Alligator researcher wins science policy experience in Washington, D.C.

Adam Rosenblatt, a Ph.D. candidate in the FIU Department of Biological Sciences, has been awarded the 2012 Graduate Student Policy Award (GSPA). He is headed to Washington, D.C., for the Congressional Visits Day March 28-29.

Rosenblatt is one of three national finalists invited to the annual science policy experience. The students will have the chance to meet with congressional offices, be briefed by policy leaders on federal funding issues, and network with other scientists.

Rosenblatt holds an American alligator during a research trip in the Everglades.

“I applied for the policy award because I don’t know how funding decisions are made,” Rosenblatt said. “I want to learn how the process works so I can come back to FIU and share that information with my colleagues.”

The two-day event focuses on the need for sustained federal investment in biological research and education.

“Lots of students in the sciences don’t consider policy as a career opportunity,” Rosenblatt said. “The policy-makers hold the purse strings that fund scientific research. If the government doesn’t understand the importance of the research then it’ll never get funded. It’s up to the scientists to communicate that funding is crucial for studying and conserving our ecosystems.”

Rosenblatt is a Philadelphia native and earned his undergraduate degree in biology from Oberlin College in 2006. In 2007, he enrolled at FIU to pursue his doctorate degree at the FIU School of Environment, Arts and Society (SEAS). His research focuses on the role the American alligator plays as a top predator in the Everglades, the largest wetland ecosystem in the United States.

“Even though the alligator is an iconic species of Florida, we still don’t know much about its complex role in our ecosystems,” Rosenblatt said. “Conservationists have used different resources to restore the Everglades, but we also don’t know the results of those efforts. My research looks at alligator feeding and movement behavior now to predict how they will respond to those conservation efforts and human activity.”

The GSPA is sponsored by the Ecological Society of America (ESA) and the Biological Ecological Sciences Coalition (BESC). It is granted to applicants that have shown their commitment to engaging in public policy.

“Sound management has to be based on excellent science,” said Michael Heithaus, executive director of SEAS and Rosenblatt’s Ph.D. adviser. “The trick is making sure that the science is communicated well and to the right people. This award will provide Adam with the tools to ensure his current and future research makes an impact.”