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The Florida Wildlife Federation (FWF) Scholarship is a prestigious award bestowed annually upon exceptional students in the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation at the University of Florida (UF).  

Founded on the principles of environmental stewardship and wildlife preservation, this scholarship celebrates academic excellence and a commitment to conservation efforts. Recipients not only receive financial support but also gain unique opportunities for hands-on research, fieldwork, and engagement with leading experts in the field. 

It has encouraged its recipients to advance in their careers and pursue meaningful contributions to wildlife conservation. Here are some perspectives from the 2024 scholarship recipients. 

UF WEC undergraduate students that received the FWF scholarship in 2024

Undergraduate Awards

UF undergraduate scholarship recipient, Preston Ballard – “Growing up, there was always a focus on nature and wildlife in my life, but through high school, I really found myself starting to immerse myself in it. I think that’s what truly made me decide a career in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation was where I fit best – the countless hours spent observing wildlife and never not seeing something new that absolutely fascinated me, it just felt right.   

Pursuing this degree has given me tons of opportunities, the ability to start research as an Undergraduate being one of them. I have started a project under Glaucia Del-Rio at the Florida Museum of Natural History, focusing on Eastern Towhees. There are tons of individual experiences that 

all have enhanced my interest in Florida Wildlife; all almost equally as important and impactful. Specifically, though, there was a year early on in High School that a family of Barred Owls nested in my yard.  

Being able to see the babies mature, take flight, and learn to hunt on their own really inspired me to start looking closer at everything around me. Receiving this scholarship means a lot to me, it is not only super inspiring and motivating; but also, will allow me to focus more time on furthering my education and working more thoroughly on my research.” 

UF undergraduate scholarship recipient, Marin Chester – ”I decided to pursue a degree in wildlife ecology and conservation because I found animals inherently interesting and I enjoyed being outside. Starting at a young age, I loved exploring the woods behind my elementary school in hopes of finding a bear or a coyote, something exciting. Some of my best memories are of animals: when a rabbit raised her young in the front yard, or when a flying squirrel dug out of the living room wall in the middle of the night!  

After moving to Florida, I was immediately attuned to the difference in wildlife now around me. Instead of chipmunks, there were anoles everywhere, and armadillos took the place of groundhogs. But my interest in Florida wildlife was truly deepened when I took the Wildlife of Florida class at the University of Florida. I learned about multiple endemic species in Florida, with dozens more that were listed as endangered. Florida is a constantly growing state–in terms of human habitants–and that’s negatively affecting wildlife populations that have been here long before we took over.  

I want to educate people about these lovable species that are disappearing because of human actions, so people can become the solution to saving Florida wildlife. Currently, I am working towards creating this awareness by co-authoring a paper on behavioral repeatability in hispid cotton rats with PhD student Rebecca McKee. Receiving this scholarship will help me take more classes to educate myself about the importance of Florida wildlife and find the best ways to promote coexistence in the future. I am very grateful for this gift that will inspire me to continue learning and sharing knowledge.” 

UF WEC graduate student recipients of FWF scholarships

Graduate Awards

UF graduate scholarship recipient, Annesha Lahiri – “Growing up watching documentaries of Sir David Attenborough and Dr. Jane Goodall planted the seeds of understanding: clear, compelling communication can promote the sense of empathy for wildlife and the need of conservation and management among the people. I am an international PhD student and my dissertation is broadly based on science communication in wildlife conservation.  

Coming to Florida and seeing this immense biodiversity motivated me to communicate about these species to the public, so I take pictures of even the smallest bugs and use social media to communicate their name and fun facts. I am also interested in Wild Turkeys, particularly the Osceola subspecies, which is found in Florida I will be creating an online training module based on wild turkey management and conservation with the help of my advisors. I want to continue working for wildlife conservation and aspire to be a social scientist in future. I am really grateful for receiving the scholarship and this will encourage my research and sharing knowledge about wildlife.” 

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