Environmental Studies at UVM

Ian A. Worley Award Recipients

We first distributed these awards in Fall 2013.

Jessica Mailhot, '16
Akriti Bhargava, fall '15
Mikayla Peront, '16

Navah Stein '15
Katherine (Kat) Wilcenski '15

Francesca Hall '15
Mackenzie Jones '15
Jackson Massey '15


We awarded grants to three students spring 2015. When he read through all the proposals, Ian Worley said he felt these were great examples of the kind of creative thinking he was hoping for. 

Jessica Mailhot, ‘16
Major: Environmental Sciences, Concentration in Conservation Biology and Biodiversity
Minor: Geospatial Technologies
UVM College/School: Rubenstein School for Environment and Natural Resources
Hometown: Belchertown, Massachusetts
Email: Jessica.Mailhot@uvm.edu

Project Title: Wing Strokes: Predicting Mean Arrival Date of Blue-headed and Red-eyed Vireos in Response to Changing Spring Climate as Depicted Visually in Art

Jessica will be using arrival dates for these two species to create a model that predicts changes into the future. She is in part testing a theory that migration distance affects species' abilities to adapt to change. But besides being a passionate scientist, Jess is an accomplished artist interested in finding ways to express scientific insights through art. This is a field that is expanding rapidly as it can help engage those outside of scientific circles in appreciating what science has to say about important topics. Her final project, she hopes, will be exhibited in the Davis Center or other public place.


UPDATE - Fall 2015:

As an artist as well as a scientist, I believe that using science and art in concert has great potential for communication. I am experimenting with this in practice through my undergraduate honors thesis on bird migration and climate change.

Summer 2015 I began to collect citizen science data from eBird on the arrival dates of both Blue-headed and Red-eyed Vireos to Vermont during the spring migration. I finished compiling all these data at the close of October and will now begin to examine the arrival timing of these species in the spring for the years 2008 through 2015, as well as where and to what degree they have been adjusting their migration timing in the state. The next step will be to use these hotspot points to extract climatic data, which will be used to determine if any of these certain aspects of climate significantly correlates to any changes in arrival date. If so, I can designate those as possible modes of predicting future changes in the migrations of these species. Over winter break I will begin to design and draft a translation of my findings and the importance of migration into an artistic exhibit, which I will begin working on in January, and which will be displayed in the Davis Center by mid March. Surveys will be available to document opinions and the effectiveness of my exhibit. This last chapter is the main goal of my thesis because I sincerely believe in art's ability to both communicate science and bring awareness of environmental issues to a broader audience.Red-eyed Vireo

I will use funding from the Ian Worley Award to purchase quality art supplies. As this is the culminating experience of my undergraduate journey, and my first public exhibit, I will work to the best quality that my abilities and resources allow. This would not be possible without the generous help provided by this award. Most of the supplies I will purchase will continue to be usable and valuable to me for years to come as I continue this practice of communicating my scientific work in art throughout my career in research.

As an environmental scientist, I can see the rift between the scientific sphere and the general public. It is imperative to bring everyone into the conversation in order to enable great change. By appealing to people's inherent connections and emotional values for the natural world, we can open up an avenue for communicating scientific and environmental messages and invite a broader audience into the conversations. As an artist, I deeply believe that art has the capacity to pave that avenue and spark curiosity that can change people's perspectives on the world around them.

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​Akriti Bhargava, fall ‘15
Double Major: Environmental Studies and Political Science
Minor: Economics
ENVS Concentration: Environmental Policy and Development
UVM College/School: College of Arts and Sciences
Hometown: Bangalore, India
Email: Akriti.Bhargava@uvm.edu

Project Title:  Saving King Naga: Conservation and Snakes in Rajasthan, India

Akriti will be conducting fieldwork in India this summer. Most literature and conservation news focuses on large and charismatic species like tiger and elephants. Her goal is to better understand people's relationships with snakes, and to investigate how religious beliefs, specifically those of Hinduism, play a role in human-snake interactions. Akriti is from India and has family there who will be helpful in gaining her the opportunity to talk with a variety of people in several different villages.


UPDATE - Fall 2015:

Shiva alter with brass snake I spent the summer in Rajasthan doing my research wherein I conducted roughly 60 interviews with individuals and in groups. I asked the interviewees to share stories about encounters with snakes including fables and folklore specific to their localities. I went into this research with the knowledge that many Hindus in Rajasthan pray to Nagdev (Snake god), but I was unable to find any clear indication of which specific species of snakes are held in religious regard. I learned that the black cobra snake is considered an embodiment of Nagdev and is never killed as far as can be helped. This, despite the black Cobra is the most venomous species found in Rajasthan. The black cobra are not harmed because of the religious and supernatural attributes associated with it, and in fact villagers pray to the black cobra asking for its protection.

The Ian Worley Award was used primarily for transport to and from, and within India. I would not have been able interview the number and variety of people had it not been for the funds. With the research now completed I move to the analysis and writing phase. As I work through transcriptions, I am discovering new themes related to the environment, governmental power, religion, social and financial inequalities as related to the world of the black cobra. I realize now that almost all of the project topics I have chosen in my environmentally-related classes since seventh grade have tied back to this concept of human actions and their consequences for different animal populations, specifically in India. Because of the Ian Worley Award, I was able to pursue a project that will further develop my understanding of animal conservation in a country in which I hope to someday lead environmental change.

(In this picture you see a typical Shiva altar in the villages I visited in Rajasthan, and the snake made of brass in the upper left corner.)

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​Mikayla Peront, ‘16
Double Major:  Environmental Studies
Minor:  Special Education
ENVS Concentration: Ecology and Conservation
UVM College/School: College of Arts and Sciences
Hometown: Bethel, Vermont
Email: Mikayla.Peront@uvm.edu

Project Title: Down on the Dairy Farm: Why Young People in Bethel, Vermont, are Choosing to Stay

Usually studies of farms in Vermont focus on why people are leaving. Mikayla is taking the opposite approach by investigating why some young people are staying in dairy farming. She will focus on Bethel, Vermont, which has long been a dairy community. Since Mikayla is from there, she has many contacts and people willing to speak to her about a sometimes sensitive topic. Her second innovation is that in addition to interviews, she will ask each farmer to photograph the things that shape their view of the farm--anything from a clock showing the early hours or a favorite cow. The farmers' photographs will be analyzed in Mikayla's research, and a collection will be displayed in two different exhibits: at a meeting of the farming community, and on UVM's campus.


UPDATE - Fall 2015:

calvesAs a native of Bethel, Vermont, I have had the pleasure of growing up in a variety of landscapes, from forested mountains with blazing foliage to shaded lakes hidden among pines. Of all the landscapes I have enjoyed, the sight of a rural farm nestled alongside a forest has, by far, come to feel like Bethel, and the most like home. I’m very interested in the field of conservation as a way to protect these beautiful areas, and in education as a way to foster a desire to protect them. Yet this outlook left me feeling like something was missing. Yes, these landscapes are wonderful, but they also need to be productive to support the farming livelihoods. I’ve become curious about the people who are the caretakers of these beautiful plots of land, the next generation who have control over their fate. I have turned my focus to the farmers who are charged with managing these areas. If not for them, what would happen to the land?

cows in fieldCurrently, I’m working on completing the second round of interviews with young dairy farmers and aspiring dairy farmers in the town of Bethel. While I don’t yet have all of my data, the information I have collected is bringing to light many patterns. I set out with a mission to learn why young dairy farmers are choosing to stay, and what I have found so far reflects not a lack of options or education. To the contrary, many are choosing to stay out of pure love for the lifestyle and, most importantly, a love for the animals they develop bonds with. Of course, there are new challenges every day that attempt to pull them away, but many are steadfast in their desires. As I work through the transcription and coding stage of my research, I’ll continue to analyze the data. After interviews are completed, I will be using photographs taken by the farmers to spark more in-depth, targeted follow-up interviews. I’ll also be selecting a handful of their photographs to be displayed in two photography exhibits I will be hosting at UVM and in Bethel.

The money I received as part of the Ian Worley award has allowed me to pursue my research. Without it I wouldn’t have had the funds to travel to the 14 farms for multiple rounds of interviews. Looking ahead, it will also allow me to print, frame, and mount a collection of photographs, and host the exhibits where I can share my research with the larger UVM and Bethel communities.

(These photos were taken by farmers as part of the interview process. I asked them to photograph the things that shape their views of the farm and, as a result, I received many cow pictures!)

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Navah Shoshanah Stein, ‘15

Major: Environmental Studies, Minors: Anthropology & Geography
ENVS Concentration: Culture, Justice, and Sustainable Development
UVM College/School: Arts and Sciences
Hometown: Huntington, New York
Email: nstein@uvm.edu

Project Title: Gardening and Cultural Identity Among Bhutanese Refugees in Burlington, Vermont
This project was Navah’s senior ENVS thesis.

Q:   What are your interests and passions within the field of environmental studies?
A.   I am passionate about social justice. I am deeply concerned for marginalized people groups who face the brunt of our increasingly globalized and capitalist world culture and the forced homogenization of identities. How can people’s stories be shared and voices be heard? Borders? What.

Q:   What did you do with your funding from your Ian Worley Award? What did you hope to accomplish?
A.   For my Environmental Studies senior thesis I worked in partnership with New Farms for New Americans (NFNA). My intention was to better understand the experiences of individuals from the Bhutanese refugee population settled in Burlington, Vermont. Through asking questions regarding: How identity is reformed or maintained based on the food sources available in their new environment of resettlement? How do worlds collide or connect in relation to food?; How are refugees changing Vermont’s physical, social and cultural environment?  As Avieli (2005) explains, “It takes only a few seeds or a handful of immigrant chefs to transform a particular locale’s agriculture and food culture.” Food stands for much more than something people simply consume. Food tells a story of life, environment and culture. I hope to illuminate the realities that resettled individuals, within our “community,” are currently living. More informed interactions and systematic planning will emerge as a result to the questions I raised in interviews with key stakeholders of Vermont’s food movement.

I used the funding from my Ian Worley Award to pay my interpreters, the people I interviewed for their time ($50 Gardener’s Supply gift card per interview), transportation to seed saving events and companies in Vermont, books about seed saving and a recording device! I would not have been able to complete this project without the financial assistance. Thank you Ian Worley!

Q.   What are your future plans and goals relating to the environment?
A.   Some serious learning adventures are the future plans for after graduation. I want to see more, question more. I hope to do some on-the-ground work, driven through conversation and action, both individually and in partnership with a radical NGO. After a number of years of listening, speaking, and working with my hands I plan to go back to school in order to get a degree that will help for me to make some degree of systematic change. I plan to sing and dance all along the way.

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Katherine (Kat) Wilcenski, ‘15
Major: Environmental Studies, Minors: Green Building and Community Design
ENVS Concentration: Restorative Health and Eco-Design
UVM College/School: Arts and Sciences
Hometown: Cutchogue, New York
Email: kwilcens@uvm.edu

Project Title: Creative Ecological Empowerment and Paradigms: Transforming Calamity to  Godsend
This project was Kat’s senior ENVS thesis.

An interactive sculpture incorporating ecotherapy concepts intended to help people become aware of their preoccupied state and become more connected to the natural environment. The project used natural materials. She experimented with fungi species growing on recycled biodegradable substrates like cardboard, hay, wood chips and seeds.

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Francesca Hall with wind turnbinesFrancesca Hall '15
Major: Double Major in Environmental Studies and Political Science
ENVS Concentration: Environmental Policy and Community Development
UVM College/School: College of Arts and Sciences
Hometown: Los Angeles, California
Email: hall.francesca@gmail.com

Project Title: Vermont Student Climate Coalition

Q.  What are your interests and passions within the field of environmental studies?

A.  I am interested in environmental activism and community organizing. My main passion in the field is working with communities to prevent and remedy environmental injustices. I want to accomplish this through both non-profit advocacy and government work, as I believe it requires working from outside the system and from within it to bring about significant systemic change.

Q.  What do you plan to do with your funding from your Ian Worley Award? What do you hope to accomplish?

A.  I will use the award money to hold the first conference of the Vermont Student Climate Coalition (VSCC), and to provide the financial support as it gets off the ground. The VSCC, which I co-founded with a student from Middlebury College, is a cross-college collaborative network that aims to help students involved in Vermont environmental campaigns share resources and work in solidarity with one another. The goal is to increase sustainability and equity at the institutional and state levels, and to create a unified voice of the larger student population in Vermont regarding environmental issues.

Q.  Which course are you most excited to be taking this semester?

A.  ENVS 295 Law, Policy and Environmental Justice with Tracey Tsugawa. It's such a fascinating course. We're reading case law and federal statutes and understanding how environmental justice cases are resolved through judicial proceedings and executive agencies. It's interesting to see the limitations of laws and statutes as they relate to environmental justice in the U.S.

Q.  What are your future plans and goals relating to the environment?

A.  I plan to continue working as an organizer and activist around environmental and social justice issues. This fall with my co-facilitator Tyler McFarland, I will be teaching the ENVS 197 Students-Teaching-Students (STS) course called Community Organizing and Environmental Activism. After graduation I plan to travel, work for an environmental non-profit, and eventually attend law school.



Q. Where are you now, and what are you up to?
A. After graduation, I will be moving to Memphis, TN to become an English teacher through Teach for America. I will be pursuing my masters in education, and continuing my commitment to social, economic and environmental justice building off the work I’ve spent the last four years doing in Vermont. I plan to teach for several years and may, down the line, pursue a law degree in order to advocate for justice through litigation and policymaking.

Q. How has your Ian Worley Award influenced your work and future direction?
A. The Ian Worley Award allowed me to successfully found the Vermont Student Climate Coalition, expand the membership of this organization to 13 colleges in Vermont, with partnerships at 7 organizations in the state. Since October 2013, VSCC has hosted three conferences and two leadership retreats, including the immensely successful Vermont Power Shift conference held at Landmark College in November 2014. I served as co-chair for two years. With my graduation VSCC will continue under new leadership, and is funded through a generous grant from the Pollination Project. The VSCC has introduced students at colleges across the state to pressing environmental, economic and social issues impacting the state, and has empowered students with the skills necessary to organize on their campuses. Without the Ian Worley Award none of this would have been possible, and I would not have been able to pursue my passions and actualize them through this organization.

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FALL 2014 RECIPIENTMackenzie Jones
Mackenzie Jones '14
Major: Double major in Environmental Studies and Studio Art
ENVS Concentration: Nature, Culture and Justice
UVM College/School: College Arts and Sciences
Hometown: Darien, Connecticut

Project Title: Repairing Consumerism: A Photographic Documentation of the Repair Industry
​This project was Mackenzie's senior ENVS thesis.

Q.  What are your interests and passions within the field of environmental studies?

A.  My interest has always been in the social and cultural sides of environmental studies. Two of my favorite courses at UVM have been ANTH 179 Environmental Anthropology and ENVS 183 Environmental Impacts of Consumerism. I am interested in creative projects like the Highline in New York City, where an abandoned urban space was reinvented to promote being outdoors, public artwork, and events. I also love spending time outside hiking, snowboarding, and swimming in the summer. This spring break my roommate and I are going camping in Yosemite National Park.

Q.  What do you plan to do with your funding from your Ian Worley Award? What do you hope to accomplish?

A.  I plan to use the award money to create a photography exhibition for my environmental studies thesis project. This project combines my passion for environmental studies and studio art. It will use photography to communicate the potential of the repair industry to reduce waste from consumption. I have been photographing the insides of different repair shops in New York City and Burlington, and interviewing the owners and employees of these businesses. The goal of my thesis is to encourage viewers to think about the life spans of the products they choose to buy, and how they could extend these life spans by utilizing the repair industry. I believe that not only does the repair industry have the potential to reduce waste from consumption, but also to cause a shift in the social aspects of consumption by to bolstering longevity in products, relationships, and livelihoods.

Q.  Which course are you most excited to be taking this semester?

A.  ENVS 170 Landscape Photography with Dan Wells. Vermont has such a beautiful landscape, and this class is a great opportunity to explore it through the unique angle of photography.

Q.  What are your future plans and goals relating to the environment?

Ultimately, I would love to be a Creative or Art Director for a company focused on supporting environmental awareness and responsibility.

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FALL 2014 RECIPIENTJackson Massey
Jackson Massey '15
Major: Environmental Studies
Minor: Public Speech and Debate
ENVS Concentration: Conservation and Ecology
UVM College/School: College of Arts and Sciences
Hometown: Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Email: jrmassey@uvm.edu

Project Title: Climate Change Adaptation and Relief Efforts
This project was Jackson’s senior ENVS thesis.
See Jackson's web site connected to this project.

Q.  What are your interests and passions within the field of Environmental Studies?

A.  I am passionate about conservation and am extremely interested in the role it can play in climate change adaptation. As I have pursued my Environmental Studies degree at UVM I have been fortunate enough to study abroad twice—once in the Balkans region of Eastern Europe, and once in the Okavango Delta in Botswana. Both of these experiences studying abroad have had a profound effect on the way I view conservation and the environment. They have instilled a passion for international environmental conservation with an emphasis on adapting to climate change.

Q.  What do you plan to do with your funding from your Ian Worley Award? What do you hope to accomplish?

A.  The money I received will be used to form a student organization on campus called Climate Change Adaptation and Relief Efforts, or C.A.R.E. The mission of the organization will be to organize environmentally-conscious students to participate in volunteer projects that directly increase the adaptive capacity of at-risk communities in Vermont. Example projects will include native tree planting and rain garden installations. These types of projects will mitigate the effects of flooding and help reduce run-off into the lake—two issues that have been linked to climate change. The hope is that while these volunteers are working on these projects, they will also be spreading awareness about the effects of climate change and the need to adapt. Funding will be used for transportation, t-shirts, and club start-up costs.

Q.  Which course are you most excited to be taking this semester?

A.  ENVS 188 Sustainability Science with Amy Seidl. This class incorporates a lot of systems thinking and adaptation techniques that are very relevant to my interests and the C.A.R.E. project.

Q. What are your future plans and goals relating to the environment?

I hope to continue working on C.A.R.E. so that eventually it will become an umbrella organization for similar C.A.R.E. chapters at different universities around the United States.  I hope that, eventually, CARE can become a sort of movement towards climate change adaptation, similar to the movement that has already formed around climate change mitigation. I would also like to do more research on what can be done to adapt to climate change on a global level, and perhaps find some way to extend the services of C.A.R.E. to the international community.



Q.   Where are you now, and what are you up to?
A.    I am currently a senior expecting to graduate in May with a Major in Environmental Studies. CARE has grown to become a fully-fledged student organization with an active membership of 18 students. Over the past year we have participated in riparian buffer zone restoration, urban canopy inventory, and rain barrel construction projects, all in the name of climate change adaptation. I have developed a website for CARE so that I could showcase the different projects that volunteers participated in. The URL address is www.careadaptation.org. After I leave UVM, CARE will be run by Ula Klein, a first year UVM Global Studies major who has shown unwavering dedication to the project. My plans after graduation are to attend graduate school to study climate change adaptation and resiliency. Eventually I would like to start my own climate change adaptation consulting business.

Q.    How has your Ian Worley Award influenced your work and future direction?
A.    The funding I received through the Ian Worley Award made it possible for me to focus my undergraduate studies on climate change adaptation. Starting C.A.R.E. has led to other opportunities such as being a Teaching Assistant for the ENVS 295 Adaptation to Climate Change course. This award has taught me that there is always a way to accomplish your goals, no matter how far-fetched they may seem.

Q.    Anything else you would like to share?
A.    I would encourage all undergraduates to think critically about what they would like to get out of their education at UVM.  There are SO many resources that are made available to us as students.  If you have any type of idea, goal, or dream, UVM is the place to make it happen.

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