Scholarships buoy research of four oceanography graduate students

Four stellar oceanography graduate students received scholarships that are supported by generous donors to the Department of Oceanography in the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa.  

“We are extremely fortunate to have generous donors who support high quality oceanographic and environmental research,” said Margaret McManus, chairwoman and professor in the SOEST Department of Oceanography. “With their gifts, our graduate students can focus their time and efforts on research that supports a healthy and productive ocean and environment. We are deeply appreciative of our donors.”

J. Watumull Merit Scholarship, Jessica Perelman

Jessica Perelman was selected for the J. Watumull Merit Scholarship that is given to a student with outstanding scholastic achievement and a desire to improve self and profession. Perelman’s research in oceanography professor Jeff Drazen’s lab explores how open-ocean animal communities are influenced by their environment in a large region being targeted for deep-seafloor mining. This work informs developing mining regulations, and it may help us understand how these communities will respond to changing ocean conditions due to human activities and broader climate-related shifts. Perelman said, “It is a huge honor to be selected for the Watumull Scholarship this year, and I am grateful to those who see value in my efforts towards marine conservation and ecosystem management.”

Reel Aloha Life Scholarship, Mario Kaluhiokalani

Mario Kaluhiokalani, who works with Earth Sciences professor Brian Popp, was awarded the Reel Aloha Life scholarship in support of scientific research on marine pollution in Hawai‘i that helps mitigate the effects of human contaminants on ocean life and health. Marine pollution can lead to the proliferation of harmful species such as bacterial pathogens and toxic algae, increases in disease among marine organisms, and permanent loss of critical ecosystems. Kaluhiokalani is studying the isotopic composition of corals in Hawai‘i in relation to algae invasions. “I enjoy being able to work on the ocean and study important ecosystems that are culturally important to Hawai‘i,” said Kaluhiokalani. The scholarship will allow him to attend a research trip to Kuaihelani (Midway Atoll) in July to study coral’s response to an invasive algae outbreak.

Ka Malama Kai Scholarship, Ching Tsun Joyce Chang

Ching Tsun Joyce Chang was chosen as the recipient of the Ka Malama Kai scholarship which funds students’ attendance at national or international scientific workshops, short courses or scientific meetings to further their research or present their research results. With advisor Brian Popp, Chang is researching the trophic dynamics and movement behaviors of ocean sunfish using isotope analysis. In her research, Chang found that sunfish migrate thousands of kilometers from Taiwan to Japan and to the waters of the equator. “I am interested in why they have two different routes and why they migrate to the place,” said Chang. “This scholarship will help me attend a short course in Utah that is designed to skills useful in analyzing and interpreting isotopic data, particularly by leveraging data science, ‘big data’, and spatial analysis approaches.”

John and Anne Flanigan Support Fund, Petra Byl

Petra Byl is this year’s recipient of the John and Anne Flanigan Support Fund award, which is given in support of outstanding research by a graduate student. Byl works with oceanography professors Grieg Steward and Kyle Edwards as part of the Marine Viral Ecology Laboratories (MarVEL) research group where she cultivates marine algae and giant virus-host pairs from ocean gyres. She uses genomic and transcriptomic sequencing along with laboratory manipulations to understand how nutrient stress impacts infection dynamics in these virus-host pairs. “Giant viruses are unique in that they blur the boundary between viruses and cellular life due to their sheer size,” said Byl. She will use the Flanigan Support Fund to travel to the Joint Genome Institute in Berkeley, CA where she will sequence model systems of giant virus-algae pairs, and analyze the resultant sequence data.