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UGA Honors undergraduate Todd Pierson receives 2011 Udall Scholarship

Apr. 4, 2011



Writer: Joëlle Walls, jpwalls@uga.edu

Contact: David S. Williams, dwilliam@uga.edu


For the fourth consecutive year, a University of Georgia undergraduate has been named a recipient of the Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation Scholarship. Todd Pierson, a second-year Honors student, is one of 80 recipients of the national award, which recognizes sophomores and juniors who are pursuing careers in environmental or Native American issues.

Pierson, who is from Zionsville, Ind., is a UGA Foundation Fellow and is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in ecology.  He is a graduate of Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis. He is UGA’s seventh Udall Scholar.

“UGA’s recent success in the Udall Scholarship speaks both to our students’ concern about and focus on environmental issues and the institution’s commitment to research, teaching and public service in that area,” said UGA President Michael F. Adams.  “I am confident that Todd will uphold the standard that has been set by previous Udall recipients here, and equally confident that he is going to make a positive difference in the world.”

The Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation administers the scholarship program, which was created in 1992 by Congress to recognize Morris Udall’s 30 years of service in the U.S. House of Representatives. In 2009, Congress expanded the foundation to honor the legacy of former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall, his older brother. Each recipient receives a scholarship worth up to $5,000.

With the goal of combining a research and teaching career focused on ecological conservation, Pierson has been conducting amphibian ecology research since he started at UGA. He has worked in the laboratory of John Maerz, who was recently recognized for excellence in undergraduate teaching, in the UGA Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. Pierson also has worked as a researcher, photographer and database contributor under the guidance of John Pickering in the UGA Odum School of Ecology. Pierson has presented his work at UGA student symposia, including the 2010 Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities Symposium.

Pierson has taken his ecology interests abroad, having become involved in a research partnership between the Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala and the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at the University of California, Berkeley. With travel-study funds provided as part of his UGA Foundation Fellowship, Pierson traveled to the highlands of Guatemala in late fall where he collected and studied new species of amphibians and reptiles. He plans a return trip this month, along with expeditions to Oman and the United Arab Emirates this summer. 

Among his extracurricular activities, Pierson has served on the executive board of the UGA Gameday Recycling Program, and as a representative for the Go Green Alliance, a coalition of UGA environmental groups. He also has been active in the UGA Herpetology Society, most recently serving as co-president. The student organization promotes education, outreach and conservation in the field of herpetology, or the study of reptiles and amphibians.

“Todd is already an accomplished environmental scientist, having worked abroad to describe a new species of salamander,” said David S. Williams, associate provost and director of UGA’s Honors Program. “Impressively, he is sharing his passion by helping host programs for school and community groups to highlight the importance of amphibians and reptiles, encouraging the next generation of students to embrace biodiversity.”

For more information on the 2011 Udall Scholars, see http://www.udall.gov.

For more information on UGA’s Honors Program, see http://www.uga.edu/honors.

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