Using mosquitoes in Liberia to detect viruses before they become a global threat. Researching antibiotic resistance in livestock. Tracking air pollution in national parks.
These are only a few of the interdisciplinary research topics of the 20 newly-named Sustainability Leadership Fellows for the 2015-16 academic year.
Ph.D. students and postdoctoral fellows in research and educational science fields are working together to focus on communication and leadership development for the fifth year in a row through the School of Global Environmental Sustainability.
“These are our next thought leaders,” said Aleta Weller, Research and Outreach Coordinator for SoGES. “These are the next group of people (studying) sustainability science, and they’re going to be producing a lot of the information that we need to use to solve these grand challenges.”
The Sustainability Leadership Fellows will access training and tools to help them better communicate their work to the public and colleagues outside of their discipline, according to Weller.
“Sustainability is the intersection of environment, society and the economy,” Weller said. “There is no one discipline that can really address any of those grand challenges distinctively.”
Seven of the eight colleges at Colorado State University are represented within this year’s cohort. More than 60 applications were received this year, while in total, 80 Ph.D. and postdoctoral students have completed the program, according to Weller.
“We select them based on their interest in communicating science to the public and the media, the applicability of training to long-term career plans and demonstration of strong motivation to improve communication and leadership skills,” Weller said.
Nathan Grubaugh, a fourth year Ph.D. student in microbiology, immunology and pathology, is a newly-named fellow whose research can apply to the issues of global sustainability.
“I am in this because of what infectious disease (is) and how that influences having a sustainable community,” Grubaugh said. “If you are constantly sick, you can’t do anything else. That is meeting the basic human needs.”
Grubaugh’s research in Liberia has allowed him to map viruses inside swarms of mosquitoes containing human blood.
“We are trying to map how the virus changes to become something that is distinctly different than what it started as,” Grubaugh said. “There is not a lot of infrastructure there to make a sustainable community because they are battling disease all the time.”
Grubaugh said being a Sustainability Leadership Fellow will allow him to network and collaborate with people of similar mindsets.
Another Sustainability Leadership Fellow from this year’s cohort is Noelle Noyes, a Ph.D. student in clinical sciences. She is researching antibiotic resistance in food production.
“We looked at antibiotic resistance in pens of cattle from the time they entered the food lot all the way to when they were slaughtered and then the beef was packaged,” Noyes said.
Her research on genes in the DNA of cattle, swine and poultry specializes on the change of antibiotic resistance over time. Noyes said she is trying to inform the larger CSU community about how food is produced.
“I think sustainability is one of the biggest challenges that we face,” Noyes said. “It is a good thing for a university to identify people who can lead in that area and galvanize other people and students of the same generation to be thinking about it.”
Among many other students in this year’s cohort is Ashley Evanoski-Cole, a Ph.D. student in atmospheric sciences. She is researching air quality in national parks, focusing specifically in Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.
“It is hard to imagine one single person having an impact on a global system,” Evanoski-Cole said. “I (am) motivated by the desire to help understand things like climate change, and what we can do to reduce the negative impacts.”
She said she would like to use her career to impact global issues such as climate change, while helping people understand the importance of air quality.
“The communication piece is really important in being able to get your message out to the policymakers and the general public,” Evanoski-Cole said. “What good is your science if people can’t understand why it is important?”
This year’s Sustainability Leadership Fellows will complete a two-day science communication training workshop in August, as well as additional training provided throughout the year.
“I spend (every day) with people doing the same research as me, but it is hard to transition and be able to talk to people of other backgrounds,” said Evanoski-Cole. “What is important is getting the word about the issue out to the broader community.”
There is no single discipline that can answer the biggest questions of global sustainability, Weller said. Additionally, there are 17 other unique Sustainability Leadership Fellows within this year’s cohort: Charlotte Alster, Mike Angstadt, Brittany Bloodhart, Ana Bossa Castro, Amber Childress, Renee Curry, Ellen Daugherty, Adam Dillon, John Field, Tandra Fraser, Shifra Goldenberg, Dylan Harrison-Atlas, Adrian Monroe, Aaron Pina, Patricia Salerno, Amy Sheflin and Zachary Wurtzebach.
“All of these are big, global things,” Grubaugh said about the global sustainability issues in today’s world. “If we are going to continue to be here, obviously we need to be sustainable. By recognizing people who are leaders, it is helping put CSU at the forefront of some of this research. Putting all these people together, we can maybe come up with some really cool solutions for the future.”
Collegian Reporter Christina Vessa can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @ChrissyVessa.