The United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF) recognized Wendy L. Zeller Zigaitis, a Pennsylvania State University (PSU) Ph.D. student, as the 2020 recipient of the Foundation’s Stu Shea Endowed Scholarship.

Wendy L. Zeller Zigaitis

The Stu Shea Endowed Scholarship was first announced during the 2017 GEOINT Symposium, honoring Stu Shea, one of the founders of USGIF and the first chief executive and chairman of the organization. The scholarship awards $15,000 annually to a Ph.D. student studying cartography, geography, or imaging science.

“I am extremely honored and excited to be receiving this award,” Zigaitis said. “Without it, I may not have been able to complete the fieldwork portion of my doctoral research.”

Zigaitis, fell in love with maps during her undergraduate years at PSU, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Geography, with a minor in Natural Sciences.

While at PSU, Zigaitis interned at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) as a cartographic aid. Zigaitis then went on to complete 20 years as a senior analyst at the Department of Defense. She had a variety of experiences, which included eight overseas deployments to four countries.

She also earned a Masters of Arts in Political Geography from the University of Maryland, and a Masters of Natural Resources from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. She was selected in 2007 as a Federal Research Fellow, where she focused her research on building training for  GEOINT data analysis.

In 2019, Zigaitis began her Ph.D. program at PSU. The ultimate goal of her doctoral dissertation research is to develop science that has the potential to help save wildlife from extinction. As part of this research, Zigaitis explored the potential of game camera traps as well as UAS to help explain human-animal interactions in critical habitats. She also has engaged with other PSU departments to develop an interdisciplinary approach, which may include the use of a UAS developed at the university as a test bed.

“The Stu Shea award will enable my fieldwork research in South Africa (when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted), as well as in the near term allow for the purchase of software and equipment needed for my research. I will be utilizing the software and equipment locally until I am able to travel for the fieldwork portion of my doctoral research,” Zigaitis said.

The Stu Shea scholarship is part of the overall USGIF Scholarship Program. Learn more about the USGIF Scholarship Program here.

Featured Image: PSU Geography Department | Photo Credit: PSU

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Posted by Lisbeth Perez