PEI Class Day 2018 honors work, dedication of students in Princeton environmental studies

Morgan Kelly ・ Princeton Environmental Institute

Forty Princeton University seniors emerged from Guyot Hall on June 4 as the latest recipients of certificates in environmental studies from the Princeton Environmental Institute. The certificates, and prizes for notable undergraduate research, were presented during PEI Class Day 2018.

 

“Each of our students has worked hard to understand the issues, forces and the dynamics underlying the environmental challenges facing us today and that will present them with even greater challenges as they become tomorrow’s decision-makers and leaders,” said Dan Rubenstein, the Class of 1877 Professor of Zoology and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and director of the PEI Program in Environmental Studies.

Christopher Shin (left) in WWS received the PEI T. A. Barron Environmental Leadership Prize for his thesis about the net-benefit of tourism to people in China’s Sichuan Province. The prize was presented by PEI Director Michael Celia (right), the Theodora Shelton Pitney Professor of Environmental Studies and professor of civil and environmental engineering.”

Before the certificates were awarded, select seniors received prizes for outstanding thesis research, or their exceptional engagement with environmental studies. Full descriptions of the prizes are below. (See our related story on PEI Discovery Day 2018.)

The Environmental Studies Book Prizes were presented to students in four categories who conducted exceptional research and demonstrated an ability to communicate about it. Patrick Rooney in visual arts and Emma Watkins in English received the prizes for Environmental Humanities; Mark Goldstein and Sam Rob in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs received the prize in Environmental Social Sciences; Michelle Greenfield and Sonia Howlett in ecology and evolutionary biology were honored with prizes in Environmental Science; and the prize in Environmental Engineering went to Ailyn Brizo in civil and environmental engineering.

Julie Pourtois (left) in EEB won the PEI Peter W. Stroh ’51 Environmental Senior Thesis Prize for her work on marine bacteriophages, and Sonia Howlett (right) in EEB received the Environmental Stuides Book Prize in Environmental Science for studying cattle-tortoise competition in the Galápagos.

After the book prizes were awarded, Paul Gauthier, an associate research scholar in geosciences and PEI, was presented with Princeton bookends for leading the 2017-8 ENV Senior Colloquium. “When he reaches for a book he will always think of his time as an essential member of the Princeton Environmental Institute,” Rubenstein said.

Lindsey Conlan in civil and environmental engineering received the Environmental Studies Senior Thesis Prize for her work studying the use of reclaimed concrete aggregate in treating acid mine drainage. In bestowing the prize, Conlan’s adviser, Claire White, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, noted her dedication to her project, which included delving into topics outside even White’s expertise.

“From my interactions with Lindsey, I can say that she was extremely self-motivated during her thesis,” White said. “I learned a lot through your thesis research and I really enjoyed watching you grow and submit an excellent thesis.”

The Peter W. Stroh ’51 Environmental Senior Thesis Prize went to Julie Pourtois in ecology and evolutionary biology, who found that viruses that infect bacteria, known as bacteriophages, are essential for nutrient cycling in oceans, and that viral abundance may be an indicator of the carbon sink.

Michelle Greenfield (left) in EEB laughs with her adviser Dan Rubenstein, the Class of 1877 Professor of Zoology and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and director of the PEI Program in Environmental Studies. Greenfield was honored with an Environmental Studies Book Prize in Environmental Science.

While presenting the prize, her adviser, Corina Tarnita, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, said that she was “thrilled” to work with Pourtois after meeting her in a course Tarnita teaches on mathematical modeling in biology and medicine.

“She’s the only student so far who has ever made me question whether my class is too easy — it’s not,” Tarnita said, prompting laughter from the audience.

Corina Tarnita (left), associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, and Rubenstein were among several faculty advisers who came to wish their students well.

“Julie wrote an exceptional thesis that tackled a major unsolved problem at the interface between infectious-disease ecology and marine biogeochemistry,” she said. “Julie showed remarkable independence, creativity, and an absolutely immaculate and painstaking attention to detail. I look forward to seeing what she does next.”

Christopher Shin, who majored in the Woodrow Wilson School, received the T. A. Barron Environmental Leadership Prize for his thesis that addressed whether tourism is of net-benefit to people in Ganzi Prefecture in China’s Sichuan Province.

In presenting the prize, PEI Director Michael Celia, the Theodora Shelton Pitney Professor of Environmental Studies and professor of civil and environmental engineering, said that Shin’s adviser, David Wilcove, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and public affairs and the Princeton Environmental Institute, said that the thesis “‘may well be the most ambitious thesis I have read at Princeton. [Shin] demonstrated a fearless willingness to pursue whatever approaches, techniques or models were needed to answer his question.'”

Lindsey Conlan (left) in CEE received the PEI Environmental Studies Senior Thesis Prize for her work studying the use of reclaimed concrete aggregate in treating acid mine drainage. Conlan’s adviser, Claire White (right), assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, noted Conlan’s dedication to the project.

Celia recounted Shin’s research and outreach experience, including his PEI summer internship analysis of the effects of the U.S. Clean Power Plan, his work during a gap year in China to establish a sustainability club for students in western China, and his work as a student-government liaison for the Princeton Office of Sustainability, among other activities.

“He’s always been one of our go-to students in terms of helping other students in ENV courses — which I have observed myself — in terms of making presentations both on and off campus on behalf of the ENV program and PEI, and many other things that don’t show up on a CV,” Celia said. “For all of these reasons, and for his great potential for future success, it really is my pleasure to award the 2018 T.A. Barron Prize to Chris Shin.”

PEI Class Day Awards and Prizes

Environmental Studies Book Prizes

The Environmental Studies Book Prizes recognize students in four categories for outstanding senior-thesis research and the ability to communicate the results and significance of their work. Candidates are interviewed by PEI faculty and members of the institute’s executive committee, who then select the winners. This year’s honorees received a copy of “Hamburgers in Paradise: The Stories Behind the Food We Eat” by Dutch scientist Louise Fresco.

Environmental Humanities

Patrick Rooney, Visual Arts
Thesis title:
“Fishing the Short Run”
Thesis adviser: Su Friedrich, Professor of Visual Arts in the Lewis Center for the Arts

 

Emma Watkins, English
Thesis title:
“Stories on the Wind: The Use of Environmental Soundscapes in Theatrical Contexts” (related to her musical play, “Trailing Rhiannon“)
Thesis adviser: Robert Sandberg, Lecturer in English, Theater and the Lewis Center for the Arts

Environmental Social Sciences

Mark Goldstein, Woodrow Wilson School
Thesis title:
“Climate Change in American National Parks: Impacts, Management, Communication and Public Perception”
Thesis adviser: Denise Mauzerall, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Public and International Affairs

Sam Rob, Woodrow Wilson School
Thesis title:
“Reconciling Bioenergy and Food Production in Cuba: A Case for Integrating Competing Agricultural Models in the Caribbean’s Largest Island”
Thesis adviser: David Wilcove, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Public Affairs and the Princeton Environmental Institute

Environmental Science

Michelle Greenfield, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Thesis title:
“Effect of Anthropogenic Injuries on the Social Associations of Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in Sarasota Bay, Florida”
Thesis adviser: Daniel Rubenstein, Class of 1877 Professor of Zoology and Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Sonia Howlett, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Thesis title:
“Potential for Competition Between Introduced Cattle and Endemic Giant Tortoises on Santa Cruz, Galápagos”
Thesis adviser: Andrew Dobson, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Environmental Engineering

Ailyn Brizo, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Thesis title:
“Feasibility and Environmental Implications of Urine Utilization Technologies in the Developing World”
Thesis adviser: Peter Jaffé, William L. Knapp ’47 Professor of Civil Engineering and Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Environmental Studies Senior Thesis Prize

The Environmental Studies Senior Thesis Prize is awarded annually to one senior in the Environmental Studies Certificate Program who has produced the best thesis in the broad area of environmental studies. Student nominations are made by departmental thesis advisers.

Lindsey Conlan, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Thesis title:
“Two Waste Streams, One Solution: Reclaiming Concrete Aggregate and Treating Acid Mine Drainage Through a Synergistic Recycling Process”
Thesis adviser: Claire White, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment

Peter W. Stroh ’51 Environmental Thesis Prize

The Peter W. Stroh ’51 Environmental Senior Thesis Prize was established in 2003 as a memorial to Peter W. Stroh ’51, an active member of PEI’s Advisory Council and an enthusiastic supporter of the Environmental Studies Program. The $2,000 prize is awarded annually to the student who has produced the best thesis on an environmental topic.

Julie Pourtois, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Thesis title:
“A Modeling Approach to Examining the Effect of Viruses on Marine Bacterial Populations in Different Nutrient-Limited Environments”
Thesis adviser: Corina Tarnita, Associate Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

T. A. Barron Environmental Leadership Prize

The T. A. Barron Environmental Leadership Prize recognizes a member of the graduating class who has distinguished himself or herself by showing exceptional dedication to environmental concerns, not only in formal classes and independent academic work, but also by leading and encouraging activities among fellow students and in the community at large.

Christopher Shin, Woodrow Wilson School
Thesis title:
“Cost-Benefit Analysis of Tourism in Ganzi Prefecture, Sichuan Province, China”
Thesis adviser: David Wilcove, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Public Affairs and the Princeton Environmental Institute


Each year, one or two rising seniors are selected to receive the Becky Colvin Memorial Award. This award is presented by the Princeton Environmental Institute and the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in support of field research projects critical to the senior thesis. The recipient of the 2018 award was Daniel Petticord ’19, who is majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology and is advised by Robert Pringle, assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. Petticord will use technology such as GPS, radio tagging and DNA metabarcoding to determine the ecological impact of tortoises in Kenya.