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EEB announces presidential postdoctoral fellow

Outdoor portrait of Ashish Nerlekar
MSU Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow

Ashish Nerlekar, a grassland ecologist whose research will seek a novel synthesis of MSU work to help save biodiversity locally and globally, will be the next MSU Presidential Postdoctoral Fellow in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior.

The academic year 2023-2024 fellowship marks the third year’s work to increase the breadth and potential of research embracing ecology, evolution, and behavior at MSU, announced EEB Director Elise Zipkin.

“Our presidential postdocs have consistently brought innovation, new perspectives and a tremendous spirit of collaboration to the EEB community, who has embraced them,” Zipkin said. “Ashish will continue a tradition of creative research projects and creating new paths for discovery across EEB.”

Nerlekar is finishing doctoral work at Texas A&M University where his research focuses on the ecology, conservation and restoration of grasslands and savannas. Working with mentors Lars Brudvig and Lauren Sullivan in the Department of Plant Biology in the College of Natural Science, he will continue to improve the scientific and public recognition of grasslands by understanding what kinds of plants are characteristic of global ancient grasslands, and how might these plants get affected by large-scale tree plantations on tropical grasslands.   

He also plans to organize a seminar on tropical ecology and conservation to showcase cutting-edge research being done by scientists based in the Global South. Additionally, he will organize a journal club in the EEB community aimed at learning about best practices to decolonize ecology by exploring the consequences of ‘parachute science’ - science conducted in another country without meaningfully engaging with the local stakeholders.

“The multidisciplinary synergies of Ashish’s doctoral research embody the kind of cutting-edge, community-engaged scholarship we are aiming to foster with this postdoctoral fellowship,” said MSU Interim Provost Thomas Jeitschko. “We are emboldened by the valuable contributions that Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior Program postdocs have brought to the university community during the program’s first two years and look forward to the arrival of soon-to-be Dr. Nerlekar.” 

The MSU Presidential Postdoctoral Fellowship in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior is funded through a joint effort initiated by the provost, the vice president for research and innovation, the graduate school, the College of Natural Science, the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and the College of Engineering. The aim of the fellowship is to continue building academic excellence within the EEB program through innovative, integrative research and community service.

The fellowship search committee was comprised of faculty members Emily Josephs, Fred Janzen, Kevin Liu, Nina Wale, and Phoebe Zarnetske; postdoc Cinnamon Mittan; and PhD student Riley Pizza. The search for the 2024-2025 EEB presidential fellows will begin later this year. Additional information can be found on the EEB website.