Margaret A. Davidson Fellowship

Register for NOAA's Margaret A. Davidson Graduate Fellowship Webinar on Wednesday, September 29 at 3:00 p.m.

About the fellowship

The Margaret A. Davidson Graduate Fellowship is a program through NOAA's Office for Coastal Management that will provide funding to graduate students admitted to or enrolled in a master’s or PhD program to conduct estuarine research within one of the National Estuarine Research Reserves. Through a research project, fellows address a key reserve management need to help scientists and communities understand coastal challenges that may influence future policy and management strategies.

One two-year fellowship opportunity will be available at the each of the 29 National Estuarine Research Reserves, including the North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve (NC NERR), which includes Currituck Banks, Rachel Carson, Masonboro Island, and Zeke’s Island reserve sites. 

Fellowship benefits include:

  • The ability to develop meaningful cross-discipline research projects in conjunction with scientists, community leaders, and other organizations.
  • Networking opportunities with the annual fellowship class of 29, plus the other professionals across the reserve system, NOAA, and community partners.
  • Professional guidance and mentoring in a variety of disciplines, including facilitation and communication. Fellows will also have quarterly career-readiness training.
  • The development of research partnerships between universities and reserves.

Interested students are encouraged to explore the management priorities (listed below) and discuss potential projects with the research coordinator of the host reserve. 

The next fellowship class will begin in summer of 2022.

Eligibility

Eligible applicants must be U.S. citizens admitted to or enrolled in a full-time graduate program at a U.S. accredited college or university, working to obtain a master’s or doctoral degree. Applicants must plan to be enrolled for all of the first year, and the majority of the second year, of funding.

Timeline

Summer 2021 Call for applications
December 10, 2021 Applications due
April 2022 Recommended students notified
August 2022 Fellowship begins

Resources

About Margaret A. Davidson 

This fellowship honors the legacy of NOAA’s Margaret A. Davidson. Margaret was a true visionary in the coastal management world, someone who saw the future with clarity and knew how to push for innovation and, frankly—shake things up. She defined excellence in many categories, always raising the bar with the goal of helping coastal communities thrive. This approach is what NOAA and the research reserves are striving to achieve with the Margaret A. Davidson Graduate Fellowship program.

2022 Management Needs

Ecosystem services

Ecosystem services

The NCNERR sites provide ecosystem services AND the habitats that provide these services are impacted by factors including climate change, invasive species, and coastal development, BUT we have limited information on how these factors influence the provision of ecosystem services. THEREFORE, research is needed to quantify and better understand the services our habitats provide and how they may change in association with these factors to inform future management strategies.

Host reserve: North Carolina

Contact: Brandon Puckett, Research Coordinator, Brandon.puckett@ncdenr.gov, (252) 838-0851

Vulnerability

Vulnerability

Habitats at the NCNERR sites are vulnerable to climate change impacts (e.g., sea-level rise, increases in storminess and temperature) AND the vulnerability of habitats to climate change is influenced by human activities (e.g., sand placement, dredging), BUT it is not clear how vulnerable the habitats are to climate and human impacts and how to best mitigate vulnerability. THEREFORE, more information is needed to understand habitat vulnerability and evaluate future management strategies to enhance habitat resilience.

Host reserve: North Carolina

Contact: Brandon Puckett, Research Coordinator, Brandon.puckett@ncdenr.gov, (252) 838-0851

Dredge monitoring 

Dredge monitoring 

Hopper dredging has typically been restricted to an environmental window from November through April to avoid potential natural resource impacts during biologically productive and ecologically important time periods AND this restriction along with increasing demand for dredging is making it increasingly difficult to complete dredging activities important for commerce. The Army Corps of Engineers has asked for and been granted a 3-year moratorium on the environmental window for dredging NC’s two state ports at Beaufort and Cape Fear River inlets (proximal to and within the watersheds of the Rachel Carson and Zeke’s Island sites of the NCNERR, respectively) BUT the potential impacts of dredging outside of environmental windows on water quality, protected species, coastal habitats, and fishery species are largely unknown. THEREFORE, resource managers need targeted research that builds on existing studies and addresses one or more of the following knowledge gaps to make informed decisions regarding seasonal closures associated with hopper dredging:
  • Synthesis of research of inlet utilization by various species and regional studies of marine dredging impacts
  • Spatiotemporal patterns of ichthyoplankton abundance and composition and potential interactions with dredging
  • Spatiotemporal patterns of staging, migration, and spawning activity of commercially and recreationally important species and potential interactions with dredging
  • Characteristics of the sediment plume associated with dredging and implications for i) water quality, ii) sedimentation of nearby habitats, or iii) impacts on benthic communities.

Host reserve: North Carolina

Contact: Brandon Puckett, Research Coordinator, Brandon.puckett@ncdenr.gov, (252) 838-0851

Habitat mapping and assessment

Habitat mapping and assessment

As part of the NERRS System-wide Monitoring Program, Reserve habitats are mapped from the uplands to the intertidal marsh-water edge AND Reserve staff have used remote sensing, including use of Unoccupied Aerial Systems (drones), to map select areas of intertidal habitats BUT we have not applied remote sensing approaches to assess the ‘condition’ of intertidal oyster reef habitat. THEREFORE, Reserves within the Southeast are interested in developing novel methods and workflows to remotely assess the condition of intertidal oyster reef habitat at user-defined spatial (e.g., patch reefs to landscape) and temporal scales (e.g., before and after events). 

Host reserve: North Carolina

Contact: Brandon Puckett, Research Coordinator, Brandon.puckett@ncdenr.gov, (252) 838-0851

Note, this priority is only listed in the management priorities of the ‘host’ reserve (North Carolina NERR), but was co-developed with staff from the following NERRs in the Southeast (from north to south): North Inlet-Winyah Bay, ACE Basin, Sapelo Island, and GTM. Applicants interested in addressing this management priority should contact North Carolina NERR, but we anticipate the applicant potentially working with all of the Reserves listed.

Monitoring applications (GTM NERR)

Monitoring applications (GTM NERR)

Significant investments in the NERRS System-wide Monitoring Program (SWMP) have led to high-quality environmental data available for coastal management AND SWMP data play an important role in several coastal policy decisions BUT many states and local governments either do not use SWMP data or do so in a limited way THEREFORE a stakeholder-driven project that examines lessons learned from relevant case studies and makes recommendations for enhancing the relevance of NERRS monitoring data in policy decisions in the GTM and other southeastern US and Caribbean NERR watersheds would significantly increase the broader utility, funding, and significance of SWMP.
 
Host reserve: Guana Tolomato Matanzas (GTM)
 
Contact: Nikki Dix, Research Coordinator, Nikki.Dix@FloridaDEP.gov, (904) 823-4500.
 
Note, this priority is only listed in the management priorities of the ‘host’ reserve (GTM NERR), but was co-developed with staff from the following NERRs in the Southeast and Caribbean (form north to south): North Carolina, North Inlet-Winyah Bay, ACE Basin, Sapelo Island, and Jobos Bay. Applicants interested in addressing this management priority should contact Guana Tolomato Matanzas NERR, but we anticipate the applicant potentially working with all of the Reserves listed. 
Natural resource use (North Inlet-Winyah Bay NERR)

Natural resource use (North Inlet-Winyah Bay NERR)

Provision of natural resources is a key ecosystem service provided by coastal habitats and growing human populations along the coastlines of the southeast US and Caribbean are likely putting increasing pressure on populations of key natural resource species, but we need improved understanding of the effects of natural resource use to implement ecosystem-based management. Therefore, assessment of the ecological effects and human dimensions of natural resource use (e.g., harvest of bivalves, crustaceans, or finfish, among others) is needed for North Inlet-Winyah Bay, and could be compared among other NERRs in the SE and Caribbean.

Host reserve: North Inlet-Winyah Bay

Contact: Robert Dunn, Research Coordinator, North Inlet-Winyah Bay, robert@baruch.sc.edu, (843) 904-902

Note, this priority is only listed in the management priorities of the ‘host’ reserve (North Inlet-Winyah Bay NERR), but was co-developed with staff from the following NERRs in the Southeast and Caribbean (from north to south): North Carolina , ACE Basin, Sapelo Island, Guana Tolomato Matanzas, and Jobos Bay. Applicants interested in addressing this management priority should contact North Inlet-Winyah Bay NERR, but we anticipate the applicant potentially working with all of the Reserves listed.