NOAA scholarship supports graduate student research in seabird conservation

Aspen Ellis, Ph.D. student in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UC Santa Cruz, is one of seven students nationwide selected by NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries to receive a 2022 Nancy Foster Fellowship.

The fellowship will support Ellis’ work assessing the impacts of offshore wind energy development on seabirds and evaluating the effectiveness of feasible mitigation measures, with a focus on the California Current ecosystem. Through his research, Ellis hopes to facilitate the development of renewable energy while ensuring that seabird populations are not threatened.

This highly competitive scholarship program supports master’s and doctoral degrees in oceanography, marine biology, and maritime archaeology, with a particular focus on supporting the careers of women and minority students.

Ellis works with Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Donald Croll and Adjunct Professor Bernie Tershy, who lead the Conservation Action Lab at UC Santa Cruz. She entered her doctorate. program with more than 10 years of work experience in the field. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan, where she was part of a team that worked on a dataset of 40,000 songbird window collisions to study changes in body size linked to climate change – research that has since been awarded by the Ecological Society of America’s. George Mercer Award for Outstanding Ecological Research Published by Young Authors. As an undergraduate, she also worked with Project Puffin to help with seabird research and management in the Gulf of Maine.

Ellis has also worked with Humboldt State University’s Murre Restoration Project and the US Fish and Wildlife Service Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, contributing to long-term seabird monitoring at several breeding colonies in the Pacific. She has led research and recovery efforts for endangered and threatened shorebirds as a team leader for the US Geological Survey’s Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center in North Dakota and for the non-profit organization Conserve Wildlife Foundation New Jersey. She has also contributed to the conservation efforts of Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch in Michigan and Save Our Shearwaters in Kauai.

Throughout her career, Aspen has taught students of all ages and raised awareness in the communities where she has worked. As a student from a non-traditional background, she is interested in finding creative ways to use outreach and pedagogical techniques to improve access to science for students from historically excluded demographic groups.

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