Elizabeth Austin ’20 Receives Prestigious Scholarship to Conduct Climate Research

Elizabeth Austin ’20, a junior at Middlebury College in Vermont, has been selected for a Udall Foundation Scholarship. She will receive a $7,000 grant to focus on her research in the emerging field of conservation paleontology.
Austin was one of 55 students selected nationally for the Udall Foundation Scholarship, which is awarded to college sophomores and juniors for leadership, public service, and commitment to issues related to the environment or Native American nations. 

She is pursuing a dual degree in earth and climate sciences as well as environmental studies at Middlebury College. Austin’s focus is on conservation paleontology, and her specific research centers around using preserved plant material in Neotoma middens to reconstruct Earth’s past climate record, which helps with current urban greening practices. 

According to the Udall Foundation, Austin’s work helps provide a baseline of where our climate has been and seeks to lead us into a just future. With the scholarship, she will conduct climate research with a focus on environmental justice. She has presented her research to national and international audiences, including at the Shoals Marine Laboratory, the Geological Society of America, and the Conservation Paleobiology Research Network. Austin credits Hutchison with helping her discover and delve into her interest in environmental science.

“Hutchison prepared me to take on workloads and approach problems with multifaceted solutions. Working on the Hutchison Farm also helped me to see the interactions between people and our environment. I am thankful for all the teachers at Hutchison who fostered my love for earth and climate science,” she said. 

Austin also has interned at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., evaluating how the fur trade has impacted current ecological systems and indigenous people. She is currently working with the Conservation Paleobiology Network and the La Brea Tar Pits, an active paleontological research site in Los Angeles.

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