Dr. Ryan Valdez (PhD ’15) receives 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award

L-R: COS Dean Dr. Peggy Agouris, Dr. Ryan Valdez (PhD 2015), University President Dr. Ángel Cabrera. GMU Alumni Association, Celebration of Distinction Gala, at Westwood Country Club, Vienna, VA. Wednesday, April 26, 2017. John Boal Photography.


The Department of Environmental Science and Policy (ESP) within the College of Science (COS) is proud to recognize one of its former students, Dr. Ryan Valdez (PhD, ‘15), as the recipient of the 2017 Mason Distinguished Alumni Award for the COS, as presented by Dean Peggy Agouris. Ryan currently serves as the Senior Manager for Conservation Science & Policy for the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA). He facilitates the application of interdisciplinary science focusing on air/climate, energy, landscapes, water and wildlife toward conservation strategies to help protect US national parks. He has managed ecological programs throughout the Americas and East Africa, and holds a strong interest in applied GIS.

While at Mason, Ryan studied with his advisor, Dr. Larry Rockwood (Department of Biology) while on a doctoral research fellowship with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI). To further enable his international research, Ryan founded the Kenya Wildlife Study Abroad program at Mason in 2010 and has since shared that international experience with over 70 students. He continues to participate in the winter break course, helping to connect Mason to strategic conservation partners in East Africa such as the Kenya Wildlife Service, African Wildlife Foundation, Mpala Research Center (a Smithsonian affiliation), and the Ol Pejeta Conservancy – East Africa’s largest black rhino conservancy.

GMU students on the Kenya Wildlife Study Abroad program photographing a massive herd of over 300 elephants encountered in Amboseli National Park.

As an alumnus, Ryan is not only committed to helping Mason build strong alliances in conservation science, but also highly committed to students. After having taught many courses and labs at Mason, students frequently look to Ryan for advice, networking, letters of recommendation, and will even do so by visiting him at his NPCA office in Washington, DC. Ryan has helped many of his previous students get jobs and internships in the conservation community and provided letters of support for their graduate school applications. Ryan also actively supports his prior alumni association as a registered Environmental Leadership Mentor (ELM) with the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. Ryan has spent considerable time helping students achieve their academic and career goals by guiding them toward strategic planning, recognizing their strengths and skills, and helping them to boost their confidence.

The Celebration of Distinction ceremony that took place on April 26, 2017 was hosted by both Mr. Brian Jones, President of the Mason Alumni Association and University President Dr. Ángel Cabrera. The ceremony was an inspiration to all and truly captured the strength, unity and diversity of Mason alumni. Dr. Valdez stated that “As alumni, our experiences, accomplishments, and networking become incredibly valuable to Mason students.” He gives back to Mason’s COS by continually bridging Mason to future conservation partners, and remains accessible and available to help mentor and guide students in need. The mission of the Mason Alumni Association is to strengthen the university by engaging alumni through fellowship, programs, and services that encourage active participation in the university community. It has most certainly accomplished that with this year’s alumni award recipients.

Ryan Valdez (PhD ’15) receives 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award, College of Science from ESPMasonU on Vimeo.