Fulbright grant will support Penn State doctoral student’s research in Zambia

Amy Duke
April 24, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Jacob Johnson, a doctoral candidate in forest resources and in international agriculture and development in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, has received a Fulbright Study/Research Award.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is the largest U.S. exchange program offering opportunities for students and young professionals to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and primary and secondary school teaching worldwide. Recipients are chosen based on academic and professional achievement, their record of service, and leadership potential.

The award will support Johnson’s doctoral research at Penn State, which explores the integration of multipurpose trees into farm-level aquaculture systems in Zambia, a landlocked country in southcentral Africa in which smallholder farmers face significant challenges related to farm resource management and food and nutritional security.

His work is based on the belief that fast-growing, leguminous trees could be used to increase nutrient inputs and fish outputs from smallholder ponds, thereby improving farm-system productivity. The trees also fix soil nitrogen, improve soil and water conservation, sequester carbon, and enhance biodiversity. In addition, farmers can harvest byproducts such as wood fuels and edible seeds.

“Jacob is a mature, consistent, responsible and autonomous student,” said Michael Jacobson, professor of forest resources in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management. “He will thrive as a researcher in rural Zambia. Many in the development community recognize the value of his proposed research because integrated aquaculture and agroforestry are widely considered effective tools for sustainable rural development in Africa.”

Johnson is a student in the college's international agriculture and development dual-title degree program, which provides students with international perspectives and expertise to strengthen their primary graduate degree. He holds a bachelor's degree in environmental studies from Virginia Commonwealth University and a master's degree in crops and soils environmental science from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Johnson served as an agroforestry extension agent with the Peace Corps from February 2013 until May 2015. He was stationed in Zambia, where he implemented several projects, including the establishment of an agroforestry and gardening demonstration site. Working with local Zambian agriculture extension agents, Johnson also hosted a series of hands-on workshops teaching alternative, low-cost, village-appropriate methods of managing soil fertility.

To accomplish his research goals, Johnson will leverage his established relationships with Penn State faculty and with extension agents and farmers in Zambia. He also plans to cultivate new partnerships with representatives at international research stations to gauge interest and availability of resources, and he already has received support from international environmental and research organizations such as the World Agroforestry Centre and WorldFish in Zambia.

“The Fulbright funds will allow me to build upon my research knowledge and professional collaboration in the international arena,” Johnson said. “My long-term professional aspiration is to advance the science of agroforestry through research and extension, both in the U.S. and internationally. My intention is to build a research trajectory in the design and management of sustainable agriculture systems that benefit people in the developing world.”

The Fulbright Program has provided more than 380,000 participants the opportunity to study abroad since its inception in 1946. The primary source of funding is appropriated by Congress to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The participating governments and host institutions along with corporations and foundations also provide support.

Johnson also received a Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Award, which supports returned Peace Corps volunteers as they pursue their education at graduate schools around the country. In addition to receiving financial support, Coverdell Fellows work in underserved communities during their time in school, usually through a professional internship related to their field of study.

  • Jacob Johnson Fulbright

    Jacob Johnson, a doctoral candidate in forest resources and in international agriculture and development in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences.

    IMAGE: Penn State

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Last Updated April 24, 2019