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

Cashner Student Award

Award Announcement

The Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Committee of the ASIH is soliciting applications for the Cashner Student Award for Ichthyologists and Herpetologists. This award provides support 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 ($1,000) 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 a member of an underrepresented group in STEM (including but not limited to ethnic/racial minorities, people with LGBTQ+ identities, first generation college students, and/or are a person with a disability);
  • They are an undergraduate or graduate student with the support of a faculty advisor, or they were a student in the last 12 months (verified in the advisor form by a supporting teacher or faculty member).

Awardees are required to attend either the 2021 or 2022 Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists.

To Apply

The deadline for application is June 22, 2021 by 11:59 PM. 

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.

2021 Cashner Awardees


Claire Crookston


Claire Crookston (She/Her/Hers)
Southeastern Louisiana University

"I am a Master's student attending SLU under the advice of Dr. Christopher Beachy. My current research focus is the larval development of the Southern Two-lined salamander (Eurycea cirrigera) and the associated osteological consequences of resource limitation in forested stream habitats. Once finished with my program, I aim to attend a Ph.D. program where I hope to continue the study of amphibian osteology and ontogeny.

Originally from Colorado, I grew to appreciate the natural world and especially amphibians through my father who took me “frog hunting”, camping, and fishing every summer. My identity as a Hispanic woman in STEM has made the need for equal representation apparent not just for people like me, but for all with underrepresented identities. I have made sealing the leaky pipeline of minority and specifically female advancement in science a priority and I seek out opportunities to educate others on the topic. I am excited to serve as a mentor to those who identify outside of the norm and to spark a passion for biology and zoology in others. I also value sustainability and mindfulness; I incorporate these into my daily life and enjoy instilling those values in others.”


Victor de Britto


Victor de Britto
Western Michigan University 

If I had to use one word to define my personal background and my academic interests in biology, I would use the word ‘mix’. Growing up in Brazil as a person with mixed ethnic background, mostly Black and Native Brazilian, I always found it a hard task to fit myself in a unique category. That plurality has influenced me on how I view the world, especially nature. The diversity of animals and plants in South America always amazes me and I’ve wondered how this incredible mix of life forms evolved to give rise to the ecosystems that we see today. This fascination drove me to the study of biological sciences. In my research, I combine evolutionary biology and community ecology to explore questions on how species interactions affect macroevolutionary processes. Currently I’m a PhD student at Western Michigan University studying patterns of phenotypic evolution in fish groups that occur both in marine and freshwater habitats and how the colonization of ecosystems with different community compositions affect those macroevolutionary processes. In the future, I plan to continue in academia as a university Professor and I hope to inspire future generations of researchers who come from diverse backgrounds.


Daniel Guerra


Daniel Guerra
Texas State University

I have been obsessed with reptiles since my first exposure to dinosaurs as a kid, and the lack of work on some of the reptiles in my own backyard in South Texas struck me when I was starting my graduate studies. The ability to study the ecology of the Texas Tortoise has been an incredible experience. The animals are so charismatic, and I am dedicated to working for the species and others like it. Doing all of this as a native Latino in the region that I grew up in means a lot to me. The history of science is full of white men with beards, but the support of my family, Texas State University, and the mentors I have had allow me to show that people who look like me and have had similar experiences can make meaningful progress in culturally and ecologically diverse areas.


Tony Neptune


Troy Neptune
Case Western Reserve University

As a queer, first-generation biologist from Appalachian Ohio, I can identify with the peculiar yet fabulous creatures that I study – amphibians! I was all too familiar with the beef cattle that we raised on my family’s farm, but I knew less of the salamanders and frogs that surrounded me. My interest in amphibian ecology truly began during my undergraduate education, where I conducted research on species ranging from red-eyed tree frogs in Panama to gray treefrogs in Ohio. Though I received incredible mentoring from multiple female biologists in the department, I often wondered about my place as a queer human in the sciences. I would rarely see visibly queer biologists at conferences, and I have never had a visibly queer instructor in the sciences. I want to change that for the next generation by being a proud, visibly queer herpetologist! I am a PhD candidate in Dr. Michael Benard’s lab at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. I am broadly interested in the ecology of amphibians, specifically how amphibians respond to global change. With some amphibians potentially breeding earlier in the year due to warmer temperatures, my research aims to understand how amphibians respond to variation in photoperiod throughout development.


Anjana Parandhaman


Anjana Parandhaman
University of Nevada, Reno

I’m a third year PhD Candidate in the Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology program at the University of Nevada, Reno. My general research interests range from landscape genetics to spatial ecology of threatened herpetofauna. My dissertation focuses on the impacts of land use and climate change on current and future habitat and genetic connectivity of the Mojave Desert Tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) across the Mojave Desert, focusing on edge regions of the species range. I am from India and had no role models who looked like me growing up, which has made it a challenge to thrive as an Indian woman in herpetology. However, I have had and continue to have excellent mentors who help me succeed with my research. I’m also deeply involved and passionate about justice and equity work in my program and local community and hope to one day inspire historically underrepresented students to be involved with conservation work.


Branden Ruddy


Braden Ruddy
Florida Atlantic University

As a child growing up in south Florida, I was always fascinated by the ocean and the diversity of life found in it, which has been a driving source of inspiration for my career. I am a third year PhD student at Florida Atlantic University, studying swimming kinematics of wild shark species in different behavioral contexts. I utilize aerial drones to capture footage of volitionally swimming sharks, and motion track specific anatomical landmarks to quantify kinematics. I am investigating the potential advantages individuals can gain from moving in groups, such as increased predator awareness, and reduced locomotor costs. As an LGBTQIA+ trans woman scientist, I have found a limited number of individuals who share commonalities with myself and am thankful for initiatives that promote diversity in STEM. I hope to pursue a career as a university professor and inspire positive experiences for those I assist with advancing. I plan on mentoring students, as well as conducting my own research and teaching. I look forward to a future in STEM with a more diverse group of role models for aspiring individuals.


Patricia Torres-Pineda


Patricia Torres-Pineda 
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Being born and raised in a natural lab such as Dominican Republic I have always been surrounded by nature and wildlife. During my childhood, I was always reading and sharing fun facts of the animal kingdom with family members and friends, this certainly planted the seed of who I am today. I am currently starting my second year as a PhD student in the program of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in the University of Michigan. My research interests are focused on the evolution, ecomorphology, biogeography and conservation of livebearers, I am particularly interested in the great endemicity and diversity of these fish in my homeland, Hispaniola. As an Afro-Caribbean woman, first generation university student and coming from a low-income household, my career decisions have always been questioned, even challenged. In the Dominican Republic, science careers are undervalued and often are seen as careers for people from privileged backgrounds, but I was always determined to challenge that stereotype and most importantly, to excel. I am also devoted to the social appropriation of science through citizen science and museum collections, and I aspire to be a role model for youngsters that want to pursue careers in science in the Caribbean as well as assist the region in better biodiversity management decisions based on scientific evidence.


Touhue Yang


Touhue Yang
University of Toledo

I am a Master’s student at the University of Toledo looking at the feeding ecology of age-0 walleye in western Lake Erie. Specifically, I am interested in how changes in Lake Erie’s food web from recent aquatic invasive species (round gobies, spiny water fleas, etc.) have affected the diet and growth of walleye during their early life stages. By describing the diet composition and growth of contemporary fish and comparing to historical data from the mid 1990’s, I hope to infer potential effects to adult walleye recruitment. Growing up with immigrant parents, I lacked the resources, knowledge, and guidance as a first generation college student. I wasn’t even aware that a career in fisheries was possible. When I realized I could do what I loved as a job, seeing few minorities in this field was discouraging as I felt this profession wasn’t made for me. My thoughts have since changed and I hope to be that representation for someone who may have the same thoughts and feelings I had when first getting into this field. You can do it!


Sarah Ward


Sarah Ward
University of Oklahoma

As a first-generation college student, I have often asked myself “'what’s next?’”. While many in my family stopped before completing their high school education, I have always dreamed of becoming a scientist. I’m currently a second-year Ph.D. student at The University of Oklahoma working on genomics of adaptations in deep-sea fishes. While I count it a great fortune to be able to study the organisms that have fascinated me since elementary school, I am also passionate about helping the next generation find their place among scientists in the field, particularly those who are underrepresented in STEM. My goal is to become a professor with an active research lab, which will allow me to mentor undergraduate and graduate students as they take their places alongside other ichthyologists in our field.  


Ian Wilenzik


Ian Wilenzik
George Washington University

"Starting from a young age, I had an intense obsession with prehistory and reptiles. This passion did not fade, as I ended up majoring in biology with an honorary minor in geology at William & Mary to pursue a career in paleontology/herpetology. I even bought myself a pet snake as a graduation gift (his name is Citrine). I am currently pursuing a lifelong dream as a PhD student at George Washington University where I study the paleontological record of squamates. I am currently focusing on biogeographical reconstruction on the ancestral state of all squamates. Throughout my education, I had and currently have many mentors that pushed me towards excellence and have unquestionably accepted my identity as a LGBTQ+ individual. But one thing I noticed was an absence of actual LGBTQ+ representation in both the fields of herpetology and paleontology. This was challenging, as I found myself having to be consciously careful with my expression for fear of a negative response from another potential colleague. I hope that with the increased openness of LGBTQ+ individuals in herpetology, the field displays itself as a safe place for all LQBTQ+ scientists."


Past Cashner Awardees


  • Valentina Alvarez
  • Neil Balchan
  • Rene Martin
  • Victor Martínez
  • Carmen del Rocío Pedraza Marrón
  • Emanuell Ribeiro
  • Danielle Rivera
  • Ricardo Rivera Reyes
  • Adolfo Rodríguez-Velázquez
  • Khalil Russell


  • Gabriela Arango

  • Suzana Bandeira

  • Emily DeArmon

  • Adania Flemming

  • Nureen Ghuznavi

  • Bryan Juarez

  • Marina Luccioni

  • Lindsey Nelson

  • Natasha Stepanova

  • Emily Virgin