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Thomas Reed: Promoting a Passion for Environmental Conservation

Written By: Abigail Ayers

“The application process was time-consuming, but Dr. Kershner helped to make it a little easier by reviewing my essays and other materials and providing feedback along the way.”

Thomas Reed, a senior in Conservation Biology, was recently named as an honorable mention for the Morris K. and Stewart L. Udall Foundation Scholarship, a prestigious award given to outstanding students committed to promoting public service and leadership in the areas of Native American Nations and environmental sciences. Reed first learned about the Udall Scholarship through the University Fellowships Office’s (UFO) website. He was drawn to the award due to its focus on environmental biology and promotion of conservation. Reed discusses the application process and how he benefited from guidance from the Fellowship Advising Office.

From a young age, Reed displayed great interest in nature, specifically in the scope of reptiles and amphibians, with which he later incorporated his school work and research abroad. “Since I was in elementary school I was out chasing snakes and lizards…now I’ve moved towards the fieldwork, conducting research.” He participated in outreach with different organizations in North Carolina and, as his interests further developed, he began work in captive breeding rare species and tracking populations of species understudied and under concern. His interest in research of the populations under study is incorporated with education and outreach, bringing awareness to the conservational problems at hand.

Reed enhanced his focus in the field of conservation biology at NC State with academic coursework and research opportunities with his professors which provided him with more hands-on fieldwork. During his time at the university, Reed has participated in the Herpetology Club which organizes outreach with schools in the surrounding area and undertakes research-based field trips for data collection and photographic record keeping. This past summer, Reed also worked with a graduate student for three months in Southeastern China researching frog dynamics and assisting snake projects. “I personally have never left the country before… so it was great to not only go there [China], it was great to go there and do what I was interested in, like catching snakes, documenting frogs and working on different projects while communicating with researchers from different institutions.”  His experience researching abroad not only expanded his horizons but also helped him to develop professional connections within the field of conservation biology, including connecting with researchers from other institution abroad. Reed’s impactful research abroad experience was made possible partly through an UFO SUPER-Curricular SEED Grant, which is intended to encourage and enable promising undergraduate students to build on their undergraduate studies by participating in an extraordinary summer experience like Reed’s hands-on fieldwork in Southeast China. Funding such as the UFO SUPER-Curricular Seed Grant is made possible by generous private donations to the UFO and truly have a lasting impact on students and their undergraduate experience.

For students interested in researching abroad, Reed advises students to start making connections with faculty to allow time for financing and searching for funding opportunities.  He recommends the University Fellowship Office for guidance towards scholarships and other opportunities for students.