LEAP Student Grant Program

Call for Applications

The Law, Ethics & Animals Program's (LEAP's) Student Grant Program seeks to support Yale University student-led research and creative projects during the academic year and the summer, focused on advancing understanding of, drawing attention to, and/or developing strategies to address the urgent threats facing non-human animals. Applications for the grant program are now open and are due March 29, 2024 at 12 pm ET. If you have questions, please contact LEAP Postgraduate Fellow Laurie Sellars (laurie.sellars@yale.edu). 

How to Apply

Applications for the next round of funding will open on the Yale Student Grants Database. If you have any questions about potential projects, the application, or the program requirements, please contact LEAP Postgraduate Fellow Laurie Sellars at laurie.sellars@yale.edu. Applications for the grant program are now open and are due March 29, 2024 at 12 pm ET


LEAP Student Grant recipients will be required to submit a summary of their projects (approximately 1,000 words) by December 1 in the year of their award. (Projects should be completed by December 1, though we’re happy to be flexible on the length of this summary and the due date for projects that require more time if provided with advance notice.) Students will also be asked to present their project at a LEAP event during the following academic year, and the project summaries and/or interviews with grant recipients will be featured on the LEAP website. Depending on the format and availability of the final project work product, we may ask permission from grant recipients to also post or link to the full project itself.


Current Yale students at any level (professional, doctoral, master’s degree, undergraduate) are invited to apply. Applicants may work individually or in teams. Projects may have a faculty advisor or collaborator, but are not required to.

The funding is intended to pay for expenses needed to advance the project, such as costs associated with conducting interviews or research, purchasing access to datasets, paying for web hosting or materials, etc. Funding is not available to pay salaries for applicants or conference attendance (unless the conference attendance is part of a research project). We encourage applicants working on larger projects to seek additional sources of funding.

All funding used for travel must comply with Yale University’s travel policy and guidelines.

Selection Process

Proposals will be evaluated by a committee of LEAP faculty and staff. Projects will be evaluated based on the thoughtfulness, creativity, and originality of the proposed project; the clarity and quality of the application; the potential of the project to have a meaningful impact; the potential of the project to advance the applicant’s personal and professional development; and the feasibility of the project’s timeline, goals, and budget.

Payment Information

Payments will be made in advance, based on the budget submitted with the application. Please note: The University will not withhold federal or state income tax, but the grant payment is tax reportable. For grant amounts over $600 the University will issue a 1099-MISC form for the amount of your grant. Since the Law School is not and cannot be a tax adviser, it is solely recipients' responsibility to check applicable state and local tax regulations, or to consult a tax adviser to ensure compliance with such requirements.

2024 Student Grant Recipients

Daniel Blokh is a senior at Yale College majoring in Comparative Literature and Russian and a writer and filmmaker from Birmingham, Alabama. His LEAP project is "Looking Back with Laika," a short documentary about the famous dog who became the first living creature in space. Through interviews with citizens of the former Soviet Union, he aims to explore the wide range of feelings Soviet citizens harbored toward Laika, from pride and patriotism to sadness and ethical uncertainty. By capturing the wide range of feelings Soviet citizens harbored toward Laika, the film will convey the importance of non-human animals in forming our political identity, our fears and hopes, our ethical beliefs, and our worldviews generally. Laika is an extreme example of the mutual interdependence that characterizes our relationship with all non-human animals, reminding us how greatly our actions impact (and currently threaten) animal life, as well as how greatly animals impact our lives in return.

Ilaria Cimadori is a third-year Ph.D. candidate at the Yale School of the Environment. Her academic and professional interests revolve around animal protection, particularly the exploration of animal protection within national and international law. With her LEAP Student Grant, Ilaria will conduct a comparative law analysis across the US, the EU, and Switzerland assessing the adequacy of laws safeguarding farm animal welfare against detrimental applications of breeding techniques and emerging biotechnologies such as gene-editing. Gene-editing, particularly CRISPR, has an unprecedented power to modify animals' genomes to pursue desired traits—from productivity to fitness—and presents novel issues, like off-target mutations. It is also, however, considered a new breeding technique in addition to the techniques already in use. Thus, a key concern is not only the technology used, but also the design of breeding programs for farm animals more broadly. In the current project, Ilaria will explore how different jurisdictions approach this problem. Because of her commitment to enhancing animal protection and the absence of global consensus on gene-editing applications, breeding practices, and animal welfare coupled with an increased societal concern for animal welfare, Ilaria hopes to provide policy recommendations that would improve the protection of animals in breeding thanks to insights from different legal systems.

Lauren Killingsworth is an M.D.-Ph.D. student at Yale School of Medicine in the Department of History of Science and Medicine. She centers the non-human in her interdisciplinary scholarship on emerging infectious diseases, environmental history, and public health. Her project examines the practice and history of biological control, the use of living organisms (such as mosquito-eating fish and parasitic insects) to eradicate vector-borne diseases. The strategy gained traction in the early twentieth century as part of imperial public health campaigns. With the LEAP grant, she will study the archives of the World Health Organization, the Commonwealth Institute for Biological Control, and other international organizations involved in this global exchange of species. She hopes to examine the ethical dilemmas raised by biological control: the valuation of different species, attempts to control non-human reproduction, and the promises and consequences of environmental manipulation in the name of human health.

Previous Student Grant Recipients

Grace Cajski is a rising senior at Yale College studying English and Environmental Studies with a concentration in marine conservation. This research is a capstone of her undergraduate academic career, which has been dedicated to understanding how storytelling can be a powerful conservation tool, and builds on her work as a 2021 LEAP grant recipient. As a New Orleanian, Cajski has seen how environmental degradation has obligated coastal communities that were once stewards of abundance to be conservationists. Cajski seeks to be part of a movement to create a better world, where coastal communities can reliably harvest sustainably and healthily from the sea. As a 2023 LEAP student grant recipient, Cajski will work with community organizations, including the Hui Mālama Loko Iʻa, on Hawai‘i Island to tell stories about anchialine pools, ranging from ArcGIS Story Maps to magazine feature pieces. Through science communication, Cajski hopes to foster empathy, stoke hope, and celebrate community. 

Diego Ellis Soto is a Ph.D. candidate in Ecology at Yale and a NASA FINESST Future Investigator from Uruguay. Working at the intersection of ecology, technology, conservation, and environmental justice, Ellis Soto researches how animals move and shape ecosystems across the world under increasing human threats and a rapidly changing climate. He is also interested in how access to biodiversity data is shaped by socioeconomic status and how past and present social inequalities amplify current disparities in environmental sciences. As a music producer, Ellis Soto is interested in showcasing how technology allows us to see the world through the lens of animals themselves, from their individual movements, to the sounds animals make. With this LEAP grant, Ellis Soto will continue his work on Collective Pulse, a project that combines cutting-edge technology with biological principles and musical theory to represent the lives of animals through art and music. 

Quincy Yangh is currently a Master of Environmental Management graduate student at Yale School of the Environment. His academic and professional interests revolve around the themes of Indigenous resurgence and sovereignty, Hmong ecologies, co-environmental stewardship, and biocultural conservation. For his LEAP student grant project, Yangh aims to explore the enduring and evolving relationship between the Hmong Shaman community and animals. He recognizes that animals hold immense spiritual and cultural significance in various facets of Hmong life, ranging from Shaman ceremonies and rituals to medicine to agricultural and ecological practices. To gain a deeper understanding of this intimate relationship, Yangh will meet and engage with Hmong Shamans across the U.S. diaspora. Through this project, he hopes to share a different perspective on human and animal relationships with the broader community and illuminate how his community has preserved and upheld its profound relationship with animals despite centuries of displacement, erasure, and imperial violence. 

Meredith Barges, a M.Div. student at the Divinity School, is launching a new student organization to advocate for bird-friendly changes to Yale’s practices and policies: bird-friendly building design to reduce collisions, lighting changes to protect dark skies and reduce migratory hazards, cessation of the use bird-killing rodenticides and pesticides, and the propagation of bird-friendly plants on campus.

Francis Commercon, an M.E.Sc. candidate at the School of the Environment, is conducting a case study in how the discovery of endangered shorebird populations led to updates to Chinese wetland conservation policy. Through interviews, the investigation will shed light on the interaction between ecology and Chinese environmental policy making.

Annie Crabill, an M.A. student at the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, interviewed politicians in Lyon, France who have introduced a plant-based school lunch program and maintained it in the face of public pushback. She plans to publish her work as a long-form article.

Diego Ellis Soto, a Ph.D. candidate in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, is creating music using machine learning technology to map animal motion into sound. LEAP’s grant will support Soto’s work to create a proof of concept for converting animal behavior into immersive music and art. He is displaying this work at art galleries at Yale in 2022, and will publish a scientific paper.

Kristy Ferraro and Nathalie Sommer, Ph.D. candidates at Yale and former grant recipients, are continuing their work publishing on the philosophy of conservation. The research funded by this project will update two foundational ethical assumptions in conservation: that conservation should value groups and ecosystems above individual animals, and that anthropomorphism has negative value in conservation science.

Robin Happel ’23, a J.D. candidate at Pace Law School and a M.E.M. candidate at the School of the Environment, plans to work with the Appalachian Mountain Advocates, an NGO in West Virginia, on litigation strategies to combat the environmental harms of confined animal feeding operations in the region.

Rosalyn Leban ’24, a J.D. candidate, is creating podcasts, audio-interviews, and oral histories with the residents of Ometepe, Nicaragua. Her work will consider the connections between and interdependence of humans, non-human animals, and non-nimal life on the largest island in a freshwater lake in the world.

Zack Steigerwald Schnall, a M.E.M student at the School of the Environment, will conduct a survey to determine how humans assign moral worth and economic value to other species, as well as public understanding of harms to animals and the environment. From these results, he will create a value of statistical life for nonhuman animals, which cost benefit analyses will be able to use going forward. The results of this study will be compiled and synthesized in a report which will be submitted for publication.

Emily Tian, Yale College B.A. ’23, is researching and writing a longform journalism piece about California’s Proposition 12 law, a 2018 ballot initiative that was approved by 60% of the state’s voters and that requires improved housing conditions for farm animals, and the legal challenges it now faces. She will discuss how farm animal welfare has been perceived in public debates about the law.

Kevin Yang, an M.A. candidate at the School of Architecture, will design and build model structures to encourage human-animal cohabitation in urban environments, in collaboration with the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History and the Yale-Myers Forest. These deployable structures will serve as shelter for animal refugees whose habitats are threatened by human activity, and showcase the genius and plight of wild animals.

AZ Arietta, a Ph.D. candidate at Yale, and Bayla Arietta will curate an art exhibit highlighting avian window strike fatalities and the threat they pose to bird populations. Scientists estimate that window strikes kill up to one billion birds in the United States annually. Their exhibit will feature artists in a variety of media. 

Logan Billet, a Ph.D. candidate at Yale, will study the ecological causes and consequences of mass die-offs from viral epidemics. Using wood frogs as a model species, he plans to monitor the spread of ranavirus outbreaks in ponds at the Yale-Myers Forest. The results will elucidate how populations and ecosystems adapt to repeated die-offs from disease.

Jesse Bryant, a Ph.D. candidate at Yale, will research the policy implications of cultural attitudes towards the elk herds of Jackson, WY. Each year, the elk herds are fed alfalfa during the winter by humans before being turned loose in the summer to fend for themselves. Bryant will use cultural sociology to look at how the elks’ status as half-wild, half-domesticated animals has affected environmental decision-making about their habitat. 

Grace Cajski ’24 YC will report on the resurgence of traditional Hawaiian aquaculture techniques. A cohort of Hawaiians has returned to the practice of growing limu, a type of Hawaiian seaweed. Cajski plans to profile these aquaculturists and their efforts through articles and oral histories. 

Kristy Ferraro and Nathalie Sommer, Ph.D. candidates at Yale, and Anthony Ferraro ’12 YC will write two scholarly articles about ethics, ecology, and the role of philosophy in conservation. In one piece, they investigate the feasibility of a rights-based framework for conservation ethics, and in another, they consider how philosophers and conservation ecologists can collaborate to advance conservation ethics.

AJ Hudson ’23 will examine how the rights of nature newly enshrined in Bolivia’s and Ecuador’s constitutions relate to the historical practice of trying animals for crimes. In past centuries, European courts tried, imprisoned, and executed animals for breaking the law. Hudson’s research will explore what this often-forgotten legal heritage reveals about our changing views of animal agency, and how this tradition can be understood for the purposes of conservation in the broader narrative of expanding and contracting rights of nature. 

Momoko Ishii, a Ph.D. candidate at Yale, will explore how to use agricultural wastes to create textiles that can replace animal-derived products. Animal products used in the fashion industry drive environmental harms and animal abuse. Ishii will test whether chemicals in common agricultural wastes, like citrus peels, can be transformed into useful textiles using scaffolding technology. 

Jack McCordick ’22 YC is conducting a series of podcast interviews about the concept of animal labor: How should we think about the work animals do? Do labor rights offer a useful framework to think through some of the major ethical, political, and social issues related to animals in the 21st century? He plans to engage with scholars from the fields of animal ethics, anthropology, political theory, and more, as well as people who regularly work with animals. 

Charlotte Murphy ’23 YC will “give a voice to the environment” through a song cycle that draws on acoustic ecology, ecomusicology, and birdsong. The composition will connect the listener and the environment, and it will make use of a variety of acoustic ecology and birdsong repositories.

Sandra Amezcua Rocha ’23 YC is creating a compilation of indigenous environmental knowledge of the Lake Patzcuaro region in Michoacán, Mexico. Assembled in both Spanish and P’urhépecha, the local indigenous language, the guide to the region’s species will serve as a conservation resource for the local community. 

Ram Vishwanathan ’22 YC, will examine the intersection of animal rights and Hindu nationalism in contemporary Indian politics. The rise of far-right nationalism in India has involved using the language of animal protection as a pretext for bigotry and violence against minorities. Vishwanathan will question how and whether fighting prejudice and animal advocacy can coexist in this context.

Alice Yiqian Wang ’23 will conduct research on household consumption patterns of red and processed meat. She will conduct several rounds of surveys to observe how income changes affect meat purchasing patterns.