Published: Nov. 16, 2020

CU Boulder student Austin Nash has been awarded a $15,000 scholarship from the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF) for his research on how climate change influences mammals across landscapes, and the role that microclimates might play in conserving future biodiversity.

CU Boulder student Austin Nash.The merit-based ASF scholarship is the largest known monetary award of its kind given in the United States to science and engineering undergraduate students. This year the ASF awarded 56 scholarships to students from 41 different universities across the nation. 

Nash, a bachelor's-master's degree student in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department, works in Professor Christy McCain's laboratory, which focuses its research on biodiversity patterns, ecological theory, global change, montane ecology and range limits. Currently, he is revisiting historical locations where Wyoming ground squirrels were collected (upwards of 100 years ago), across Colorado and Wyoming to determine if they are experiencing local extinctions due to climate change. Nash also had his honor’s thesis recently published in Current Zoology, where he investigated how the health status of marmots influenced their probability of alarm calling. 

After completing his bachelor's and master's degree, Nash would like to work for a research unit of the U.S. Geological Survey or U.S. Forest Service before completing a PhD. Eventually, he hopes to work in the U.S. Geological Survey Cooperative Research Units as both a federal and academic research ecologist.

“I plan on further investigating how people can manage landscapes to preserve biodiversity while still meeting human demands for space and natural resources,” he said. 

The Mercury 7 astronauts, including Boulder native Scott Carpenter, who died in 2013, created the foundation in 1984. The purpose was to aid the United States in retaining its world leadership in science and technology by providing scholarships to the brightest college students pursuing these degrees. The Mercury 7 astronauts have since been joined by more than 100 astronauts from the Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and space shuttle programs who use their joint credibility to encourage students to pursue scientific endeavors to keep the U.S. a leader in technology.

CU Boulder sophomores and juniors engaged in research and majoring in math, science or engineering and seeking nomination for an ASF scholarship should email Deborah Viles at The campus selection will take place in the early spring semester.