurons (MNs), one of the most morphologically stereotyped neurons, execute coordinated movements by forming distinct connections between the central nervous system and muscles in the periphery. In adult Drosophila melanogaster individual leg MNs project their axons to a specific muscle in a highly stereotyped manner. We have demonstrated that post-mitotic leg MNs express combinatorial codes of morphological transcription factors (mTFs) that ultimately direct their axon projections to specific muscle targets. However, the mechanisms that establish such TF codes in post-mitotic neurons are unknown across model organisms. By studying a single stem cell that gives rise to the majority of leg MNs we propose to identify the developmental mechanism responsible for a morphological switch in post-mitotic identities of the progeny leg MNs. A mechanistic correlation between neural stem-cell identity and the unique morphologies of their progeny neurons will be a significant step forward in understanding the development and arrangement of neural circuits.


View past fellowships abstracts here.

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