CAS Trainees

Who are our trainees?

Cohort 7 (Fall 2022)

Motasem Abualzumboz
Motasem Abualqumboz

Civil & Environmental Engineering (he/him/his) I’m a PhD student in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at USU. I’m working with Dr. David Tarboton on performing large-scale hydrological modeling to evaluate the impacts of ongoing global warming and climate change on streamflow generation in the Western United States. The impact of major land disturbances such as land use change will also be addressed. The project involves using physical process-based hydrological models such as the Regional Hydro-Ecological Simulation System (RHESSys) over large study areas such as the Great Salt Lake basin.

Grace Affram
Grace Affram
Plants, Soils, and Climate I am a Ph.D. student from the department of Plants, Soils, and Climate. I graduated from the International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Italy with an M.Sc. in Earth System Physics. I am currently working with Dr. Wei Zhang investigating the natural variability of drought in the American West. My current research focuses on attributing how human activities might have increased the severity of the 2021 western U.S. drought. I'm also particularly interested in discovering the main drivers of the failed 2020 North American monsoon and how it could affect the current drought situation.

Mahmud Aveek
Mahmud Aveek
Civil & Environmental Engineering Mahmud is a Ph.D. student working on climate adaptive water management, conservation behavior, behavioral sustenance, residential water use, and climate-resilient policy development. As civil engineer with a strong background in water resources management, Mahmud spent most of his career working on big-scale projects focusing on climate-resilient infrastructural development, agricultural water management, and food security.

Rachel Clarke
Rachel Clarke
Environmental Science & Geography I am a Master's Student in the Environmental Science department at USU. I graduated from BYU-Idaho with an Interdisciplinary degree in Earth Science. I am currently working with Peter Howe on various projects, including my own master's focusing on second-order opinion on climate change in the context of social media influence.

Emily Calhoun
Emily Calhoun
Biology I am a Biology PhD student in Dr. Norah Saarman's lab. We investigate the population genetics and disease ecology of various vectors such as Tsetse flies in Uganda and Aedes aegypti mosquito in Colombia. My dissertation research is focused on describing a hybrid zone of the Culex pipiens species complex across the state of Utah. This interdisciplinary project involves a partnership with Mosquito Abatement Districts to monitor mosquito populations. Characterizing this species complex will inform vector control agencies as these populations change with the climate and is vitally important to understand questions of gene flow and speciation.

Cody Ratterman
Cody Ratterman
Plants, Soils, and Climate I graduated from Washburn University in Topeka, KS studying computational physics and researching the possible effects of a Supernova event on Earth's climate. I am currently a master's student working with Dr. Wei Zhang on projects with Weather Regimes and WEstern U.S. snowpack. When I'm not working on school or doing research, I spend most of my time at the local climbing gym or enjoying the parks around Logan Canyon.


Cohort 6 (Fall 2020)

Emily Burgess
Emily Burgess

Biology (she/her/hers) I graduated from Grinnell College in 2019 with a B.A. in Biology and a concentration in Environmental Studies. From there I went to work in Dr. Sarah Evans and Dr. Nick Haddad’s labs at Michigan State University's Kellogg Biological Station, where I worked on projects that broadly focused on soil microbial ecology, plant/microbe interactions, and agroecology. Now as a PhD student in the Biology department, I plan to investigate plant/insect/microbe interactions, and how these interactions could be used to improve agricultural sustainability. 

Emily Chavez
Emily Chavez

Watershed Sciences (she/her/hers) I graduated from Colorado State University with a degree in Natural Resource Management and a minor in Watershed Science. I worked in different labs that focused on the impacts of climate change on grasslands, the impacts of fire on the Poudre River and the interactions of various snow zone and ephemeral streams. My interest in aquatic ecology lead me to work with Pacific Fish Inland Fish Biological Opinion Program that covers the Columbia Watershed Basin and eventually to the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies as Habitat Biologist in the Upper Rio Grande Basin. Currently, I am pursuing a Masters of Ecology under the guidance of Trisha Atwood working in coastal wetlands of Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. 

Jace Colby
Jace Colby

Environment & Society I am currently an M.S. Geography student working with Dr. Peter Howe. I graduated with a B.S. in Geography from Weber State University where I was able to complete a couple hands-on classes on limiting the carbon footprints of numerous buildings and landscapes on campus. I did undergraduate research on culture and climate change opinion and hope to continue some form of that for my thesis research. 

M.S. Geography, 2023

Adrian Gonzalez
Adrian Gonzalez

Watershed Sciences (he/him/his) I graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.S. in Ecology and Environment in 2020. I am interested in the effects of both local and global stressors, such as overfishing and climate change, on marine ecosystem change and the repercussions this will have on the coastal communities that depend on these ecosystems. Currently, I am an incoming M.S. Ecology student working with Dr. Trisha Atwood looking at marine fisheries and nutrient cycling, emphasizing the amounts of carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorous being released due to global fishing practices.

Patrick Kelly
Patrick Kelly

Environment & Society (he/him/his) I am an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary PhD student under Dr. Sarah Klain identifying and helping to activate climate-adapted food sovereignty practices with the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation. I earned my BA in Middle Eastern Studies from Florida State University in 2013 with a focus on Dead Sea Scrolls apocalyptic literature. I earned my MS in Outdoor and Environmental Education from Alaska Pacific University in 2015 and my thesis work developed an educational model for teaching hope within climate change education. Professionally, I have worked for over a decade in science communication and environmental education roles, primarily within the nonprofit sector, in Utah, Alaska, Maine, New Mexico, and Florida.

Karem Meza
Karem Meza

Civil & Environmental Engineering (she/her/hers) I am a PhD student in the department of Civil & Environmental Engineering at Utah State University. My current research is focused on quantifying evapotranspiration drivers in an environment that limit the application of traditional energy and water balance approaches, by studying potential adaptation of energy balance models for vegetation using UAV and satellite information based on better understanding of evapotranspiration drivers in urban environments. I am working with Dr.  Alfonso Torres and Dr. Lawrence Hipps. 

Mitchell Parsons
Mitchell Parsons

Wildland Resources (he/him/his) I have a Bachelors from University of Idaho in Ecology and Conservation Biology and MS from University of Washington in Wildlife Sciences. The complexity of natural systems has always fascinated me and my research interests revolve around species interactions and community ecology, with a focus on mammals. My dissertation research investigates how invasive wild pigs interact with native cougars and deer to develop a more complete understanding of the impacts of this rapidly spreading invasive species.

Michaela Shallue
Michaela Shallue

Geosciences (she/her/hers) I an M.S. Geology student interested in arid and fluvial geomorphology. In 2019, I graduated with my B.S. in Geology from Northern Arizona University. There, I became interested in the relationship between climate and fluvial geomorphology. This was explored through my undergraduate research, where I aimed to simulate a watershed’s hydrology in response to climate change. I am motivated when my research applies to people, which stems from my interests in science outreach and communication. Here at Utah State University, I’m working with Dr. Joel Pederson to investigate erosion rates in arid environments and geoscience outreach. 

Ren Weinstock
Ren Weinstock

Biology (they/them/theirs) I earned my B.S. in Biology from Tufts University in 2018. Following graduation, I completed several fieldwork positions focused on coastal ecology, conservation, and nesting sea turtle research. I am excited to apply this experience to my M.S. research with Dr. Karen Kaphiem, where I will be studying the social behavior of sweat bees in relation to changing environmental conditions.

Diane Wagner
Diane Wagner

Watershed Sciences (she/her/hers) I received my B.A in Geosciences from Franklin & Marshall College where I found my passion for geomorphology. After graduating, I was an intern for the NASA Summer Undergraduate Program for Planetary Research where I examined periglacial alluvial fans to explore whether these fans have similar geomorphic characteristics to non-periglacial Martian fans. Following that, I worked for the U.S Geological Survey in Moab, UT as a Biological Science Technician conducting research to address the issues of global climate change, biogeochemistry, and pedogenesis. Now, I am working with Dr. Peter Wilcock in the Department of Watershed Sciences as an M.S student. My research interests include fluvial geomorphology, sediment transport, and river channel change. I strive to understand how these processes are impacted by climate change while using maps to understand these changes.



Cohort 5 (Fall 2020)

Siiri Bigalke
siirri bigalke

Plants, Soils, & Climate (she/her/hers) I am a student in Climate Science at Utah State University studying climate dynamics, variability, and adaptation with a strong background in translating science into policy on the local, national, and international levels. My current research is focused on changes to cold weather climate extremes in the context of global warming. My passion is helping communities create science-informed action to build resiliency to the challenges posed by climate change.

M.S. Climate Science, 2023
PhD student, Portland State University

Josh Carrell
josh carrell

Wildland Resources I am currently an M.S. Ecology Student working with Dr. Tom Edwards and the Utah Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit on terrestrial species distribution modeling. Graduating with a B.S. in Geospatial Computing from Brigham Young University-Idaho, I learned to think spatially and had a keen interest in spatial ecology. I now use a variety of tools in remote sensing, geospatial analysis, species distribution and occupancy modeling, and conservation planning to understand how plant and wildlife individuals, populations, and communities interact and are distributed spatially. My thesis research explores the distribution of rare and endangered plants in the Colorado Plateau and their associations with energy development and climate change impacts.

M.S. Ecology, 2022
PhD student, Colorado State University

Melissa Cobo Arias
melissa cobo arias
Watershed Sciences (she/her/hers) My research interests are in Limnology. I'm interested in understanding our lakes and rivers and the dangers they face. I'm also interested in CO2 emissions, especially when looking at areas that used to work as sinks of CO2 that could now potentially be sources.  I'm currently working on CO2 fluxes of dry lake beds and Primary Production rates of the Great Salt Lake (GSL) to understand dry flux emissions and other factors that could be affecting the GSL area.

M.S. Watershed Science, 2022

Kane Cook
kane cook
Environment & Society (he/him/his) I graduated from Middle Tennessee State University in 2018 with a B.S. in Physical Geography and a minor in agriculture. After graduating, I was a participant for the NASA DEVELOP National Program for two terms, conducting research on environmental topics related to ecology, natural disasters, and infrastructure using geospatial analysis. Following that, I moved to Huntsville, AL where I worked full time as a NASA contractor and as an NGA contractor. Now, I am working with Dr. Peter Howe in the Department of Environment and Society and will be getting my M.S. in Geography. My research interests include evaluating impacts, changes, and variations in natural disasters, understanding how climate and climate change plays a role, how human populations are affected, and using maps to understand and communicate these changes to the public."

M.S. Geography, 2022
PhD student, Utah State University

Leanna DeJong
leanna dejong
Environment & Society (she/her/hers) I received my B.S. in Biology, B.A. in Spanish, and minor in Environmental Studies from Calvin University. After graduating, I worked several outdoor education and wildlife- and plant-related fieldwork positions before beginning my M.S. in Environment and Natural Resources at the Ohio State University. There, I investigated how removing an invasive shrub impacts birds and led the local chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration. I am broadly interested in the human dimensions of nature-based solutions. For my PhD with Dr. Mark Brunson, I plan to explore how faith communities might contribute to biodiversity conservation on, e.g., worship center grounds, via wildscaping - a climate adaptation strategy.

Emily Fletcher
emily fletcher

Environment & Society (she/her/hers) I work with Sarah Klain and Roslynn McCann looking at how risks regarding negative emissions technologies are perceived. I am also interested in learning more about the social and political enablers and barriers to mitigating climate change, as well as climate education programs for the public.

Rachel Frantz
rachel frantz

Mathematics & Statistics (she/her/hers) I graduated from the University of La Verne with a B.S. in Mathematics in May 2019. I am currently a second year PhD student in the USU department of Mathematics and Statistics. My current research interests are centered around disease modeling; however, I have developed an interest in the application of mathematical models to make informed choices in the face of climate change. Over the past summer, I engaged in research investigating the impact of the covid-19 pandemic on greenhouse gas production. This research has inspired me to leverage mathematics to gain a greater understanding of climate change.

Kaeli Mueller
Kaeli Mueller

Environment & Society (she/her/hers) I graduated from Brigham Young University with a BS in conservation biology and minors in environmental science and Statistics. My research interests include natural resource management, climate change, and biodiversity conservation. I am pursuing an MS in Geography in the Fall of 2020. My research at Utah State University studies how human appropriation of net primary production affects biodiversity in the United States. I hope to be able to inform future policy and management decisions with sound scientific information. The importance of understanding of how humans interact with the environment will only increase in the future, and I'm excited to have a part in it. 

M.S. Geography, 2022
Data Manager, Utah State University

April Phinney
april phinney

Geosciences I obtained a B.S. in Geology from Wheaton College (IL), where I learned to love geomorphology and value interdisciplinary studies. Two internships—collecting water quality samples and promoting river conservation awareness in Colorado (through The Roaring Fork Conservancy), and investigating the fluvial geomorphic history of two streams in Yellowstone National park utilizing field collection and computer modeling (through the KECK Geology Consortium funded by the NSF)—deepened my desire to understand the history of a geomorphic system to wisely steward such regions in the future. I am currently an M.S. student working with Tammy Rittenour to explore wildfire heating of soils and rocks and how this information fits within a larger climatic history.

M.S. Geology, 2022
Wetland & Riparian Ecologist, Birch Ecology

Cohort 4 (Fall 2019)

The CAS trainees in cohort 4 are all working together on a California Wildfires project. The project seeks to pair spatial data designating fire spread & severity and a survey built to (1) understand how experiences of wildfire (e.g., smoke, power shutoffs, property damage) may have impacted California residents in the past year, and (2) learn more about views on wildfire policies and programs.

Erika Blomdahl
Erika Blomdahl
Wildland Resources (she/her/hers) I received a B.S. in Conservation and Resource Studies from U.C. Berkeley in 2011, and an M.S. in Ecology from Utah State University in 2018. I have worked in forestry and natural resource management for 10 years, most recently as the Senior Analyst for the Utah Forest Institute at USU. I am currently working towards a PhD in Forest Ecology with Dr. Justin DeRose. My dissertation will examine disturbance ecology/interactions and climate adaptation of western forests.

Ecologist, Sierra Nevada Inventory & Monitoring Network

Alexander Howe
alexander howe
Wildland Resources (he/him/his) I received my B.A. in Biology from Macalester College and my M.S. in Ecology from Utah State University where I studied seedling-based quaking aspen restoration. Outside of school, I worked for both the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service, and also served as a Peace Corps agroforestry volunteer in Senegal working with rural farmers. Currently, I am a PhD student with Dr. Larissa Yocom studying fire ecology. My dissertation will explore, in part, the underlying scale of heterogeneity of ecological fire effects across western landscapes following wildfire and the impact of that variability on vegetation recovery.

Dakoeta Pinto
Dakoeta Pinto
Environment & Society (he/him/his) I recently graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University with a B.A. in Environmental Studies and a minor in business management. I conducted undergraduate research on the habitat preferences of small mammals on an urbanized campus. The results reflected that urban development affected which species were found where and how frequently. The results of this research and the minor in business management got me interested in the interactions and relationships people have with each other and with the environment which lead me to the Environment & Society program at Utah State University. I will be working with Sarah Klain on a thesis that looks at incorporating social and cultural values into ecosystem service assessments and possibly looking at how renewable landscape designs could benefit biodiversity.

M.S. Environment & Society, 2022
Marine Science/Environmental Educator, Tampa Bay Watch

Adelle Smith-Eskridge
Adelle Smith-Eskridge
Biology (she/her/hers) I graduated from University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a B.S. in Environmental Studies, minors in biology, math, and french. For the past four years as an environmental scientist in the public and private sectors, I have observed water quality and water supply issues in freshwater ecosystems such as severe flooding events and fish kills in lakes. Through these professional experiences, I have become inspired to answer important scientific questions related to freshwater ecology and climate change. For my master’s project, I will be working with Michelle Baker to examine the effects of climate change on freshwater ecosystems.

M.S. Biology, 2022
Researcher, BioWest


Cohort 3 (Fall 2018)


Sarah Bogen
sarah bogen
Mathematics & Statistics (she/her/hers) I have a B.A. in Mathematics from Capital University with minors in Biology and Computer Science. My interest in quantitative biology has allowed me to work with a variety of topics and spacial scales, including the continental spread of White-Nose Syndrome in bats, epidemiology on commercial dairy farms, population dynamics of Chlamydia within host cells, genome assembly, and statistical genetics. For my PhD research I will use a data-driven modeling approach to estimate extinction risk of plant species under climate change. I hope to effectively contribute to interdisciplinary teams while disseminating scientific knowledge through education and advocacy.

M.S. Statistics, 2022

Lindsay Capito
lindsay capito
Watershed Sciences I am a master's student in the department of Watershed Sciences at USU. I moved to Utah from Arizona to complete my bachelor’s degree in Restoration and Management of Aquatic Ecosystems after completing general education classes at community college. Before entering college, I spent time working in various fields ranging from selling motorcycles to emergency medicine. During my time at community college I became increasingly aware of the issues facing the environment and felt compelled to learn more. This inquiry led me to the world of watershed science where I have found a passion for water research. For my master’s project I will be exploring the connection between Didymo, an often problematic algal species, and glacial retreat.

M.S. Watershed Sciences, 2020
PhD Student, University of Padova

Morgan Christman
morgan christman
Biology (she/her/hers) I graduated from Denison University with a B.S. in Biology and a B.A. in Environmental Studies. My research interests broadly include climate change, geospatial analysis, wildlife conservation, and entomology. For my MS in Ecology, I am using geospatial analysis to research the extent to which temporal changes in climate variability and landscape structure impacts bee and ladybird beetle diversity surrounding corn and alfalfa fields in Utah. I am interested in determining how certain beneficial insect species could be impacted further with changes in abiotic factors and as urbanization continues throughout agricultural land in Utah.

PhD Biology, 2022
Post-doctoral researcher, Ohio State

Sofia Koutzoukis
Sofia Koutzoukis
Wildland Resources (she/her/hers) I graduated from Lewis & Clark College with a B.A. in Biology. My dissertation research focuses on abiotic drivers of plant-plant interactions across the Intermountain West to elucidate alternative management strategies to maintain and restore sagebrush communities. I am interested in how the effects of disturbances scale between the individual plant to the landscape, and the climate variation and management mosaics encountered when engaging across landscapes. Rangelands in the West provide an excellent backdrop to study questions of changing disturbances and abiotic regimes, and how people and their decisions fit into the changes.

PhD Ecology, 2023
Post-doctoral researcher, Kent State University

Betsy Morgan
betsy morgan
Civil & Environmental Engineering (she/her/hers) I have a B.S. in Biological and Ecological Engineering from Oregon State University. My interests include natural engineering within river systems and aquatic ecosystem management. I am thrilled to work with Dr. Belize Lane at Utah State University and research the interaction of hydrology, hydraulics, and ecosystem response for improved management of the South Fork Eel River Basin in California. I look forward to engaging with others to develop interdisciplinary solutions that address societal and ecosystem needs in the face of complex climate and environmental uncertainties.

M.S. Civil & Environmental Engineering, 2020
Staff Engineer, Colorado River Authority of Utah

Christina Morrisett
christina morrisett
Watershed Sciences (she/her/hers) I have a B.S. in Earth Systems with a focus in ocean science from Stanford University and recently received an M.S. in Aquatic and Fishery Sciences from the University of Washington. My upbringing in coastal Alaskan commercial fishing communities inspired an ambition to sustain natural resources and the communities that depend on them. In partnership with a fishery nonprofit in southeastern Idaho, my doctoral research investigates how managed aquifer recharge can extend water supply and improve aquatic habitat, mitigating the effects of climate change on farmers and fly-fishers.

PhD Watershed Science, 2023
Water Resources Consultant, Henry's Fork Foundation

Will Munger
will munger
Environment & Society (he/him/his) I’m joining the Climate Adaptation Science program after a decade of working in climate justice movements. My background is in community organizing, journalism, farming, ranching, construction, and anthropology. I hope to contribute to building integrated approaches of adapting food systems and watershed management to the challenges of climate change. I’m currently working on a research team that is investigating the human dimensions of a landscape scale watershed restoration project in Bolivia that supports ranchers and farmers to protect water and forests.

Henrik Panosyan
Henrik Panosyan
Plants, Soils & Climate I have a B.S. in Atmospheric Science from the University of California, Davis, and started pursuing an MS in Climate Science in Fall 2018. My general interests revolve around the North American Dipole and its intensification in recent years, which has been linked to anomalous weather and climate extremes such as flooding and drought in the Western States. With my research, I hope to shine a better light on potential short and long-term consequences that may arise as the dipole evolves in tandem with our warming planet.

M.S. Climate Science, 2020

Brittany Harris
Brittany Shield Harris
Environment & Society (she/her/hers) I have a B.S. in Psychology from Nebraska Wesleyan University. Broadly, I seek to incorporate social science as a mainstream component of climate change and to further the understanding of intergroup dynamics of environmentally conscious communities and to facilitate group efforts among global communities. I hope to play a role in encouraging pragmatic policies that proactively refer to ecological integrity as a critical component of human wellbeing.

Kaitlyn Spangler
kaitlyn spangler
Environment & Society (she/her/hers) I have a B.A. in Anthropology and a B.S. in Community, Environment, and Development from Penn State University, as well as an M.S. in Geography from Virginia Tech. A common thread through my work is a grounded interest in food security, community resilience, and sustainability and equity of food production systems across international contexts. My current PhD research focuses on understanding land use diversity and productivity of U.S. agricultural systems at a landscape level. I hope to collaborate amongst diverse backgrounds and skillsets toward a common goal of integrating climate-forward research with practice and policy.

PhD Environment & Society, 2022
Assistant Professor, Penn State

Jacob Stuivenvolt Allen
Jacob Stuivenvolt Allen
Plants, Soils & Climate (he/him/his) I have a B.S. in Environmental Science from Loyola Marymount University. I am interested in predictive climate modeling that provides information valuable for natural resource management or environmental mitigation. As climate change impacts us in diverse and complex ways, I aim to improve my environmental stewardship to include a more diverse understanding of the social, political and economic hurdles we face.

PhD Climate Science, 2022
Post-doctoral researcher, Yale University

Cohort 2 (Fall 2017)


Hadia Akbar
hadia akbar
Civil & Environmental Engineering I have a B.S. in Agricultural Engineering from Pakistan and am pursuing a master's degree in Water Resources Engineering. My research interests include studying the effects of climate change on water resources and, by extension, on agriculture. I want to develop a better understanding of the processes in climate and the relation with water systems. For my master's, I am researching the historic effects of large climate fluctuation and extreme events (extended droughts and episodic floods) on agricultural production in the Upper Colorado River Basin to predict trends and to inform water users to operate their systems to cope with extreme climatic events.

M.S. Water Resources Engineering, 2019
PhD Student, Utah State University

Lainie Brice
lainie brice
Wildland Resources (she/her/hers) I graduated from the University of Maryland with a B.S. in Environmental Science and Policy, and recently obtained an M.S. in Marine Mammal Science from the University of St Andrews in Scotland. For my doctoral research, I am studying food-web dynamics and predator-prey interactions in Yellowstone National Park. The impact of climate change on this ecosystem has been largely excluded from previous analysis, and I would like to incorporate such impacts into my research.

PhD Ecology, 2022
Post-doctoral researcher, Cornell University

Kirsten Goldstein
Kirsten Goldstein
Environment & Society I have a B.A. in Geography from Bemidji State University in northern Minnesota. I am fascinated by the real-world application of spatial analysis to environmental policies. My research ambitions are focused on examining potential climate refugee communities and indigenous sacred geographies. I am driven to investigate policies that will help locals protect their various resources without harming their community structure.

M.S. Geography, 2019
Mass Care Planning Manager, State of Indiana

Guen Grosklos
Guen Grosklos
Mathematics & Statistics (he/him/his) I have a B.S. in Applied Mathematics from Millersville University. I am researching mathematical biology, spanning ecological modeling, eco-evolutionary dynamics, and epidemiology. I am fascinated with the application of mathematics to real-world situations, and always looking for opportunities for interdisciplinary collaborations to broaden my knowledge of non-mathematical fields while offering a unique perspective for team projects.

PhD Mathematics & Statistics, 2021
Data & Models Analyst, Speed Goat

Rachel Hager
rachel hager
Watershed Sciences I graduated from Bryn Mawr College with a B.A. in Biology. Having spent several summers at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, I came to USU to pursue a PhD in Ecology. My specific research investigates the use of genetic diversity within native wetland plants to enhance restoration potentials. My research interests include climate change, wetland restoration, and science communication. I look forward to incorporating climate change in my PhD research while working with not only researchers, but also with people of varying backgrounds and opinions, so we can all reach better solutions. Coming from a research background gives me a certain type of insight; however, it is only with the coming together of a variety of unique insights that we can truly make progress.

M.S. Ecology, 2021
Communications Specialist, NOAA

Brett Miller
brett miller
Sociology, Social Work & Anthropology I have a B.S. from Bryant College in Rhode Island. I began my academic career as an environmental educator, earning a Environmental Education Certificate in 2013. I wrote my thesis on the ecosystem service value of streamflow in the Salmon River Basin, Idaho. In my doctoral program, I am working with Dr. Courtney Flint studying the values and vulnerabilities associated with water in northern Utah as well as regional perspectives on the Wasatch Mountains as important bioregional features.

PhD Sociology, 2020
Post-doctoral researcher, University of Montana

Tara Saley
tara saley
Biology I have a B.S. in biochemistry/molecular biology with a minor in environmental studies from Otterbein University, and will have an MS in land resources and environmental sciences from Montana State University. Broadly, my interest is in genetics of organisms in changing environments (such as those that exist due to climate change). For my masters I looked at changes in gene expression in microbes exposed to arsenic, and for my PhD I will work on quantifying the contribution of functional genetic variation to an organism’s success on a non-native plant. I am excited about this program's interdisciplinary collaboration and working on communicating my scientific work effectively.

M.S. Civil & Environmental Engineering, 2020
Environmental Engineer, Autoliv

Emily Wilkins
emily wilkins
Environment & Society (she/her/hers) I have a B.S. in Environmental Science and Environmental Policy with a minor in Biology from Drake University, and an M.S. in Forest Resources from the University of Maine. I am researching the impacts of climate change on outdoor recreation. Specifically, I am interested in how climate change will impact visitation to protected areas, and how this will impact the surrounding communities.

PhD Environment & Society, 2020
Research Social Scientist, USGS

Hongchao Zhang
Hongchao Zhang
Environment & Society I graduated from the University of Maine with a B.S. degree in Parks, Recreation and Tourism, and obtained an M.S. degree in Natural Resources and a GIS certificate from the University of Missouri. I am ecstatic to explore out west and doing research about the impact of climate change on public land and understanding how outdoor recreationists respond to climate-altered resource conditions.

PhD Environment and Society, 2020
Assistant Professor, Hunan Normal University

Scott Zimmer
scott zimmer
Wildland Resources (he/him/his) I graduated from Wesleyan University with B.A. degrees in Earth & Environmental Science and Biology. I am researching the vegetation ecology of rangelands in the Uintah and Ouray Indian Reservation. I am drawn to rangelands as managed landscapes called upon not only to provide agricultural benefits, but also myriad ecosystem services over vast areas. I am interested in how growing disturbances in rangelands caused by climate change will alter plant communities, wildfire regimes, and our food system.

M.S. Ecology, 2020
Rangeland Management Specialist, BLM

Cohort 1 (Spring 2017)


Ryan Choi
ryan choi
Wildland Resources I have a B.A. in Biology from Whitman College, and an M.S. in Ecology, Wildland Resources from Utah State University. I am studying the impacts of climate change on ecosystem function in the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. I have focused on how the phenology of sub-arctic tundra plants and the seasonal arrival of migratory Pacific black brant (Branta bernicla nigricans) affect nutrient cycling and storage in a sedge-dominated ecosystem.

PhD Ecology, 2021
Project Manager, Utah State University

Emily Esplin
Emily Esplin
Environment & Society I have a B.S. in Marriage, Family & Human Development from Brigham Young University and a B.A. in Spanish from Utah Valley University. I am passionate about helping local people build resilience to natural hazards in their community through protective behaviors, smart planning, and emergency preparedness. I am currently studying how Americans adapt to extreme heat events and how this hazard is communicated in Utah. My other research interests include disaster risk reduction, risk perception and communication, and natural hazards mitigation and outreach campaigns.

M.S. Geography, 2018
Network Facilitator, United Way of Northern Utah

Muyang Ge
Muyang Ge
Applied Economics I have a B.S. in Environmental Science & Management from Xiamen University and an M.S. in Environmental & Natural Resource Economics from the University of Illinois. I am researching the dynamic interaction of rural and urban economies in response to water use constraints and its variability under a changing climate. I am interested in the impact of land property rights on agricultural practices and on water market. I am currently working on climate resiliency of agricultural production on American Indian Lands of the Great Basin region.

PhD Economics, 2019
Faculty, Nanjing Audit University

Natalie Gillard
Natalie Gillard
Watershed Science I have a B.A. in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology from the University of Colorado. I am researching the forms and functions of river systems to gain a deeper understanding of sediment transport, its role in ecosystem processes and implications for societal welfare and risk. I am specifically interested in disturbed river systems and restoration strategies to enhance resilience and health of those rivers and their surrounding ecosystems and am interested in how to predict and understand the ecosystem and societal effects of climate extremes. My overall goal is to not only gain a deeper understanding of these processes but also to gain experience communicating my results effectively to the scientific and nonscientific community to develop solutions.

M.S. Watershed Sciences, 2019
Law student, University of Oregon

Jeffrey Haight
Jeffrey Haight
Watershed Sciences I have a B.S. from the University of California, Davis in Environmental Science and Management. My broad research interests tend to fall at the intersection between landscape ecology, wildlife conservation, and global change ecology. My current work deals with using climate projections to assess vulnerability of Utah's ecoregions to climatic changes, modeling species' response to shifting climate envelopes, and combining these results to identify areas of priority conservation concern. Through the Climate Adaptation Science program, I would further like to investigate the synergistic effects of climate change and urbanization on the connectivity of vulnerable landscapes and explore the conservation implications associated with those impacts.

M.S. Ecology, 2019
PhD Student, Arizona State University

Liana Prudencio
Liana Prudencio
Watershed Sciences I have a B.S. in Journalism & Mass Communication from Iowa State University and an M.S. in Sociology from the University of Utah. My research interests largely focus on incorporating social and environmental objectives into water resource management. I am currently on a research team of watershed scientists, engineers, and sociologists investigating the potential of managed aquifer recharge via stormwater management to adapt to climate change impacts. The effects of climate change are vast and various, just as our solutions should be, and I look forward continuing my research goal of linking the social and natural dimensions of climate change in the Climate Adaptation Science program.

M.S. Sociology, 2014
PhD Watershed Science, 2020
Biologist/Ecologist, EPA