Contact: Mona Behl, 706-542-6621,

Three University of Georgia graduate students studying ecology and marine science have been selected for the John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship.

Sponsored by the National Sea Grant College Program, the Knauss Fellowship provides educational experiences in policy and processes of the federal government to graduate students interested in ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources and the national policy decisions that impact those resources.

Laura Early, Jennafer Malek and Yuntao Wang

Laura Early, Jennafer Malek and Yuntao Wang

Laura Early, Jennafer Malek and Yuntao Wang were nominated for the fellowship by the Georgia Sea Grant College Program, a unit of UGA’s Office of Public Service and Outreach. The UGA students were among 120 Knauss Fellowship applicants from across the country. Fifty-seven were chosen for the 2016 class, representing 25 of the 33 state Sea Grant programs. All finalists will be matched with hosts in the federal legislative and executive branches of government in Washington, D.C.

Early is finishing her master’s degree in ecology at UGA’s Odum School of Ecology. Before beginning her degree, she spent more than two years as a naturalist on Little St. Simons Island and worked as a sea turtle technician on Cumberland Island.

“Through my experiences on the Georgia coast, I have seen how federal laws and programs have a direct connection to local actions,” said Early, who has a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from Clemson University. “The opportunity to work with an executive branch office through the Knauss Fellowship will help me determine where within the scheme of environmental action my strengths and skills will have the biggest impact.”

Malek is completing a doctoral degree in ecology. She grew up in Ashford, Connecticut, and has a bachelor’s degree in marine science from the University of Maine and a master’s degree in marine, environmental and estuarine sciences from the University of Maryland. For her dissertation research at UGA, she is studying how the environment shapes oyster-parasite interactions.

“Having worked with oysters, an ecologically and economically valuable species, for over eight years,” Malek said, “it is important for me to learn how policy is developed to help manage and conserve such species and their surrounding ecosystems.”

Wang is pursuing his doctoral degree in physical oceanography in the UGA marine sciences department. He was born in Qingdao, China, on the coast of the Yellow Sea.

“There were several green tides happening when I was in high school,” Wang said. “I understood the over-growing of algae was the major problem. At that time, I decided to learn about the ocean and explore how to recover the view of the sea.”

Wang did his undergraduate studies in oceanic technology at Ocean University in Qingdao. He has spent most of his time studying how satellites can observe and monitor the ocean and learning how to use ocean models to simulate water movement in coastal regions.

“The Knauss Fellowship is an excellent opportunity, and it will allow me to relate my knowledge with marine policy,” Wang said. “I hope to learn more about how to develop the ocean from the perspective of government, which will help me design my future research.”