Robert Leaf of Santa Rosa, Calif., a doctoral candidate in the College of Natural Resources' Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences at Virginia Tech, was awarded the 2009 Robert D. Ross scholarship for graduate students by the Virginia Chapter of the American Fisheries Society.

Leaf’s work with the American Fisheries Society (AFS) gave him experience and leadership abilities that contributed to his earning the scholarship. Leaf also mentored three high school students and two undergraduate students for the AFS. He has worked to bring more speakers and professionals to the university, is involved in many of the chapter's outreach and education opportunities, and has been very active in a Virginia Tech undergraduate mentoring program that promotes interest in fishes and fisheries management.

Leaf’s dissertation, which explores the evolutionary effects of fishing, focuses on how commercial fishing changes fish populations. “You remove a portion of a group of fishes, and the fishes evolve in a way. I’m not saying new species occur, but there is still change,” explained Leaf. Once he completes his Ph.D., Leaf says he hopes to work in academia or at the federal level to help conserve and manage fisheries. “My main focus and interest is in the conservation and management of fisheries,” said Leaf.

Leaf also received a $120,000 population dynamics graduate fellowship from the National Marine Fisheries Service-Sea Grant Fellowship Program in 2006. Leaf earned his bachelor of arts in biology at the University of California in Santa Cruz, and his master of science in marine science at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, part of the California State University system.