Jason Taylor, doctoral candidate in biology, received the university's first-ever Science To Achieve Results (STAR) doctoral fellowship.
About 1,400 applications were submitted this year and the Stafford, Va., native was one of the 32 recipients of this prestigious fellowship. "Only four of those were in the aquatic sciences field," he says.
Granted by the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the purpose of the fellowship program is to encourage promising students to obtain advanced degrees and pursue careers in an environmental field. "It has proven to be beneficial to both the public and private sectors by providing a steady stream of well-trained environmental specialists to meet society's environmental challenges," he said. Since the STAR fellowship program was initiated in 1995, approximately 1,300 fellowships have been awarded.
The fellowship is one of the fruits of Jason's life-long fascination with aquatic science. "I was born in Texas but grew up near Fredricksburg, Va., where I spent a lot of time fishing on the Rappahannock river and small lakes with my dad," he says. "I guess that is where I first became interested in streams."
Before coming to Baylor he worked as a stream biologist in Kentucky for two years and as an aquatic ecologist for the Nature Conservancy in Ohio where he provided science support for freshwater conservation projects in Ohio, Belize, and northwest Yunnan, China.
His STAR-funded project focuses on refining existing ecological indicators of nutrient pollution based on algae and developing new ones based on changes in food web composition. "Results from both of these studies will be used to help water quality managers set ecological criteria for nutrients and prevent degradation of water supplies for both freshwater animals and human uses," Jason says.
Jason believes that a strength of his program is the emphasis on developing externally-funded research programs. "These opportunities have allowed me to formulate stronger research ideas," he says. "Ideas that I probably would not have developed without the experience I have gained over the last 2 years."
Overall, his main goal is to perform research that answers important questions in stream ecosystems. "More importantly, I want to interact with water resource agencies and conservation groups to develop solutions to environmental problems in freshwater systems," he says.
Jason completed his Ph.D. in 2011. He is currently a postdoctoral research fellow at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where he is studying the effects of hydraulic fracturing and alterations to stream flow on fish communities.