VBRN News & Highlights

Palmer Named Fulbright Scholar

Story by: Castleton University’s Office of Marketing and Communications

(Dr. Palmer has received funding from the Vermont Biomedical Research Network.)

Castleton University Assistant Professor of Biology Dr. Christine Palmer – better known as Palmer to many around campus – has been named a Fulbright Scholar and will engage in research in Iceland.

The Fulbright Program is a prestigious flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is administered through the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The Fulbright Program offers grants to provide students, scholars, teachers, artists, and scientists like Palmer the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas, and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns.

“There’s a student program, who act as kind of an ambassador, and there’s a scholar version for people who are established and are going to bring their expertise to other countries. There’s usually a need that the country has that a Fulbright can help with,” Palmer said. “It is ridiculously competitive. You have to convince them that what you’re bringing as a skill set is what their country needs.”

Palmer is one of two Castleton professors to receive a Fulbright Award this year. Dr. Monica McEnerny, associate professor of Education, has also been named a Fulbright Scholar and will work with Kazakh graduate students who are teachers in their local schools.

For Palmer, that international concern is climate change. While in Iceland, Palmer will expand on research previously conducted with Icelandic Forest Service Director Adalsteinn Sigureisson to assist with reforestation efforts and help Iceland achieve its goal of becoming carbon neutral. Her focus fits perfectly with the Fulbright Program’s Arctic Initiative, a joint venture with the National Science Foundation.

“A lot of people explore geological processes, melting ice, and fisheries. Trees are not a common topic,” Palmer said.

While in Iceland, Palmer will be living at the Icelandic Forest Research Station. She will spend most of her time in Iceland’s volcanic ash fields or in the forest in various parts of the country, collecting soil and ash samples.

“We are trying to see which fungi microbes are there. We are looking at, ‘What should it look like in a forest that’s been there?’ and, ‘What should it look like in a barren ash field?’ she said. “We’re trying to figure out which of the trees they’re planting can survive.”

Beyond the research, Palmer is also looking forward to how this experience will benefit her when she returns to Castleton.

“I look at professors before and after they’ve gone on sabbatical. They are like brand new humans. They are so energetic, excited, and rejuvenated. They come back fired up and that’s great for the classroom,” she said. “I keep thinking about our Wildlife & Forest Conservation program. This experience will improve it and our courses will be so much better because of it.”

Palmer is grateful for the opportunity.

“I definitely consider myself a lifelong learner. You know that feeling when you learn something new? I love that,” she said. “Being somewhere different allows us to have a perspective on our home that we can’t get on vacation. There are lots of things you can’t be grateful for if you don’t know any other place. Seeing other parts of the world reminds us that we are fundamentally similar. We are different, but the core of humans is the same.”

Originally published: https://www.castleton.edu/news-media/article/palmer-named-fulbright-scholar