CSU undergraduate receives prestigious Fulbright Award to study in Ecuador

Lenka Doskocil
Lenka Doskocil

Colorado State University student Lenka Doskocil is being recognized by the U.S. Department of State’s flagship international exchange program for students.

Doskocil, a senior watershed science major in the Warner College of Natural Resources, received a grant from the State Department and the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board to study the wetlands in Ecuador’s Andes Mountains.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program annually awards approximately 8,000 grants for select students to travel abroad to conduct research or teach English as a way to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. Since 2015, 17 CSU students have been selected for the prestigious program.

“We are so proud of Lenka, whose efforts and dedication as an exceptional student in Warner College has paid off in such a tremendous way,” said Dean John P. Hayes. “The Fulbright program will no doubt open doors and is a recognition worthy of her hard work.”

Doskocil, who is in the CSU Honors Program, said she plans to study the hydrologic and vegetative differences between wetland types within the Ecuadorian páramo. She said high elevation wetland systems act as important water storage systems for mountain communities, particularly under changing climatic conditions.

“For me, a Fulbright grant presents a fantastic opportunity to learn about aspects of my passions not easily taught from within the bubble of my own culture and country,” Doskocil said. “Experiences abroad or in other regions of the United States can inspire creative solutions for conservation and restoration challenges closer to home.”

A second chance

Lenka Doskocil studying abroad
The Fulbright experience will be Lenka Doskocil’s third trip to South America.

In 2020, Doskocil was in Ecuador for a four-month education abroad trip examining comparative ecology and conservation when the program was cut short due to COVID-19. It meant she would not be able to complete her month-long independent study on carbon storage in the wetlands of the Ecuadorian páramo.

“When they canceled the program, I was heartbroken,” she said.

However, there was opportunity when she arrived back in Colorado. A week after arriving, Doskocil started her application for a Fulbright.

Fast-forward a year later: She received a special birthday surprise on April 12 when an email appeared in her inbox notifying her that she had received a Fulbright. It triggered a range of emotions, she said.

“I was on the phone with my mom when I opened the email,” she said. “It took a few hours to register and longer still to sink in. I think I’m still processing. It’ll be an adventure and a big change that I am both stoked for and nervous about.”

Doskocil’s passion for the region was cemented in 2019 during a trip to Peru with Associate Professor Gillian Bowser who was examining changes in wetland systems in Huascaran National Park’s páramo. Doskocil explained the area is a nexus of environmental and social issues, especially when it comes to water.

“I fell in love with that area,” she said. “The Andes make you feel small in a way that no other place does. There’s a lot of really cool work going on down there. To get a Fulbright and be able to go back is exciting.”

Future plans

Doskocil said she aims to one day work in high-elevation wetland restoration in the sweet spot between research and implementation. She said in some ways the Andes are similar to the Rocky Mountains when it comes to the utilization of high-elevation wetlands for water storage.

Because of her education in the Warner College’s watershed sciences program, Doskocil said she is well prepared to complete her Fulbright study. In addition to her work with Bowser, Doskocil has worked with Associate Professor Stephanie Kampf on her research on intermittent streams in Colorado and with Professor Steven Fassnacht. She also currently works in the Mountain Systems Ecology and Restoration Lab at CSU under research scientist Jeremy Shaw and Assistant Professor Jeremy Sueltenfuss.

“The Warner College has been fantastic,” she said. “It has really given me space to grow and learn. I felt supported and challenged in my four years. It’s a really awesome community.”

If all goes according to plan, Doskocil will leave for Ecuador in September. When she arrives, she said she plans to meet with the water organizations on site to develop a meaningful project for the community.

“It’s a big deal,” she said. “Ten months is a long time. I’m excited. I’m nervous. I’m hoping I can help make an impact. And I hope my project is meaningful to the community.”

Fulbright U.S. Student Program

 In addition to Doskocil, Sage Mijares in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences was designated a Fulbright alternate for a grant to Argentina.

Since its inception, more than 390,000 people have participated in the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, with approximately 8,000 grants annually awarded.

Graduating CSU seniors, alumni and graduate students interested in applying for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program should contact Eliz Hale at elizabeth.hale@colostate.edu.