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Meet the 2023 College of Science Student Speaker– Jason Motley

Jason Motley in Exploratory Hall on Mason's Fairfax Campus

The College of Science at George Mason University looks forward to celebrating its graduates on May 19 at 10 a.m. in EagleBank arena. Jason Motley will serve as this year’s degree celebration student speaker, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science with a concentration in Ecological Science and a minor in Conservation Studies.

“As one of the classes affected by the pandemic, it has been a long journey filled with coursework, great internships, fun moments, and life lessons,” Motley said. “It feels really good to be awarded this opportunity to represent my peers at the 2023 College of Science degree celebration.”

A passion for science and an interest in reptiles and amphibians led Motley to pursue a career in wildlife conservation to study reptile and amphibian species. During his freshman year, Jason became a volunteer research assistant responsible for handling and caring for various leopard geckos, day geckos, and crested geckos used in behavioral studies. He then went on to become a National Science Foundation (NSF) undergraduate research intern at Savannah State University in Savannah, Georgia, where he researched the effect turtle excluder devices have on crab traps used by local fisheries and their effect on the rate of crab catch.

Jason spent a semester at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in the Endangered Species program, where he worked on a research project around deer movement within the D.C. metropolitan area. During his final semester, he served as the student ambassador for the Department of Environmental Science and Policy, helping to spread information about the department and different opportunities to his peers.

Younsung Kim, Associate Professor and Undergraduate Program Director in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy, nominated Jason as the 2023 speaker writing that he “demonstrates an extraordinary commitment to conservation research and the university community”.

Motley hiking in Shenandoah National Park while a part of the SMSC. Photo courtesy of Jason Motley.
Motley hiking in Shenandoah National Park while a part of the SMSC. Photo courtesy of Jason Motley.

“Jason is an enthusiastic leader with intellectual curiosity,” Kim said. “He has taken the most advanced courses while interning for the National Park Service research. The program’s interdisciplinary scientific education led him to grow as a highly competent student researcher dedicated to solving complex environmental and sustainability challenges today.”

After graduation, Jason will continue his academic career at Mason as a master's student pursuing an Environmental Science and Policy degree. He also accepted a position as a research intern for the U.S. Geological Survey starting summer 2023.

Motley said one of his most memorable moments at Mason was during his semester at the Smithsonian Mason School of Conservation (SMSC) where he confirmed what he wanted to do with his degree and how to make it into a career. His advice for incoming College of Science students is to take advantage of all Mason has to offer.

 “Students coming should have a mindset willing to being open to searching for those opportunities in what they like because there is something out there for everyone,” Motley said. “Mason is a large public research university with access to many resources from which students can benefit.”

Motley is an outstanding example of what it means to pursue a passion and make it into a career. He dedicated his time and efforts to becoming an expert in herpetology and environmental science, and we are excited to see what the future holds for him. His dedication to his studies and involvement in various internships and programs are an inspiration to all students.