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The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS) is pleased to announce that Heidi Waite and Michael McCloy have been selected to receive the 2022 AIBS Emerging Public Policy Leadership Award (EPPLA). The award recognizes graduate students in the biological sciences who have demonstrated leadership skills and an aptitude for future professional success working at the intersection of science and public policy.

Heidi Waite is a Ph.D. candidate in ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of California in Irvine, California. Her current research focuses on how marine species with complex life cycles build up their environmental tolerances, allowing them to cope with climate change. Waite’s background in coastal marine systems and interest in science policy led to her receiving the Presidential Graduate Opportunities for Leadership Development (GOLD) Fellowship in 2021, resulting in an internship with the Ocean Science Trust—a nonprofit policy organization based in Sacramento, California—where she led efforts to inform federal agencies and lawmakers on climate science issues. Waite is passionate about science communication and outreach. She writes for the NPR show The Loh Down on Science and has worked to translate COVID-19 related stories into Spanish to serve local communities and increase accessibility. She is also a recipient of the Ecological Society of America’s Katherine S. McCarter Graduate Student Policy Award and the Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowship and serves as the President of the UCI chapter of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics & Native Americans in Science. Waite earned her BS in biology from the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Florida and her MSc in biodiversity, conservation, and management from the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.

Michael McCloy is a PhD student in ecology and evolutionary biology at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. As a conservation ecologist, he studies how avian biodiversity is affected by a range of environmental, climatic, and anthropogenic drivers. He previously worked as an avian field biologist with the Colorado-based non-governmental organization Bird Conservancy of the Rockies, where he gained first-hand experience in private-lands conservation. McCloy is active in his professional community. He currently serves as Student Outreach Chair on the executive board of the Rio Brazos Audubon Society and as the Student Policy Liaison for the Ecological Society of America. He is a recipient of Ecological Society of America's Graduate Student Policy Award and has also served on the Student Affairs Committee of the American Ornithological Society, as a Senator for the Texas A&M Graduate and Professional Student Government, and as President of the Western Carolina University student chapter of The Wildlife Society. McCloy also served as the President of Aggie Toastmasters, a President’s Distinguished chapter of Toastmasters International, where he helped members develop their public speaking, communication, and leadership skills. He earned his BS in natural resources conservation and management from Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina.

Both of the awardees cite a keen interest in science policy. Waite pursued the EPPLA with the intention of gaining “irreplaceable” hands-on experiences. “I believe this program will be pivotal for my career goals of working as a scientist in the policy world,” she stated. McCloy sees this award as an opportunity to meaningfully engage at the intersection of science and policy. “Through the EPPLA, I aim to strengthen my skills in communicating science to a diverse audience, and to further familiarize myself with the policymaking process,” he said. Both Waite and McCloy think it is critical for scientists to actively engage with policymakers to ensure that policy decisions are informed by science.

The EPPLA program is in its nineteenth year of recognizing graduate student achievement. “We continue to be impressed by the outstanding leadership and policy accomplishments of the graduate students from around the nation who apply for the Emerging Public Policy Leadership Award,” said Scott Glisson, AIBS Chief Executive Officer. “AIBS is proud to recognize Heidi and Michael as emerging graduate student leaders this year.”

Waite and McCloy will participate in an online science communications training program and meet with their members of Congress as part of the 2022 AIBS Virtual Advocacy Event this April. They will also have the opportunity to travel to Washington, DC, to participate in a future in-person advocacy event, when it becomes feasible. In addition, they will receive a one-year subscription to the scientific journal BioScience.

AIBS is recognizing an additional graduate student leader with an Honorable Mention award. Jennifer Brown is a PhD candidate in neuroscience at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Brown serves as the Central Hub Chair of the National Science Policy Network and as the President and founder of the Twin Cities Science Policy Network.

AIBS is the national organization dedicated to promoting informed decision-making that advances the biological sciences for the benefit of science and society. The EPPLA program is one way that AIBS builds the capacity of the scientific community to promote sound decision-making.

The EPPLA program is made possible by the generous financial support of AIBS donors. More information about the EPPLA program and AIBS is available at https://www.aibs.org/.



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