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Nikole Vannest

Nikole Vannest graduated from Michigan State University in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science in Plant Biology with a specialization in Environmental Studies. As an undergraduate, she wrote a thesis paper comparing soil nutrient levels from Costa Rican pasture lands to the abundance and diversity of mycorrhizal spores.  Within a few years of graduating, she joined the Peace Corps in Senegal, West Africa. She was placed in a rural village in the Sahel region, where she primarily taught sustainable agriculture and agroforestry techniques. During her service, she wrote grants to aid the development of her community in the form of climate change and deforestation seminars, and women’s empowerment camps for young girls. She was also elected by her cohort as a representative for her peers in the region. Living in a part of the world where the environmental effects of deforestation and climate change have been felt within a single generation pushed Nikole to pursue a deeper understanding of this topic. Most recently, she conducted research with the University of California, Merced's Plant Ecology and Evolution lab to analyze results of a forest model parameterized to match Sierra Nevada forests under climate change conditions. She remains involved with UC Merced and is currently collaborating on a research paper. Nikole plans to specialize in Conservation Planning with a focus on data science. Her goal is to perform research using modelling as a tool to understand how permaculture and sustainable agroforestry systems can combat the effects of future climate change.

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