Four college graduates will work with state, federal and non-governmental agencies over the next year as part of the UGA Marine Extension Georgia Sea Grant State Fellowship. The fellowship places recent graduate students in host offices where they gain hands-on experience in resource management, outreach, planning and policy implementation.
“We’re excited to collaborate with partners to facilitate these learning opportunities and nurture the professional growth and development of the next generation of leaders on the coast,” said Mark Risse, director of UGA Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant.
This is the fifth year that Marine Extension and Georgia Sea Grant has offered the state fellowship, which is open to in and out-of-state graduate students. So far, 16 students have participated in the program.
The 2023-24 state fellows will work with the following partners: Georgia Conservancy, NOAA Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary, The Nature Conservancy – Georgia, and Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve and Sapelo Island Cultural and Revitalization Society.
Nia Burnett has a bachelor’s in environmental studies from Allegheny College. She is currently completing her master’s in marine science at Savannah State University, where she is studying environmental toxicology, namely microplastics in benthic environments and how marine invertebrates interact with them. As a fellow working with Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve and Sapelo Island Cultural and Revitalization Society, she will be developing recommendations for flood mitigation on Sapelo Island, home of the Hog Hammock Gullah Geechee community. These recommendations will be created with the idea of enhancing the resilience of the community to climate change and sea level rise.
“My career goals are to figure out a way to combine my love for, and experiences in, education and outreach with STEM, research, and community engagement. I truly want people to feel like they have all of the knowledge and power to make informed environmental decisions about their communities. With this fellowship, I hope to gain the experience that can give me a blueprint to move forward with,” Burnett said.
Daniel Harris completed his undergraduate studies in geology and zoology from the National University of Ireland, Galway. He went on to pursue a Ph.D. in ecology from UGA where he studied the interaction between Georgia’s salt marshes and oyster reefs along the coast. Harris will be working with The Nature Conservancy – Georgia. At The Nature Conservancy, Harris will be collaborating with underserved communities, aquaculture professionals, academics, and resource managers to develop an Integrated Oyster Resiliency Plan for the state of Georgia.
“I love oysters! For an invertebrate, oysters are amazing little ambassadors of resilient coastal ecosystems. I am excited about this fellowship, as it is a great opportunity to collaborate with a diverse group of stakeholders towards the common goal of promoting and protecting these amazing organisms,” Harris said.
Kathy Liu completed her undergraduate degree at Scripps College in Claremont, California, before pursuing a master’s from the Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric, and Earth Science in Miami, Florida. As part of her graduate degree, she studied bonnethead shark head morphology, sexual dimorphism and diet. As a fellow with Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary, Liu will help to advance the scientific research, policy, and planning projects of the sanctuary. She will also support outreach, education and internship programs.
“This fellowship allows me the opportunity to continue exploring my interests in marine science while being able to translate the work done by the sanctuary to the public. I am passionate about conducting research on marine organisms and ecosystems and the fellowship will give me the opportunity to learn about the connectivity of Georgia’s ecosystems and see the long-term monitoring work done by Gray’s Reef,” Liu said.
Monét Murphy graduated from Savannah State University with a bachelor’s in marine science and environmental science. As part of her undergrad, she studied benthic foraminifera in the Savannah River Estuary, which are tiny, single-celled organisms that can serve as bioindicators of environmental conditions in marine environments. Murphy is currently pursuing her master’s in marine science at Savannah State University. As a fellow with the Georgia Conservancy, Murphy will work with partners and regional stakeholders to advance the South Atlantic Salt Marsh Initiative (SASMI) in Georgia. SASMI is a multi-state coalition working to conserve the 1 million acres of salt marsh in the South Atlantic region. Murphy will also support efforts to raise awareness among recreational boaters about threats to North American right whales.
“My dedication to environmental justice drives my enthusiasm to engage in research, conservation, and restoration efforts that ensure equitable access to the benefits of a thriving ecosystem, particularly for marginalized communities. I am eager to contribute to the development of a sustainable and diversified local economy, responsible urban planning, and community engagement strategies that foster a deeper connection between residents and the coastal environment,” Murphy said.