Katharina-Victoria Perez, a 2014 graduate of Oregon State University, is one of three Oregon State University students who have been awarded the U.S. Student Fulbright from the U.S. Department of State and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. She will conduct research in Chile in 2017.
Perez will work with several, local, Chilean organizations and international environmental NGOs to map the habitat and threats of a species of Andean deer, aka the huemul (Hippocamelus bisulcus). Hunting and habitat loss have reduced the population to remote areas in the Andes of Chile and Argentina. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature includes the huemul on its Red List of Threatened Species, as it is estimated that fewer than 1,500 huemul survive.
As an Oregon State undergraduate (Fisheries & Wildlife Sciences and International Studies with a Political Science minor), Perez first traveled to Chile in 2012. She participated in two expeditions into the rugged mountain home of the huemul to set up camera traps.
“I’m interested in international environmental policy. Working with the nonprofit organization, CODEFF (Comité Pro Defensa De La Fauna Y Flora), gave me experience with public outreach and grassroots conservation efforts,” she said. “While working with CODEFF, I also took care of over 100 Austral parakeets that had been rescued from illegal trafficking, and protected stranded sea lion pups on a beach.”
Perez returned to Chile twice in 2014, but that has not been her only international destination. She grew up in a household with Latino and Austrian heritage, speaks Spanish and German and spent a year in Italy as a high-school student.
At Oregon State, she also traveled to Gabon in sub-Saharan Africa to study carbon sequestration in mangrove swamps with Oregon State ecologist Boone Kaufmann. “It was an incredible environment, really pristine, and is a phenomenally important ecosystem to study and protect,” she said.
In her Chilean research, Perez will apply her skills in geographic information systems and wildlife management to assist conservation organizations. “This is a highly collaborative project. The need is coming from them,” she said.
“Oregon State was pivotal for me in attaining this research grant,” she added. “I had great support from several staff and faculty in the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Agricultural Sciences who helped me out.”
Perez is aiming for a career in international environmental science and policy. “I’m really interested in that interface and want to see that research is communicated clearly and utilized in making informed policy decisions,” she said.
Perez will begin her Fulbright program in March 2017, working with researchers at the University of Chile in Santiago, the Wildlife Conservation Society, Chile’s National Forest Corporacion and CODEFF.
Jade Florence, Ph.D student in Botany and Plant Pathology, will research integrated disease management strategies to control a pathogen that impacts tomato plants on the Bolaven Plateau in Laos. Florence will engage in participatory research involving local plant pathologists and farmers while demonstrating seedling screening prior to planting and conducting a statistical analysis to determine which practices are correlated with disease.
Chris Foertsch, Master’s student in Applied Anthropology, will conduct ethnographic research on the experience of students from Eastern Indonesia who attend universities on the main Indonesian island of Java. Collecting data through interviews and observations in the city of Malang, Java and on other islands, Foertsch will explore key questions about challenges these students face as minorities among the dominant culture and how this influences their national identity.
~ Nick Houtman