IGERT students graduate with doctoral degrees and expertise in urban ecosystem services

Field trip to the decommissioned Condit Dam led by PSU IGERT advisor Dave Ervin.

Since 1998, the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) has been the National Science Foundation’s flagship interdisciplinary program, educating Ph.D. scientists and engineers across the U.S. The National Science Foundation (NSF) effectively ended its IGERT program in 2015, at the same time that PSU admitted the last cohort of IGERT students into its program, focused on Ecosystems Services for Urbanizing Regions.

In all, PSU’s IGERT program—an early win of the University’s sustainability focus—has supported 35 students. Those students were supported by $3 million in funding from NSF and just over $1 million from other sources.

The 2015 IGERT cohort.

A group of 32 faculty members participated in the program, and, along with the students, has contributed to PSU’s reputation for urban ecosystem services expertise. Four IGERT students completed their doctoral degrees this year and are integrating their training into new careers.

  • Sarah Kidd joined the Lower Columbia Estuary Partnership as a staff research scientist in May. She manages and implements estuary ecosystem monitoring and restoration programs, a position that parlays well with her doctoral work focused on ecosystem recovery in tidal wetlands of the Columbia River Estuary.
  • Melanie Malone has accepted a position as an assistant professor of critical and physical earth sciences at The Oregon Extension near Ashland, Oregon, where she will be responsible for incorporating physical science methods into the school’s liberal arts curriculum and designing several garden and forest experiments for research. Her thesis was on using physical geography to map the unintended consequences of conservation management programs.
  • Marissa Matsler will be putting her green infrastructure expertise to use as a postdoctoral associate at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in New York as part of the NSF-funded Urban Resilience to Extreme Events Sustainability Research Network.
  • Erin Goodling, whose thesis was on the role of grassroots activism in cleanup of the Portland Harbor Superfund site, is currently the research coordinator at the Community Alliance of Tenants in Portland, working on a research project focused on evictions.

IGERT student Sarah Kidd surveying elevations and plant communities as part of her dissertation on tidal wetland restoration in Youngs Bay, Oregon.

As PSU's IGERT program sunsets, the interdisciplinary experiment results not just in a notable body of work and graduates who will bring with them an integrated approach to problem solving, but a group of faculty with enthusiasm for interdisciplinary teaching and research at PSU. Courses honed through the IGERT program will continue to be offered after the formal program’s end and the legacy will continue to influence students’ education.

Additional stories about Portland State's IGERT students:

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