MSUToday
Published: April 28, 2017

MSU doctoral student named Fulbright Scholar

Doctoral student Thomas Connor will spend a year seeking to understand the forces that divide wildlife habitat in China and create links between scientists, nature lovers and tourists as a Fulbright Scholar.

Connor, who studies under the direction of Jianguo “Jack” Liu, Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability, is working to understand the forces that fragment giant panda habitats in southwestern China. He will begin his Fulbright year this winter, and will build on last year’s work when he roamed the remote mountains of the Sichuan Province searching for signs of the elusive pandas – in particular, their feces. Connor will also continue to improve his Mandarin language skills and engage locals and tourists with conservation outings.

"I am honored to receive a Fulbright Research Award to China, which will help me finish my dissertation research on giant panda population connectivity and wildlife habitat fragmentation. Additionally, in a time where the USA's position in the world is increasingly uncertain, I look forward to endeavoring to be a thoughtful and positive ambassador to China. 

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program, introduced by Sen. J. William Fulbright in 1945, is the largest U.S. exchange program offering opportunities for students and young professionals to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching and primary and secondary school teaching worldwide.

Connor also has been awarded an East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes award by the National Science Foundation. The award provides U.S. graduate students in science, engineering and education, first-hand research experiences in Australia, China, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Singapore and Taiwan; an introduction to the science, science policy and scientific infrastructure of the respective location; and an orientation to the society, culture and language.

The goal is to help students initiate professional relationships to enable future collaboration with foreign counterparts. The NSF award includes a $5,000 summer stipend and roundtrip airplane ticket to the host location.