Johns Hopkins student Justin Falcone, who has dedicated his personal and academic pursuits to studying and addressing the global implications of climate change, has been named one of 59 recipients of the prestigious Harry S. Truman Scholarship. The awards are given annually to U.S. college undergraduates with demonstrated leadership potential and a commitment to public service. The winners, chosen this year from 655 nominees, are awarded up to $30,000 for graduate study.
Falcone, who recently completed his junior year and is studying environmental archaeology and minoring in global environmental change and sustainability, plans to pursue graduate studies in environmental science, management, and policy.
"The Truman Scholarship is more than a bridge that connects scholars to the places, both literal and academic, that they want to go," Falcone said via email from Scotland, where he was spending a semester at the University of St Andrews. "Although it serves that purpose, it is also a diverse community of leaders and change agents united by a passion for making a difference. I'm humbled to be a part of that community."
University President Ronald J. Daniels called Falcone to let him know he had been selected for the award.
Falcone, a native of Cinnaminson, N.J., spent summer 2012 in the shadow of Sicily's Mount Etna, Europe's most active volcano, where, he wrote, he "began to realize how environmental forces impact the cultural fabric of island communities in unique ways."
Using funding from the university's Woodrow Wilson Undergraduate Research Fellowship Program, he sailed from Tahiti to Hawaii in spring 2013 and documented the impact that climate change is having on the island communities most vulnerable to rising sea levels. He visited the Society, Marquesas, and Tuamotu islands, as well as the Phoenix Islands, which are among the 32 atolls that make up the island nation of Kiribati. In Hawaii, Falcone worked on an organic farm in an area of the rain forest that has recovered from volcanic activity.
Photographs from his travels documenting the effects of climate change are scheduled to be displayed at the Milton S. Eisenhower Library on the Homewood campus during the next academic year.
Falcone took a particular interest in Kiribati during his excursion and, once home, launched Project Kiribati, the first international initiative designed to support a sustainable clean water infrastructure for the low-lying South Pacific island nation. The group has partnered with the Johns Hopkins Hospital—via its Supporting Hospitals Abroad with Resources and Equipment group—and others to supply medical equipment, vitamins, and water purification tablets to individuals living in Kiribati.
The effort is an offshoot of the Alliance for Clean Water, a Johns Hopkins student group founded by Falcone that is dedicated to the protection of clean water in natural and urban environments.
Falcone is also the inventor of patent-pending environmental technologies developed with the help of the university's Office of Technology Transfer. He is a Bloomberg Scholar as well as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow and a former participant in the Apolline Project's archaeological expedition at the north slope of Mount Vesuvius. This summer he is a member of a National Science Foundation REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) team at the University of Southern California's Wrigley Institute on Catalina Island, where he is using geospatial technologies to study coastal climate change.