LEAP Announces 12 Student Grant Program Recipients for 2020–21


The Law, Ethics & Animals Program (LEAP) at Yale Law School is delighted to announce the 12 recipients of the 2020–21 LEAP Student Grant Program. The program, announced last fall, supports student-led research, scholarship, and creative projects that advance understanding of, draw attention to, or develop strategies to address the urgent threats facing nonhuman animals.

This year’s set of awards will support a variety of student scholarship and projects:

  • 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. 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. 
  • 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. 

This inaugural class of LEAP Student Grant Program recipients will present their work in the next academic year. You can read more about the LEAP Student Grant Program and check for updates here.