By Kelsey Siegler
Photo courtesy of Maggie Bliss
Maggie Bliss (C’16), an Ecology and Biodiversity Major at Sewanee, is a winner of one of this year’s Fulbright Scholarships.The Fulbright Scholarship was named after former Senator J. William Fulbright because of the impact he had on foreign policy as the longest serving chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The Council for International Exchange of Scholars (CIED) conducts international exchange programs, such as the Fulbright Program, and has administered the program for almost seventy years, annually reviewing 800 applications from 140 countries. Bliss submitted her application to Sewanee, and was endorsed by Fulbright advisor and professor Dr. Sid Brown. She found out that she was a semi-finalist in January, at which point she had a one in two chance of receiving the award. She enthusiastically received the news that she earned this prestigious scholarship over Spring Break.
Her proposal statement and field of interest is to study animal behavior and personalities. In Munich, Bliss will relate bird personalities (specifically, the Great Tit) with fellow researcher Niels Dingemanse, who she has been collaborating with since beginning her application for the program. Bliss says that Dingemanse’s countless works on animal behavior intrigue her to continue studying animals. She studied German for four years, and is eager to be immersed in a culture she admires, and in a field she is passionate about. Before she leaves for her research trip, which will last from September 2016 to July 2017, Bliss will present her work on animal behavior of antipredators and tadpoles at the National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates conference this summer. She recently published a book about the boldness and shyness in salamanders with the help of Dr. Cecala, demonstrating her many contributions to the science community. She hopes to prepare another manuscript from her findings in Germany, and contribute to her dissertation for her PhD.
Bliss is grateful for Sewanee’s support, especially Dr. McGee, a behavioral ecologist, who encouraged her to apply for the Fulbright scholarship. Bliss wants “a-ha moments at least once a week, and to feel happy doing exactly what she loves to do.” She hopes to study somewhere remote when she is older, so that she can be one with the animals, and immerse herself in her research. She does not want to leave the Sewanee community but knows that the world is ready for her, and that Fulbright believed in her dream and she can believe in it too.