Northwestern University senior Jessie Moravek has been named a Luce Scholar to live and work in Asia, where she will investigate how people and cultures are impacted by environmental change. She plays the mellophone in the Northwestern University "Wildcat" Marching Band and the viola in the Philharmonia Orchestra.
Moravek, who studies environmental science and biology at Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences, was one of 18 young American leaders chosen from 162 candidates. She is the 10th Northwestern student to win the prestigious award from the Henry Luce Foundation.
“The Luce Scholarship will give me an international perspective on issues such as climate change and water resource availability,” Moravek said. “ Moving forward, this global view will help me tackle large scale environmental problems with creativity and innovation.”
Moravek is especially interested in connecting with people and bringing the human element into her scientific research. During a summer internship at a national forest in Utah, where she analyzed the quality and amount of groundwater for grazing, mining and oil drilling, she experienced firsthand the tension between scientists and local residents.
“The more I talked to people about their perspectives, the better I was able to apply my research in the community,” she wrote in her application letter. "For instance, it was easier to talk to ranchers about water and grazing restrictions if I recognized the historic conflicts between ranchers and federal, state and tribal governments over water in the region.”
The Utah internship taught Moravek that “the balance between ecosystem conservation and human needs is a critical component of environmental research,” she said.
In Asia, Moravek hopes to better understand and communicate different ideologies behind environmental issues, which will be critical to her future environmental research.
Raised in the Chicago suburb of St. Charles, Moravek grew up camping and backpacking. She used her love of music to learn about cultures and customs in different environments.
In addition to assessing water quality in Utah oilfields, she worked in a carbon laboratory at Northwestern to identify carbon sources that may contribute to climate change. She also spent a semester studying salt marsh ecology at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.
Through an NOAA Ernest F. Hollings Scholarship, Moravek studied salmon conservation in Seattle, Washington. She presented this work at the Hollings Scholar Symposium in Washington, D.C. and a poster at the American Geophysical Union 2015 Fall Meeting, and she is using the collected data for a senior thesis about salmon habitat restoration.
Throughout her research experiences, Moravek has worked to connect with people and their communities. She writes for the campus nature magazine In Our Nature and advises younger environmental students.