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Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014

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Labouisse Prize winner hopes to 'cross-pollinate' with her research

As an ecology and evolutionary biology major, senior Elizabeth Bernier has had a long-standing interest in insects and pollination. As the winner of this year's Henry Richardson Labouisse '26 Prize, she will have a chance to carry out some cross-pollination of her own.

Bernier will travel to the Peruvian Andes for a year to study traditional organic farming and conservation issues in small indigenous communities. Her hope is not only to conduct research that helps the Andean farmers, but also to return to the United States with data that will be useful to North American farmers and conservationists.

"I think there are a lot of lessons to be learned in terms of how we do agriculture here," she said. Bernier also plans to help teach children in Peru about local ecology, wildlife conservation and other environmental matters.

The Labouisse fellowship is an annual award that supports research in developing countries by a graduating senior or a first-year alumnus or alumna who intends to pursue a career devoted to problems of development and modernization. The fellowship provides $25,000 in funding for a yearlong project.

Bernier traces her interest in ecology and the environment to her childhood in Los Angeles. "Ever since I was little, I was always psyched about all those books like '50 Ways to Save the Earth,'" she said.

But her resolve to become involved scientifically did not sharpen until she came to Princeton and took a freshman seminar, "Sustainable Development and the Environment," from Richard Golden, now retired associate dean of the engineering school.

"I kept coming to him with these stories I had read about awful things happening in the world and he would just say, 'Show me the data,'" she recalled. "And that was it. I had nothing more to say."

In many ways, Bernier has been looking for the data ever since.

The full story can be read in the Weekly Bulletin.

Contact: Marilyn Marks (609) 258-3601

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