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Young Researcher Finds Home in UI Labs

Sophomore awarded Goldwater Scholarship for undergraduate efforts

While some ambitious students may get involved in lab research their freshman year of college, few have what it takes to jump into fieldwork.

But when Elyce N. Gosselin came to the University of Idaho, she found not only the opportunities to do that research, but also faculty members willing to mentor her and bring her into their projects.

Now a sophomore, the 20–year–old Boise native is part of an elite group of undergraduate scholars who are recipients of the Goldwater Scholarship, given annually through the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program.

Gosselin, who is double-majoring in ecology and conservation biology and mathematical biology, with a minor in Spanish, was one of two UI students to receive the honor this year, and one of about a dozen in the past decade. She has been active in departmental research since she came to campus.

“She was just an amazing student,” said Janet Rachlow, a professor in the Department of Fish & Wildlife Sciences in UI’s College of Natural Resources. She invited Gosselin to participate in field research for a study in Idaho’s sagebrush steppe environment. “I don’t typically take freshmen out for field research, but she was just an outstanding student.”

From there, Gosselin took one of Rachlow’s graduate–level classes, interacting with graduate students and then other professors and researchers.

In addition to her selection as a Goldwater Scholar, Gosselin is a member of UI’s Honors Program and the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program, a two–year program that brings together students from five partner universities who have an interest in promoting diversity in the conservation workforce.

While faculty and staff who have interacted with Gosselin credit her success to her eagerness to be involved, Gosselin herself credits the opportunities she found at UI and the willingness of busy professors to teach her.

“They’re just so receptive to students,” Gosselin said of the faculty at UI. “There are just endless opportunities to get involved.”

Rachlow agreed, but noted that it takes a special kind of student to seek the kind of opportunities that Gosselin has.

“Those opportunities are available for a whole lot of students, but most students don’t seek them out,” Rachlow said. “Elyce just was really active in seeking out opportunities to be involved, and when you have a student like that, that is someone I want to continue to find opportunities for.”

Those opportunities have kept coming. Gosselin is part of a research project by doctoral candidate Rob Lonsinger and Professor Lisette Waits that is now being prepared for submission to the Wildlife Society Bulletin, as well as another research collaboration that has recently been submitted to the Journal of Arid Environments. She will spend part of her summer in Alaska with the United States Geological Survey studying the impact of climate change on birds. She’ll also be headed to the national Ecological Society of America meeting in Baltimore with the Doris Duke program. Last summer, the members of the program spent time in Washington, D.C., and at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Conservation Training Center in West Virginia.

Gosselin said she has always been passionate about the environment, but didn’t know how to turn that passion into a career. UI’s ecology and conservation biology program are what drew her to Moscow, and now she hopes to continue her education and research career, eventually obtaining a doctorate and teaching at a research university – with the hopes of inspiring future students the way her UI professors have inspired her.

“It’d be really cool to do that for a future generation of students,” she said.  “It’s a cool feeling to be able to expand knowledge; to delve deeper and find answers to questions that haven’t been answered before, or haven’t been answered sufficiently.”

The Goldwater honor brings with it scholarships to pay for tuition, fees and room and board up to $7,500 a year. It makes a difference to the first–generation college student who also has a younger brother who will be attending UI next year. She now hopes she’ll be able to graduate from UI without any student loans.

Honors Program Director Alton Campbell pushed both Gosselin and fellow Goldwater recipient Benjamin Anzis to apply for the scholarship.

“When students are coming in, I’m always trying to think ahead to who they’re going to be and what they can achieve,” Campbell said.

Article by Savannah Tranchell, University Communications & Marketing.


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