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Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program

The Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program (DDCSP) Collaborative is a 2-year undergraduate conservation, diversity, equity, and inclusion field program designed to provide students from underrepresented groups with an experiential introduction to a career in natural resources. The Arizona, Florida, Idaho, and Massachusetts Units are members of the collaborative. 

Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program Collaborative

Our students attend leadership training, work with scientists and graduate students on research projects, and are mentored by current CRU program graduate students and Federal scientists. The Doris Duke Scholars participate in paid summer internships with local, State, Federal, and Tribal agencies, or nongovernmental organizations.

2022 Doris Duke Conservation Scholars

Maya Encinosa - University of Florida, Florida Unit, 2nd Year Scholar

Maya Encinosa is a senior majoring in wildlife ecology and conservation (pre-veterinary) and minoring in pathogenesis at the University of Florida. She entered the DDCSP with a deep interest in wildlife diseases and policy along with discussions of diversity, equity, and inclusion. During her first summer with the DDCSP, she worked alongside a graduate student mentor in Picayune Strand State Forest in Naples, Florida. Maya researched the impact of roadway proximity and type on habitat use by the Florida bonneted bat and presented her poster at The Wildlife Society Annual Conference. This past summer, Maya followed her interest in veterinary pathology and coastal ecosystems to The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California. She interned with the pathology unit assisting and performing necropsies on pinnipeds and cetaceans. Her research project on the characterization of urinary tract infections in California sea lions will be presented at the 2023 Wildlife Disease Association conference. The research and networking opportunities with the DDCSP led Maya to be accepted to participate in a Strategies for Ecology Education, Diversity and Sustainability program with the Ecological Society of America. Equally devoted to her local community, Maya looks forward to leading the Florida Student Chapter of the Wildlife Disease Association as President in her final semester.

[Photo Caption: Maya Encinosa holding a Florida Bonneted Bat]

Christina Contreras - University of Idaho, Idaho Unit

Christina is a senior majoring in Wildlife Sciences with a minor in Rangeland Ecology and Management at the University of Idaho. She grew up in the small mountain town of Hailey, Idaho where she helped her dad with his landscaping business. As a first-generation Hispanic student, Christina has worked incredibly hard to maintain her Hispanic roots and culture. Christina spent her first 2 years of college at a local community college and transferred to University of Idaho to pursue a B.S. degree. Through the DDCSP, Christina gained a suite of professional skills. During her first summer with the DDCSP, she worked with a graduate student mentor studying the northern Idaho ground squirrel, a federally threatened species endemic to only two counties in Idaho. Christina conducted her own research project that summer examining the effects of soil properties on selection of winter hibernacula by these rare ground squirrels. She recently presented a poster on her research at the annual conference of The Wildlife Society. This past summer, she completed an internship at the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Maine where she worked with a variety of federally threatened endangered species. On her DDCSP application, Christina stated that there is nothing more important than having good communication skills and that she wanted to join the DDCSP because she wanted to learn how to be a better leader in the wildlife profession. She hopes that the skills she has gained will allow her to make a difference in her community and in the conservation field.

[Photo Caption: Christina Contreras with a Idaho Ground Squirrel]

Malvika Someshwar - University of Massachusetts, Massachusetts Unit, 2nd Year Scholar

Mylvika’s Blog: Rhinos at the Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle, Washington - My internship work was centered around animal behavior research, where I was primarily working with rhinos. Both rhinos had developed Chronic Foot Disease (CFD), and it was my responsibility to help develop a quantitate scoring system for a qualitative measure of discomfort. This involved meetings with the zoo’s veterinarian, rhino keepers and the zoo's welfare scientist- Bonnie Baird; as well as studying their walking patterns and foot photo documentation through the years. Additionally, I was looking at their space use and substrate preferences to determine how they liked to spend their time. This was important because substrate changes were implemented to help with the rhinos’ CFD, so by conducting this research we can observe the effect of this. Furthermore, I was studying the social dynamic between the two rhinos. Both rhinos are male and approaching 6 years old, which means that they’ll need to be separated eventually, studying their ethograms and behaviors will help us determine when this will need to be. On top of my rhino research, I was helping monitoring the animals during concerts. The Woodland Park Zoo has a tradition of hosting concerts to help raise funds and awareness for conservation efforts, however it means that many of the animals are also watched to make sure they are doing well. This research would involve scoring animals on their ethograms and recording decibel readings for animals such as snow leopards, wallabies, wallaroos, and tree kangaroos. My third subset of work included submitting data for a new multi-institutional giraffe study coming out of the Lincoln Park Zoo. All of these different activities constituted my time working for Bonnie at the Woodland Park Zoo.

[Photo Caption: Malvika Someshwar collects data on Rhinoceros behavior at the Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle, Washington]