Thursday, June 13, 2024

MTSU Student declared finalist in environmental science leadership program, eligible for fellowship


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Story by Maddy Williams | Contributing Writer

A Middle Tennessee State University student was declared a finalist in the third year of the Scholars for Conservation Leadership Program, created by the Land Trust Alliance, last month and is eligible for a 2023 fellowship.

The Land Trust Alliance, a national land conservation organization, represents 950 member land trusts and has accumulated 6.4 million supporters nationwide, according to Corey Himrod, Media Relations Manager for the Alliance.

The conference offers a career and leadership development program that creates opportunities for students looking to pursue careers in natural resource management and conservation.

The Alliance chose nine university students from across the country, Yaseen Ginnab, a senior biology and psychology major at MTSU, being one of them.

Ginnab worked on three research projects at MTSU and created two independent projects in internships, including the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates program and the Fulbright Canada Mitacs Globalink program.

“It was probably a combination of experiences from the past three years that got me more interested in environmental biology,” Ginnab said. “I grew to love the outdoors and unique organisms in nature, so when I realized I could get paid to spend time in nature, it felt like the perfect career field for me.”

Ginnab has always had interest in biology, but he originally planned to be a pharmacist, geneticist or a neuroscientist.

Ginnab is currently working on his honors thesis about “whether the at-risk species Tennessee milk vetch can accumulate selenium, a toxic metalloid, like many other plants in the same genus.”

Students chosen by the Alliance are shown holding the plaques. (Photo provided by DJ Glisson from Firefly Imageworks)

He worked for three months in Nova Scotia on a Fulbright Canada-Mitacs Globalink Research Internship.

“There, I researched the fruiting patterns of the red-belted polypore, an essential fungus that decays dead wood in forests,” Ginnab said.

This past summer, Ginnab conducted research on an island in Lake Michigan regarding “whether the lake’s bacterial communities can degrade polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, complex molecules found in crude oil.”

Those comprised his independent projects, but he also assisted in several other projects. 

“I’ve helped with aquatic invertebrate sampling, pollinator behavior observations, collecting data from field probes, recording mycorrhizal growth, analyzing forest vegetation metrics, and recording environmental variables on lichen health,” Ginnab said.

Prior to the conference, Ginnab said he looked forward to learning how the Land Trust Alliance aided in conservation. 

Ginnab’s previous dream job was field research until he attended the conference.

“For a while, I’ve been planning to get into a career focused on research either at a government organization like the Forest Service or National Wildlife Federation, or at an independent research station such as the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory,” he said. “My other main plan was to become a professor.”

Ginnab now hopes to work as a full-time researcher, a professor or a conservationist at a land trust.

“Now that I know about the Land Trust Alliance, I’ve seen a completely different career field where I could still be in the outdoors and work on conservation, while not needing to do research or teach,” Ginnab said.

To contact News Editor Matthew Giffin and Assistant News Editor Kailee Shores, email

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