USGIF Announces 2020 Stu Shea Endowed Scholarship Recipient

USGIF recognizes Wendy L. Zeller Zigaitis as the recipient of the Foundation’s Stu Shea USGIF Endowed Scholarship.


USGIF recognizes Wendy L. Zeller Zigaitis as the recipient of the Foundation’s Stu Shea USGIF Endowed Scholarship. Zigaitis is a student at Pennsylvania State University (PSU), pursuing her Ph.D. in geography.

The scholarship honors K. Stuart Shea, one of the founders of USGIF and the first chief executive and chairman of the organization. The $15,000 scholarship is awarded annually to one Ph.D. student studying cartography, geography, or imaging science.

“I am very 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. 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 earned a Bachelor of Science degree from PSU in Geography, with a minor in Natural Sciences. 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 training on unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) data analysis. During this time Zigaitis was part of a team that received a Federal Government award for curriculum development.

Prior to beginning her Ph.D program at PSU, Zigaitis completed 20 years of work for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) as a GEOINT analyst. During her time at NGA, she had a variety of experiences, which included eight overseas deployments to four countries, totaling 40 months of duty.

In 2019, she began her Ph.D. program. 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 her research, Zigaitis has explored potential for game camera traps as well as UAS to help explain human-animal interactions in critical habitats. She has also 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 scholarship is part of the overall USGIF Scholarship Program. The full list of 2020 scholarship recipients will be announced this summer. Learn more about the USGIF Scholarship Program here.

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