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UW Student Charlie Vogelheim Awarded the Plummer Interdisciplinary Excellence Scholarship

April 28, 2015
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Charlie Vogelheim

Charlie Vogelheim, a master’s degree student from Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., has been awarded the 2015 Plummer Interdisciplinary Excellence Scholarship from the University of Wyoming Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources.

Each year, the Haub School makes the award available to UW students through a private endowment from Evelyn and Chiles Plummer. The award recognizes and rewards students who work across disciplines to build lasting solutions to environmental and natural resource challenges.

“Charlie’s graduate work exemplifies the kinds of creative, ambitious and meaningful projects that we care about at the Haub School,” says Courtney Carlson, associate director for academic programs at the Haub School. “He’s bringing together coursework from two colleges and a school here on campus to create a truly interdisciplinary graduate program. It’s very exciting.”

The Plummer Scholarship will support Vogelheim as he completes a unique graduate program he’s designed to bring together his interests in ecology and education.

As a child, Vogelheim guided nature walks for his friends in Southern California and dreamed of illustrating field guides. In college, he did ecology fieldwork, sometimes sitting in a bird blind for hours.

“I didn’t have the patience fieldwork requires,” he recalls. “I was more of a personal person. I would try to fit in a day’s worth of conversation at the end of the field day.”

Then, shortly after earning an undergraduate degree in environmental science, he volunteered for a year at an organization in the Portland area that puts middle- and high-school students to work on shoreline and wetland restoration projects within walking distance of their schools. Vogelheim taught ecological principles.

“It was really cool because most restoration service learning things students do would be a one-time event,” he says. “But, here, they would come out once a month and it would be different every time.”

The students picked up trash, removed invasive species, planted native species and watched their local natural areas transform over time. When teaching, Vogelheim found the perfect application of his interest in environmental science and his gregarious personality.

“I saw restoration as an awesome way for young people to be connected with their community and begin understanding the processes that were going on below their own feet,” he says.

Vogelheim enrolled in the Teton Science Schools graduate program and then came to UW to complete his master’s degree. He is pursuing an M.S. in natural science education and environment and natural resources. He also will earn a certificate in reclamation and restoration ecology from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Adding the certificate program has extended his time in graduate school by a semester, which the Plummer Scholarship will support.

Vogelheim’s graduate research project explores how local restoration experiences for students can be tied to science standard expectations.

“Trends show that today’s students are losing interest in science in middle high school and fewer students are pursuing degrees in science,” he wrote in his application for the award. “My master’s thesis investigates a way to get students more engaged in science and the nature of science through place-based service learning projects. When students can get in the field and apply science concepts learned in the classroom, they often come to see science as a tool that helps to solve problems.”

He expects to graduate next December and hopes to build a career at the intersection of restoration ecology and education.

“The Plummer Scholarship will definitely make it easier for me to focus on the academics and the work,” Vogelheim says. “My plan was to go be a research ecologist, but I fell in love with teaching.”

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