Springfield, Ohio – Blake Troxel, Wittenberg University class of 2005, has been awarded a Fulbright U. S. Student Program scholarship to continue work on his master’s degree in Ecology/Environmental Studies at Yale University’s School of Forestry. The scholarship allows Troxel to return to the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu, where he previously served three years with the Peace Corps, to continue his postgraduate studies.
“When I was a Peace Corps volunteer I spent most of the three years on an outer island called Gaua, up in the Banks Island group to the north,” Troxel said. “This time I will be living and working with the Department of Forestry in the capitol city, Port Vila, on the island of Efate.”
While serving in the Peace Corps, the sociology major became interested in the social aspects of environmental management and development, and knew he wanted to pursue graduate studies.
During his years in Gaua, Troxel became proficient in the local language, which will benefit the sociological portion of his work. He will “use in-depth interviews, among other tools of social science, to gauge traditional resource management practices, resource use patterns, the cultural importance of specific resources and emerging conflicts that could affect the implementation of a management plan.”
Troxel added that his environmental research will attend to the “biophysical inventory of soils, and of terrestrial and aquatic resources.” His efforts will be completed under the supervision of Vanuatu’s Department of Forestry and in conjunction with its Pacific Alliance for Sustainability forest conservation project, sponsored through the Global Environment Facility (GEF) regional office in Samoa. The research for and the design of the Lake Letes Conservation Area management plan, and the resulting document, will become the capstone of his master’s degree and respond to the local landholder’s desire for ecological conservation and resource management.
“One of the prospective conservation areas is on Gaua, so I have personal knowledge of the environmental and social situation. I’ve hiked through the forest and spent the night in the proposed conservation area many times, and there are people on Gaua that I consider my family and friends,” Troxel said. “Hopefully this will allow me to hit the ground running, and finish the research within the 10 months I am in Vanuatu.”
Troxel majored in sociology at Wittenberg during a collegiate career that included three varsity letters as a member of the Tiger swimming and diving team. He is a native of Bluffton, Ind.
Written By: Phyllis Eberts