About Me

Research Gate




Emma obtained her B.S. in Molecular and Cellular Biology as a Cornelius Vanderbilt Honors Scholar at Vanderbilt University. Positions in wildlife rehabilitation, speciation genetics, microbial genomics, and population ecology inspired her dedication to species conservation.  For her commitment to public service in the environmental sphere, she was named Truman Scholar for the state of Georgia 2012. After she graduated from Vanderbilt in December 2012, she spent the four months in Chiapas, Mexico, reintroducing the scarlet macaw to the rainforests of Palenque. The following summer she interned for the Alliance for Zero Extinction in the offices of American Bird Conservancy.

In August 2013, she departed on a year-long, global fellowship, visiting wildlife conservation projects in biodiversity hotspots as Vanderbilt University’s Keegan Traveling Fellow.

After her year of international experience in wildlife conservation, she began studies in Biodiversity and Conservation at the Graduate School of Environment, Society, and Global Change,  University of Freiburg, Germany. Working between the field in El Oro, Ecuador and the lab in Freiburg, Germany; she is studying methods to combat habitat fragmentation’s impact on the cooperatively breeding parakeet Pyrrhura orcesi.



Steigerwald E.C., Igual J.-M., Payo-Payo A., Tavecchia G. 2015. Effects of decreased anthropogenic food availability on an opportunistic gull: evidence for a size-mediated response in breeding females. Ibis. doi: 10.1111/ibi.12252.


  • Dear Emma,

    Your site is very interesting, and your travels and conservation work impressive. I am writing to ask if you can help us find information about volunteer projects.

    Our family (myself; wife; daughter, 12; and son, 8) is 7 months into a trip around the globe. We have tried to find (with mixed success) spots to volunteer as we’ve gone. We are in Madagascar and about to head to Mauritius, Nepal, Malaysia, and Australia, for about one month each. We would like to find short term volunteering projects related to conservation (marine or terrestrial), biodiversity, but also open to helping local communities. I can teach English and reading, my wife is a nurse with 30+ years experience. We are finding it is hard to arrange short term stays, but also hard to avoid “eco-tour” operations which, while they serve an important niche, aren’t quite what we have in mind.

    Do you have any leads to suggest in the countries just mentioned? My wife and I have some French, my wife and daughter are PADI certified for open water diving, and we are an active family.

    I hope your studies are continuing well,

    Corey Abel

    March 25, 2015
    • Emma

      Wow, Corey! What a fantastic journey you are taking with your family! First, I must ask if you’ve yet read _Song of the Dodo_; because it discusses in depth some of the locations on your itinerary in a manner which I’m sure you’ll find riveting! Quammen mentions fascinating long-term projects going on through Peregrine Fund in Mauritius, for example– that might be a possibility.

      Well, of the locations you are visiting I could specifically help you contact groups in Madagascar [Centre ValBio field station in Ranomafana, PIVOT through Harvard] and Nepal [JGI-Nepal, Kaule-EV which is an agroforestry initiative] , as these are places I have visited myself. Just let me know if that’d be helpful to you. I know what you mean about the difficulty of short-term projects that you are not paying to work for.

      I recommend that you browse on all the normal job boards [Society for Conservation Biology, Environmental Job Board, Texas A&M, Animal Behavioural Society, Ornithological Society of North America, etc.] and you might get lucky in finding something that fits your abilities to commit. Personal contacts, I think, end up being the key to breaking into projects; unless they are specifically looking for help. However, if you are just reaching out to an NGO that interests you, i would venture on the side of investing in contacting smaller rather than larger groups. I’d write short, to the point emails; including a CV and letter of interest/motivation to make things easy on them. Groups like WWF never answer emails… too busy, I suppose!

      Best of luck, and safe and fruitful travels!

      March 26, 2015

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© Copyright Emma Steigerwald | Vanderbilt Traveling Fellow