Two URI graduate Students Recieve National Fellowship

Matthew Gerlach and Joseph Dwyer receive NOAA Coastal Management Fellowships

NARRAGANSETT, R.I.—Two University of Rhode Island graduate students were among six recipients of two-year national fellowships in a highly competitive program that matches postgraduate students with state coastal zone programs to work on selected projects. Both students were nominated for the fellowship by Rhode Island Sea Grant.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Coastal Management Fellowship was established in 20 years ago to provide on-the-job education and training opportunities in coastal resource management and policy for postgraduate students and to provide project assistance to state coastal zone management programs.

Joseph Dwyer with mentors with Travis Olson of the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program and Dave Hart of Wisconsin Sea Grant

Joseph Dwyer with mentors Travis Olson of the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program and Dave Hart of Wisconsin Sea Grant

Joseph Dwyer, who recently completed his master’s degree in marine affairs, was matched with the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program to compile a current and comprehensive public access inventory and develop mobile websites and apps to promote coastal heritage tourism and deep travel in Wisconsin.

Dwyer says his role in his fellowship will be “to think of innovative ways to promote and develop the tourism industry on the Great Lakes … including possible applications of immersive GIS story maps and virtual reality technologies,” which will benefit from his experience with GIS technologies.

Dennis Nixon, Rhode Island Sea Grant director, says Dwyer has a well-rounded academic and professional background, and his work with David Bidwell, URI assistant professor of marine affairs, surveying residents and visitors to Block Island regarding their perception of the proposed Block Island Wind Farm “was an excellent preparation for this project designed to promote and enhance coastal tourism.”

Matt Gerlach and mentor Tim Gates of the Washington Coastal Management Program

Matthew Gerlach and mentor Tim Gates of the Washington Coastal Management Program

Matthew Gerlach, who recently completed his master’s degree in geosciences, was matched with the Washington Coastal Management Program to develop guidance and tools for improved implementation of shoreline armoring regulations in Puget Sound.

Gerlach says that his interest in coastal issues, particularly coastal hazards, was sparked when Superstorm Sandy hit the mid-Atlantic shoreline in 2012, when he was an undergraduate in geology. Today, he says that he wants a career “centered on shaping … environmentally sound policy that is responsive to the changing climactic and environmental future.”

Nixon calls Gerlach an exceptional candidate whose academic background has prepared him well for this fellowship. “Matt’s thesis work has taken him to the Gulf Coast of Florida, where his research is being used to inform state agency efforts to conserve mangroves, a critical natural asset, as sea level rises,” Nixon says.

More information about the fellowship is available at https://coast.noaa.gov/fellowship/.

Rhode Island Sea Grant has the opportunity annually to nominate qualified graduate students to a number of national fellowships. For more information, see http://seagrant.gso.uri.edu/students/

Rhode Island Sea Grant is one of 33 Sea Grant programs nationwide that support research, outreach, and education programs designed to foster vibrant coastal communities and marine environments that are resilient in the face of change.