NatureNet Science Fellows Program

Meet the Class of 2017

The Conservancy welcomes nine talented, early-career scientists to the fifth cohort of NatureNet Science Fellows. Each Fellow’s project is focused on a specific aspect related to mitigating or adapting to climate change. In projects that span the globe, these fellows are tackling solutions-based topics from paintable solar cells to climate smart agriculture to developing inexpensive and simple tools for measuring biodiversity.

Holly Buck (University of California—Los Angeles)
Buck will conduct a feasibility study of the adoption and implementation of solar geoengineering strategies by policy-makers, institutions, and general society. These strategies will help counter rising global temperatures by reducing the amount of sunlight that reaches Earth and its atmosphere. Through interviews of stakeholders her goal is to determine how policies on solar geoengineering should be designed so that environmental and community impacts are incorporated.

Zuzana Burivalova (Queensland University)
Burivalova will use bioacoustics, the sounds animals make when communicating with each other, to develop an inexpensive and simple tool to measure biodiversity in tropical forests. Expanding on her current work which suggests that soundscapes are less saturated with sound as human disturbance increases, Burivalova intends for her work to be used in sustainable forest management and support practices that keep forests as forests.

Clare Kazanski (University of Minnesota)

Conservation-grazing is gaining popularity as a practice of producing more forage for cattle while theoretically maintaining habitat with more biodiversity and carbon storage.  Kazanski plans to assess the effects conservation-grazing strategies on carbon storage and investigate if site conditions, land-use history, and local plant adaptations have an effect on the impact of different grazing strategies in order to prioritize management.

Ashley Keiser (University of Minnesota)
Keiser’s work will attempt to quantify the amount of soil carbon needed to minimize nitrogen loss while simultaneously maintaining productivity in agricultural systems. She intends to use these results to develop soil health metrics for nitrogen management practices in an effort to increase water quality and mitigate climate change.

Anand Osuri (Columbia University)

Using a combination of satellite image analyses, modelling, and field-work, Osuri seeks to inform best-practices for tropical forest restoration, an important strategy worldwide for mitigating climate change. His work will compare two common reforestation practices, planting species-rich forests versus monoculture plantations, to determine if species-rich forests are less sensitive to disturbances such as droughts, thereby providing more reliable carbon sequestration benefits.

Johanne Pelletier (Cornell University)
Pelletier’s research investigates if Zambia’s wood energy supply can be sustainably managed in a manner that will continue to fulfill the country’s growing energy demand while promoting low-carbon development. Pelletier’s ultimate goal is to be able to predict the impacts of socio-economic development, forest cover change, and greenhouse gas emissions on wood energy and test policy scenarios that may help in developing sustainable wood energy practices.

Robert Rossi (Stanford University)
Rossi’s research will focus on one of the largest outstanding questions in soil carbon dynamics, the constraints imposed by limited oxygen on organic matter decomposition and its impacts on carbon turnover and greenhouse gas emissions in soils. This work will provide a framework for developing management recommendations to maximize soil carbon storage while minimizing greenhouse gas emissions

Jonathan Walter (University of Virginia)
Walter’s work will look at North American bird species and determine how they are currently synchronized to fruiting vegetation and insect abundance and evaluate if birds are becoming asynchronous (showing up too early or late) due to climate change. Ultimately his work will be used to determine what areas should be a conservation priority based on their importance to birds across the landscape.

Chenjie Zeng (University of Pennsylvania)

Taking advantage of current advancements in nanotechnology, Zeng’s research aims to develop low-cost and efficient solar “paint or ink” as an alternative to traditional solar cells. Her promising work opens doors to solar cells that can be painted on large surface areas such as buildings, cars,  and roads, taking advantage of existing infrastructure and development.

The Conservancy’s NatureNet Science Fellows Program is made possible by the leadership and generosity of visionary donors, including Roy Vagelos and Steve Denning, who believe that conservation needs to base its work not just in ecology and biology, but in an interdisciplinary approach to science and evidence.

The NatureNet Science Fellows program is an investment in the Conservancy’s future relevance and effectiveness. The projects undertaken by the Fellows are where the organization is making some of its most important breakthroughs in climate change science with direct application across all of the Conservancy’s global priorities: lands, water, oceans and cities.

The materials science and engineering work of the Fellows is at the cutting edge of the foundational science the world needs for alternative energy, climate change adaptation, and clean water technologies.

Fellows working in sustainable agriculture, and soil and forest management for carbon sequestration are having and will continue to have profound effects far beyond The Nature Conservancy, from influencing national agriculture policy in the United States in favor of preserving habitats around farm fields to measuring the capacity of different soils to hold carbon.