AMES, Iowa — Toni Sleugh has found her purpose at the intersection of research and environmental advocacy. A prestigious scholarship will help her realize her academic and career goals.
Sleugh, junior in biology and environmental studies from Carmel, Indiana, is one of 55 students from across the U.S. selected for the Udall Scholarship. The Udall Foundation awards scholarships for leadership, public service and commitment to issues related to the environment or Native American nations.
This is the third year in a row that an ISU student has been named a Udall Scholar. Sleugh is Iowa State’s 13th Udall Scholar since the award began in 1997.
Sleugh’s experiences in research and environmental advocacy as an undergraduate “have taught me to recognize the interconnection of science and policy,” she wrote in her application. She came to Iowa State as a George Washington Carver Scholar, and last year was selected as an Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholar.
She plans to work in marine science and conservation, studying how human-created environmental changes affect the behavior and survival of marine organisms.
After graduating from Iowa State, Sleugh will pursue a Ph.D. in marine biology and conservation. Her goal is to research the effects of anthropogenic environmental change on the ecology and physiology of marine organisms and ways to reduce those impacts.
“I discovered that it is possible to combine the lifelong learning that I love about research with the tangible societal changes that result from policy work, and I’ve been excited about this career path ever since,” she wrote in her application.
Her research includes an internship at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, where she studied the effects of increased temperature and carbon dioxide concentrations on the swimming behavior of squid paralarvae. This work contributes to our understanding of how a species is affected by acidification and the importance of reducing carbon emissions.
It was also here that Sleugh recognized another goal. After only encountering one other black female marine scientist, she wants to help increase multicultural student retention and diversify the workplace. She enacted change at Iowa State following this experience, working with Multicultural Student Affairs to create the Multicultural Student Leadership Council. The MSLC cultivates leadership development and programmatic collaboration among multicultural student organizations.