James Applegate Award for Outstanding Student in Wildlife Conservation 2017
Jessica Ray

Jessica Ray is the 2017 James Applegate Award Winner Growing up in the Watchung Mountains I always loved to be outside. I loved mucking around in the streams near my house, traveling through the power line cuts, and climbing trees anywhere possible. Once I gained the freedom to drive, I was able to venture in much more vast wilderness areas. However, I was naive, and my love of nature was young. It wasn’t until my second year at Raritan Valley Community College when I decided to take a botany class with Dr. Jay Kelly, on a whim, that a whole new world opened up to me. I fell in love with nature all over again and saw things around me in a completely different way.

After earning an Associate’s degree in Biology. I continued my education at Rutgers University, and majored in Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources. Throughout my years at Rutgers I have had the opportunity to perform research on rare plants, forest health, dune erosion, and land management. One of my most memorable experiences at Rutgers was attending the Winter Field Ecology Course offered by Dr. Rick Lathrop, and returning a second year as the Teaching Assistant. There is nothing quite like learning how plants and wildlife survive the harsh winter weather and then venturing out to do it yourself.

I am involved with a variety of projects this summer and look forward to a busy field season. I will be monitoring shore bird behavior in response to oyster aquaculture in the Delaware Bay for Dr. Brooke Maslo. Additionally, I will be cataloging moths, fungi, and small mammals in various forest patches under Dr. Jay Kelly and conducting rare plant surveys under the NJ DEP. Moving forward, I would like to pursue career in conservation and restoration. I plan on working a few years in the field before applying to graduate school.