Two F&ES Students Honored for Leadership in Conservation Science

Two F&ES students have been awarded the new MK McCarthy-RW Worth Scholarship for Leadership in Conservation Science.
Meredith VanAcker ’16 M.E.Sc. and Nicole Wooten ’16 M.E.M. each received $2,500 in scholarship grants toward their second year of study at F&ES. They are being recognized for their demonstrated leadership in the field of conservation biology and wildlife science, both at F&ES and in their prior work experiences.
conservation grant 2015 fes
F&ES Professor Oswald Schmitz, left; Meredith VanAcker ’16 M.E.Sc.; Nicole Wooten ’16 M.E.M.; and Tim Northrop ’03 M.E.M., Director, Office of Development & Alumni Services.
At F&ES, Wooten and VanAcker have promoted skill building and career opportunities for the conservation community through serving as leaders of the Yale Student Chapter of the Society for Conservation Biology, known to F&ES students as the ConBio Student Interest Group. Last spring, VanAcker organized and led a group of students to meet with the program directors of the Wildlife Conservation Society at the organization’s Global Conservation Center in the Bronx. Wooten coordinated with the staff of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy to introduce new students to on-the-ground conservation management through a field workshop on conservation easement monitoring and maintenance. They also partnered with the Office of Career and Professional Development to host professionals from diverse sectors on a panel that gave students the opportunity examine their future careers in the conservation field.
The idea for a new scholarship was proposed by former ConBio co-chairs Tara Meyer ’15 M.E.Sc. and Danielle Lehle ’15 M.E.M. who sought to raise the profile of conservation and wildlife science among F&ES students. They believed that a scholarship would incentivize and support students who work to bring these opportunities to their peers.
“Although the conservation community at F&ES is small compared to other specific interest areas, it is a strong and dedicated group of students who work together to create unique career and networking opportunities,” said Meyer.
Margaret McCarthy ’82 B.A. and her husband Robert Worth, who also provide scholarship support to F&ES master’s students from Africa, shared Meyer’s passion for conservation and wildlife issues and agreed to fund the new scholarship for a minimum of five years.
“Bob and I have been lucky to meet amazing people working in the field of conservation—all who are preserving our natural world for future generations,” said McCarthy. “We are delighted to support these remarkable F&ES students following that path.”
Although the conservation community at F&ES is small compared to other specific interest areas, it is a strong and dedicated group of students.
— Tara Meyer ’15 M.E.Sc.
Wooten was selected because of her demonstrated ability to solve problems through finding and sharing connections between conflicting stakeholders. The selection committee also cited her dedication to ecosystem restoration and sustainable land use and policy, as well as her post-graduation plans to increase the long-term resilience of terrestrial ecosystems by connecting isolated protected areas.
Prior to F&ES, Wooten served as an environmental education volunteer in the Peace Corps in El Salvador where she worked with the Ministry of Education to promote the use of interactive science classes as a means of increasing awareness and protection of biodiversity. After returning to the U.S. she joined the Conservation Department of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) and later managed the A.T. Corridor Lands Stewardship program in the Mid-Atlantic States. Last summer Wooten put her F&ES education to practice along the 3,100-mile-long Continental Divide National Scenic Trail by building a Lands Protection program with the Continental Divide Trail Coalition.
VanAcker was selected in recognition of her capacity for leadership as demonstrated through her commitment to empowering young people to join the conservation field. Her research on the role of landscape level changes on wildlife health and disease transmissioncould make important and novel contributions to the field.
Prior to her arrival at the F&ES, VanAcker worked with the Buffalo Niagara Riverkeepers on RiverWatch, a citizen scientist-led project monitoring the health of the Niagara watershed through water quality assessments. She also led an independent project building bat houses for integrated pest management on a permaculture farm in Nicaragua. As an undergraduate at DePaul University, VanAcker researched the impacts of restoration techniques at Midwest prairie sites on belowground microarthropod communities and spent her summer seasons at Mount Rainier National Park conducting wildlife surveys on the declining northern spotted owl population.
This is the first year for the MK McCarthy-RW Worth Scholarship for Leadership in Conservation Science award.
Students interested in applying next year are welcome to reach out to Tara Meyer at or Tim Northrop in the Development and Alumni Services Office at