UNH grad student awarded fellowship for leadership in the environment
Published: Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 1, 2013 00:10
University of New Hampshire graduate student Jessica Veysey was awarded the Switzer Environmental Fellowship, which recognizes “highly talented graduate students in New England and California … who demonstrate the potential for leadership in their field.”
This year’s fellowship, which awards $15,000 to each recipient, was given to just 22 applicants from a pool of over 300 highly talented researchers.
Veysey received the news at her parents’ house, where she was staying temporarily, while conducting interviews for her ongoing research in Massachusetts.
“It was one of the most exciting days of my life,” Veysey said. “My parents were very proud.”
Veysey plans to put the money toward supplementing tuition costs and interstate travel expenses.
Veysey’s research investigates the catalysts of wetland loss and the efficacy of statewide policy in New Hampshire and Massachusetts regarding wetland protection and buffer zones.
Buffer zones are man-made and natural landmasses that separate wetlands from dry lands. Wetlands provide a litany of uses, including filtration of sediments, pollution and flood prevention
As towns and cities situated among wetlands expand, buffer zones shrink and pose a mounting threat to societal and ecological sustainability.
“If we didn’t have [wetlands] and we had to engineer their services, it would take trillions and trillions of dollars,” Veysey said.
Veysey’s path toward her current research began at Dartmouth College, where she completed her undergraduate in biology.
After completing her undergraduate degree, Veysey worked in consulting out of Massachusetts, where her job included working with construction companies looking to build near wetlands.
It was Veysey’s job to assess whether or not the desired building proposal was within state laws that dictate how close and to what extent companies can build near wetlands and certain wildlife.
“I would go to public hearings … and present their projects and argue on behalf of my client,” Veysey said, describing a political process that led to a first-hand experience on how inefficient town meetings concerning wildlife and construction are.
This political frustration evolved over the years, coalescing in the final stages of Vesey’s research in which she is trying to bridge the gap between empirical, scientific data and fungible, statewide policy enactment.
“I don’t actually know the answer yet,” Veysey said in regards to how to bridge the gap between scientist and developer. “But we need to know how to interact. … How to improve our communication so maybe there’s a little more information going back and forth.”
Veysey empathized with both ends of the conservationist-construction spectrum, and has primarily worked on mutually beneficial solutions.
“We need to work together to come up with a creative way to meet interests on both sides,” Veysey said.
Growing up with three other brothers in the country, Veysey has loved the outdoors her entire life, a love that drove her to pursue a doctorate at the University of New Hampshire.
After leaving the consulting business Veysey discovered that her current UNH faculty supervisor, Kim Babbitt, had received a large grant from the USDA for her research in wetland buffers and the size required to protect amphibians.
“I had recently fallen in love with amphibians during my job as a consultant,” Veysey said.
She thereafter decided to continue her education at UNH.
Veysey is in the final year of her research. After reading hundreds of hours of public discourse records, and attending a myriad of town meetings on environmental protection hearings.
Veysey has worked on synthesizing her raw data into useful information.
Veysey aspires to protect the wetlands, not just through strong-armed policy, but also through want from public awareness and greater understanding.