Spring 2016 Dissertation Fellowship Award Biographies

Texas A&M University’s Office of Graduate and Professional Studies recently awarded 6 dissertation fellowships as part of their Dissertation Fellowship Program. Developed in fall 2011 by the Associate Provost for Graduate and Professional Studies, Dr. Karen Butler-Purry, the Dissertation Fellowship supports doctoral students in the late stages of degree program completion, namely final research topics analysis and dissertation writing. Eligible applicants included U.S. Citizens, permanent residents and international doctoral students.

The following students received the Spring 2016 Dissertation Fellowships:

Yunseon Choe is a doctoral student in the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences at the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences. Yunseon’s dissertation focuses on examining the relationship between stakeholders and the Everglades National Park. She attempts to study how local groups are engaged with the park and how these relationships have changed over time. Yunseon’s research considers the role of national parks in reaching the goal of sustainable tourism development in the face of growing pressure placed on nature from increased tourism. The consequent growing pressure on tourist sites has called for national parks and protected areas to recognize the need for stakeholder participation. She believes stakeholder participation improves sustainable relationships between parks and people. By focusing on the relationship between stakeholders and national parks, her research provides useable knowledge in designing strategies to develop collaborative management, encourages stakeholder participation, and fosters future support for sustainable tourism development.
 
Dhananjaya Katju is a doctoral student in the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences at the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences. Dhananjaya’s research focuses on explaining how encroaching households within protected areas are active agents of political, social, economic and ecological change, rather than merely passive victims of policies, economies and socio-cultural processes.  His research studies the Manas Tiger and Biosphere Reserve (or Manas) in the state of Assam (India) to understand and critically analyze the relationships between local land-users and PA policy. It examines the complex and often unseen linkages between livelihoods, ecologies, environmental governance, and resulting forms of social organization.  These linkages show that the flow of political and economic power extends beyond simple top-down or bottom-up relationships to include nuanced connections between different actors at multiple social levels.  Through the research, Dhananjaya hopes to illustrate how looking deeper into the connections between social organization and household-level practices reveals the material implications of maintaining “noncompliant” livelihood activities in the face of environmental policies. 
 
Hyungseok Nam is a PhD student in the Department of Biological & Agriculture Engineering at the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences. Hyungseok’s research focuses on Thermal Conversion Process Technology using Biomass Wastes and its Economic Evaluation. Through his research, Hyungseok illustrates that the technologies of the thermal conversion process can handle not just biomass but also all kinds of organic wastes (sewage sludge, dairy manure, municipal solid wastes, etc.). This research will determine a) the effect of the novelty catalyst on the bio-oil upgrading on the degree of deoxygenation, product yield, and hydrogen, b) the effect of temperature on the bio-oil upgrading, and c) an evaluation of product yields and characteristics. The research aims to produce a substitute for petroleum products as a fuel source. In addition, the research also highlights the advantages of using biomass as an energy source such as sustainability, CO2 neutrality, less environmental impact, a low sulfur content resource, and economic feasibility.
 
Jifar Nata is a PhD candidate in the Department of Water Management and Hydrological Science. Jifar’s research focuses on groundwater management in South Central Texas. Jifar believes that despite the high importance of sustainable freshwater supplies for energy, municipalities, agriculture and livestock, there has not been any empirical research on integrated economic and hydrologic approach on addressing the effects of the rapid expansion in hydraulic fracking and impacts for ground water in South Central Texas or other similar places. His research illustrates the use of the Carrizo Wilcox simulation model (CWSIM) to produce three essays. The first essay examines the general characteristics of regional water use and quality, plus the drawdown effect from fracking and frequent drought to see changes in economic benefit (welfare) and water use with respect of water dependent sectors. The second essay examines the likely impact of alternative water management options stated by the region L South Central Texas Regional Water Planning (SCTRWPG), with regard to changes in economic benefit (welfare) and hydrology. The third essay estimates the economic value of information with regard to groundwater level monitoring in the region.
 
Swetha Peteru is a PhD student in the Department of Geography at the College of Geosciences. Her research focuses on linking management practices to plant species and genetic diversity in Agroforestry Systems. Examining a coffee agroforestry program run by an NGO in Junin, Peru, Swetha’s study utilizes a quasi-experimental design to describe and measure the relationship between agroforestry farming practices and biodiversity outcomes at species and genetic levels. The research examines changes in biodiversity through an integrated study of participation, biogeography, and landscape genetics (a field combining molecular techniques with landscape ecology). Through her research, Swetha attempts to show that different agroforestry regimes between NGO participants and non-participants create divergent biotic landscapes, as seen by plant species and genetic diversity on farms.
 
Ignacie Tumushime is a PhD candidate in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management at the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences. Ignacie’s research focuses on the effect of nutrient availability and competition control on C, N, and P accumulation and retention in loblolly pine forests in north-central Florida. The objective of her study was to determine specifically the effect of fertilization, weed control and the combined application of these treatments and their carry-over on carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus accumulation and retention to improve the long-term site productivity. Ignacie believes that the results of her research will make a significant contribution to the understanding of carbon and nutrient cycling in forests, especially nitrogen and phosphorus in these fertilized pine forests. Because carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions are believed to be the main drivers of climate change and global warming, the results of her research will suggest how to sequester and store carbon and other greenhouse gases in wood materials and soil to mitigate climate change locally, nationwide and globally.