Dr Travis Reynolds

Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Dr. Travis Reynolds

REU Site Faculty

Dr. Travis Reynolds. An Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies in the Environmental Studies Program at Colby College, Dr. Travis Reynolds holds a Master of Science in Community Development and Applied Economics from the University of Vermont and a Ph.D. in Public Policy and Management from the University of Washington. His research areas include institutional economics, agricultural development, and payments for environmental services, with an emphasis on the links between agriculture, food security, community governance institutions and the environment.

He has been involved in environmental research and community outreach activities in Ethiopia since 2007, including teaching two courses in Ethiopia at the Wondo Genet College of Forestry and Natural Resources where he is also a graduate student research advisor. He has conducted church forest-related research in South Gondar since 2012, working with U.S. undergraduate student assistants and local translators and collaborators from Debre Tabor University to conduct interviews and social surveys exploring formal and informal rules governing church forest access and use. These fieldwork activities are complemented by lab-based Geographic Information Systems (GIS) research exploring changes in church forest canopy cover over time via remote sensing.

Dr Denise Bruesewitz

Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Dr. Denise Bruessewitz

Dr. Denise Bruesewitz. An Assistant Professor of Environmental Science in the Environmental Studies Program at Colby College, Dr. Denise Bruesewitz received her Ph.D. in Biological Sciences from the University of Notre Dame, followed by postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Waikato Lake Ecosystem Restoration Program and at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute.

She is broadly interested in how human activities alter aquatic ecosystems and the services they provide. To answer questions exploring these interests, she creatively apply tools from ecosystem ecology to develop research questions relating to anthropogenic impacts such as land use, invasive species, climate change, or ecosystem management.  Ecosystem metrics that measure the flow of nutrients and energy provide powerful tools for understanding complex changes to aquatic ecosystems, which often involve numerous anthropogenic changes. Her research in aquatic ecology spans systems ranging from headwater streams, large rivers and lakes to coastal ecosystems.


Dr. Meg “Canopy Meg” Lowman, Chief of Science & Sustainability, California Academy of Sciences

Dr. Margaret “Canopy Meg” Lowman: As Chief of Science and Sustainability at the California Academy of Sciences, Dr. Lowman (“Canopy Meg”) has inspired countless students to pursue careers in ecology and other conservation fields. Outside the classroom, she has led conservation efforts through elected positions including Vice President of the Ecological Society of America, Treasurer of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation, and member of the Board of Directors for the Explorers Club and Earthwatch. She is also founder and Executive Director of the TREE Foundation (Tree Research, Exploration, and Education), an extraordinary nonprofit dedicated to advancing tropical ecosystem research and conservation (http://treefoundation.org/).

Dr. Lowman has published over 20 peer-reviewed papers with undergraduates, and has an unparalleled record of service and achievement supporting undergraduate research and inspiring young (especially women) researchers to become researchers.Dr. Lowman has collaborated with Dr. Alemayehu Wassie for the past 5 years to study church forest ecosystem services, and has earned the trust of Ethiopian Orthodox church leaders culminating in a long-standing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for partnership. She was funded from 2009-12 by National Geographic and the TREE Foundation to survey insect biodiversity in church forests, and led teams of entomologists and undergraduate students to survey key groups such as pollinators.


Dr. Alemayehu Wassie Eshete, Bahir Dar University & Debre Tabor University

Dr. Alemayehu Wassie. Dr. Alemayehu Wassie Eshete was born in South Gondar, Ethiopia. He attended Alemaya University of Agriculture, Ethiopia (now Haromaya University) where he received a forestry degree in 1992. He then joined the Ministry of Natural Resources & Environmental Protection as forestry expert, soon becoming head of the district (Woreda) office. In 1995 he moved to the Ministry of Agriculture before working from 1996-2000 for the NGO Food for The Hungry International, where he served as Afforestation Head in Ethiopia. He also worked for Organization for Rehabilitation and Development in Amhara (ORDA), another NGO, as forest development project coordinator. He received an MSc in Forestry from Swedish University of Agricultural Science for his research on the roles of Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido churches in the conservation of forest biodiversity. He earned his Ph.D. in 2007 from the Forest Ecology and Forest Management group (FEM) of the center for Ecosystem studies of Wageningen University.

Dr. Wassie serves as a lecturer at the University of Bahir Dar and Board Member at Debre Tabor University, and has mentored dozens of Ethiopian graduate and undergraduate students in addition to his far-reaching administrative responsibilities.As a prominent and respected member of the Ethiopian academic community and employee of the Ethiopian government, Dr. Wassie represents an indispensable component of the research team. He and Dr. Lowman have been working together to study and raise international awareness of church forests since 2008.

Dr Cathy Collins

Assistant Professor of Ecology Dr. Cathy Collins

Dr. Cathy Collins. An Assistant Professor of Ecology in the Biology Department at Colby College, Dr. Cathy Collins received an M.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Arizona and a Ph.D. in Ecology from the University of Kansas. Her research focuses on the influence of landscape fragmentation on plant populations and plant community diversity. In recent years she has conducted fieldwork on two of the largest, longest-running landscape fragmentation experiments in the world.

Dr. Collins is currently studying how seed predation, fungal pathogens, and abiotic factors alter plant diversity in fragmented habitats. She also conducts experiments in ecosystem restoration, and has worked with undergraduate student assistants to better understand ways to effectively restore degraded tropical rainforest in Costa Rica. Dr. Collins began work in Africa as an undergraduate student, when she conducted independent research in Botswana. She later worked as the in-country Director for Global Routes in Kenya and Ghana, mentoring students in primary/secondary school teaching and independent community service projects. She and Dr. Reynolds have collaborated on GIS and survey analyses of church forest systems since 2012.



REU Site Research Assistants

Name: Tizezew Shimekach Sisay, University of Maine

Degrees: Natural Resource Economics (B.Sc.) and Forest Resources (M.Sc., 2017)

Home Town: Gondar, Ethiopia

I have worked on environmental conservation and women’s empowerment issues in my home country of Ethiopia for the past decade. I am now pursuing an M.Sc. on Women and Environmental Degradation in Ethiopia at the University of Maine.

I am interested in the relationships between local traditions, public policy, women and the environment, as highlighted in a video produced by the California Academy of Sciences in April 2015:



Name: Jacob Ablow Wall, Colby College Class of 2016Wall

Major: Environmental Policy and Geology

Home State: Washington

I am really interested in international environmental policy, especially conservation and land management issues. I also love geology and hope to study more hydro-geology and hydrology and look into issues surrounding water from both policy and science perspectives.

I am an avid flautist and really enjoy playing modern and contemporary music. In my free time I like to go hiking, rock climbing and skiing.


Name: Mesfin Sahle Achemo, Addis Ababa UniversityMesfin

Degrees: Geography and Environmental Studies (B.A.) and Geo-information Science (M.Sc.) and Environmental Planning (PhD, 2017)

Home Town: Wolkite, Ethiopia

I have worked on geospatial analysis in the Ethiopian Mapping Agency, the Information Network Service Agency and Wolkite University. In doing so I have applied the technology for different environmental applications. Now I am doing my PhD dissertation entitled as Modeling Multiple Ecosystem Services for Landscape planning in Ethiopia at Addis Ababa University.


Name: Endale Adamu, Debre Tabor UniversityEndale

Degrees: Biology (B.Sc. and M.Sc.) with a focus on taxonomy

Home Town: Debre Tabor, Ethiopia

I have served on the faculty at Debre Tabor University for the past 4 years, including service as the chair of the Biology Department. I am a taxonomist by training, and my research focuses on plant biodiversity surveys as well as social surveys documenting traditional ecological knowledge, including food and medicinal uses of trees and plants in natural forests in Ethiopia.


Name: Emebet Wondmagegn, Debre Tabor UniversityEmebet

Degrees: Biology (B.Sc.)

Home Town: Debre Tabor, Ethiopia

I am a lecturer in the Biology Department at Debre Tabor University. I have worked with Colby College conducting research in church forests in the Debre Tabor area for 3 years (starting when I was a Biology student at Debre Tabor University). My work has focused on collecting and identifying terrestrial and aquatic insects.