Three ESSM graduate students honored at annual awards reception

The department recognized three ESSM graduate students for their accomplishments at the annual departmental awards reception in April. Master’s student Amelia Min-Venditti and doctoral student Ryan Sheridan received the 2014-2015 Outstanding ESSM Graduate Student award for their academic performance and contributions to their field and to the department. Doctoral student Thomas Huff received the 2014-2015 Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant award for his exceptional work as a teaching assistant in several classes.

Amelia Min-Venditti is working on a master’s degree under the guidance of Dr. Georgianne Moore and Dr. Forrest Fleischman. Her research is at the nexus of natural resource policy and ecohydrology. Through her fieldwork in Costa Rica, Amelia is studying the effects of policy on tropical deforestation and the subsequent impacts of deforestation on the water budget.

Amelia came in to ESSM with an Excellence Fellowship from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. During the course of her program, she also has received a grant from the Jordan Foundation to support her research travel to Costa Rica and funds from the Applied Biodiversity Science program to attend the Amazon Field School in Peru in summer 2015.


In addition to conducting innovative research, Amelia has maintained a strong academic record and proven to be a dedicated and skilled teaching assistant. She also has risen as a leader among ESSM graduate students. She is the driving force behind a newly forming ESSM Graduate Student Association and is whole-heartedly committed to enhancing the graduate school experience for her peers in the department.

Ryan Sheridan is completing his doctoral work with Dr. Sorin Popescu. Ryan’s dissertation research focuses on developing highly advanced photon-counting lidar processing algorithms for characterizing forest canopy parameters.

As a doctoral student, Ryan has received numerous awards, including the ASPRS Paul R. Wolf Memorial Scholarship and the Willie May Harris Graduate Fellowship. Throughout his time in ESSM, Ryan has maintained a consistently high academic performance; served as a highly sought after, top-rated teaching assistant; been a dedicated mentor to his peers; provided leadership to the TAMU student chapter of ASPRS, serving as president for four years; and frequently presented at and participated in professional society meetings.

Following graduation, Ryan will step into a post-doctoral research position in Dr. Popescu’s lab.


Thomas Huff is working on a doctoral degree with Dr. Rusty Feagin. Thomas’ main interests are marsh restoration and understanding landscape level changes in a spatial context. His research is two-pronged. First, he is completing a marsh restoration project that involves reconnecting an isolated marsh, which has become hyper-saline, to Matagorda Bay. Second, he is building a wave tank to study beach and marsh erosion. 

In their nomination of Thomas for the Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant award, Dr. Rusty Feagin and Dr. Urs Kreuter highlight Thomas’ dedication to the students, his proactive approach that allowed him to be exceptionally well prepared for each class, his enthusiasm for bringing innovative ideas to the lab activities, and his willingness to contribute above and beyond his main responsibilities as a TA. Dr. Kreuter noted, “Thomas is proving to be a model TA for the capstone course for Renewable Natural Resources majors in ESSM, and ranks among the best TAs I have had the pleasure of working with.”

Following graduation, Thomas has his sights on furthering his education with a post-doctoral research position and ultimately pursuing a career in academia with a college level teaching position in coastal ecology or spatial sciences.


For more information contact:
Sara Eliason
Administrative Assistant Graduate Studies Program