SCB Welcomes the Class of 2024 Smith Fellows!

2024 Smith Fellows from Left to Right: Reza Goljani Amirkhiz, Leo Gaskins, Gisselle Mejía, Cinnamon Mittan-Moreau, Diego Ellis Soto

​The Society for Conservation Biology and the Cedar Tree Foundation announce the recipients of the 2024 David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellowship.

The Smith Fellowship, the nation's premier postdoctoral program in conservation science, seeks to find solutions to the most pressing conservation challenges. Each Fellow’s research is conducted in partnership with a major academic institution and an “on the ground” conservation organization to help bridge the gap between theory and application.

Emerging from an impressive pool of Ph.D. applicants from around the world who competed for the Fellowship are five outstanding scientists who will comprise the David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellowship class of 2024:

  • Reza Goljani Amirkhiz (he/him) will complete a project titled, “Monitoring the impact of climate change on the abundance and distribution of breeding bird communities” under the academic mentorship of Dr. Erika Zavaleta at University of California, Santa Cruz and in partnership with Dr. Dena Spatz at California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Pacific Rim Conservation
  • Leo Gaskins (he/they) will complete a project titled, “Restoring diversity and increasing function in Great Lakes wetlands with native ecosystem engineer biomimicry” under the academic mentorship of Cathy Pfister and Tim Wootton at University of Chicago and in partnership with Stephanie Beilke and Sarah Saunders at Audubon Great Lakes
  • Gisselle Mejía (she/her) will complete a project titled, “Shaping Urban Biodiversity: A Multi-Scale Analysis of Nursery Trends, Stakeholder Preferences, and Tree Composition in Urban Landscapes” under the academic mentorship of Meghan Avolio at John Hopkins University and in partnership with Richard Hallett at USDA Forest Service
  • Cinnamon Mittan-Moreau (she/her) will complete a project titled, “Genomically-informed solutions to ‘small population problems’ in a critically endangered species” under the academic mentorship of Nick Haddad and Sarah Fitzpatrick at Michigan State University, Kellogg Biological Station and in partnership with Kaitlyn Kelly at U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Bill Flanagan at John Ball Zoo
  • Diego Ellis Soto (he/him) will complete a project titled, “Environmental justice, socioeconomics, and biodiversity conservation in the Bay Area” under the academic mentorship of Christopher Schell at University of California, Berkeley and in partnership with Rebecca Johnson at California Academy of Sciences 

The Smith Fellowship seeks to identify and support early-career scientists who will shape the growth of applied conservation science. It’s also an opportunity for scientists to develop solutions to critical environmental challenges. While the Fellows' research projects focus on urgent conservation issues, they also learn firsthand the challenges and rewards of conservation applications. The program's focus is to enlarge their professional opportunities and ensure future success by helping them build relationships in the conservation and research communities and by providing opportunities for professional development through targeted workshops and training events.

The fellowship is named after the late Dr. David H. Smith, founder of the Cedar Tree Foundation, and pediatrician, inventor and conservationist. 

Request for proposals for the 2025 Class of Smith Fellows will be announced in June 2024.  For more information see the Smith Fellows website at