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Montague, Allmon Honored for Mentorship with Pathmaker Awards

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams

Master’s degree student Madeline Montague and PhD student Lizz Allmon exemplify the qualities of a leader and a pathmaker, assisting fellow students in their journeys in the Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources.

Lizz Allmon holding fish, Pathmaker award.Montague and Allmon were announced as the 2021 recipients of the College of Agriculture Graduate Student Pathmaker Award, which recognizes students who have distinguished themselves as effective mentors and peer coaches by unselfishly investing in the success of fellow graduate students and/or undergraduate researchers-in- training.

The award, sponsored by the Purdue Ag Alumni Association, recognizes mentoring and personal coaching by graduate students in the context of research and scholarship outside of the formal classroom setting. Nominees must demonstrate contributions to the profession growth of other students through activities that:

  • help others define and achieve their academic and professional goals
  • promote development of research and professional skills by offering honest, constructive feedback, coaching and mentoring
  • create a supportive environment for research and scholarship by fostering mutual respect
  • demonstrate a sincere and active interest in the well-being of other students
  • help others to assess and pursue relevant and rewarding educational and professional career paths

Allmon is a graduate research assistant in the Sepúlveda lab studying aquatic toxicology under faculty advisor Dr. Marisol Sepúlveda. Allmon, who received her bachelor’s degree in 2012 from Shepherd University, and her master’s from the University of Texas Marine Science Institute in 2015, is evaluating the effects of contaminants and abiotic stressors on the transcriptomes and developing cardiovascular systems of fish.

Thus far in 2021, Allmon has submitted or published three papers: Effects of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and abiotic stressors on Fundulus grandis cardiac transcriptomics; Hemodynamic dependence of mechano-genetic evolution of the cardiovascular system in Japanese Medaka; and The influence of hypoxia on the cardiac transcriptomes of two estuarine species – C. variegatus and F. grandis.

In 2020, she presented on the “Effects of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and abiotic stressors on Fundulus grandis cardiac transcriptomics” at the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science Conference; and on “The influence of hypoxia on the cardiac transcriptomes of two estuarine species” at the SETAC North America annual meeting.

In addition to her research, Lizz is the Vice President of the Purdue FNR Graduate Student Council, a peer mentor and a teaching assistant. She has served as a departmental peer mentor for both Purdue FNR (2018-2021) and Ecological Sciences and Engineering (2018-2020). She was a Research and Extension Experiences for Undergrads (REEU) Data Science for Agriculture grad student mentor and also served as a program mentor for the Mentoring at Purdue Summer Scholars Program.

When COVID-19 forced changes in teaching needs, Lizz not only quickly transitioned, adapting her course “Ecology and Systematics of Fishes” to the new Brightspace web platform, but also created a step-by-step walkthrough training guide for other TAs to follow.

“I am honored to have been nominated by my peers and the FNR community for this award,” Allmon said. “I have thoroughly enjoyed every formal and informal mentorship role that I have taken on while at Purdue and I truly get great joy from seeing those around me succeed. I wouldn't be where I am today without the many mentors that have helped me throughout my undergrad and graduate experiences. Knowing that I have also been able to provide useful advice & guidance and have had a positive impact on those around me is humbling.”

Allmon has served on the Graduate Student Councils for both FNR (2018-2021) and ESE (2017-2020) and helped establish position descriptions within the groups, guided incoming council members and assisted members with grant writing opportunities. She has reached out to fellow graduate students throughout their time at Purdue, welcoming new students and also providing thesis and dissertation practice support for those getting ready to defend.

In addition, Allmon has acted as both a mentor and role model to undergraduate students as part of the American Fisheries Society and Marine Biology Club. With AFS, she traveled to the Southern Division meeting with undergraduates as their mentor and supervisor, where she assisted with conference networking, career discussions and formulation of graduate program goals. With the Marine Biology Club, she has participated in many discussion sessions and panels on preparing for graduate school, and offered additional one-on-one follow-up meetings with students who had specific concerns after the fact.

In a letter of recommendation for the Pathfinder Award from the Purdue FNR Graduate Student Council, it was noted that:

“Elizabeth has led others not only through her professional excellence, but by maintaining a dedicated focus on the mentoring of other graduate and undergraduate students. While the PhD program is considered by many to be an arduous and at times overwhelming journey, Elizabeth has still made it her priority to find ways to always support others. As a member of our leadership council, she has brought so much empathy and understanding to her role. She also has an analytical and forward-thinking mind that has been crucial in helping us to expand our goals to reach and support more graduate students. Elizabeth has enthusiastically sought to bridge the undergraduate/grad student gap by becoming involved in undergraduate groups as both a mentor and role model. She truly exemplifies everything that it means to be a Pathmaker. Elizabeth is an ideal recipient for this award, in recognition for all of her dedication to us, her fellow students, over the years.”

Cut tree and roots, Pathmaker award.Montague is a graduate research assistant, whose research under Dr. Doug Jacobs is funded through a van Eck scholarship in forest restoration with the Hardwood Tree Improvement and Regeneration Center (HTIRC). She earned her bachelor’s degree in environmental and sustainability sciences at Cornell University in 2017.

With the HTIRC, she has collaborated with an international team of scientists to design a study of nonstructural carbon dynamics in the American chestnut, a threatened tree species of high conservation value. She also has managed research funding and field/lab crew logistics through her graduate fellowship, while also independently developing an allometric model by excavating eight chestnut trees, measuring the biomass of the roots, stem and canopy and fitting a statistical model to the data in R.

Montague has given three presentations since 2019. She was part of a team presentation on Productivity-Diversity Relationships in Hardwood Plantations at the HTIRC Cooperator’s Meeting and also at the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) World Congress in Curitiba, Brazil. She also presented a poster on Belowground nonstructural carbohydrate allocation in American chestnut at the Indiana Forestry and Woodland Owner’s Association (IFWOA) annual conference.

Since coming to Purdue, Montague has acted as a mentor in many ways, both on and off campus. She has been a graduate student peer mentor in Purdue FNR since 2019 as well as a member of both the FNR Graduate Student Government and College of Agriculture Graduate Advisory Board in 2019-2020. As a peer mentor, she has acted as a point of contact for new students and has been a general source of information about life at Purdue, within FNR and of living in the Greater Lafayette area.

Montague has served as a mentor for several undergraduate students in her time at Purdue, including recruiting, training and managing four undergraduates to work on a two-year tree physiology and allometry research project as part of her research. Under her guidance, one of those students developed and implemented an independent study project.

In the spring of 2020, Madeline co-supervised a visiting undergraduate researcher from Zamarano University, teaching this student forest measurements and DNA extraction until the internship was interrupted by COVID-19. She then assisted in making the internship a successful remote experience by helping develop a literature review comparing silviculture techniques and challenges learned at Purdue to opportunities for improved oak regeneration in the student’s home forest in Masicaran, Honduras. After the internship, Montague remained in touch with the student and even provided a letter of recommendation for the student’s application to pursue and advanced degree in forestry.

Outside of formal mentoring opportunities, Montague has been instrumental in welcoming incoming graduate students. During COVID-19 restrictions, Madeline assisted in planning, assembling and distributing welcome kits to new international students undergoing their two-week quarantine upon arrival to campus. She also has attended many of the department’s virtual welcome events and has become a familiar face for incoming students who had not yet had the opportunity to interact with the FNR graduate student body in person. In addition, Montague hosted several zoom coffee hours open to all graduate students in FNR. These coffee hours offered discussions and problem solving related to issues of data management, experimental design and statistical analysis, as well as a chance to check in with her peers to ensure they were well both personally and academically.

She also has been a part of Big Brothers-Big Sisters of Greater Lafayette since 2018, helping the organization reach its goals of developing healthy/caring relationships, improving self-confidence and introducing a different life perspective to a child who has experienced trauma. Madeline and her “little sister” meet up most weekends and explore Lafayette together on foot/bike, make sushi together and do small community service projects like walking dogs at the local animal shelter.

“Mentoring (and being mentored) is a natural part of working with a large and perse team,” Montague said. “My research was accomplished through the hard work and good humor of many undergraduate technicians and interns, and it has been a joy to support their own research and career goals. Mentoring relationships within the FNR and Lafayette communities have been a highlight of my time at Purdue.”

This is not Montague’s first honor at Purdue. She received the Fischer Forestry Fund scholarship in 2019 as well as a Purdue graduate student travel grant and the Charles Michler Scholarship for Outstanding Graduate Research in Forest Biology in 2020.

In a letter recommending Montague for the Pathmaker Award, the Purdue FNR Graduate Student Council said:

“Mentorship has helped to define Madeline’s time at Purdue and her influence reaches beyond the labs within FNR and the College of Ag. Her formal and informal mentorship to students at Purdue and to visiting scholars has created an international network of scientists impacted by her expertise and guidance. Closer to home, and outside of academia, she has generously donated her time and energies to help positively impact a young person through BBBS. The FNR Graduate Student Council enthusiastically nominates Madeline for the Pathmaker Award as she unselfishly invests in and actively strives to support the success and growth of those around her.”

Pathmaker Award recipients receive a $500 cash award and a plaque.

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