Feature Story

April 10, 2018 | By Cole Hatcher

Here, Ohio Wesleyan alumna Meredith Palmer ’11 is in Africa to conduct research in behavioral ecology. She recently has been offered three competitive fellowships to support additional research. Palmer, Ph.D., is able to accept only one award and anticipates saying yes to a three-year postdoctoral fellowship from the National Science Foundation. (Photo courtesy of Meredith Palmer)

Success Times Three

Ohio Wesleyan Alumna Awarded Trio of Prestigious Fellowships

It’s a little like winning the Super Bowl, World Series, and Stanley Cup – all in the same week.

Ohio Wesleyan University alumna Meredith Palmer, Ph.D., learned last week that she been selected to receive a National Science Foundation (NSF) postdoctoral fellowship, a Smithsonian postdoctoral fellowship, and a Fulbright Scholars fellowship.

“It came as a complete surprise!” said Palmer ’11, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Minnesota. “I can only accept one of the positions. They’re all funding for my next postdoctoral stint, so I have to turn down two of them.

“Currently, I’m planning on accepting the NSF, where I would be working with Dr. Rob Pringle at Princeton and conducting fieldwork primarily in Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique,” said Palmer, noting that the NSF fellowship would support three years of research.

“The plan is to study what are called ‘emergent multi-predator effects,’ which is to say, the synergistic impacts on prey behavior and demography that result from having to mitigate risk from a whole host of different predators,” Palmer said. “I would be starting in January when I’ve finished up my current (research) on wolves.”

Specifically, Palmer has been offered an NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Biology, valued at about $69,000 per year. The fellowship was created by the foundation to “provide opportunities for scientists early in their careers who are ready to assume independence in their research efforts and to obtain training beyond their graduate education in preparation for scientific careers, to gain research experience under the sponsorship of established scientists, and to broaden their scientific horizons.”

According to the NSF, the agency receives several thousand applications annually for its graduate and postdoctoral fellowships, and this year will award about 40 Postdoctoral Research Fellowships in Biology.

As an OWU student, Palmer earned an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and was named a Barry M. Goldwater Scholar. Palmer majored in pre-professional zoology at Ohio Wesleyan and recently earned her doctorate in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior from the University of Minnesota.

Her current postdoctoral research involves studying the unassisted return of wolves to Minnesota’s Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve to better understand how the loss of top predators from ecosystems trickles down to impact herbivores, plants, and soils.

Palmer also has been studying predator-prey dynamics in large mammalian communities using information collected for the Serengeti Lion Project and camera trapping data and citizen science support from Snapshot Serengeti. Her work in this area recently has been covered in National Geographic, Inside Science, and Popular Science.

Read more about Palmer, her research, and her Ohio Wesleyan experience in Connect2 OWU.

Congratulations on all of your success, Meredith!