Three aspiring scientists, all graduate students at Florida universities, have been awarded $1,000 each as the 2016 recipients of the Florida Outdoors Writers Association scholarship for outdoor communicators.
The winners are Hannah Brown, a Ph.D. student in interdisciplinary ecology at the University of Florida’s School of Natural Resources and Environment; Robert Roemer, an M.S. student in marine affairs and policy at the University of Miami; and Abigail Engleman, a Ph.D. student in marine conservation biology at Florida State University.
“FOWA is pleased to recognize these new scientists who are dedicated to communicating the results of their research to a broader audience,” said Dorothy Zimmerman, communications director for Florida Sea Grant and chair of the FOWA scholarship committee. “They continually impressed the scholarship committee with their new and innovative use of media.”
The awards are given by FOWA annually to recognize students whose career goals are to communicate a love and appreciation for hunting, fishing and other aspects of the outdoor experience. In the past seven years, FOWA has awarded more than $13,000 to aspiring writers, photographers and filmmakers.
Hannah Brown, has long had a love for journalism and science alike. After earning her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the New College of Florida, she went on to complete a master’s degree in mass communication from the University of Florida. For her master’s thesis, she traveled along Florida’s Gulf Coast to ask fishermen what they thought about media coverage after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
She said growing up on the coast of northeast Florida helped her realize the “cultural richness” of coastal communities.
“Now I work to share the observations, experiences and wisdom of those communities as well as my own sense of respect and admiration for Florida’s salty shore.” said Brown, who has worked as a professional journalist for publications including the Gainesville Sun, the Lake City Reporter and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
Brown was also recently named the Nature Coast Biological Station/Florida Sea Grant Scholar for her dissertation research, which aims to improve communication among researchers conducting oyster reef restoration around the state. When she isn’t working on her dissertation, she is writing news stories and managing social media for the UF School of Natural Resources and Environment. In her free time, Brown hosts a YouTube cooking show, Vegan Cooking with Hannah Brown and is co-editor of a blog, The Renaissance Woman.
Robert Roemer, a monthly columnist for Coastal Angler magazine, holds a bachelor’s degree in marine science from Coastal Carolina University. Before starting his master’s degree, he worked as a shark management and policy specialist for NOAA’s Highly Migratory Species Division and as a fisheries technician for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. For his master’s thesis, he is investigating the role humans play on the movements of sharks.
“I have designed an urban shark research program which investigates the movement patterns and residency times of coastal shark species within highly altered ecosystems such as downtown Miami. I am studying where these sharks move and why they go where they do in relation to human activity,” Roemer said. “In addition, I am studying sharks’ blood chemistry and physiology to determine if they are as ecologically fit as other individuals sampled in more natural state environments.”
To help communicate shark science, the seasoned fly fisherman and avid outdoorsman started his own research blog that showcases new and timely research from around the world. But, recently he has shifted his focus to writing articles and managing social media for his lab’s blog instead. He said that although publishing his first scientific paper was a milestone in his career, he is most proud of a column he wrote for Coastal Angler about getting youth involved in fishing.
“I also spoke about my father and grandfather, detailing how they nurtured my enthusiasm for fishing. I suppose it was a thank you letter in a sense,” Roemer said. “I owe them so much, and feel as though I wouldn’t be where I am today without their support. They always motivated me to pursue what I love, regardless of the obstacles. It felt good to finally write about it.”
Abigail Engleman, an experienced scuba diver, never gets bored of the “blue frontier.”
“Nearly 120 dives later, I am still amazed by the ocean’s ability to transcend my previous expectations,” she said. “Given our planet has over 141 million square miles of ocean, its waters have numerous stories to tell.”
Engleman hopes to spend her career as a scientist, and as a writer, telling some of those stories.
She recently worked as an intern in NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries helping to craft education and outreach materials. As part of her internship, she wrote a magazine article about NOAA’s Blue Star sustainable tourism program which is set to be published in Dive Training magazine later this summer.
Engleman earned her bachelor’s degree in marine science from the University of South Carolina and is currently working on her Ph.D. For her dissertation, she is studying the human impacts on coral reefs and how to conduct tourism sustainably.
“By bridging the gap between science and communication, we can effectively educate the public on their connection to the sea,” she said. “No one’s journey ends at the surface, but instead, everyone can experience the far side of our blue frontier.”
The three recipients will be attending the annual FOWA conference in August in Palm Coast and speak briefly at the awards banquet. In addition to their monetary award, each receives a one-year student membership award in the association to encourage their participation in association meetings and activities.