In its three years as a program, the West Virginia University’s EnvironMentors Chapter has made a name for itself on campus and around the country.

Each year the chapter sends three area high-school students to compete at the national level – and each year at least one has placed in the top three.

This year, Morgantown High School students Sita Sunil, Sarah Craft and Bethany Boback tied for first place in a juried poster session during WVU’s EnvironMentors fair in late April, advancing each of them to the national fair in Washington, D.C., on May 19.

Sunil placed second; Craft placed fourth, and Boback was runner-up for the Emerging Environmental Leader Scholarship.

Additionally, Leighia Eggett, a master’s student in forestry and participant in the Peace Corps Masters International program from Mount Sterling, Kentucky, was named national Mentor of the Year.

EnvironMentors is a national environment-based mentoring program developed by the National Council for Science and Environment. The program provides high school students the opportunity to work with researchers and professionals to develop scientifically rigorous research projects. The program also promotes future studies and careers in environmental science fields.

“Our program introduces students to scientific research early and gives them a unique perspective of how college ‘works’ at the undergraduate and graduate levels,” explained Catherine Artis, coordinator for the WVU EnvironMentors Chapter. “Many of our mentors are current graduate students performing their own independent research. This means they are in an ideal position to explain the research process and discuss their own transition from high school into an undergraduate program and how that led them to where they are today.”

Artis also said this year’s group provided an impressive caliber of projects.

“I am incredibly honored to have worked with all of our students this year,” she said.

A junior and second-year EnvironMentors participant, Sunil researched a project entitled “How does Cigarette Litter Impact Organisms in our Environment?” Both years she has been mentored by Marianne Mannix, a master’s student in agronomy from Haymarket, Virginia.

Craft’s project was entitled “Effects of Allelopathic Plant Matter in the Early Germination Rates and Growth of Native Plants.” She is a senior and first-year participant who was mentored by Terry Burhans, an alumnus of WVU and environmental scientist with AllStar Ecology, LLC.

Boback’s project was entitled “Benthic Macroinvertebrate Response to Hydraulic Fracturing.” A senior and second-year participant, she was mentored by Eric Miller, a doctoral student in forest resources science from Chester, Virginia.

Both Craft and Boback will join WVU’s Class of 2019 this fall majoring in biology and wildlife and fisheries resources, respectively.

For more information or to become involved with the program, visit



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