Rayna Ben-Zeev ’15, an environmental science major and math modeling minor, has been named a Fulbright Scholar and will conduct research at the Mangrove Lab at the National University of Singapore. Her project, “Quantifying the Fisheries Ecosystem Services Provided by Mangroves,” combines field based and remote sensing techniques to quantify the benefits to humankind provided by mangroves—specifically the fisheries resources they provide.
“I have always known I wanted to be a scientist,” said Ben-Zeev, of Evanston, Illinois. “I was the kid who chose to spend all my time outdoors, signing up for the ‘geeky’ nature activity at camp year after year to memorize each type of edible plant. My love for the outdoors led me to Colorado College, where I have been able to conduct my own research projects while traveling with various courses to Pikes Peak, the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone and Utah.”
During the summer of 2013 Ben-Zeev participated in the NSF-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program at University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC), where she trapped mosquitoes and predicted West Nile Virus infections with projected climatic changes. This past summer she received a grant to return to UCSC, where she conducted fieldwork and modeled amphibian extinctions with climate change.
She also spent a semester abroad in Thailand, where, through her host family, she gained a deeper appreciation for mangroves. “What seemed to drive them, and the entire village community, was their intimate relationship with the coastal mangrove forests. The fish eaten for dinner each night and wood used to build boats and houses originated in the mangroves. But mangroves were also valuable to villagers in other innumerable ways. My host dad told me that during the 2004 tsunami he took the entire village to the mangroves for shelter. Other nearby villages were destroyed, but this village remained safe in the reliable intertidal zone,” she said.
Ben-Zeev plans to pursue a doctorate degree using climate models to study changes in various types of ecosystems. “Studying the benefits provided by the crucial mangrove ecosystem and its effect on climate change will help prepare me to conduct future climate change research,” she says.
Ben-Zeev has numerous interests outside the classroom as well. She is co-chair of the Colorado College Hillel organization, and active with theatre, improve, and dance workshop groups on campus. Currently she is in the improv troupe “TWIT” and has one of the two speaking roles in the theatre department’s upcoming production, “Dutchman.”