Coon named 2013 CMU Udall nominee

Photograph by Greg Cornwell
Jaime Coon
, a Centralis Scholar, Honors student and junior from Hamilton majoring in pre-graduate biology and minoring in global justice, is CMU’s 2013 Udall Scholarship nominee.

The Morris K. Udall Foundation was established by Congress in 1992 to honor Morris Udall’s 30 years of service in Congress. The name was amended in 2009 to include his older brother, Stewart L. Udall, also a career civil servant.

The foundation will award approximately 50 scholarships of up to $5,000 to outstanding sophomore and junior college students committed to careers in environmental or Native American policy. Additionally, scholars gain access to a vast network of like-minded individuals at seminars offered in Tucson, Arizona.

Coon was CMU’s Udall nominee last year. Since then, Coon says she has strengthened her application by expanding her research in the biology department and her environmental public service.

After volunteering with the Wildlife Recovery Association, a nonprofit birds of prey rehabilitation organization, for 200 hours, she became an intern there and lived on-site during the summer.

Coon has worked in associate professor Kirsten Nicholson’s phylogenetics lab for over two years studying a tropical lizard species complex. Discovering the cause of the species’ divergence and confirming potential new species is vital: “If a species doesn’t have a name, you can’t write a law protecting it,” she says.

Growing up on a farm instilled in Coon a deep love and appreciation for the natural world. But she says she did not make the connection between biology and environmentalism until she was in college. “Now I have this major in biology, and I’m going to be a biologist with an environmental value behind every question I ask, and I think that’s really important,” she says.

Coon emphasizes interdisciplinary thinking: as a global justice minor, she has taken courses in sociology and political science, and her capstone project focused on advocating replacing the magnolia trees that once grew in front of Anspach Hall. “We’re just trying to understand how we can help the world be more sustainable – and issues of poverty and environmental issues are so interrelated sometimes you can’t even separate them,” she says.

As an active member of the CMU College 101 program, Coon gives several “Passion for Wildlife” presentations a year. The goal of these speeches, which incorporate live wildlife, is to inspire at-risk students to make positive life choices and live sustainably with wildlife.

Additionally, Coon has been involved in CMU’s New Venture competition with a nonprofit project called “Energize Education,” which focuses on better energy efficiency in public schools.

Coon plans to pursue a PhD in conservation biology.