Four University of Rhode Island sophomores have been awarded the Ernest F. Hollings Scholarship from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the most prestigious scholarship awarded to undergraduates studying the marine sciences. Since 2005, URI students have won 33 Hollings Scholarships, at least one every year since 2009 and one of the highest totals of any institution in New England.
The recipients are Elizabeth Taylor, an ocean engineering major and business minor from Newport, Rhode Island; Rosalind Bailey, a marine biology major and theater minor from Barnet, Vermont; Emily Drappeau, a marine biology and marine affairs major from Dresden, Maine; and Sebastian Murray-Brown, a marine affairs and natural resource economics major from Gloucester, Massachusetts.
The award provides the students with a total of $19,000 toward tuition in their final two years of undergraduate study plus a paid summer internship at a NOAA laboratory during the summer between their junior and senior years. In addition, the scholarship provides funding to attend two NOAA conferences and attend two scholarly conferences at which they present the results of their internship research.
Taylor became interested in studying ocean engineering because of her love for sailing and her desire to tackle complicated problems, fix things and find solutions. While in high school, she interned at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, where she designed and tested an underwater robot tasked with completing an obstacle course.
A member of the URI sailing team, she hopes to intern at NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle.
“Working in their Innovative Technology for Arctic Exploration division would be an amazing opportunity,” said Taylor, who plans a career as an oceanographic researcher and college professor. “I’m interested in analyzing climate change and its effects on the oceanic environment.”
Bailey said she has been in love with the ocean and its inhabitants since she was four years old, and she has taken advantage of numerous marine science opportunities at URI, including joining the Shark Club, the Marine Science Society and the Society for Women in Marine Science while also participating in beach cleanups with Save the Bay.
This summer she will participate in a National Science Foundation undergraduate research program in Alabama – postponed from last summer due to the pandemic – to study the effects of eutrophication on fish populations. Next fall, she is hoping to spend the semester studying at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences.
“I’m really interested in coral reef restoration and conservation, so eventually I want to make my way to the Philippines to focus on studying the oceans near my family,” Bailey said. “I’m half Filipino and have always wanted to conserve the beautiful reefs around the islands there.”
Drappeau said the first time she considered marine science as a career was when she learned to scuba dive as a freshman in high school. That led her to the OceansWide program in Maine and later to the Inner Space Center at URI’s Graduate School of Oceanography, where she is interning in science communication and underwater acoustics. She is especially interested in a NOAA internship related to its system of marine sanctuaries.
“As far as my career plans, I can see myself working in a job related to science communication and outreach to help everyday people understand the conditions of our oceans today and what we can do as individuals to help foster a more sustainable relationship with our marine ecosystems,” she said.
Murray-Brown was working as a tour guide on a boat in his hometown when he became aware of the challenges facing the community from climate change and natural resource depletion.
“It made me think about how other coastal communities are impacted by the same issues,” he said. “That experience has led me to pursue both marine affairs and natural resource economics at URI. The Hollings Scholarship offers me an opportunity to explore these issues and hopefully look for some solutions.”
He hopes to study climate change at a NOAA lab in the Pacific Northwest for his internship. After graduation, he plans to earn a graduate degree and eventually work to help coastal communities mitigate the effects of climate change.
The Hollings Scholarship program is designed to increase interest in oceanic and atmospheric science, increase support for environmental stewardship, and recruit students to public service careers at NOAA and other governmental science agencies. URI students interested in applying for the Hollings are encouraged to contact Kathleen Maher in URI’s Office of National Fellowships and Academic Opportunities for guidance.
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