UMass Amherst Ecologists Honor 9-year-old Citizen-Scientist with Community Action Award
Academic and professional awards typically go to researchers with decades of experience and scores, even hundreds of peer-reviewed publications to their name. But at the recent annual symposium of the Northeast Regional Invasive Species & Climate Change (RISCC) Management Network, 9-year-old fourth grader Bobbi Wilson, a committed young ecologist from New Jersey, received the inaugural RISCC Community Action Award.
RISCC, which is dedicated to improving invasive species management in the face of climate change, is the brainchild of UMass Amherst professors of environmental conservation Bethany Bradley and Toni Lyn Morelli, who helped found RISCC with Carrie Brown-Lima of the New York Invasive Research Institute. New Jersey, where Wilson lives, is part of the RISCC network.
At school, Wilson had learned about the threat of the spotted lanternfly, a beautiful but harmful insect native to China, India and Vietnam, and was taking part in New Jersey’s Stomp It Out campaign, a citizens-science effort to eradicate the pest. Wilson had crafted her own insect repellent and was spraying her local trees and collecting the lanternflies when the police showed up in response to a neighbor’s call about suspicious activity. The incident attracted widespread media attention for its racial overtones, but it also put a national spotlight on an industrious young woman with a passion for science.
“We have built this amazing community of managers, practitioners, researchers and concerned community members,” says Morelli, who is also a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. “We wanted to publicly recognize the exceptional work that Bobbi is doing, and to formally welcome her into the RISCC community. She is hardworking, dedicated and resilient, and we are excited to have Bobbi Wilson as part of our scientific family.”