Science Serving Maryland's Coasts

Federal Funding Renewed for Summer Research Program for Undergraduates

March 27, 2013
photo of student

Maryland Sea Grant has been awarded a five-year, $900,000 grant by the National Science Foundation to continue a program that brings college undergraduates to the Chesapeake Bay to spend a summer conducting research.

Now in its 25th year, Maryland Sea Grant's Research Experiences for Undergraduates in Marine and Estuarine Sciences (REU) program supports students from across the country. They spend 12 weeks in Maryland working with a faculty mentor on a research project. The students propose the project's topic, conduct independent research, and write about and present their results. They also participate in science ethics workshops, science communication training, and a research cruise on the research vessel Rachel Carson.

Additionally, many students attend national conferences to present their summer research. In 2013, seven students did so at the annual meeting of the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography in New Orleans.

The program works with 40 mentors from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science's Chesapeake Biological Laboratory and Horn Point Laboratory. With this new grant, 75 students will be supported in the program during the next five years.

The National Science Foundation funds about 30 REU sites dedicated to the ocean sciences. Maryland Sea Grant is one of a handful of ocean science REU sites that were awarded funding through this year's competition. (Not all existing programs' grants are up for renewal in the same year.)

"Competition to host REU sites continues to be intense, so we are thrilled to have been chosen to support undergraduate research here on the Chesapeake Bay for another five years," said Fredrika C. Moser, Ph.D., recipient of the NSF grant and director of Maryland Sea Grant.

"In Maryland, the Chesapeake Bay and our coastal waterways are integral parts of who we are as Marylanders — our heritage, our economy, and our culture," said U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland in a statement about the grant renewal. As the chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that funds the National Science Foundation, she has consistently proposed and succeeded at providing money for its projects, including the REU program. In December 2012, Senator Mikulski became the full Appropriations Committee's chairwoman.

"These funds in the federal checkbook will help encourage Maryland students to get involved in cleaning up the Bay and protecting our environment," she said. "By researching and understanding our oceans, we are making a direct investment in the lives and livelihoods of our coastal communities."

"The REU program influenced my decision to go to graduate school heavily," said David Walters, who participated in the REU program as a student in 2010. He is now a graduate student and research assistant at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"It gave me the experience to know that I both enjoyed research and have an aptitude for it," he said. "My positive experience also encouraged me to continue with coastal research, specifically on wetlands and marsh systems."

The application deadline for the summer 2013 REU program has passed. The application for summer 2014 will be available in December 2013.

Learn more about the REU program.

Maryland Sea Grant (www.mdsg.umd.edu) supports innovative marine research, education, and public outreach, primarily about the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, to support a sustainable coastal environment and economy. We are jointly funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the State of Maryland.

-- Jeffrey Brainard