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UW’s Alston Awarded 2020 Shadle Fellowship

July 21, 2020
man using a headlamp to look at item in his hands
Jesse Alston, a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in zoology and physiology, and the Program in Ecology at UW, received the Albert R. and Alma Shadle Fellowship, which is awarded to a graduate student in recognition of current accomplishments and potential in the field of mammalogy. Here, he takes the measurements of a big brown bat. (Corrie McFarland Photo)

A University of Wyoming Ph.D. candidate is the recipient of a prestigious award bestowed by the American Society of Mammalogists (ASM).

Jesse Alston, a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in zoology and physiology, and the Program in Ecology, received the Albert R. and Alma Shadle Fellowship. The fellowship is awarded to a graduate student in recognition of current accomplishments and potential in the field of mammalogy. The funding portion of the award is $5,000.

“This award is incredibly meaningful. The award's history goes back nearly 50 years, and some of my favorite scientists have won it,” says Alston, from Littleton, N.C. “Many award winners have gone on to distinguished careers. Recognition from the award is very helpful as I develop a reputation as a scientist, and the funding from the award will help me expand the scope of my dissertation research.”

“Jesse is both well published and broadly published for someone at his career stage, and has successfully applied for a number of competitive grants,” says Jacob Goheen, a UW professor of zoology and physiology, and one of Alston’s advisers. “He is a creative and synthetic thinker, with a dissertation that spans physiological responses to continental shifts in the abundance, distribution and diversity of bats.”

Alston’s dissertation work combines field research and analyses of a large biometric data set to link thermal ecology to behavior, reproduction and biogeography in bats. He also is working on several additional projects concerning disease ecology, animal movement, demography, conservation and open science.

Alston plans to use funds from the Shadle Fellowship to expand the scope of his ongoing field research at Jewel Cave National Monument in South Dakota and to attend the next ASM annual meeting.

“I think Jesse is an outstanding scholar. He has done a remarkable job developing intriguing ecological questions around what lesser students would simply have accepted as a basic habitat use study,” says Doug Keinath, recovery coordinator for the Wyoming Ecological Services Field Office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and Alston’s co-adviser. “Jesse is a skilled ecologist and critical thinker. He has a strong interest in applied wildlife biology and in improving how we communicate key biological concepts to the public. I am confident in his ability to succeed in his future career in mammalogy. This award demonstrates that the community of mammologists similarly recognizes that potential.”

Alston has published in a number of journals, including Conservation Letters, Landscape Ecology, Biological Conservation, and Forest Ecology and Management. He has independently raised more than $220,000 to support his research from numerous organizations, including the National Park Service, Prairie Biotic Research, the Wyoming Chapter of The Wildlife Society and ASM.

Alston has written about science, policy and the environment for several media outlets, including Five Thirty Eight and High Country News. He is a member of the preprint editorial team at Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.  

“I have been interviewed for articles written by others about wolf reintroduction in Colorado,” Alston says.

Alston is an active member of ASM, serving on the Human Diversity, African Graduate Student Research Fund and Biodiversity committees. He has presented at the past two annual meetings.

“He is strongly dedicated to educational outreach, and has written magazine articles for the general public on issues ranging from lead contamination to wolverine recovery in Washington state,” Goheen says. “He is a superb mentor and teaching assistant. And, he has a strong record of service to the American Society of Mammalogists through meeting participation, and by serving on the Human Diversity and African Graduate Student Research Fund committees. I think all of these things were considered by the awards committee.”

This was not the first time a Ph.D. candidate at UW has received the Shadle Fellowship. Brett Jesmer, whom Goheen previously co-advised with Matt Kauffman, unit leader of the Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, won the award in 2017.

The ASM was established in 1919 to promote interest in the study of mammals.

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