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Ecology Ph.D. Student Receives Award for Science Policy Training

Jonathan Behrens, a Ph.D. student in ecology, has been named the recipient of the Ecological Society of America’s 2023 Katherine S. McCarter Graduate Student Policy Award. This award provides graduate students with science policy training and the opportunity to meet with congressional policymakers on Capitol Hill. 

Behrens studies how human activities such as urbanization and chemical pollutant release affect the function and structure of freshwater ecosystems, and how alterations to these ecosystems affect human communities. He is particularly interested in engaging stakeholders within the broader community to effectively design field research and communicate results to inform water resource management decisions and policies.

Award recipients will receive an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C., in April to receive policy and communications training at the ESA’s headquarters, followed by meetings with congressional policymakers on Capitol Hill to discuss the importance of federal investments in the biological and ecological sciences.

Prior to his graduate studies, Behrens was a science policy fellow at the Science and Technology Policy Institute. He supported federal agencies and the cabinet-level National Science and Technology Council on national assessments of drinking water contaminants and management of research funding for health and environmental sciences. Behrens also wrote for the American Institute of Physics’ FYI: Science Policy News, covering federal science policy on Capitol Hill and federal agencies.


"I’d say apply! Everyone’s work has relevance to policy and society, from purely theoretical inquiry to applied research and exploration. Even though a research project might appear very focused or specific, it is always part of a larger collective effort for training ourselves and our peers, advancing our collective knowledge, and understanding and developing solutions to the challenges society and natural world faces. I encourage everyone who is involved in research to reflect on their own experiences and those of any communities they belong to—what impact do you want your research to have on them? Why are you so excited by the work (and others who know about your work)? Policymakers not only fund our research but also use our work to inform their creation of policy." — Jonathan Behrens