Honors and Awards

Dissertation Year Fellowship

Amanda Wagner has been awarded the 2020 UCLA Dissertation Year Fellowship which supports doctoral students in the final writing stages of their dissertation before starting a teaching or research appointment.  Wagner is partnering with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to understand temporary impacts to wetlands permitted by Section 404 of the Clean Water Act, which permits discharges of dredge or fill material — anything that could be used to fill a wetland or stream including but not limited to soil, cement, or wood.  Temporary impacts are considered minor encroachments on wetlands that occur for a short-duration during an authorized activity.  While there are many studies concerning the Army Corps’ ability to mitigate permanent impacts to wetlands, we do not understand the effect of temporary impacts to wetlands.  Once work is completed, the aquatic resource is supposed to be restored to pre-construction conditions, yet, we don’t really know if that’s happening because of a lack of follow-up and reporting.  

Her research explores the nature and prevalence of these impacts and seeks to define and understand its effects.  She is also evaluating the success of restoring wetlands and what role land-use may play in permitting and recovery.  The impacts that Wagner explores include sediment removal, bank stabilization, and restoration.  So far, she has found that many impermanent impacts are related to construction, such as building a temporary equipment-access-road in a stream in order to build a bridge.

After receiving her doctorate, she hopes to continue working with the federal government as a scientist to protect valuable aquatic resources.

honors and awards


The Pankaj Parekh Graduate Fellowship

Sonali Abraham is the first recipient of the Pankaj Parekh Graduate Fellowship, which is awarded to a first-year doctoral student focusing on water issues. Growing up in the Middle East and Bangladesh, Abraham is no stranger to water woes. “I’ve seen firsthand the scarcity and water contamination issues that people have to deal with. It definitely triggered a desire to work in this field,” she says. Abraham ultimately wants to focus on the international problem of contaminated drinking water but, for now, has decided to focus on California’s water shortage.

UCLA established the fellowship to honor the memory and legacy Dr. Pankaj Parekh. He earned an ESE doctorate in 1984 and became director of Water Quality for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, where he was in charge of clean drinking water for more than four million people.

Babbit Dissertation Fellowship

Sonali Abraham was awarded the Babbit Dissertation Fellowship from the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy for her dissertation project, “Unpacking the Potential of Outdoor Water Use Efficiency with a Focus on Southern California.” The fellowship is awarded to Ph.D. students whose research builds upon and contributes to water sustainability and resilience through the integration of land and water policy. 

For her dissertation and residency at The Pacific Institute, an organization that creates and advances solutions to the world’s most pressing water challenges, Sonali researches how people use water outdoors and how those trends vary with change in climate.  By focusing on how Californians use their water outdoors and how sustainable landscaping can provide both water-related and other environmental and community benefits, Sonali aims to improve water efficiency and change common perceptions of how water can be used outdoors.

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Dissertation Year Fellowship

Jordan Rosencranz has been awarded a UCLA Dissertation Year Fellowship, which is designed to help students in the final writing stage of their doctorates. For his research, Rosencranz partnered with the U.S. Geological Survey to examine ‘the coastal squeeze’ phenomenon of Californian salt marshes: Human development has already encroached on wildlife habitat such as marshes and wetlands, but with climate change driven sea level rise, habitats are now pressured from both sides. “This job has helped me understand what the U.S. Geological Survey does. And being able to help out, has given me the opportunity to do something bigger than I could do on my own as a doctoral student,” he says.

Rosencranz blogs about the Ridgeway’s Rail, an endangered bird that lives in a narrow habitat range. There are adaptive strategies that coastal managers can utilize to protect them in the short-term.

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