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Stanford Earth’s Ellen Ward Receives AGU Outstanding Student Paper Award

Ward's research examines the impacts of climate change and local hydropower development on muskrats living in Canada’s Peace-Athabasca Delta.

Stanford Earth graduate student Ellen Ward has been selected to receive an Outstanding Student Paper Award (OSPA) from the American Geophysical Union (AGU).

The prestigious award is given to promote, recognize and reward undergraduate, Master’s and PhD students for quality research in the geophysical sciences. Typically, only the top 3 to 5 percent of student participants who present their research at the annual AGU Fall meeting are awarded an OSPA.

“It is an honor to be selected for the OSPA award,” said Ward, a PhD candidate in the Earth System Science Department at Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences. “Effective science communication is important to me, and receiving this award gives me a sense of having contributed to the scientific conversation at AGU this year.”

Ward’s research, which was conducted in collaboration with Stanford environmental biology professor Elizabeth Hadly, involves using a novel combination of satellite remote sensing and hydrologic simulations to predict the response of muskrat populations living in Canada’s Peace-Athabasca Delta ecosystem to future warming temperatures and local hydropower development. The modeling framework Ward developed could one day serve as the basis for improved stewardship and sustainable development of deltaic, coastal and lake systems worldwide.

One OPSA judge praised Ward on her “engaging conversation” and her “conceptual diagrams of model structure and how disturbance affects muskrat populations.”

Steven Gorelick, Stanford’s Cyrus F. Tolman Professor and Ward’s doctoral research advisor, said that by focusing on animal-freshwater relations, Ward’s work is advancing the field of ecohydrology. “The vast majority of research in ecohydrology has been aimed at plant-water relations and plant patterning,” said Gorelick, who is also a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

“Ellen has a wonderful ability to communicate science concisely, rigorously, and with extraordinary enthusiasm,” he added. “We are fortunate to have her as a doctoral student in the School.”

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