AAAS Leshner Leadership Institute names new public engagement fellows

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AUSTIN, TEX — AAAS is pleased to announce the selection of the 2018-19 Public Engagement Fellows. These 15 food and water security researchers are the third cohort of the AAAS Alan I. Leshner Leadership Institute for Public Engagement with Science. They have all demonstrated leadership and excellence in their research careers, and interest in promoting meaningful dialogue between science and society. Future cohorts will focus on other areas of science, particularly topics with a science-society nexus and scholarship in related communication research.

A reception is being held on Thursday, February 15 at 4:00 pm at AAAS Annual Meeting in Austin to celebrate and welcome the new AAAS Public Engagement Fellows. New AAAS Public Engagement Fellows attending the reception include Wendy Jepson, Alexis Racelis, Laura Schmitt Olabisi, Kirsten Schwarz, and Pei Xu. Several AAAS Public Engagement Fellows from the 2016-17 cohort, focused on climate change, will also attend the reception, including Jerry Glover and Jessica Hellmann.

The new AAAS Public Engagement Fellows will convene in June 2018 at AAAS headquarters in Washington, DC for a week of intensive public engagement and science communication training, networking, and public engagement plan development. After the training, AAAS Public Engagement Fellows will return to their institutions with resources and connections to develop and implement public engagement activities, opportunities for training other scientists in their communities, and increased capacity for public engagement leadership. AAAS staff will provide ongoing support and continuing professional development throughout their fellowship year.

The 2018-2019 AAAS Public Engagement Fellows are as follows; a short biography for each Fellow is attached:

  • Kate Brauman, PhD, Lead Scientist, Global Water Initiative, Institute on the Environment, University of Minnesota
  • Sarah Feakins, PhD, Associate Professor of Earth Sciences, University of Southern California
  • Dustin Garrick, PhD, Departmental Lecturer and Co-Director, Smith School Water Programme, Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford
  • Kristine Hopfensperger, PhD, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences; Director of the Environmental Science Program, Northern Kentucky University
  • Wendy Jepson, PhD, Professor of Geography, Texas A&M University
  • Craig Just, PhD, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Iowa
  • Michael Kantar, PhD, Assistant Professor of Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences, University of Hawaii
  • Roger Kjelgren, PhD, Director, Mid-Florida Research and Education Center at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
  • Julie Lesnik, PhD, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Wayne State University
  • Alexis Racelis, PhD, Assistant Professor of Earth, Environmental, and Marine Sciences; Associate Dean for Community Engagement and Outreach, College of Sciences, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
  • Laura Schmitt Olabisi, PhD, Associate Professor of Community Sustainability, Michigan State University
  • Kirsten Schwarz, PhD, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences; Director, Ecological Stewardship Institute, Northern Kentucky University
  • Christopher Scott, PhD, Director, Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy; Professor of Geography and Development, University of Arizona
  • Merritt Turetsky, PhD, Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair, Integrative Biology, University of Guelph
  • Pei Xu, PhD, Associate Professor of Civil Engineering, New Mexico State University

AAAS is highly encouraged by the interest in the AAAS Leshner Leadership Institute. The 15 AAAS Public Engagement Fellows selected, and the many others who applied, demonstrate clear commitment from scientists and researchers within the water and food security research community to engage the public on many critical issues. The AAAS Public Engagement Fellows program, now in its third year, continues to build on the long-standing commitment of AAAS to science communication and public engagement through its support of these Fellows.

The Leshner Leadership Institute is wholly supported by philanthropic donations. The Institute is managed by the AAAS Center for Public Engagement with Science and Technology, established in 2004 by Alan I. Leshner, now Chief Executive Officer Emeritus of AAAS.

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About AAAS

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is the world's largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science as well as Science Translational Medicine, Science Signaling, and a digital, open-access journal, Science Advances. AAAS was founded in 1848 and includes nearly 250 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world. The non-profit AAAS is open to all and fulfills its mission to "advance science and serve society" through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education, public engagement, and more. For the latest research news, log onto EurekAlert!, http://www.eurekalert.org, the premier science-news Web site, a service of AAAS. See http://www.aaas.org.

AAAS is the world's largest general scientific society, dedicated to "Advancing science ? Serving society."

Profiles of the AAAS Alan I. Leshner Leadership Institute 2018-2019 Public Engagement Fellows Food and Water Security Cohort

  • Kate Brauman, PhD
    Lead Scientist, Global Water Initiative, Institute on the Environment, University of Minnesota

    Kate Brauman is the lead scientist for the Global Water Initiative at the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment. Brauman's research integrates hydrology and land use with economics and policy to better understand how water use affects the environment and our ability to live well in it. She is currently a lead author for the global assessment of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. Brauman received her doctorate in environment and resources from Stanford University.
  • Sarah Feakins, PhD
    Associate Professor of Earth Sciences, University of Southern California

    Sarah Feakins' recent work has tested the drought response of wheat crops and surveyed the diversity of tropical forest ecosystems. She uses this knowledge of plants, and specifically their leaf waxes, to document past changes in plant life and rainfall patterns, including studies on the expansion of grasslands in Africa and the revegetation of Antarctica during a prior warming event. Sarah obtained her doctorate in geology from Columbia University.
  • Dustin Garrick, PhD
    Departmental Lecturer and Co-Director, Smith School Water Programme, Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, University of Oxford

    Dustin Garrick is a departmental lecturer and co-director of the Water Programme at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at the University of Oxford. His work focuses at the interface of water and the economy, specializing in water reallocation and markets as responses to climate change, urbanization and sustainable development challenges. He currently leads a World Bank-funded project on water reallocation from agriculture to cities and the potential to share resources and risks across the urban-rural divide. Garrick has a Ph.D. in geography from the University of Arizona.
  • Kristine Hopfensperger, PhD
    Associate Professor of Biological Sciences; Director of the Environmental Science Program, Northern Kentucky University

    Kristy Hopfensperger is the director of the Environmental Science Program at Northern Kentucky University. Her research is centered on relationships between community dynamics and ecosystem processes in response to human disturbances. Hopfensperger works with undergraduate students and community partners to conduct research on topics including water quality, green infrastructure, greenhouse gas flux and invasive species. Hopfensperger received her Ph.D. in environmental science from the University of Maryland.
  • Wendy Jepson, PhD
    Professor of Geography, Texas A&M University

    Wendy Jepson's current long-term project examines water insecurity in low-income communities in the U.S. and Latin America. Jepson directs the Texas A&M Water Security Initiative, a university-wide program that facilitates research, education, service learning and collaboration on the broad spectrum of water security challenges. She also co-leads a global study and an emerging cross-disciplinary network of scholars who study household water insecurity (HWISE Network). Jepson received her Ph.D. in geography from the University of California, Los Angeles.
  • Craig Just, PhD
    Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Iowa

    Craig Just's research interests vary widely from freshwater mussels and how they mitigate nitrogen contamination to water resources, food security and energy system design and implementation in resource-constrained communities. Just also helped develop the University of Iowa Public Engagement Grant Program that funded partnerships focused on collaborative interactions and scholarship "for the mutually beneficial exchange, exploration, and application of knowledge, information and resources." He has a Ph.D. in environmental engineering and science from the University of Iowa.
  • Michael Kantar, PhD
    Assistant Professor of Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences, University of Hawaii

    Michael Kantar's research focuses on the intersection between genomics, agriculture and ecology. His lab's goal is to examine the complex interactions necessary to create food systems that are more productive, healthy and sustainable. Kantar is currently the communications officer for the Plant Breeding Coordinating Committee (PBCC), an organization focused on how the public sector contributes to food security, education, and method development for plant breeding. Kantar completed his Ph.D. in plant breeding and genetics from the University of Minnesota.
  • Roger Kjelgren, PhD
    Director, Mid-Florida Research and Education Center at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences

    Roger Kjelgren is focused on high value horticulture production and water conservation in urban areas. He previously taught and conducted research on water conservation in irrigated urban landscapes and the water use behaviors of woody and herbaceous plants. Kjelgren was also a Jefferson Science Fellow at the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research where he focused on smallholder agriculture and irrigation in south-southeast Asia. Kjelgren has a Ph.D. in forestry from the University of Washington.
  • Julie Lesnik, PhD
    Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Wayne State University

    Julie Lesnik's research focuses on food culture and the evolution of the human diet as they relate to edible insects. Lesnik has been a featured speaker at events ranging from youth summer camps to sci-fi and fantasy conventions, given media interviews and organized the first U.S.-based conference dedicated entirely to edible insects. Lesnik received a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Michigan.
  • Alex Racelis, PhD
    Assistant Professor of Earth, Environmental, and Marine Sciences; Associate Dean for Community Engagement and Outreach, College of Sciences, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

    Alex Racelis is an agroecologist, and uses a systems approach to examine the ecological and socio-economic processes embedded in the sustainable management of agricultural and natural resources. In addition to his research, in his role as associate dean for community engagement and outreach he promotes and encourages community and pubic engagement activities, by including these activities in tenure and promotion criteria. Racelis has a Ph.D. in environmental studies from the University of California.
  • Laura Schmitt Olabisi, PhD
    Associate Professor of Community Sustainability, Michigan State University

    Laura Schmitt Olabisi is a participatory systems modeler. She works directly with stakeholders to build models that foster adaptive learning about the dynamics of coupled human-natural systems and to integrate stakeholder knowledge with academic knowledge. She is currently working in West Africa on climate change adaptation, food security and development projects. She also works in Detroit and Flint, MI, on food security and urban agriculture systems. Schmitt Olabisi holds a doctoral degree in systems ecology from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry and was a 2016-17 visiting scholar at the RAND Corporation.
  • Kirsten Schwarz, PhD
    Associate Professor of Biological Sciences; Director, Ecological Stewardship Institute, Northern Kentucky University

    Kirsten Schwarz directs the Ecological Stewardship Institute at Northern Kentucky University. She is an urban ecologist who uses a transdisciplinary systems approach to understand how landscape patterns affect ecosystem services in cities. Community engagement, social justice, and equity are central themes of her research. Currently, Schwarz is leading a research team developing green infrastructure designs for vacant lots in partnership with community members, non-profits, city officials and planners in Newport, KY. Schwarz earned her Ph.D. in ecology and evolution from Rutgers University.
  • Christopher Scott, PhD
    Director, Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy; Professor of Geography and Development, University of Arizona

    Christopher Scott is an interdisciplinary scholar and practitioner whose work focuses on water security, river-basin resilience, groundwater depletion, the water-energy-food nexus, water reuse, transboundary adaptive management, climate resilience and science-policy dialogues. His research and engagement are concentrated in the Southwestern U.S., Mexico, and India, as well as Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, and Nepal. Scott earned his Ph.D. in hydrology at Cornell University.
  • Merritt Turetsky, PhD
    Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair, Integrative Biology, University of Guelph

    Merrit Turetsky conducts fundamental ecological research that also is of interest to stakeholders in the north. Northerners are experiencing the most rapid climate change on the planet, and Turetsky's research is helping to address what these rapid changes mean for their land, traditional foods and water quality. Her research often links ecosystem services and carbon cycle science to water and food security. Turetsky serves as the Canadian University Liaison to NASA's Arctic Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE) and is a founding member of the Permafrost Carbon Network. Turetsky has a Ph.D. in biological sciences from the University of Alberta.
  • Pei Xu, PhD
    Associate Professor of Civil Engineering, New Mexico State University

    Pei Xu develops innovative treatment and desalination technologies for alternative water sources such as municipal wastewater, brackish water, desalination concentrate, oil- and gas-produced water and hydraulic fracturing flowback water. The goal of her research is to address critical water shortage problems in arid and semi-arid regions to improve food and water security. She currently is a principal investigator and co-lead of the Engineering Thrust of the National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center for Re-Inventing the Nation's Urban Water Infrastructure (ReNUWIt). Xu earned a Ph.D. in environmental engineering from the French National School of Forestry.
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