2017 REU Site Participants

Name: Taylor Garner

Major: Environmental Science

Home State: Texas

After transferring from Northern Virginia Community College I am now a junior at Hawaii Pacific University with a major of Environmental Science and a focus in conservation ecology. I am a returning student from the Summer 2016 REU Site hoping to continue my work in ecology and water quality of Ethiopian streams. This REU site program helps me obtain my goals to one day work for an organization that focuses on conservation for our oceans and other water sources.

In the past year, I have hiked 6 trails in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. I love being outside and experiencing nature and all the beauty and mysteries it has to offer.

Name: David Ferguson

Majors: Environmental Science

Home State: Massachusetts

I am a rising senior at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst studying Environmental Science – a field that allows me to combine a love for the outdoors with the chance to work on interdisciplinary research. I was drawn to this program because of the opportunity to learn about a new culture, along with their conservation practices. I am particularly excited to grow as a collaborator, researcher, and scientific communicator.

In addition to my academic interests, I enjoy hiking, canoeing, snowboarding, reading, and time spent with friends and family.



Name: Kelsey Hawkins-Johnson

Major: Anthropology

Home State: Ohio

Minors: Literature and International Affairs

I am from Cincinnati, Ohio and am a rising senior at Eastern Michigan University pursuing honors in Anthropology. My research interests are in cultural and environmental anthropology and include focuses on climate change, religion, gender, and narratives. In the future,  I hope to work in global affairs as an applied sociocultural anthropologist.

In my free time, I enjoy writing stories, reading, hiking, yoga, and binge-watching Netflix.

Name: Patrick McKenzie

Major: Biology and Geography

Home State: South Carolina

I am a rising junior at the University of South Carolina double majoring in Biology and Geography. I am particularly interested in conservation biology and environmental anthropology. I am fascinated by the intersection of nature and culture, especially concerning issues like land and mining rights for marginalized and powerless groups. My goal is for my work to have tangible benefits for both people and the environment.

I have been fortunate enough to be able to travel a lot over the last year. So far, I have visited Japan, Cuba, Peru, and Chile, and I have plans to visit Spain this coming winter. In my free time, I like to do all kinds of outdoorsy things, especially hiking and backpacking.


Name: Amy Yoelin

Major: English Literature and Geology

Home State: Colorado

I am a rising senior at Mount Holyoke College, majoring in English Literature and Geology. For the future, I strike to connect and blend social sciences and natural sciences together. This REU will provide me with an outlet to explore how to make my dream a reality. Coming from a semester of studying abroad at Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, I find myself interested in learning more about international politics, ecology, and sustainability.

It is my hope to continue to expand on building a more international view of the world, as well as travel.

Name: Katie Brown

Major: Environmental Studies

Home State: California

I am a native Californian majoring in Environmental Studies with a minor in Science for Sustainable Communities at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB). My professional interests are centered around addressing environmental justice issues through inclusive science communication and climate literacy efforts.

I am committed to contributing to collaborative endeavors that invite broader audiences to understand and value the importance of science within our globalized society. I aim to help bridge the gap between science and society through conducting meaningful research that urges governments, corporations and individuals alike to find a healthy balance between ecological and economic prosperity.

Name: Emily Carter

Major: Environmental Chemistry and Art

Home State: Oklahoma

I was born in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. My dad was in the army during my childhood, so I have also lived in Texas and Kansas, and then back to OK. I am a rising sophomore at Colby College, pursuing a degree in Environmental Chemistry and Art.

I am interested in visually describing environmental problems so that language and literacy barriers are eliminated. My hobbies include aimlessly doodling, baking vegan treats, and getting tattoos.


Name: Bianca Navarro

Major: Geography

Home State: California

As a Geography major at the University of Los Angels, California, I am very interested in the relationship between the environment, the people, and the location. My hometown is Los Angeles, California, where I enjoy its Mediterranean climate. I enjoy spending time outdoors and visiting coastal hiking trails.

Being an eco-admirer, my goal is to contribute to the conservation of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church Forests found in South Gondar, Ethiopia. By conducting research using Geographic Information Systems-based methods, I am interested in learning more about the natural services provided by our environment and finding out ways to protect them.

Name: Jasmine Randle


Home State: 








2017 REU Site Research Partners (Bahir Dar University, Bahir Dar, Ethiopia)

Name: Atalel Wubalem

Major: Environmental Economics

(M.Sc., 2015)









2016 REU Site Participants

Name: Taylor GarnerGarner_headshot

Major: Associate of Applied Science

Home State: Texas

I was born in Houston, Texas. Currently I live in Virginia and am finishing my first year at Northern Virginia Community College. I am planning to get my associates degree in science and transfer to a four-year college within Virginia and obtain a bachelors degree in Environmental Sciences. I enjoy activities that involve the outdoors: hiking, running, and spending time at the beach with my family.




Name: Tali CaspiCaspi_headshot

Major: Environmental Analysis

Home State: California

Concentration: Conservation Biology and Ecoloy

I am an Environmental Analysis major at Scripps College, focusing on conservation biology and ecology. My main academic interests are very interdisciplinary, as I care deeply about how effective wildlife conservation goals can be met while ensuring that human livelihoods and communities are sustained.  I’m particularly interested in studying species interactions, including how people interact with their environments.

Last summer I was part of a team that caught and collected data on over 400 lizards in the desert in New Mexico. I absolutely love wildlife and can’t wait to see all the cool critters in Ethiopia!

Name: Dawon LeeDawon_headshot

Major: Biology and Environmental Science

Home State: California

I am currently double majoring in Biology and Environmental Science with a concentration in public health. I am a rising senior at Colby College in Maine, and my home is in San Diego, California. Ever since I have visited and backpacked various national parks throughout my life, I am intrigued by the impact people are having on our planet. I plan to pursue a career in healthcare to further understand the relationship between the environment and human health.

Within this past year, I have visited Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Parks along with Cordeillera Volcanica Central Biosphere Reserve and Santa Rosa National Park in Costa Rica.


Name: Marcus Wright wright_headshot

Major: English and Biology

Home State: North Carolina

My name is Marcus Wright, and I hail from Raleigh, North Carolina. I am a junior at Bowdoin College majoring in English and Biology. As fascinated as I am by biological systems and language, I am also fascinated by architecture. Buildings have a tremendous impact on both the land and human interaction. I love envisioning ways in which architecture might be both integrated into nature and amenable to the well-being of society. My hobbies include reading, watching movies, writing poetry, playing guitar, and drinking tea. I have the very general goals of making the most of life by soaking up experiences, and doing whatever I can to contribute to the betterment of the human community. To achieve the latter, I believe it is necessary to foster an appreciation for the nature that sustains life and for the fact that living is, to a large degree, a collective enterprise. I have a penchant for dreaming big, but the bigger your dreams, the bigger your world!

Name: Brandon Latorrelatorre_headshot

Major: Ecology

Home State: New York

Minor: Creative Writing and Jewish Studies

Coming from New York City, the most diverse and industrialized capital in the world, I have developed two important interests that have influenced me indelibly. First, culture intrigues me. I specifically enjoy learning about the religions that define cultures, and I wish to develop a deep and robust understanding of them. Being a Jewish Studies minor has expanded my mind and given me the tools I need to read sacred texts as literature. Second, nature fascinates me. A home in NYC has excluded me from the natural world so much that I grew an insatiable desire to learn about it and its wonders. After working for The Nature Conservancy as a LEAF (Leaders in Environmental Action for the Future) intern, my interest transformed into passion. I became aware of the anthropogenic devastations affecting nature and I decided to pursue a career that helps the natural world directly.  This is why I intend to pursue a Ph.D. in habitat restoration. In an effort to bring more awareness to the biodiversity crisis, I use what I know about different religions and nature to write fictional stories about habitat loss that relate to a broad audience and appeal to the human heart.

I enjoy watching children movies because I believe they provide incredible wisdom. I also enjoy taking very long walks which vary from hiking to walking from one end of Manhattan to the other.

Name: Elsie Fisher Fisher_headshot

Major: Linguistics and Anthropology

Home State:

My name is Elsie Fisher, I graduated from the Santa Rosa junior college in April and will be transferring as a junior to a four year university next fall. I am studying linguistics and social anthropology in order to become a linguist anthropologist. I am very interested in the role language plays in cultural identity and plan to focus my future research on historically colonized societies and their relationship with language. I love to travel and have been fortunate enough to backpack fairly extensively through Europe, both with friends and as a solo traveler. I plan to continue traveling and hope my next trip will be to South America or Australia.


Name: Alfa Abame abame_headshot

Major: Biology

Home State: Oklahoma

Concentration: Bio-Medical

I am a fourth year Biology major with a Bio-Medical emphasis at Southwestern Oklahoma State University. I was born in Bale, Ethiopia but raised in good ol’ Oklahoma!

My academic endeavors are centered on understanding how environmental and social factors play a role in human health. I believe that everyone plays a vital role in helping ensure that future generations have a chance to prosper and live clean and healthy lives.

I immigrated to the United States when I was 5 years old and thanks to my parents, I have remained fluent in the Amharic language. I was able to go back to Ethiopia about 7 years ago and enjoyed my time reconnecting with family. In my (rare) free time I enjoy blogging, checking out coffee shops and finding trees to climb!

2015 REU Site Participants

OlacioName: Ralph Olacio

Major: Biology

Home State: New Jersey

Concentration: Environmental Science

Minor: Environmental Justice

I am currently in the second semester of my junior year at Montclair State University, New Jersey.

My main career and more importantly life purpose is the advancement of the conservation of all life through designing and conducting innovative ecological studies focused on assessing human impacts on the environment and ultimately its native biodiversity. I do not simply wish to excel academically but rather contribute to the world as an international citizen. What really interests me is the concept of sustainable development and how it offers immeasurable possibilities for solutions that could benefit humanity economically, enable the protection of ecological integrity, and improve the overall quality of life.

In my free time I love the adrenaline from extreme sports such as whitewater rafting, biking in densely populated areas, and especially skateboarding. Pura Vida!

GeffkenName: Chloe Geffken

Majors: Anthropology, Biology

Home State: Maine

I am a sophomore at Colby College, located in my home state of Maine.

I enjoy learning about the current state of colonialism, as well as the function of helicase enzymes. Some of my favorite classroom moments have included discussions on how to dismantle capitalist systems.

Here is a picture of me with my favorite fruit, soursop, or corossol depending on who you ask. Yes, a fruit by any other name IS as sweet.


MinName: Annika Min

Major: Environmental Sciences

Home State: California

Minors: Conservation and Resource Studies & Geospatial Information Science and Technology

I am a third year Environmental Sciences major at the University of California, Berkeley, and I was born and raised in San Francisco. My academic interests center around conservation biology, ecology, and the interface between humans and the environment such as land use and working landscapes. This past fall I studied abroad in the Peruvian Amazon, delving into tropical ecology, political ecology, and local culture and exploring how they come together as critical elements for conservation planning.

I grew up bilingual with dual citizenship (American and German) and I love learning languages!

BriggsName: Wilford Briggs

Major: Forestry

Home State: Alabama

I am a sophomore Forestry major at Alabama A&M University. I’ve enjoyed trees since I was young, but after I had the chance to take a road trip or two through parks and forests in the West/Northwest region of the US and the Southwest region of Canada, I decided to go into forestry.




DeBoerName: Klaus DeBoer

Major: Natural Resource Management

Home State: Iowa

I am a junior at Sterling College in Craftsbury, Vermont.

I am an ecological inquirer and speculator.  I marvel at natural landscapes and what they hold; through the lens of Natural History, I muse upon the development of cultures based on their respective landscapes.  I am studying Natural Resource Management in order to restore and rejuvenate place-based thinking so humans may be more mindful and respectful of where they live.

My hobbies include birding, tracking, and traditional crafts, and I had the unique chance to ride a bison as an intern on a ranch in Colorado.

LiangName: Janice Liang

Major: Environmental Science

Home State: Washington

I have a strong interest in interdisciplinary environmental research because it is this kind of labor that can result in effective means to preserve human necessities, such as livelihoods, food, and water, whilst balancing the conservation of the environment. Specifically, I am very interested in natural resource management with regards to environmental education and policy in developing nations.

I have gone iguana-catching and diving with dolphins this past year…can’t wait to see what Ethiopia will have in store!


GatumuName: Tracy Gatumu

Major: Environmental Studies

Home State: California

Minor: French

I am a junior at Humboldt State University, and am from Anaheim, California [otherwise known as Disneyland CA].

I love learning about cultures and the environment and how these two intersect with each other.  I’m trilingual and I have ambitions of working for the United Nations in either UNESCO or UNEP.



BrownName: Dawn Brown

Major: Biology

Home State: Oklahoma

I am a sophomore at Oklahoma City Community College.

My biggest interests lie within the fields of zoology, ecology, and molecular biology. I want to be a researcher in the field and in the lab.

I hope to one day pass on the knowledge and experience I gain over the years through teaching.




2015 REU Site Student Partners (Debre Tabor University, Debre Tabor, Ethiopia)

Name:Yenesew Yenesew

Major: Geography

(B.A., 2016)




Name: Kilash Kifili

Major: Biology

(B.Sc., 2016)

Name:Walelign Walelign Alemu

Major: Biology

(B.Sc., 2016)




Name: Zeneb Awoke

Major: Biology

(B.Sc., 2016)