Graduate Student Receives Switzer Environmental Fellowship

UC Riverside’s Heather Hulton VanTassel studies how species respond to environmental disturbances, such as fire and non-native grass species

Heather Hulton VanTassel is a graduate student at UC Riverside.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Heather Hulton VanTassel, a current Ph.D. candidate at the University of California, Riverside in Kurt Anderson’s lab, has achieved the high honor of being selected as a 2014 Switzer Environmental Fellow by the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation. The foundation invests in individuals and organizations that drive positive environmental change.

“I am honored to receive this fellowship and be part of a community that strives to make positive environmental changes,” Hulton VanTassel said.

UC Riverside's Heather Hulton VanTassel is seen here with a juvenile California King snake.

UC Riverside’s Heather Hulton VanTassel is seen here with a juvenile California King snake.

Her dissertation research focuses on understanding how species respond to anthropogenic disturbances and environmental stressors across three different ecosystems within Southern California from both restoration and management perspectives. Her research has focused on a variety of species, including plants, invertebrates, mammals, and birds across multiple habitats with various environmental stressors in order to provide a more holistic view of environmental change. Her research has highlighted the importance of incorporating landscape complexity into future studies of disturbances as the remaining habitat can influence the severity of species’ responses to the disturbance.

Hulton VanTassel collaborates with the UC Riverside Center for Conservation Biology and the Joshua Tree National Park.  Her career goal is to conduct applied conservation research to inform land owners on how best to manage their landscapes to maintain or enhance biodiversity. She expects to receive her doctoral degree this spring.

UC Riverside's Heather Hulton VanTassel is seen here with a tarantula.

UC Riverside’s Heather Hulton VanTassel is seen here with a tarantula.

This year, the Switzer Foundation awarded 20 fellowships, of $15,000 each, to emerging environmental leaders who are pursuing graduate degrees and are dedicated to positive environmental change in their careers.  Merit-based and rigorously competitive, the fellowships assist the recipients in completing masters and doctoral degrees to advance their skills and develop their expertise to address critical environmental challenges.

Founded in 1986, the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation is a grantmaking organization that mobilizes leaders from diverse disciplines who focus on integrated solutions to environmental problems.

More information on the 2014 class of Switzer Fellows, and the Fellowship program, is available on the Foundation website at

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Heather Hulton VanTassel

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