Wittenberg senior Alyssa Ulrich is one of 11 environmental science and engineering students to receive a scholarship to study through the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Environmental Education Fund.
Ulrich, majoring in environmental science and double minoring in marine science and biology from Curtice, Ohio, is only the second Wittenberg student to be awarded this particular scholarship. The other was Chelsea Steffes in 2018. Recipients earn a $5,000 scholarship for the 2020-2021 academic year.
“I am so grateful that I was awarded this scholarship, and I am very excited to continue doing research and learning new things,” she said. “This scholarship is a way for the Ohio EPA to provide funding for students who are going into careers in environmental science or environmental engineering. I will be putting this scholarship toward my tuition to help pay for my last semester of schooling here at Wittenberg, which will help me focus more on my studies and research as my time here comes to an end.”
Currently the president of the Marine Science Club, a member of the Honors Program, and Alpha Lambda Delta, Ulrich also finds time to serve as a community engagement coordinator at the Susan Hirt Hagen Center for Civic and Urban Engagement.
“The projects I have been a part of have focused on the effects of runoff of a common herbicide, Roundup®, on the creek and stream ecosystems,” Ulrich said. “We have conducted behavior studies using crayfish and salamander larvae and looked at how the Roundup® has affected the overall activity of the organisms, their responses to predators and food, as well as their aggression toward others. I have also done marine science research with flamingo tongue snail coral preference, algae growth on coral, and cleaner wrasse preference.”
Upon graduation, Ulrich plans to pursue a master’s degree in something related to marine science conservation or communication in order to qualify for a position with a nonprofit or non-governmental organization (NGO) working on marine-protected areas. She chose Wittenberg because of the community and for the fact that it’s a smaller school.
“I knew that by going to a smaller school, I would be able to have stronger connections with my professors as well as a more student-focused learning, where I wouldn’t be just another face in the crowd,” she added. “I have made connections that will help me throughout my life. I can say wholeheartedly that it has been my professors who have made the biggest impact on me and my time here at Witt. They have made learning so much fun and have been so supportive of me and my ideas. Without them, I would have never been able to do and experience so much of what has shaped my future and myself. Watching them still doing research and loving what they are doing makes me so hopeful that my future will be filled with the same joy and interest that they represent.”
Amber Burgett, associate professor of biology, is among those professors. Ulrich, a First-Year Research Award (FYRA) recipient, was placed in Burgett’s lab, opening many doors and opportunities.
“I have been Alyssa’s mentor and advisor since her first year at Wittenberg when she joined my lab through the FYRA program,” Burgett said. “From our first trip into the field to collect crayfish, to her current preparations for her senior honors thesis, Alyssa has been a real asset to the lab and to Wittenberg in general. I am proud of Alyssa for receiving this honor and couldn’t think of a more deserving recipient. She has a passion for making a positive contribution to the environment. She demonstrates that passion through the research projects she has completed and is continuing to work on, her coursework, her experiences at the Duke Marine Lab, and in her everyday life.”
Burgett said that Ulrich caught on quickly to the methods of field ecology and behavioral research. After just one semester of working in the lab, Ulrich suggested expanding the research, and now in her senior year she has developed a project to look at the impact the environmental contaminant Roundup® has on larval salamander behavior.
“I think it was all of the classes and research that have helped me to realize what I wanted to do as a career,” Ulrich said. “I am in an environmental communications class this semester that has sparked my interest in more communication studies. The research I have done in both the environmental science and marine science departments has guided me toward wanting to be able to inform the public of issues we face and potential ways to help protect the world, as well as how cool it would be to provide new studies and information about the unknown.”
Living just minutes from Lake Erie, two state parks, and countless marshes and nature reserves, Ulrich grew up surrounded by natural beauty.
“I don’t know if there is one defining moment that made me want to study environmental science but rather a whole lifetime of growing up, seeing and experiencing how beautiful and interesting the natural world is,” she said.
The Ohio EPA awarded a total of $55,000 this year. Since the scholarship program began in 2000, $964,950 has been awarded statewide to 380 students at 46 Ohio colleges and universities. Funding comes from civil penalties collected by Ohio EPA for violations of air and water pollution control laws. The scholarship program is administered by the Ohio Academy of Science. The next application deadline for scholarships is April 15, 2021. Additional information about the scholarship is available by calling Ohio EPA’s Office of Environmental Education at (614) 644-2873 or visiting www.epa.ohio.gov/oee.