Graduate students earn grants to stop hunger
Two University of Idaho graduate students, Oscar Abelleira and Sara Galbraith, earned grants from the Purdue University Research Center to contribute to ending world hunger by helping develop scientists and engineers of the future, according to a press release.
Abelleira, a graduate student in natural resources, is researching water transpiration rates in native forests and teak plantations and their effect on stream flow in Costa Rica. Galbraith, a graduate student in entomology, is studying the impact of land use on bee populations in Costa Rica.
“Pollination is one ecosystem service that is highly influenced by land use and is tightly linked with food security,” Galbraith said. “Animals pollinate 35 percent of crops and pollination services are valued globally at $117 billion per year. Given global pollinator declines and particularly the vulnerability of tropical bees to agricultural management practices, it is important to understand the impact of land use in Costa Rica on the number and types of bees found.”
Galbraith said they found the grant after a lot of collaboration with their advisers and searching grant websites.
Galbraith said she and Abelleira got help from the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship, the JBT program and Creativity and Technology Integration in Innovative Education.
Galbraith and Abelleira both applied for different grants, she said.
“I received $40,000 for two years, so it’s $20,000 a year, and that is not including what Oscar received,” Galbraith said.
Abelleira said he received $15,000 for a six-month period.
He said the money will be separated into four parts: travel expenses for his advisers and him, living expenses for himself in Costa Rica, buying equipment to perform water extractions from stem tissue and soils in order to conduct analyses of the stable isotope composition of water and for covering laboratory costs of running water stable isotope analysis.
Galbraith said her grant allows her to expand the education outreach portion of her plan.
“Which I think are really important toward working for food security in developing countries,” Galbraith said.
She said her UI adviser, Nilsa Bosque-Perez, has been very supportive of her plans, and she also gets support from her adviser from CATIIE .
“But I think for me, some of the biggest inspiration I get is from working with the people in Hojancha (Costa Rica),” Galbraith said. “I would advise fellow students to apply to as many sources of funding they believe they might be eligible for. I was discouraged by some colleagues that thought that my work on water availability was not relevant for food security, the focus of the Borlaug fellowship. However, it was evident to me that you cannot grow food without water for irrigation in areas prone to droughts. Indeed, they saw the link afterward, and were happy that I didn’t follow their advice and applied.”
Galbraith said working with people in Hojancha is what drives her and helps her feel like she is doing something important.
“I think it is really important to engage with those who are bee keepers so that you are really able to make a difference with your work,” Galbraith said.
Erin Roetker can be reached at email@example.com
Sarah Galbraith | Courtesy
Natural resources graduate student Oscar Abelleira takes a core sample from a teak tree in Costa Rica. He earned a $15,000 grant from the Purdue University Research Center.