close-up of a tree frog, Hyla cinera, photo by JD Willson

Cashner Student Award

Award Announcement

The Cashner Student Award (formerly the Student Diversity and Inclusion Award) provides assistance to students from historically and currently underrepresented groups in the sciences. Awardees will receive tailored professional development training, mentorship, and networking opportunities, as well as one year of membership to the Society. They will also receive a monetary prize ($500-$1000) to help cover registration, travel, and/or lodging costs for attending the annual Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists.

To be eligible for a Cashner Student Award, applicants must demonstrate that: 

  • They are dedicated to a career in the scientific study or management of fishes, amphibians, and/or reptiles
  • They are an undergraduate or graduate student with the support of a faculty advisor
  • They are a member of an underrepresented group in STEM (including but not limited to ethnic/racial minorities, people with LGBTQ+ identities, and first generation college students). 

Awardees are required to attend the 2020 Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists.

To Apply

Applications for the Cashner Student Award and a letter of recommendation should be emailed to DiversityCommitteeASIH [at] by 1 March 2020.

The application should include applicant CV and an essay (no more than two pages) that provides: 

  • Pertinent background information
  • Current course of study
  • Plans/goals including any areas of professional career that the applicant would like to grow/improve
  • A narrative of how the applicant identifies as an underrepresented person in science. 

After review of the application and consideration that it meets the eligibility criteria, the awards will be selected by lottery.

Donate to the Cashner Diversity Fund.

2020 Cashner Awardees


Valentina Alvarez holding a small salamander


Valentina Alvarez
University of Hawaii at Manoa

I attribute my admiration of the natural world to my early life experiences living in the wilderness of northeastern Argentina. Having culminated such a deep admiration to nature and its wildlife, I am devoted to dedicating my career to protecting the biodiversity that has given my life such enormous value. I chose to pursue a PhD in zoology with a specialization in ecology, evolution and conservation biology at the University of Hawaii because I am intrigued by the natural history of these islands and want to use my resources to conserve their wondrous diversity. Hawaii is one of the few regions of the world that lacks native terrestrial herpetofauna.  Herpetological introductions have caused large scale extinctions on islands elsewhere in the Pacific (e.g., Brown Tree Snake driving avian extinctions on Guam). Hawaii has so far avoided these worst impacts but, as a major trade route, it remains susceptible to them. My PhD work focuses on understanding the dynamics of these invasions by determining their pathways and recurrence through molecular methods. I am also exploring the utility of citizen science to create an inclusive community that monitors the status of these species within Hawaii.


Neil Balchan posing in front of a crocodylian


Neil Balchan
University of Northern Colorado

Neil is a Master’s Student at the University of Northern Colorado studying resistance of Colorado rodents to prairie rattlesnake and desert massasauga venoms. His obsession with herpetology started at a very young age and followed him through his early schooling. Neil studied movement ecology of red-sided garter snakes at a large communal den site during his undergraduate degree, and this early research experience solidified his interest in pursuing a career in academia. Now approaching the end of his Master’s degree, Neil is eager to begin PhD study, focusing on snake phylogenetics and venom variation. Neil is thankful for initiatives that encourage diversity in STEM fields and looks forward to a future where young scientists can look up to a more diverse group of role models. 


Rene Martin weighing a large catfish


Rene Martin
University of Kansas

Rene Martin is a third-year Ph.D. student at the University of Kansas. She grew up in Minnesota as an active fisher and aquarist and has a broad background and diverse interests in ichthyological research. She is currently focused on discerning the mechanisms driving the diversification of lanternfishes (Myctophidae), as well as other species-rich lineages of pelagic deep-sea fishes. Rene’s work includes creating phylogenetic hypotheses of lanternfish relationships, and she uses the resulting phylogenies to not only acquire a fundamental understanding of phylogenetic relationships, but also as a framework for investigating questions related to trait evolution and diversification. Throughout her education, Rene lacked a female mentor to look up to, and as a woman in a STEM field she understands the importance of diversity in STEM. Rene seeks opportunities to mentor and assist students from low-income households and underrepresented groups. She also strives to educate the public on ichthyological topics by participating in numerous outreach events. Rene plans to pursue a career as a university professor and is committed to creating more positive experiences for others as she advances in her profession. As a professor she plans to mentor students, while also teaching and conducting research.


Victor Martinez conducting night field work


Victor Martínez
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

I'm a biology student in Mexico and have always wanted to become a herpetologist to research and study the herpetological diversity in my country. Since I was a child, I have always been interested in the frogs, toads and lizards around me.  During my studies I have learned about amphibian and reptile biology, their kinds of development, reproduction, behaviors as well as general biodiversity patterns and their care in captivity. Currently, I am investigating the effects of vegetation fragmentation on amphibian communities from a functional viewpoint in the Sierra Madre del Sur. In my current position as a curatorial assistant I am accessioning new specimens into the herpetological collection of the Museo de Zoología Alfonso L. Herrera (MZFC) in Faculty of Science, UNAM. I identify as part of an underrepresented group in sciences as a Latin-American. In my country the sciences have little importance in political decisions and consequently little profitability economically.  Despite this I want to continue learning about herpetology to show the importance of the conservation of amphibians and reptiles and share my knowledge with other interested people.


Carmen Pedraza Marron posing in front of a cascade


Carmen del Rocío Pedraza Marrón
University of Oklahoma

I have always felt amazed by the animals living beneath the water. As a young researcher, I became an explorer in love with fishes. Not their colors or shapes—I fell in love with their evolutionary history and biogeographic patterns that can be inferred from their distributions. Today, I am a Ph.D. student in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at The University of Oklahoma. My current research focuses on exploring the phylogeography-phylogenetics continuum to elucidate the processes driving speciation in marine fishes. To this end, I use genome-wide data to study how barriers to gene flow shape genetic structure at short-, intermediate-, and long-term evolutionary scales. As a Latin researcher, I believe our presence in this meeting is crucial as we are an important component of the community while adding knowledge and experiences to the group. We also form a link between our countries and the American science for which we can bring important collaborations in the aid of more integrative research. Overall, I fully expect my future to lead me back to my home in Morelia, Mexico, where I want to become part of the intellectual heart of a Mexican university while collaborating with researchers around the world.


Emanuell Ribeiro selfie on the ocean


Emanuell Ribeiro
University of Oklahoma

My interest in finned creatures tracks back to my childhood, growing up on the Brazilian Northeast coast. At that time, a fishing boat mooring on the sandy beaches of Tibau would easily capture my attention for hours. In that desert-like landscape, there was nothing more satisfying than a fisherman’s basket full of hairtails, tarpons, robalos, lookdowns, and pompanos. All the diversity fascinated me, and subconsciously drove me towards my professional career. Soon enough, I found myself studying fish diversity and evolution. It has been an exciting journey, and while I have always felt encouraged to follow an academic career, I am aware that I do not see myself reflected in the white figures leading many of the research teams I have joined so far. This observation stimulated me to learn more about the importance of ethnic and gender diversity in creative environments such as academia. I firmly believe that a diverse community, receptive and supportive to underrepresented researchers, can make a difference and provide new perspectives and solutions to longstanding challenges in science.


Danelle Rivera standing in front of a large cascade


Danielle Rivera
University of Texas at Arlington
Growing up in a biracial and multicultural family, I have always found it challenging to find myself represented in STEM. My Puerto Rican grandparents worked in a sewing factory and my parents were both active military members. While they encouraged my interest in many fields of study, my ultimate aspiration to pursue science was completely foreign to them. The motivation to earn the first higher degree in my family while supporting myself through college and earning grants to support my research stemmed from my desire to explore the intricacies of the natural world. As a Master’s student in Dr. Ana Carnaval’s lab at the City College of New York, and now as a PhD student in Dr. Matt Fujita’s lab at the University of Texas at Arlington, I study the rich herpetofaunal genomic biodiversity of Central and South America’s biomes. In my academic career, I strive to increase diversity and inclusion in my field, and encourage open communication to promote positive mental health and camaraderie among my peers.


Recardo Rivera collecting geckos at night


Ricardo Rivera Reyes
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

Ricardo Rivera is a master's student from the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México interested in understanding the patterns of distribution and diversity of terrestrial vertebrates. From a very young age he has been fascinated with nature and wildlife, especially amphibians and reptiles. Throughout his academic development, he has aimed to share this passion and the importance of conserving these animals with the general public. Ricardo is the first person in his family to choose a scientific career path, and also the first to have the opportunity and ability to study in a graduate degree program. Because of this, he is very optimistic and always maintains a positive attitude to continue his academic pursuits. Through his research, Ricardo has had the opportunity to travel around his country and see much of its biodiversity, and now, he is very excited to share these experiences at the 2021 Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists.


Adolpho Rotriguez-Velazquez and his friend boa


Adolfo Rodríguez-Velázquez
University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras

Wanting to do a career in science being Latino is a challenge, but wanting to do a career in science being the first of your family to go to a university, being a member of the LGBTQ+ community, being Puerto Rican, having brown skin, coming from a family with limited resources, and wanting to study amphibians and reptiles, it gives the panorama a totally unexpected turn. That is part of my story, I am currently in my fourth year as a PhD candidate in Biology at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras campus. My research is based on the study of different aspects of the biology of the Borikenophis portoricensis (Puerto Rican racer). As an undergraduate, I complete two bachelor’s degrees, one in Biology with a minor in Ecology and the other one in Communication with a focus on Digital Film. I understood that I could use the media as a vital tool to educate more people about species conservation, protect the environment, motivate others to study science, etc. I always identify myself with snakes, misunderstood, stealthy, a colorful character, exotic, extravagant but extremely given in helping others.


Khalil Russel on campus


Khalil Russell 
Virginia Institute of Marine Science

I got my first pet fish in the fifth grade and have been captivated by them ever since. While I am interested in animal behavior of all kinds, the bulk of my experience with it has come from breeding fish -- cichlids, specifically -- which I’ve now done for more than a decade. My current research at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science involves developing a better understanding of how the Floridian environment is shaping the invasive cichlids that have become established there. To do this, I am measuring and comparing morphometric features between native and invasive populations of three species of cichlid: two from central America, and one from Africa. One of the challenges I’ve faced as a member of an underrepresented group in STEM is the lack of role models who share my background. Don’t get me wrong -- I have been incredibly lucky to have the mentors that I have had both within and beyond my current field of study. That said, I am excited to become an example and a resource for aspiring ichthyologists who face the challenges of being outside of the dominant group


Past Cashner Awardees


  • Gabriela Arango

  • Suzana Bandeira

  • Emily DeArmon

  • Adania Flemming

  • Nureen Ghuznavi

  • Bryan Juarez

  • Marina Luccioni

  • Lindsey Nelson

  • Natasha Stepanova

  • Emily Virgin