Three graduate students at Florida universities have been named recipients of scholarships from the Aylesworth Foundation for the Advancement of Marine Science.
The winners are Jeffrey Ellis, a master’s student at Nova Southeastern University; Christy Foust, a doctoral student at University of South Florida; and Michael Dickson, a master’s student at University of Florida.
Since 1986, the Aylesworth scholarship has supported students pursuing college degrees in disciplines that have direct application to marine science. Recipients continue to receive the award each year as long as they make satisfactory toward degree completion.
The scholarship is a joint effort of the Aylesworth Foundation, the Southeastern Fisheries Association and Florida Sea Grant. Scholarships worth $515,000 have been awarded to 93 students in 14 Florida universities over the past 26 years.
The winners will be recognized at the annual Southeastern Fisheries Association awards banquet May 31. More information about each recipient follows.
Jeffrey Ellis is pursuing a dual M.S. in marine biology and coastal zone management at Nova Southeastern University’s Oceanographic Center. His master’s thesis will examine the effects of the unusally cold winter of 2009-10 on the abundance and size of reef fish using mangrove habitats in southeastern Florida.
Jeff has a passion for learning about and exploring the marine environment. He volunteers as a marine turtle specialist with the Broward County Sea Turtle Conservation Program, participates in the annual International Coastal Cleanup at John U. Lloyd State Park, and is a mentor for students entering his program of study at Nova.
Upon earning his master’s degree, Jeff hopes to study fisheries management, working towards more sustainable fishing techniques, while pursuing his doctorate.
Christy Foust is pursuing a Ph.D. in ecology and evolution at the University of South Florida. Her doctorate research, which expands on her master’s thesis, examines how stressors related to climate change such as increased salt marsh salinity affect genetic structure of plants.
In addition to working as a graduate teaching assistant and community college adjunct professors, Christy works in an integrative biology lab. Her lab mentor says, “The work she is doing on salt marshes will have far reaching broader impacts…with implications for society from predicting response to climate change to improving agriculture.”
Christy plans to pursue a career in academia where she can train the next generation of biologists, giving undergraduate and graduate students an appreciation for coastal systems, while contributing to the body of research on coastal communities.
Michael Dickson is pursuing an M.S. in fisheries and aquatic sciences at the University of Florida. Mike is an accomplished diver. Mike has assisted with the deployment of artificial reefs in the Steinhatchee Fisheries Management Area.
He has also helped conduct field and laboratory experiments that investigated the effects of a deadly virus on juvenile Caribbean spiny lobsters in the Florida Keys and assisted with sampling of grouper populations off the Florida Big Bend.
Mike’s career goal is to research species in benthic habitats of Florida, integrate research and conservation practices, and incorporate his research into educational outreach programs that promote community awareness of marine conservation issues.