This award recognizes outstanding student research in creating new insights and impact in environmental science and studies, and to engage with environmental policy, practice, and education. Submissions are open to students at all stages in their academic career. Submissions should not be a full thesis or dissertation, but instead under review or accepted by a peer reviewed journal. Submissions that are the equivalent of a peer-reviewed paper will also be considered. Published papers, papers submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal, or papers being reviewed for publication will be more heavily weighted. There is no minimum or maximum word count. People from traditionally marginalized groups are encouraged to apply.

Award Recipients

Mr. Peizhe Li

Mr. Li is a graduate research and teaching assistant in the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management at North Carolina State University. AESS recognized Peizhe Li for his paper “Climate adaptation planning for cultural heritages in coastal tourism destinations: A multi-objective optimization approach.” Li’s research interests include human dimension of climate change, adaptation planning for cultural heritages, and tourists’ stress, emotions, and coping. He is passionate about addressing and  exploring environmental and social issues of tourism and park management through research, education, and community engagement.

Google Scholar | LinkedIn

Ms. Urooj Raja

Ms. Raja is a PhD Candidate in environmental studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Her research examines the potential of emerging technology like virtual reality to shrink psychological distance to ‘wicked’ environmental problems. She has garnered awards for her research and her work has been highlighted by media ranging from the New York Times to the Washington Post and used by The United States Global Change Research Program (USGCRP). We look forward to her continued impact on the world of ESS, as well as participation in the AESS Community.


used with permission from H. Morris

Hanna Morris
PhD Candidateat the Annenberg School for Communication at University of Pennsylvania

Ms. Morris’s timely work on the Green New Deal, analyzes discursive strategies across the news media of discrediting the proposal through ‘othering’ millenials and thereby suppressing democratic deliberation. She has garnered awards for her work from the International Environmental Communication Association and serves on the Board of Directors of that organization.  Ms. Morris has presented her work in numerous scholarly venues and her work has been highlighted by media ranging from VAN EYCK News to Impact Radio.

Andrew McCumber
PhD Candidate in Sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara

Received the 2019 AESS Outstanding Student Paper Award for his paper, “‘You Can’t Ignore the Rat’: Cultural Narrative and the Roots of Social and Interspecies Hierarchies,” based on research on Alberta, Canada’s provincial rat control program. His research lies at the intersection of environmental and cultural sociology and centers on ideas of nature, meaning making, and human-animal relationships. His dissertation project is a multi-sited examination of various programs of rat extermination, eradication, and control, titled “The Pest We All Live With: The Cultural Meanings of the Life and Death of Rats.” Andrew says, “In this project I combine diverse forms of data, including ethnographic participant observation, interviews, archival historical materials, and survey data. By looking at these violent geographies of rat control, I examine how relationships with some of our least-loved nonhuman companions reverberate through the broader fabric of social life.” read more

Lauren Richter
Northeastern University
Social Sciences Environmental Health Research Institute

Received the 2018 AESS Outstanding Student Paper Award for her paper, Constructing Insignificance: Critical Race Perspectives on Institutional Failure in Environmental Justice Communities.  Drawing on fieldwork in the San Joaquin Valley (CA), Lauren’s paper uses critical race perspectives for theorizing the failures of institutions tasked with the protection of environmental quality and human health in low-income communities and communities of color. Lauren Richter defended her doctoral dissertation, Unseen Science: The Social Re-Discovery of Per- and Polyfluorinated Compounds, in August, 2018.  Dr. Richter is continuing her research with the Silent Spring Institute as a Research Fellow and impactful work with the SSERHIR team.

Drew F. Bush
Ph.D. Candidate
Department of Geography & School of Environment

McGill University

A guest scientist at the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York, NY, Drew Bush is working to complete his McGill University doctoral dissertation in the Department of Geography and School of Environment. His research examines how inquiry-based teaching using a classroom adapted NASA-GISS global climate model (GCM) impacts student learning of climate change science. He has started the Be A Climate Modeler For A Week summer camp at McGill, conducted educational research at John Abbott College in Montreal, QC, and taught environmental studies students at New York University in New York, NY.

N.K. Chung
Environmental Outreach Organizer

N.K. Chung is an Environmental Outreach Organizer where she grows and diversifies grassroots coalitions in raising awareness to a variety of environmental issues alongside the Hudson River in New York. Her research and experience includes water resource management, development, project evaluation, and analytical chemistry. Chung’s academic background in Analytical Chemistry (BS, Marist College, NY) and Environmental Science (MS, Pace University, NY) set the groundwork for her interest in the water crisis.  In 2014, she was a recipient of the US Fulbright award, where she spent some time in Sub-Saharan Africa studying water development and implementation of rural water services. From her thesis research, “Who is Empowering Whom? Divergent Perceptions of Water Empowerment in Swaziland’s Hhohho Region”, Chung identified a disconnect between development agency goals in creating empowerment and how rural communities perceive it. Her efforts continue to concentrate on engaging and connecting communities to environmental issues, specifically on the scarcity and quality of preserving and conserving our water resources.