Ecologist’s Policy Award Funds a Trip to Congress

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Jason M. Aloisio, Ph.D., GSAS 17, has been awarded one of six Graduate Student Policy Awards (GSPA) from the Ecological Society of America (ESA).

Aloisio, who was chosen along with students from Princeton University, Michigan State University, University of Miami, University of California and Columbia University, will use the award to travel to Washington, D.C. later this month for policy and advocacy training. He won the award in January, when he was a student.

In addition to learning about the legislative process and federal science funding, Aloisio will hear from ecologists working in federal agencies. He will participate in Congressional Visits Day, a capitol hill event co-organized by ESA and sponsored by the Biological and Ecological Sciences Coalition.

There, Aloisio said he hopes to meet New York Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, and Congressman Adriano Espaillat, who represents New York’s 13th Congressional District.

Aloisio coordinates the urban ecology research immersion program Project TRUE (Teens Researching Urban Ecology) for the Wildlife Conservation Society. He co-developed the project, which prepares high school students to pursue degrees and careers in STEM fields, in 2011. It receives funding from the National Science Foundation.

He said he is eager to meet Espaillat because he lives in the congressman’s district and because Espaillat sits on the Committee on Education and the Workforce, and a subcommittee focused on higher education.

For his doctoral degree Aloisio studied the ecology of green roof ecosystems,; he said he’s come to understand more fully the interconnectedness of policy and science.

“The Wildlife Conservation Society is widely involved with national and international regulations in different countries, and it’s become increasingly apparent how important it is to be involved in the policy process,” he said. “Decisions at the policy level have dramatic implications for conservation and the environment.”

ESA Executive Director Katherine McCarter said that by training ESA members to effectively communicate science to lawmakers, the gap between science and policy can be bridged and help fill the critical need for science-informed policy decisions.

“This valuable, hands-on experience provides these young ecologists with essential science communication skills that will enable them to successfully engage in the policy realm,” she said.