CHAMPAIGN – An Urbana woman who has excelled in ecology, chemistry and music, as well as being a top runner, is the first University of Illinois Marshall Scholar since 2007.
Each year, about 40 students from the United States are selected as Marshall Scholars, who study at a university in the United Kingdom for two years.
Josephine "Josie" Chambers intends to pursue master's degrees in integrated resource management at the University of Edinburgh and in conservation leadership at the University of Cambridge.
Her pedigree includes a father with a doctorate in physics and a mother with a doctorate in educational policy.
Chambers showed early promise, she joked about herself, with her first-grade performance singing "'Rock Around The Clock' in a poodle skirt with a cardboard guitar."
Later, she was one of the few non-music majors in the UI Chorale, and performed in the university production of Puccini's opera "La Boheme."
Her later efforts include standout distance running at University Laboratory High School, and, more recently, she finished in the top 3 percent of more than 3,300 female half-marathon runners in the Christie Clinic Illinois Marathon in May.
In May, she graduated summa cum laude from the UI with a degree in integrative biology, with minors in anthropology and chemistry.
During her UI studies, Chambers worked in entomology Professor Charles Whitfield's laboratory for four years on genomic aspects of brain and behavior, performing bee brain dissections and molecular analyses.
After her sophomore year, she assisted a doctoral student from Washington State University on a study of the influence of tourism on monkeys in Costa Rica.
The next summer, Chambers applied for individual research clearance from the Ugandan government to investigate primate feeding ecology, as part of a broader project led by a UI doctoral candidate in anthropology. There, Chambers worked alongside Ugandans to assist in monitoring the foraging behavior of red colobus monkeys.
She's been in Peru but is home for the holidays.
Chambers is working in a village near Moyabamba, Peru, as a project assistant with Neotropical Primate Conservation, an organization that aims to protect the habitat of the endangered yellow-tailed woolly monkey.
The Peru Amazonas region is highly deforested, she said.
"This project works on deforestation, environmental educational and finding alternative ways to solve problems," she said. "The yellow-tailed woolly monkey is one of 25 most critically endangered species."
Chambers said she's looking forward to her further education in England and Scotland.
"These are some of the best programs out there; I'll be able to combine learning economics and policy tools with conservation leadership," she said.
Chamber said that, after her Marshall years are over, going for a doctorate is a possibility.
"My long-term career goal is to work in a university and also work with organizations that can connect people who have great ideas on conservation" with academic researchers, she said.