Award Recipients


The SPAS Grants Committee is delighted to announce two awards in the amount of $2000.00 given in support of research related to SPAS' Mission to protect and restore natural ecosystems important to birds and other wildlife.

Ms. Lynn Heller is a Junior at the University of Tampa majoring in Marine Science and Biology. In the laboratory of her advisor, Dr. Natalia Belfiore, Ms. Heller will study the genetic impact of environmental stress by comparing two nesting colonies of Little Blue Heron (LBH), one nesting in protected conditions in the Lowry Park Zoo and the other nesting under natural conditions in the wild. The work will test the hypothesis that populations of LBH nesting in low environmental stress conditions will show higher genetic variation than those in natural higher stress conditions where there is more intense natural selection by environmental stressors reducing genetic variation. This work will have application in management of LBH and other colonial nesting wading birds.

Ms. Caitlin Nordheim is a Junior at the University of Tampa majoring in Biology. Using technical skills developed over the past 2 years in the laboratory of her advisor, Dr. Taegan McMahon, she proposes to study the highly contagious fungus that causes chytridomycosis, a disease that has devastated populations of frogs, toads and salamanders worldwide. The work will test the hypothesis that mosquitoes can transmit the fungus from one host to another acting as vectors for the disease. If this is confirmed, the results will have immediate application in conservation strategies and management efforts for amphibians, which are a major food source for wetland wading birds and raptors.

SPAS Grants Committee

John Ogden, PhD

Gabriel Vargo, PhD

Sandra Vargo, PhD

2016 — Thanks to outstanding support from our friends in the St. Petersburg community, we were able to continue our support of future conservation leaders through the St. Pete Audubon Student Grants Program. We received many strong applications this year, and the student grant committee was extremely pleased to see the growing interest in our program. We appreciate the time and interest of all students who applied this year. We wish them success in their academic pursuits. Please join us in congratulating this year’s award recipients: Erin Kiskaddon and Samantha Schaberg.

UPDATE June 2018:


I wanted to share the good news with you all that Samantha Schaberg, one of the recipients of your 2016 Student Grants, recently published her work in a scientific journal . Support from the St. Petersburg Audubon Society is recognized in the Acknowledgements section on page 7 of the paper. Your support of Samantha was critical to the success of her project and her graduate education.

Many thanks!

Joshua Patterson, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor – Restoration Aquaculture

UF|IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation

Program in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences

The Florida Aquarium|Center for Conservation

Schaberg_et_al-2017-Restoration_Ecology 1.pdf

2015 — During our Student Grants Program’s inaugural year, we received applications from several strong students. The 2015 award recipient was Ms. Caitlin Carr, a graduate student within the Environmental Science and Policy program at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. Caitlin’s research focuses on contaminants present within seabirds in the Tampa Bay watershed. We presented Caitlin with her award during our April 2015 program. Congratulations, Caitlin, we wish you the best of luck with your academic pursuits! Thanks to our community for supporting our new program!