UTRGV’s Racelis named AAAS Leshner Leadership Institute Fellow

Dr. Alex Racelis. assistant professor in the School of Earth, Environmental and Marine Sciences (SEEMS) at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, is one of 15 food and water security researchers in the world named as 2018-19 Public Engagement Fellows by the Alan I. Leshner Leadership Institute of The American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Racelis, whose areas of focus include agroecology, invasion ecology, biological control of invasive species, socio-ecological systems and urban ecology, said he is honored to be part of the fellowship of distinguished scientists who are at the forefront of research in food and water.

“We all are committed to improving dialogue and communication with the public and other stakeholders to broaden the impact and reach of our work,” he said. “This appointment can’t come at a more crucial time for UTRGV as we develop and implement policies to institutionalize community engagement in our college and across the university, and as we help train our faculty and our students to increase their capacity for effective community engagement and regionally relevant scholarship, in fulfillment of our new university mission.”

AAAS said the 15 scientists were chosen for having demonstrated leadership and excellence in their research careers and an interest in promoting meaningful dialogue between science and society.

The water security work of the incoming AAAS Leshner Fellows draws from varied disciplines, including anthropology, civil engineering, biological and environmental sciences, geography, hydrology, political science and economics, plant genetics and horticulture.

The AAAS Leshner Fellows program, now in its third year, builds on the long-standing commitment of AAAS to science communication and public engagement.

AAAS Leshner Fellows will meet in June at AAAS headquarters in Washington, D.C., for a week of intensive public engagement and science communication training, networking and public engagement plan development.

“The skills and experience offered by the Leshner Fellowship will enable the sustained, strategic and scalable engagement needed to understand and address resource competition in an urbanizing world,” said Dustin Garrick, research fellow and co-director of the water program at the Smith School Enterprise and the Environment at the University of Oxford.

Throughout the year following the training, AAAS Leshner Fellows will develop and implement public engagement activities, train other scientists in their communities and work to increase capacity for public engagement at their institutions. AAAS staff will provide ongoing support and continuing professional development throughout the fellowship.

The Leshner Leadership Institute was established in 2015 through philanthropic support. The Institute is managed by the AAAS Center for Public Engagement with Science and Technology, established in 2004 by Alan I. Leshner, now chief executive officer emeritus of AAAS.