New Jersey Chapter Awards
The Cookingham Scholarship
The Cookingham Scholarship is an annual $1000 scholarship made possible by an endowment from Russell A. Cookingham, former Director of the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife. It is intended to assist qualified students in the wildlife/fisheries or conservation education/communication field with college and related expenses. The Division of Fish & Wildlife and the NJ Chapter of The Wildlife Society partner in the selection and award of the scholarship.
2017 Winner: Austin Damminger, a Senior at Paul Smith’s College in Paul Smiths, New York.
Austin Damminger is a resident of Mullica Hill, NJ, and an undergraduate senior working towards a BS in Natural Resource Management at Paul Smith’s College. Austin has been on the Dean’s List during each semester at Paul Smith’s. In addition to his schoolwork, Austin has field experience working with piping plovers as a Research Intern for the State University of New York, ESF Syracuse, and working with waterfowl and bobwhite for the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife.
2016 Winner: Matthew Sehrsweeney, a Senior at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Matthew Sehrsweeney is a resident of Bloomfield, NJ, and an undergraduate senior working towards a BS in Biology at the University of Michigan. During his undergraduate summers, Matt worked as a technician at The Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor, New Jersey.
2015 Winner: David Weber, a Senior at Cornell University, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.
David Weber, a resident of Newfield, NJ, is working toward a BS in Natural Resources and Applied Ecology. David has a passion for birds and has worked all three summers while an undergraduate on various avian studies. During the summer of 2015, he conducted bird point counts and vegetative studies in the famed Hubbard Brook Experimental Forest in New Hampshire. During the previous two summers, he worked with acorn woodpeckers and other cavity nesting birds on the Hastings Natural History reservation in California. In addition, he has volunteered on several avian studies including alleviating bird damage to fruit crops in New York, Canada goose banding in New Jersey, and leading tours of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.
2014 Winner: Jillena Yeager, a student at Richard Stockton College of NJ.
Jillena is an environmental science major entering her senior year. She has spent this summer and last as an intern at the Coastal Conservation Research Program at The Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor. While there, she has participated in long-term conservation and research projects focused on diamondback terrapins, horseshoe crabs, and coastal ecology. She also conducted her own independent research on diamondback terrapins. She also has extensive internship experience with pine snakes.
2013 Winner: Jessica Valenti, a student at Richard Stockton College of NJ.
Jessica is a marine science and chemistry major entering her senior year with extensive coursework in marine fisheries. She spent the past summer as a Rutgers University Marine Field Station summer intern working on fisheries research. She also worked as an education and research intern for American Littoral Society, and as a teaching assistant at Stockton. She has volunteered at Jenkinson’s Aquarium, for Clean Ocean Action, ReClam the Bay, and at Stockton’s Marine Science and Environmental Field Station. Her career goals include graduate school and working as a fisheries biologist.
2012 Winner: Dan Mayer, a student at Paul Smith’s College in Paul Smiths, New York.
Dan is majoring in Fisheries and Wildlife Science, and will earn a certificate in GIS and a minor in Business Administration. Dan was a field research intern studying the effect of climate change on breeding ecology of songbirds in the shrub-tundra of central Alaska. He has been a Stewardship Team Leader for the Schiff Nature Preserve in Mendham. That role found him monitoring wood turtle nests and bluebird boxes, eradicating emerging invasive plants, and maintaining hiking trails and gardens. His participation with the Paul Smith’s College Student Chapter of The Wildlife Society has included running a volunteer deer check station, building wood duck boxes, and presenting his research to his peers.
2011 Winner: Lauren Cruz, a junior undergraduate student at the University of Delaware.
The New Jersey Chapter of The Wildlife Society announced the award of the Russell A. Cookingham Scholarship to Bayville resident Lauren Cruz, a third year student at the University of Delaware. Lauren was selected from a pool of very qualified candidates based on a combination of academics, experience in the field of wildlife conservation, and service to natural resources and the wildlife management and conservation profession.
Lauren has participated in two undergraduate research projects that focused on water quality, and on river otters. She has interned for two summers with the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife at the Sedge Island Natural Resource Education Center. She has volunteered for the Nature Conservancy. She has maintained Dean’s List status for 2 years.
2008 Winner: Daniel Bingham, a senior undergraduate student at the University of Montana.
Daniel is an Eagle Scout from Toms River, NJ and has volunteered with the Ocean County Community College organizing a trail-clearing project. While with the University of Montana, Daniel has volunteered studying bighorn sheep parasitism and capturing and PIT-tagging salmon smolts on the Grande Ronde River in Washington. Daniel intends on attending graduate school to study the consequences of habitat fragmentation on wildlife population genetics.In addition to the applicable wildlife coursework and volunteering efforts, Daniel is the captain of the University of Montana cross country and track teams. He was awarded the Big Sky Conference All-Academic Award and the Western Regional All-Academic Award. Daniel’s participation and leadership in college athletics and receipt of associated awards illustrates that he is a well-rounded and dedicated individual who deserved the Cookingham Scholarship Award to advance his study of wildlife biology and continue with a professional career in wildlife science and education.
2007 Winner: Angela Gorczyca, a 2007 graduate of Rutgers University.
Angela was an Honors student in Ecology and Natural Resources. During her time at Rutgers, she worked as an intern for the Edison Wetlands Association, and as a lab and field tech at Rutgers. She founded the RU Chapter of Roots and Shoots, a community service organization dedicated to local people, wildlife and the environment. She received Dept. of Ecology and Natural Resources Outstanding Student in Ecology Award, and the Alpha Zeta Junior Student of the Year. Her George H. Cook Scholars Program thesis was titled “The Effect of Wildflower Patch Size and Density on Food Discovery by Butterfly Species.” She is headed to Duke’s Nicholas School for the Environment in the fall to pursue a Masters of Science.
The pool of applicants for the scholarship this year was impressive, and the committee had a tough time choosing only one candidate.