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FNR Honors Students, Alumni at Virtual Awards Ceremony

Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources recognized the department’s student and alumni award winners at a virtual ceremony on April 20, 2021.

Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources recognized the department’s student and alumni award winners at a virtual ceremony on April 20, 2021.

Academic merit awards are given to a sophomore, junior, and senior within each major who has the highest academic achievement (cumulative GPA). Each major also selects one senior for the senior leadership award who has been exemplary within their major or the department as a whole.

Each major puts forth a nominee for the Stanley Coulter Leadership Award, which recognizes the department’s outstanding student leader. It carries the name of Stanley Coulter, former Dean of Science, who initiated Purdue’s forestry program in 1914. Mr. John Sample and other early forestry graduates established the Coulter Fund in honor of Dean Coulter, and to recognize the achievements of students in Forestry and Natural Resources. The winner of this award has demonstrated strong leadership and responsible citizenship in activities at the department, school, university, and community level.
Amanda Heltzel standing outside on rocks in the forest

The 2020-21 Stanley Coulter Leadership Award winner is Amanda Heltzel. Amanda is a wildlife major and a graduating senior, who has been incredibly busy in her time at Purdue. She's been extremely active with the student chapter of The Wildlife Society. She was a member of Purdue's 2019 National Champion Quiz Bowl team and served as both president and vice president of the student chapter of TWS. For her many efforts in TWS at both the Purdue chapter level and also at the national level she was recognized in this past year by the North Central Section of The Wildlife Society as its 2021 Outstanding Wildlife Undergraduate. Amanda has also studied abroad in Sweden. She's been involved in Purdue concert bands as well as with the Devonshire Cooperative House serving on their executive board and holding five different officerships. Amanda also served the department as a teaching assistant in two different classes: wildlife investigational techniques and statistics for natural resources. She participated in research projects with Dr. Dunning in his lab, she worked as a breeding bird survey technician with the Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment and last summer she worked as an avian research technician for the University of Missouri, surveying sites across the Mark Twain National Forest. After graduation she'll work for the Bird Conservancy of the Rockies conducting bird and vegetation surveys and she plans to continue her training in graduate school.

The FNR faculty also presents the Undergraduate Engagement Award, which recognizes a senior who has demonstrated excellence in engagement. The student receiving this honor have shown the greatest potential for fulfilling the Extension and research components of the Land Grant Mission.

The 2020 recipient of the Undergraduate Engagement Award is Logan Halderman. Logan is currently conducting research under the direction of Dr. Tomas Hook. He will be graduating at the end of the semester and will be working for the Hook lab on Lake Michigan this summer.

The Undergraduate Research Award was established in 2001 to recognize the undergraduate in the department who, by virtue of contributions made independently or in conjunction with ongoing studies, shows the greatest potential for future success as a research scientist.

The 2020 recipient of the Undergraduate Research Award is Emilie Washer. Emilie is a junior majoring in Aquatic Sciences – with a Marine & Freshwater concentration and minoring in Environmental Politics & Policies. She is currently conducting research under the direction of Dr. Zhao Ma. Her project focuses on the cultural and political impacts of genetically modified cotton in India. She also plans to attend law school with a focus on environmental law after graduation.

These awards are in addition to the Outstanding Freshman, Sophomore, Junior and Senior awards, which were announced here: FNR Names 2021 Students of the Year .

 Lucas Wilson holding a small snake

FNR Outstanding Freshman: Lucas Wilson - Lucas is currently conducting research under Dr. Dunning on bird window collisions, as well as working as a technician for a study on bird deterrent systems in aquaculture with Dr. Brown. Currently a Freshman majoring in Wildlife, Lucas will be working as an intern with the Brookville Lake-Whitewater Memorial State Park Complex over the summer, assisting the on-site naturalists and wildlife specialist.


FNR Outstanding Sophomore: Phoebe Soldi - Phoebe is a sophomore double majoring in Wildlife and Aquatic Sciences. Over the summer, she will be working under the instruction of Dr. Mitchell Zischke as an extension and outreach intern. She is a member of The Wildlife Society, a tuba player in the All-American Marching Band, and a sister of Tau Beta Sigma. She enjoys hammocking in the woods with friends, books and music.


FNR Outstanding Junior: Emily Washer


FNR Outstanding Senior: Rachel Brummet - Rachel is graduating this semester and plans to continue her career with the federal government. This summer, she will be returning to Idaho City, Idaho on the Boise National Forest to work in silviculture.

Forestry Awards

Madison Kresse sitting on a rock in the forest
Senior Leadership Award:
 Charlie Warner - Charlie is currently conducting research under the direction of Dr. Gazo. His project focuses on the identification of hardwood species. Charlie is graduating at the end of the semester and will be interning as a manager in training for the independent stave company. He will be back in the fall semester for his first year of graduate school under Dr. Gazo.

Sophomore Academic Merit Award: Madison Kresse - Madison is a sophomore majoring in Forestry and Wildlife with a minor in Wood Products. This coming summer she will also be working in southern Indiana as an overstory technician at the Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment.

Junior Academic Merit Award: Joseph Dreiman - Joseph is majoring in Forestry and Agronomy and plans to pursue a career in timber procurement. He enjoys weightlifting, boxing, hunting, and camping.

Senior Academic Merit Award: Esther Mussman - Esther is a graduating Senior in Forestry and Urban Forestry. Although she was initially interested in traditional Forestry, she went to a club climb with PSSA as a Freshman and immediately became interested in the urban side. After graduation, she plans to move further east and work as an arborist in training. 

Aquatic Science Awards

Daniel Borrousch holding a fish
Senior Leadership Award:
 Logan Halderman

Sophomore Academic Merit Award: Daniel Borrousch - Daniel is an avid bass fisherman and outdoorsman pursuing a degree in Aquatic Sciences. He hopes to work in the field of fisheries management after graduating from Purdue in the spring of 2023.

Junior Academic Merit Award: Emilie Washer

Senior Academic Merit Award: Logan Halderman

Wildlife Awards

Senior Leadership Award: Alexandra Hicks – Alexandra is a senior in Wildlife. She is currently working in Dr. Flaherty’s lab and is the secretary of The Purdue Student Chapter of the Wildlife Society. She will be graduating in May and will be working at the Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment in southern Indiana this summer.Jada Laycock sitting on a rock in the forest

Sophomore Academic Merit Award: Ashlanna Murray - Ashlanna is a current sophomore in Wildlife with a minor in Sustainable Environments. She will be the next treasurer for The Purdue Student Chapter of the Wildlife Society and has been an active member of the club for two years. She has a passion for wildlife conservation and environmental sustainability.

Junior Academic Merit Award: Jada Laycock and Krista Marshall –
Jada is a junior in Wildlife and serves as Vice President on the FNR Student Council. After graduating next year, she plans on pursuing a career in habitat management.

Krista is double majoring in Wildlife and Forestry. She will be working at the Hardwood Ecosystem Experiment this summer conducting overstory inventories of southern Indiana’s hardwood forests.

Senior Academic Merit Award: Samantha Smock - Samantha is graduating in May and will spend the next few years as a missionary to Lithuania. She has cherished her time here in FNR and at Purdue, and will miss all the great friends she has made here.

In addition to the academic merit, outstanding camper and leadership awards, the Wildlife major also gives out four other awards: the Durward Allen Memorial Award, the Kirkpatrick Memorial Graduate Student Award, the L. David Mech Distinguished Undergraduate Research Award and the William A. Rafferty Award.

Durward Allen Memorial Award
Durward Allen was a distinguished member of the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources and was internationally recognized as one of the nation’s leading wildlife authorities. In honor of Dr. Allen, this award is presented to an outstanding junior majoring in Wildlife.

The 2020-21 honoree of the Durward Allen Memorial Award is Rachel Brent. Rachel is graduating in December. Her summer plans are to hike the 250-mile Superior Hiking Trail. She will also be working in the FNR Specimen Collection Lab.
Brandon Quinby in a car with equipment

Kirkpatrick Memorial Graduate Student Award
This award was established by the widow and two daughters of Charles Kirkpatrick, with money donated for that purpose and supplemented as needed by the daughters. The wildlife faculty nominates and evaluates possible candidates. The recipient must be a wildlife graduate student within one year of graduation (either before or after).

The 2020-21 honoree of the Kirkpatrick Memorial Graduate Student Award is Brandon Quinby. Brandon is a 2020 Ph.D. alumnus who is currently finishing a postdoc in the department where he has been working with Dr. Zollner modeling black vulture depredation risk to cattle in the Midwest. He is also currently teaching Wildlife Investigational Techniques. In June Brandon will be moving to Cobleskill New York where he has accepted a job as a Research Associate with SUNY Cobleskill to help lead the reintroduction of the American burying beetle to the state of New York.

L. David Mech Distinguished Undergraduate Research Award
This award is named in honor of Dr. L. David Mech, recipient of a Ph.D. in wildlife ecology from Purdue in 1962. Dr. Mech, a research biologist with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, is the world’s foremost authority on wolf ecology. In 1995, Dr. Mech was named a Distinguished Alumni of the Purdue University College of Agriculture. He is also a recipient of the Aldo Leopold Award, the highest honor bestowed by The Wildlife Society.

This award was established by the faculty in wildlife to recognize a senior who has, by virtue of contributions made independently or in conjunction with ongoing studies, shown the greatest potential for future success as a research scientist. Selection is based on the student’s curiosity, intellect, perseverance, problem-solving, and communication skills.

The 2020-21 recipient of the L. David Mech's Distinguished Undergraduate Research Award is Samantha Smock.
Tabitha Olsen holding a small owl

William A. Rafferty Award
William A. Rafferty was a friend of Purdue University’s College of Agriculture who operated a large farm near Morocco, Indiana. He bequeathed a sum of money to the college to be used at its “uncontrolled discretion.” Rafferty believed in the ideals of honor, integrity, and patriotism. To commemorate William A. Rafferty, this award was established to recognize the potential for citizenship and leadership in a senior Wildlife student.

The 2020-21 recipient of the William A. Rafferty Award is Tabitha Olsen. Tabitha is graduating in May and will be working a field job in Mississippi this summer banding birds. She will then be headed off to graduate school in Oklahoma to work with rails in wetland ecosystems.

Alumni Awards

Awards were also presented for Outstanding Young Alumnus, Distinguished Alumnus, and Lifetime Achievement. The Chase S. Osborn Wildlife Awards for Early Career and Lifetime Achievement also were named.

2021 Outstanding Young Alumnus: Dr. Obed Hernández-Gómez

2021 Distinguished Alumna/Alumnus: Dr. Robin Russell and Dr. Todd Atwood

2021 Lifetime Achievement Award: Stephen Creech and Dr. Rolf Peterson
Ken Kellner

2021 Chase S. Osborn Early Career: Dr. Ken Kellner - Dr. Ken Kellner is a 2015 PhD graduate from Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources and is now with SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, the oldest US institution focused on studying the environment. Dr. Kellner’s published research has advanced knowledge of 100 species of Indiana wildlife comprised of 23 mammals, 69 birds, 8 reptiles. His research publications include 7 of our state’s endangered species and 5 species that are of special concern. Dr. Kellner has also developed data analysis tools that are freely available for use to help facilitate others seeking to make population density estimations for species that can’t be estimated through other means.

2021 Chase S. Osborn Lifetime Achievement: Mary Cutler - Mary Cutler has had a lifetime of service dedicated to the conservation of Indiana’s wildlife and habitat. Over the past 33 years, she has been a Naturalist with the Tippecanoe County Park and Recreation Department where she Mary Cutler standing outside by a treeadministers two nature centers, develops environmental education programs, and oversees habitat improvement projects within county park properties. Her work in this area has been recognized as truly exceptional garnering over a dozen awards from community, state, and regional conservation organizations. She has been an institution of both hands-on conservation and education for over three decades and her reach has gone far beyond the properties that she manages in the county.

The 2020 award winners for Outstanding Young Alumnus (Dr. Benjamin Knapp), Distinguished Alumna (Amanda Wuestefeld), and Lifetime Achievement Award (Dr. Mary Beth Adams) also were recognized at the virtual ceremony as they were unable to be recognized in 2020 due to COVID-19 cancellations.

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