Ranjani Wasantha Kulawardhana, Ph.D. 2013
Assistant Professor of Environmental Sciences, Jackson State University, MS

Wasantha WebWasantha’s work focuses on the applications of geo-spatial technologies (i.e., geographic information systems, remote sensing and spatial statistics) for the study of vegetation and related ecosystem processes of the natural and managed ecosystems. Her Ph.D. dissertation research investigated capabilities of a geospatial modeling approach that integrated remote sensing (Lidar -Light Detection and Ranging, and multispectral) and field measurements for the study of vegetation productivity and carbon storage ability of coastal salt marshes in Galveston, Texas.

Wasantha's notes on the ESSM graduate program:
My graduate training at ESSM provided me the opportunity to succeed as a scholar in environmental as well as geospatial sciences. The atmosphere I experienced at the department is friendly, open and supportive. The mentorships that I received from various faculty members helped immensely to succeed both academically and professionally. The faculty members were available even outside my academic and research programs for providing support to secure both internal and external grants and fellowships, preparing for conferences, publishing research in high ranks peer reviewed journals, and even for navigating the job market. The three cornerstones of the success of the ESSM Department’s graduate program that I highly recognize are highly collaborative and friendly atmosphere, standard of academic and research excellence, and emphasis on professionalization.

Julie A. Foote, Ph.D., 2014
Lecturer in Environmental Sciences, University of Texas at San Antonio

Julie is interested in the impact of anthropogenic disturbances on soil biogeochemistry. Her dissertation looks at the effect of forest management techniques on soil carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus. As a doctoral student in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, Julie received both a Texas A&M Graduate Merit Fellowship and the departmental McMillan-Ward Endowed Graduate Fellowship.

Julie's notes on the ESSM graduate program
A a "non-traditional" student, I feel extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to pursue my Ph.D. at Texas A&M in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management. Since childhood, I've been interested in and curious about the effects of both natural and human disturbance on ecosystems. ESSM has a cadre of professors with the expertise to channel investigations in this area, and this was a key factor in my decision to pursue a Ph.D. Before and during my tenure in the department, the professors and support staff were extremely approachable and willing to offer their assistance when asked. I feel that I now have the tools to continue not only in my research interests, but as a mentor, as well.

Rachel Wellman, Ph.D. 2014
STEM iLab instructor, Galaxy E3 Elementary School, Boynton Beach, FL

Rachel’s doctoral research contributes to understanding the potential effects and consequences of global change on below-ground ecosystem processes in south Texas grasslands. Her work spans the disciplines of biogeochemistry, root biology, and soil microbiology with the help of my advisory committee, representing three departments within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (Ecosystem Science and Management, Horticultural Sciences, and Soil and Crop Sciences). The results of her complex study will enhance our ability to anticipate how below-ground ecosystem processes will respond to global environmental changes (particularly temperature and rainfall) that are currently underway and predicted to intensify in the future.

After receiving her Ph.D. in December 2014, Rachel accepted a very unique offer to teach at an outstanding platinum level LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, www.usgbc.org/LEED) elementary school that specializes in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics) education, while she continues to prepare manuscripts for publication.

Galaxy E3 Elementary School (www.edline.net/pages/Galaxy_ES) is much like a science museum. Rachel was hired to teach the STEM iLab curriculum to students in grades K-5 as well as embrace the school’s many resources as a museum curator. The school is equipped with many advanced technologies including a working green roof and solar panel array. She is enjoying the new challenges of teaching a much younger community and learning new ways to share her knowledge in ecosystem science.

Vikram Chattre, Ph.D. 2013
Postdoctoral fellow, University of Vermont

Vikram Chattre graduated from Texas A&M Department of Ecosystem Science and Management in 2013 with a Ph.D. in Genetics. He is interested in solving population and landscape genomics questions using molecular methods and computational biology. His primary study subject is forest trees.

During his first postdoctoral fellowship at the USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station in Mississippi, he constructed a high-density linkage map in loblolly pine, an economically and ecologically valuable southern pine. Presently he holds a second postdoctoral position, studying range-wide climate adaptation in balsam poplar using the Genotyping by Sequencing technology (GBS) with Stephen Keller at University of Vermont.

Vikram's training at Texas A&M helped him a great deal in developing skills for research as well as teaching. He is aiming for a career in academic research.

Frances Toledo Rodriguez. M.S., 2013
Invasive species coordinator, USFWS

Following graduation, Frances joined the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and is an invasive species coordinator (wildlife biologist) in Massachusetts. Frances’ main responsibilities are the control and eradication of perennial pepperweed and treating many other invasive species on wildlife refuge lands.

USFWS and partners are working together to treat invasive species in adjacent lands with mainly volunteer help. The common goal is to restore and increase the resiliency of the Great Marsh. The Great Marsh is the largest contiguous stretch of salt marsh in New England, extending from Cape Ann to New Hampshire. The Great Marsh includes over 20,000 acres of marsh, barrier beach, tidal river, estuary, mudflat and upland islands. The Great Marsh is an internationally recognized Important Bird Area (IBA), as it contributes to the preservation of many breeding and migratory birds. It also was designated by the state in 1979 as the Parker River/Essex Bay Area of Critical Environmental Concern.

Frances' other responsibilities include monitoring bats, salt marsh elevation table and reproductive success of piping plover.