RESTON, Va. — The National Wildlife Federation honored Deja Perkins, a Ph.D. student in Geospatial Analytics at North Carolina State University, with the National Conservation Young Leader Award. The award recognizes Perkins for her tireless dedication to promoting community science efforts and fostering a more inclusive conservation field.
While pursuing her master’s degree, Perkins mapped bird observations with GIS, produced habitat videos for museum visitors and created bird ID matching games, demonstrating an innovative skillset. After receiving her degree, Perkins developed research methods courses for undergraduates, provided water quality testing to 200 households, hosted a web series for Black Birders Week and presented at museums and conservation organizations. Perkins has been featured in Scientific American, Science News and Love Nature, as well as awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“The ability to combine a passion for wildlife and community engagement with research expertise and digital tools has made Deja a real change-maker in the conservation community,’’ said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “By expanding access to research and broadening the conservation community, Deja is a conservation superstar who is paving the way for leaders across the country to leave their mark on the ever-evolving conservation movement.”
“It is an honor to receive the National Conservation Young Leader award," said Perkins. "Through my work, I hope to tackle environmental justice issues through two angles: data and engagement. Large-scale datasets allow me to look at the larger picture and reveal patterns of where we don’t have (biodiversity, air pollution, etc.) data to understand whose story we are erasing from the picture. Simply identifying where we are doing a disservice is not enough. The first step is to identify the gaps, the second is to find better ways to engage historically excluded individuals in participatory science, building capacity and giving them agency to monitor their own neighborhoods.”
Perkins is currently studying bias and inclusion in volunteer-generated environmental monitoring datasets (large-scale citizen science projects like eBird). Her future research goals are to continue in the field of urban ecology, using GIS systems to help find where people are erasing communities through the lack of data. Through her work with the IDEAL Participatory Science Working Group she hopes to find better ways to engage and retain new audiences in science and nature.
The National Wildlife Federation Conservation Achievement Awards began in 1966. Since then, the National Wildlife Federation has celebrated individuals and organizations that have made outstanding contributions to protecting wildlife through education, advocacy, communication and on-the-ground conservation. Previous honorees have included former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, First Ladies Lady Bird Johnson and Michelle Obama and other national leaders, including U.S. Sen. John McCain and filmmaker Robert Redford.
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