Switzer Environmental Fellowship awarded to UCSC graduate student

Melissa Cronin
Melissa Cronin (photo by C. Lagattuta)

Melissa Cronin, a Ph.D. candidate in ecology and evolutionary biology (EEB) at UC Santa Cruz, has been awarded a Switzer Environmental Fellowship from the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation. The prestigious fellowship recognizes promising environmental leaders and provides $15,000 to support their research.

Cronin's research focuses on threatened manta ray and devil ray populations, which are often caught as bycatch in industrial fishing operations. She works in the Conservation Action Lab at UC Santa Cruz led by EEB professor Donald Croll and adjunct professor Bernie Tershy.

Funding from the Switzer Fellowship will help with the cost of genetic analyses Cronin is conducting to help understand and characterize manta and devil ray populations. She will also use the fellowship to further her professional development as a conservation biologist by attending domestic and international conferences to present her work and learn from others working to develop novel conservation solutions.

"Already, this grant has allowed me to attend the Conservation Optimism Summit in Oxford, U.K., where I led a workshop on effective conservation storytelling and how we can create positive narratives to galvanize support for threatened species," Cronin said. "I am extremely grateful to the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation for this career-changing support, as well as for the opportunity to join such an incredible network of environmental leaders."

The Switzer Foundation has invested nearly $16 million in these fellowships and related grant programs over the past 33 years. In addition to the fellowship funding, Switzer Fellows have access to critical leadership skills trainings and networking during their fellowship year and beyond, including membership in the Switzer Fellows’ Network comprised of more than 650 Switzer Fellows based throughout the U.S. and internationally.