AMHERST, Mass. - Katherine Zeller, a doctoral candidate in environmental conservation at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, recently won a Switzer Environmental Fellowship from the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation of Belfast, Maine, for her research on developing effective corridors for wildlife between protected areas and wildlife populations.
Zeller's was one of just 22 fellowships awarded nationwide; the honor comes with a $15,000 prize. The foundation says that fellowships are merit-based and rigorously competitive, and successful candidates have been recognized for their leadership capacity by their academic institution or by environmental experts.
Zeller's research involves using GPS telemetry collars and genetics to study how animals navigate through natural and human-dominated landscapes. By comparing various methods, she is working to identify the most appropriate approaches to modeling animal movement. She says she uses this information to design and conserve wildlife corridors between protected areas, and is currently conducting research in mountain lions of southern California.
Zeller says, "I am honored to be a part of the active and vibrant Switzer network. It truly feels like a community. The fellowship provides incredible support for both professional and personal growth and is unique in that it encourages cross-discipline collaboration to enact positive environmental change."
The foundation, which identifies, supports and nurtures emerging environmental leaders, says the 2015 winners "embody the spirit of creative and collaborative leadership." Lissa Widoff, foundation executive director, adds, "This year's Switzer Fellows are innovators and are dedicated to bringing their research and academic scholarship to real world environmental issues. We are thrilled to see the range of schools and professional fields of study in this year's cohort.
"We know they will benefit not only from our funding, but also from the leadership training and convenings we offer. This will position them for leadership in the nonprofit, government, business and academic sectors in the near future."
The Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation, a family foundation, has invested nearly $15 million in grants over the past 29 years in more than 570 individuals and organizations, leaders in nonprofit, public policy, business, academic and government sectors who drive positive environmental change. It was founded in 1986 as a grant-making organization to mobilize leaders from diverse disciplines who focus on integrated solutions to environmental problems.