Isabella Betancourt and Abigail J. Costigan, graduate students of Stony Brook University, from School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences‘ (SoMAS) Marine Conservation and Policy program, have been selected for the 2022 cohort of the Katherine S. McCarter Graduate Student Policy Award (GSPA) from the Ecological Society of America (ESA). This award offers graduate students the opportunity to participate in a virtual day of Congress tours.
As GSPA grantees, they will learn about the legislative process and federal science funding before meeting virtually with members of Congress to discuss the importance of federal investments in biological and ecological sciences. Additionally, they will explore career options in politics as environmentalists who work in federal agencies will share their career paths and how scientific training can be applied to inform policy.
Betancourt is interested in the link between science and policy and hopes to work as a science policy advisor after completing her master’s degree. She earned a BS in Marine Science from Rutgers University, focusing on marine environmental issues and addressing the threats of climate change through effective policies. Betancourt, born and raised in Colombia, wants to serve as an example to minorities to show them that it is possible to become a scientist and make a difference in the field. For her master’s thesis, she will travel to Costa Rica in the summer of 2022 to conduct research for a community-based turtle conservation organization. She will collect and analyze data, learn about the effects of climate change on these bodies, and work with government and institutions to drive change in the policy sector. Finally, she will gain valuable experience in communicating science to a non-scientific audience in English and Spanish.
Costigan’s current research focuses on the management and policy of marine protected areas internationally as well as the restoration of coastal habitats. She is interested in how human activities influence the marine environment and what efforts are successful in mitigating harmful effects, increasing biodiversity and promoting sustainable use. Prior to entering graduate school, Costigan conducted fieldwork for Mass Audubon focusing on horseshoe crabs, worked at the Center for Coastal Studies teaching marine education, and was a fisheries observer. She graduated with a BS from St. Lawrence University in 2019 with a major in Conservation Biology and a double minor in Asian and Outdoor Studies.
“It is very gratifying and encouraging to see our graduate students at ESA engage with the science-policy interface and hear directly from policymakers about the importance of receiving critical information about the ecological systems that matter to their constituents. experience, this ESA award equips these young environmentalists with essential science communication and listening skills that will enable them to successfully engage in the political arena,” said ESA President Dennis Ojima.
Betancourt and Costigan are among a total of 44 students across the country to receive the award.