Hawk Mountain selects 2021 James A. Kushlan Graduate Student Awardee

Awardee: Mercedes Melo

Posted on October 06, 2021 in Science

Mercy with two kestrels

Learn more now: the James A. Kushlan Award

Hawk Mountain Sanctuary is proud to announce it has selected Mercedes “Mercy” Melo as its 2021 James A. Kushlan Graduate Student Awardee. Mercy is a doctoral candidate at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a former Hawk Mountain Leadership Trainee working with Hawk Mountain scientists to research the interplay between contaminant load, prey abundance, habitat quality, and intraguild predation on population dynamics of the American kestrel, a grassland raptor that is in decline.

Mercy has shown tremendous rigor and commitment in working to assess the cause or causes of the decline in American kestrels in eastern North America. She began her collaboration with Hawk Mountain as a Cedar Crest College undergraduate three years ago where she assisted with monitoring Hawk Mountain’s network of kestrel nestboxes. After completing her bachelor’s degree, Mercy’s stellar academics and research experience allowed her to jump immediately into a Ph.D. project at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She now juggles busy field seasons, lab analyses and class work. Her leadership on Hawk Mountain’s research into kestrel declines will shed light on the cause(s) of the documented decline in American kestrel populations through the continent and ultimately inform its conservation.

The James A. Kushlan Award was established in 2005 to support graduate students in their work for or with Hawk Mountain Sanctuary through a generous gift established by the Kushlan Endowment Fund. The award is competitive and based on the merit of the research project proposed and awarded to a qualified graduate student working in raptor conservation and without geographic restriction. The Hawk Mountain Graduate Student Program is a strategy to support the most talented up-and-coming raptor biologists and assist them with completing independent research that adds to our understanding of raptor conservation and helps to establish young professionals globally as leaders in the conservation community. 

To learn more or to apply, please contact:
JF Therrien, Ph.D.
Senior Scientist and Graduate Study Director
[email protected]
570-943-3411 x104