OSU grad student receives award from the Ecological Society of America
Friday, March 24, 2023
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Oklahoma State University student Gina Errico has been awarded the Katherine S. McCarter Graduate Student Policy Award (GSPA) by the Ecological Society of America (ESA).
Errico, who received her undergraduate degree from The College of New Jersey (TCNJ), is a master’s student in the Department of Plant Biology, Ecology and Evolution (PBEE).
This annual award offers graduate students the opportunity to get experience with science policy and the chance to meet with lawmakers to discuss federal involvement with the sciences. Errico will travel to ESA headquarters in Washington, D.C., in April to learn about federal processes and to build connections with legislators.
“I am most excited to watch science policy in action and learn from professionals in the field,” Errico said. “I think being able to not only communicate science, but also use science to argue for ecological conservation is a difficult skill to learn and I am looking forward to having the opportunity to work with the people who do that every day.”
Errico has a demonstrated passion for environmental advocacy. As an undergraduate student, she helped establish a group to promote eco-friendly landscaping practices on TCNJ campus. Following that experience, she became an intern with the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed, where she worked with science policy and grew her interest in conservation.
“When taking an ecology course, I learned about the anthropogenic disruptions and negative effects on ecosystems,” Errico said. “That really fueled my passion to not only contribute research in the field, but to communicate to others outside of my field about the importance of protecting ecosystems and help them make connections to the natural world around them so they can admire and respect it.”
When Errico arrived at OSU assistant professor Dr. Benedicte Bachelot’s lab in fall 2021, she knew she was interested in the connection between nature and society. This was a perfect match for a project PBEE had recently developed in Costa Rica. Her research became focused on the effects of fungal pathogen spillover from coffee plantations into tree seedlings in the Central American country.
“One of the key messages from my work is trying to highlight the global impact of our daily choices, like drinking coffee,” Errico said. “Coffee farmers typically depend on nearby forests to provide shade and nutrient-rich soil to their crops. With climate change causing erratic weather patterns, it is endangering the harmony between forests and coffee farms.”
Errico said there are upper-level policy changes that need to be made to adapt to the environmental issues and support farmers. Receiving the GSPA is a big first step in bridging the findings of her research and passion for environmental advocacy. As her advisor, Bachelot was not surprised that she was selected.
“Gina is the perfect recipient for the award,” Bachelot said. “This opportunity will enable Gina to continue developing her science communication skills and help her make a difference in our societies. I cannot wait to see all the great things Gina will do after she graduates in the spring.”
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