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Welcome Class of 2015! Marine Science Fellows Take on Research, Outreach

This week Virginia Sea Grant announces the eight marine science graduate students that make up the 2015 class of Graduate Research Fellows.

Virginia Sea Grant Fellows research issues affecting Virginia's coastal and ocean resources. ©Jennifer Armstrong/VASG

Virginia Sea Grant Fellows research issues affecting Virginia’s coastal and ocean resources. ©Jennifer Armstrong/VASG

By Emma Fass, Summer Science Writing Intern

“More and more, scientists are being asked by funders to consider the broader impacts of their research,” says Susan Park, Assistant Director of Research at Virginia Sea Grant. To be successful today, Park says, scientists have to conduct outstanding research and get the word out about their results. The Virginia Sea Grant Graduate Research Fellowship is designed to help marine science graduate students develop those skills.

“We want to train the next generation of scientists to think of outreach early in the research process,” she says, adding, “and to understand the Sea Grant method.”

This week, Virginia Sea Grant (VASG) will introduce the Graduate Research Fellowship class of 2015. The Graduate Research Fellowship requires students to conduct applicable research about Virginia’s coasts and oceans and work with an outreach mentor. The fellow and mentor envision ways to connect end users to the research and create a concrete outreach plan. The fellowship allows for flexibility in both the choice of mentor and plan to allow fellows to tailor the program as they see fit.

“The outreach plan and mentor relationship should be meaningful to the fellows, that is why we intentionally defined these aspects of the fellowship broadly,” says Susan Park. “We allow students to think about how outreach will be important in their careers so that they can learn from someone with meaningful experience.”

For example, students who see themselves teaching in the future can choose a classroom teacher as an outreach mentor and perform their outreach by giving presentations at schools or creating activities teachers can use in the classroom.

VASG aids fellows in their outreach efforts with professional development opportunities focusing on science communication, the science-to-management process, and adoption of innovation. Recently, VASG partnered with George Mason University to create a program for the fellows to develop their science communication skills, then put those new skills to practice.

By the end of the fellowship, participants would have gone through the entire process of working with end users to identify and research a problem, and then get results back out to those who could use it—a process Park says is at the core of the Sea Grant mission.

“There are a lot of great fellowships available for students, but this one is unique because it trains young scientists to appreciate the process of science-to-management,” says Park.

Offered to students enrolled in or admitted to a full-time graduate or professional degree program at a Virginia academic institution, the VASG Graduate Research Fellowship is designed to support exceptional graduate students who are engaged in research that align with the goals of VASG.

VASG is committed to advancing the resilience and sustainability of Virginia’s coastal and marine ecosystems and the communities that depend upon them. As a broker of scientific information, VASG works with resource managers, businesses, communities, and other stakeholders to provide and apply the best science available.