Mentor List

Below is the list of graduate student mentors and a brief description of their research and opportunities to participate.  Please see the mentoring program page for details about the program format and goals.  This list is updated at the beginning of each semester (sometimes more frequently).

Graduate students: If you would like to update or add to this page, please contact Clare Rodenberg or Elise Heffernan at

Updated January 2021.

Who: Tara Illgner,

What: I have two projects for this semester focusing on new carbon capture technology and carbon policy in Virginia. I am looking for 1-2 students to 1) research the latest exciting carbon capture technology (called the Allam cycle) and translate this new technology into layman's terms and 2) look into the latest VA legislation about Carbon Capture in VA  and assess its scientific basis.  These students will gain practice researching both scientific papers and policy documents, and translating science for a broader audience.

Depending on how involved a student would like to be, there may also be opportunities to help prepare/co-author (1) comments to Virginia Legislative Committees, and (2) Congressional-Research-Service style Policy Memos for submission to competitions and/or policymakers.
When: Spring 2021
How: Academic credit

Who: Elise Heffernan,
What: 1. This project is focused on primary research and seeks to complement my own boreal forest treeline research in the Arctic. A student would choose a topic (if possibly related to another major/minor, great!) and conduct primary research, create an annotated bibliography and write a report on the topic throughout the term. The goal is to get a broader, multidisciplinary understanding of my research area. The student will gain experience with primary source research and writing, and will have rather wide discretion in their chosen topics. I am particularly seeking students who are interested in social-environmental interactions.

2. This project, which will be co-advised by Amanda Armstrong, aims to look at tree ring-width data and determine any growth trends in the Arctic associated with climate change. The student will be part of a larger team that is working on modeling the boreal forest - tundra treeline, but will not be required to run the model. Helpful skills include proficiency with excel and knowledge of R (or an interest in learning/improving R skills).
When: Spring 2021
How: Academic credit

Who: Allie Parisien,
What: I study nutrient cycling over the course of secondary succession. My fieldwork takes place out at Blandy Experimental Farm, where there are chronosequences of early (~15 year old), mid (~30 year old), and late (100+ year old) successional fields. I am hoping to discover how nitrogen cycling changes over the course of land abandonment and subsequent forest development at Blandy, and how this might play into the large scale land abandonment on the East Coast over the past few centuries as agriculture has moved westward. I have a number of research tasks I could use help with here in Charlottesville, depending on your interests and experience. These include: leaf sample processing and analysis, soil sample processing and analysis, and data analysis in Excel and R.
When: Summer and Fall 2021
How: Academic credit or volunteer

Who: Morgan (Shelby) Tassone,
What: Arctic vegetation plays a critical role in global climate feedbacks through its influence on carbon cycling, albedo, and evapotranspiration. Over recent decades, Arctic primary productivity has been impacted by climate change through changes in aboveground biomass, phenology, and community composition. Despite a net increase in primary productivity (i.e., greening) between 1982 and 2018, the direction and magnitude of Arctic trends exhibit spatiotemporal heterogeneity across multiple scales (e.g., local to continental, inter-annual to decadal). Arctic productivity likely varies spatially and temporally due to interactions with climatic, geologic, biological, and anthropogenic drivers. A synthesis of recent (1999-2019) advances on the response of Arctic productivity to these drivers is required to provide a comprehensive overview of Arctic productivity dynamics and to highlight areas for further inquiry. At this point in time, I am looking for an undergraduate to help me compile research for a synthesis that explores the patterns of greening and browning; the project would include reviewing scientific papers and organizing findings.
When: Spring and Summer 2021 [Spring 2021 Filled]
How: Academic credits.