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Cairsty Grassie Receives 2010 Latham Award

Cairsty Grassie was selected to receive the 2010 Roger M. Latham Memorial Graduate Award, given annually to an outstanding, full-time graduate student advised by Wildlife and Fisheries Science faculty members in Penn State’s School of Forest Resources.

The Latham Award, created in 1981, memorializes Dr. Roger M. Latham (1914-1979) who devoted his career to promote conservation and management of renewable natural resources.  Latham was well known as an author and the outdoor editor of the Pittsburgh Press, a lecturer, a photographer, a naturalist, a teacher, and a resource conservationist.

Cairsty is a Ph.D. candidate in Wildlife and Fisheries Science, studying how environmental stress shapes the behavior and neurobiology of fish populations in the wild and in aquaculture.  Her advisers are Dr. Victoria Braithwaite, professor of fisheries biology in our School of Forest Resources, and Dr. Lars Ebbesson, senior scientist at the University of Bergen, Norway.

Aberdeen, Scotland, is Cairsty’s hometown.  She earned a bachelor of science in Ecological Science, with honors, at the University of Edinburgh (2007) and master of research in Marine and Freshwater Ecology and Environmental Management at the University of Glasgow (2008).  She came to Penn State in 2009 to pursue her interest in “tackling problems associated with developing management systems for wild and cultured fish populations.”

Cairsty has had first-hand experiences with natural resources around the world:  collecting master’s degree data in Sardinia, Italy in 2008;  as a research assistant with the Alaska SeaLife Centre in 2007;  and with the Global Volunteer Network in New Zealand in 2006.  In addition, data collection for her Ph.D. research has taken her to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama and to the University of Bergen in Norway.  Most recently she attended an international fish biology conference in Barcelona, Spain, where she presented a poster on salmon behavior.

True to the spirit of the Latham Award, Cairsty not only actively collaborates with the scientific community but also shares information and research findings with the public.  Throughout her undergraduate and master’s degree, Cairsty volunteered with the National Trust for Scotland and educated children on the diversity of wildlife species.  After completing her master’s degree, she set up and coordinated the implementation of a deer impact assessment on the vegetation in Scotland’s Mugdock Country Park. 

Soon after arriving at Penn State, Cairsty participated in “The Fishes of Pennsylvania” program at Penn State Exploration Day, which is designed to introduce children to science and nature.  She served as a graduate mentor at Neuroscience Research Day at the Hershey Medical School where she gave advice to other graduate students about postgraduate life.  She served on the student activities subcommittee for the American Fisheries Society 2010 annual meeting.

Her adviser Dr. Braithwaite describes Cairsty as a “keen and lively member of the School’s graduate community.  Braithwaite elaborates, “Cairsty is an active member of the School’s graduate organization.  She has coordinated the School’s Friday seminar series and has spent considerable amounts of time during the past two years working as a volunteer in the School’s educational programs.”

Cairsty plans to graduate in 2012 and aims to pursue a career in academia, perhaps completing post-doctoral research in behavioral neuroscience