The Princeton Environmental Institute (PEI) has selected nine Princeton University graduate students representing six departments and programs as 2019 recipients of the Mary and Randall Hack ’69 Graduate Awards for Water and the Environment. The awards provide up to $8,000 in research funding to Princeton Ph.D. candidates exploring water and water-related topics in various disciplines, including climate science, biology, engineering and environmental policy.
Hutchinson will use DNA metabarcoding — which identifies the plant species contained in a dung sample by their genetic code — to document the diets of all herbivores in Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park. His research tackles the ongoing question of how herbivores compete for food in ecosystems such as savannas that experience variations in rainfall, and therefore vegetation availability, during the year. Hutchinson will test how herbivores species in Gorongosa partition plant resources and whether this partitioning changes in response to water availability across a year. His work aims to provide a better understanding of how species interact and maintain biodiversity, as well as help conservation managers project how many animals avoid starvation during periods of food scarcity.