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Meet FNR Outstanding Junior Alyssa Johnson

Wildlife major Alyssa Johnson has excelled in the Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources inAlyssa Johnson is pictured in front of a water body with a mountainous and forested landscape behind her. every way, earning her selection as FNR’s Outstanding Junior for 2023-24. Allie has made an impact through her research, work as a teaching assistant, multiple recognitions and honors and her academic success and club involvement. Her resume was so strong it also earned her selection as the Purdue College of Agriculture’s Outstanding Junior.

“Receiving this award means a great deal to me,” Johnson said. “As I’ve gone through my college journey, keeping up with my academics has always been my primary goal, and this award shows that I’m fulfilling my objectives! Honestly, receiving this award wouldn’t have been possible without the support of my friends, family, and those within the department who have always supported and believed in me. FNR has given me a place to grow and flourish in so many ways, and I’m grateful to have my efforts recognized by those so important to me.

“Last year when I was named Outstanding Sophomore, I stated that this award made me feel like I had found my belonging. That statement has only deepened throughout the past year, and I can firmly say that I probably wouldn’t be where I am today without the supportive environment in FNR. I’m so incredibly grateful to be recognized as the Outstanding Junior because I feel like the award goes so much deeper than recognizing my personal career and academic accomplishments—this award stands testament to the outstanding support I’ve received. I can only hope that I will be able to give back to the department and those within it to show my gratitude!”

Allie has been on the Dean’s List since the fall of 2021 and has received semester honors for her academics since summer 2021, all while being enrolled in the John Martinson Purdue Honors College. She says through the Honors College’s interdisciplinary coursework, she has “had the opportunity to become a well-rounded student.”Alyssa Johnson sits on a log with water flowing underneath

Her academic prowess has earned her invitations to join Purdue College of Agriculture’s Alpha Zeta Honor Society (Fall 2024), Purdue’s chapter of Phi Kappa Phi (Spring 2023) and the Alpha Lambda Delta Phi Eta Sigma Honor Society (Spring 2022).

At the Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources Spring Awards Program, in addition to being honored as FNR’s Outstanding Junior for 2023-24, Allie received the Wildlife Academic Merit Junior Award as well as the Durward Allen Memorial Award, which is presented to an outstanding junior in the wildlife major.

Allie has participated in numerous natural resource-related jobs, internships and volunteer experiences, and she will add another this summer as a teaching assistant at Summer Practicum in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where she is looking forward to helping teach and mentor students on field navigation, vegetation sampling, bird surveying, small mammal trapping and herpetological surveying skills. Allie will then spend the rest of the summer in Silverton, Colorado, exploring the mountains and volunteering on a long-term habitat monitoring project.

She spent the 2023-24 winter break volunteering with the conservation department in Wayland, Massachusetts, focusing on restoring a shallow emergent marsh.2024 FNR Outstanding Students

Johnson has acted as a teaching assistant for FNR 25250 Ecology and Systematics of Mammals and Birds, FNR 22500 Dendrology and FNR 24150 Ecology and Systematics of Fishes, Amphibians and Reptiles. In those roles, she has assisted in teaching, led lab exercises, facilitated group discussions, administered weekly quizzes and graded lab materials. She says she hopes to create engaging classroom atmospheres, help others succeed academically and further her own wildlife expertise through these opportunities.

After attending Summer Practicum in 2023, Allie worked as a disease ecology research assistant for the Fernandez Disease Ecology Lab at Washington State University. There, she assisted on a project assessing how microhabitat variables influence the prevalence of hantavirus, alongside other rodent- and tick-borne zoonotic diseases in northeast Washington and northwest Idaho. Her position encompassed both field and laboratory tasks from checking trapping grids to measuring the morphology of captured rodents, dragging for ticks, performing necropsies and processing blood samples.

On campus at Purdue, Allie has been a part of the Hoverman Aquatic Community Ecology Lab since the fall of 2021. As an undergraduate research assistant for the lab, Johnson performs animal husbandry, animal collections in the field, chemical handling, dissection, microscopy, specimen processing and chemical waste management. She has worked multiple projects examining the effects of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) on aquatic species.

In addition to assisting with ongoing projects in the lab from topics ranging from the effects of PFAS on northern water snakes to assessing the effects of aqueous film-forming foams on fathead minnow and gray treefrogs, Allie conducted her own independent research project “Assessing How Parasite Exposure Frequency and Dosage Influences Infection Risk in PFAS-Exposed Gray Tree Frogs.”

She also assisted PhD candidate Andrew Hopkins and master’s student Haiden McCurry with various mesocosm experiments.

“Allie has been an active member of my research team for three years,” Dr. Jason Hoverman said. “Allie has jumped at the opportunities she has been given. She has helped with all aspects of our research including animal husbandry, conducting experiments, sample processing and collecting data. I have been very impressed with Allie’s performance and dedication.Alyssa Johnson stands next to her research poster

“Allie developed a proposal that identified the key gaps in our understanding of how PFAS alters disease risk in wildlife. She devised an experiment to test her ideas and received a fellowship from the Purdue College of Agriculture Transformational Experiences (CATE) Program for the work. She also conducted the experiment, which required long hours in the lab and critical attention to detail. This past year, she was able to present her work at multiple conferences and won the Best Undergraduate Poster Award at the Ohio Valley Chapter of the Society of Toxicology annual meeting. After completing her final analysis, Allie will prepare a manuscript for submission to a top-tier toxicology journal. Her work will stand out in the research community because there have been few attempts to assess whether exposure to PFAS increases infectious disease risk. It is clear to me that she is preparing herself very well for a future career as a researcher.”

During the 2021-22 academic year, Johnson was a field assistant for genetic material collection and metric data collection for the Hardwood Tree Improvement and Regeneration Center’s walnut project. She collected leaves and terminal buds from black walnut trees at Lugar Farms and Martell Forest, while working with three other undergraduate students, Dr. Keith Woeste and Jim Warren from the U.S. Forest Service.

Outside of the research realm, Allie has been a part of Dr. Barny Dunning’s bird banding lab as well as the Northern Saw-Whet Owl Banding Station.

She has been heavily involved with the Purdue Student Chapter of The Wildlife Society, serving as the Herps Working Group Leader both her sophomore and junior years. In the spring of 2024, Johnson also led the Practicum Exam Team Challenge planning committee for the TWS North Central Section Conclave.

“As an active member of TWS, I added tools to my wildlife and academic toolboxes that helped prepare me for jobs and continued education in wildlife,” Johnson shared. “As an officer, I have dived deeper into planning general meetings, brainstorming club research projects and organizing my own herps working group meetings and trips. Overall, I have met all of my closest friends through TWS and feel that my involvement has helped me find a home at Purdue.”

Allie also is part of the FNR Student Council, serving as a freshman representative, as vice president inAlyssa Johnson shows off a salamander she found while herping 2022-23 and as its president in 2023-24.

“This position has taught me so much about what it means to be a leader,” Johnson said of being STUCO president. “I’ve learned that being an effective leader is all about leading alongside your peers, not in front of them. My experience in STUCO has been outstanding and I look forward to what future years have in store.”

Johnson has served on the FNR Ambassador team, which helps prospective and incoming students with their college application, enrollment and major selection, since the fall of 2022.

Outside of FNR, Allie is a member of the Undergraduate Research Society of Purdue, the Purdue Climbing Club and the Purdue Outing Club. She also is a member of The Wildlife Society national chapter and a member of the Society of Environmental Chemists and Toxicologists (SETAC). Previously, she was part of the Honors College Residential Society and the Nature of Wild Things Learning Community.

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