Nina Finley '17 is one of only 50 students in the nation to receive the prestigious Udall Scholarship. What's more, she is one of only eight sophomores chosen for the prize.

A committee selected this year's group of Udall Scholars on the basis of commitment to careers in the environment; American Indian health care or tribal public policy; leadership potential; academic achievement; and a record of public service.

Each scholarship provides up to $5,000 for the scholar's junior or senior year.

"Nina exemplifies Udall's guiding purpose of environmental leadership," said Keith Raether, director of Whitman College's Office of Fellowships and Grants. "What makes her unique is that she comes at green issues from a research-driven, science-grounded perspective. She wants to connect micro to macro, microbe to biome to ecosystem health."

Finley's research interests focus mainly on the relationship between wildlife disease epidemics and ecosystem health. She has studied livestock husbandry in Ohio, forestry in Brazil, sea lion diet in the Galapagos Islands, hawksbill sea turtle nesting in coastal Ecuador and sculpin jaw morphology on San Juan Island.

"At first I was unsure that my idea of environmental service through disease ecology research would be compelling," Finley said. "But the honor of receiving a Udall Scholarship has given me confidence that my chosen path of science is meaningful."

Finley says she is excited to delve deeper into conservation science this summer, when she will be researching sea star wasting disease at the Seattle Aquarium.

The 2015 Udall Scholars will assemble August 5 - 9, 2015, in Tucson, Arizona, to meet one another and program alumni; learn more about the Udall legacy of public service; and interact with community leaders in environmental fields, tribal health care and governance.