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Twelve recipients awarded scholarships during ceremony at ‘Ding’ Darling

By Staff | Jun 17, 2015

Sanibel resident Dara Craig was one of 12 scholarship recipients recognized during the 2015 “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society Environmental Scholarship Awards Ceremony Thursday night.

“I’m very appreciative to the donors and refuge for this opportunity,” she said of receiving the Jane Werner Environmental Scholarship. “I’ll definitely miss Sanibel, but looking forward to experiencing new things.”

At the end of August, Craig will travel to Vanderbilt University to pursue a degree in earth and environmental studies.

“It will help go towards tuition and pursuing the degree,” she said of the scholarship.

Craig said growing up on Sanibel she developed a love for nature, which ignited an interest in pursuing the degree.

A recent Cypress Lake High School graduate, Craig attended the Sanibel School and took many field trips to J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge. She said she won the duck stamp contest in second grade and the cartoon contest in sixth grade, both contests at the refuge.

“The society decided that they do like focusing on education and they have donors coming forth saying we would like to support the next generation of children who are growing up and going into the environmental studies,” DDWS Education Chair Wendy Kindig said of how the scholarship program began. “Tarpon Bay Explorers was our first in 2006, they supplied some funds to start awarding some scholarships. Other people came forward. We have some endowed scholarships. We are now up to awarding 12 scholarships a year and that is very exciting,”

This year, the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge awarded $14,000, the most in the eight year history of the scholarship program. The recipients must live in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Glades and Hendry counties and pursue careers in biology and environmental studies to be eligible.

Other recipients include:

* Jake Joers, who received the Richard Bailey Scholarship, will study oceanic engineering at Florida Atlantic University;

* Alex Lochard, a University of Florida senior studying environmental engineering received the Mike and Terry Baldwin Scholarship;

* University of Florida sophomore Alexandra Mackey received the Dr. Andrew and Laura Dahlem Scholarship and the Tarpon Bay Explorers Scholarship to continue studying environmental law;

* Brooke Giuliano, who is focusing on water management, wetland restoration and mitigation and aquatic eutrophication at Duke University, received the Robert E. Lathrop Jr. and Margaret McLaughlin Scholarship;

* Carmen Hoyt, a sophomore at Duke University studying earth and ocean sciences, received the Francine Litofsky Scholarship;

* Jordan Donini, who is pursuing a master’s of science degree from Southeastern Louisiana University, received the Mary Lou Schadt Scholarship;

* Alexander Kucherenko, studying biology in the master’s program at Florida Gulf Coast University also received the Mary Lou Schadt Scholarship;

* Anthony Bonacolta, who will begin his studies at the University of Miami to study marine science, received the Tarpon Bay Explorers Scholarship;

* Isabel Gareau, who will pursue a degree in anthropology and botany at the University of California, Berkeley, received the Tarpon Bay Explorers Scholarship;

* Layne Marshall, a junior at the University of Florida, also received the Tarpon Bay Explorers Scholarship to further her studies in forest resources and conservation and

* Tarpon Bay Explorers Scholarship recipient Katie Thorp will study chemical engineering at the University of Florida.