Eco-Excellence

Five extraordinary students shoulder the task of preserving biodiversity
(Illustration: Santiago Uceda)

(Illustration: Santiago Uceda)

They all grew up immersed in nature: catching frogs, climbing rocks, diving reefs, combing beaches, camping out. Now, they’re all committed to studying and restoring the natural world, each in his or her own way. For Justin Conner, that means investigating the chytrid fungus and other threats to amphibians. Allison Stringer’s ecosystem studies have taken her from Chile to Siberia. Elliott Finn spent a summer in Washington, D.C., learning about environmental policy and national politics in Senator Jeff Merkley’s office. Katlyn Taylor’s love of wildlife has taken her to an elephant sanctuary in Nepal and whale watching on the Oregon coast. As for Jake Tepper, researching coral reefs is how he plans to help save these fragile marine communities.

Here are the stories of five Oregon State University student researchers who are giving everything they’ve got to heal a planet in peril.

Amphibians are crashing.

When manatees and alligators are members of your backyard ecosystem, it’s like living with a ready-made science project.

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There’s still hope.

Siberia seldom tempts Western travelers to explore its vast taiga forests and endless permafrost — unless that traveler happens to be Allison Stringer.

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Blanket solutions aren’t the answer.

What runs through the life of author Norman McLean is a river. In the life of Elliott Finn, it’s a plant.

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OMG, so much science!

Katlyn Taylor’s life has bumped into practically every phylum of the Animal Kingdom. Ask her how she got into science, and she’ll spin a narrative that spans sea lemons, orphaned chickens, 4-H rabbits, endangered Asian elephants, gray whale migration, sea lion pups, the genetics of microbacterial phages and the coloration of sea stars.

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Coral reefs are dying.

When Jacob (Jake) Tepper was an eighth-grader, he and his dad traded in their 20-gallon saltwater aquarium and transferred its inhabitants — an anemone and a pair of clownfish — to a spacious 50-gallon reef tank.

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