Coffee, conversation, and the pursuit of scientific knowledge had students and donors buzzing at the 2017 Fellowship Brunch at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego. The event, held March 26 at the Robert Paine Scripps Forum for Science, Society and the Environment, provided Scripps graduate students with the opportunity to thank generous donors for fellowship support.
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During the annual event, supporters viewed scientific posters and chatted with students one-on-one about their research projects. They also listened to presentations from four graduate students, with topics ranging from coral reef ecology to paleomagnetism.
“Scripps students are the next generation of experts, innovators, and science leaders who will find solutions to some of the world’s most pressing issues,” said Scripps Director Margaret Leinen during her opening remarks. “Your generosity helps provide our students with unique opportunities to cultivate their scientific curiosity—to explore, learn, and grow—and for that we are grateful.”
Fellowship supporter and longtime Birch Aquarium member Cheryl Noncarrow said she is committed to fostering Scripps students due to the importance of their work.
“The level of science that is done here—it’s world-class. So, it just seems like the best thing for us to support,” said Noncarrow. “We are committed to supporting research, despite the political discussions about what’s real and what’s not real.”
Third-year biochemistry student Matthew Pendergraft kicked off the student presentations with a talk about sea-spray aerosols—which are comprised of seawater, salt, microbes, bacteria, and viruses—and their effect on coastal communities and water pollution.
Shelby Jones-Cervantes, a third-year geosciences student, discussed variation in Earth’s magnetic field strength over the last 2,000 years in New Mexico, and fifth-year applied ocean science student Daniel Warren Koestner discussed his research in the Ocean Optics Lab at Scripps, where he works on “unraveling the ocean’s color” or better understanding the sources of visible light scattered by particles in seawater.
Kathryn Furby closed out the presentations with a talk on “life after death” for corals and how some coral reefs are able to recover from environmental stress. The sixth-year marine biology student recently traveled to Palmyra Atoll, a pristine marine wilderness area located 1,000 miles south of Hawaii, to conduct research on coral reef ecology. Palmyra Atoll is an ideal place to study climate because it doesn’t suffer from many of the other human impacts that plague most coral reefs, such as fishing and pollution.
Furby said the incredible research opportunity in Palmyra was made possible thanks to Scripps supporters and family members Jim and Mary Ann Beyster, who recently funded the Beyster Family Graduate Fellowship for Conservation in Biology.
“The Beysters wanted to fund a student to do coral reef research in Palmyra, so that’s what I’ve been doing,” said Furby, the first recipient of the Beyster Family fellowship. “They are actually responsible for my entire year of funding and I got to add a cutting-edge molecular project to my thesis because of the funding. I am so grateful for their support.”
Jim Beyster said he and sister Mary Ann, both recreational scuba divers, were inspired to fund the fellowship due to their love of the ocean and desire to protect it.
“We really believe in the Palmyra research,” said Beyster, who initially became involved with Scripps after touring the oceanographic collections, later becoming a volunteer at Birch Aquarium. “The fellowship is geared towards Palmyra right now, but it could support any kind of research going on at Scripps, whatever high-priority research is needed.”
Beyster’s passion for supporting the next generation of ocean leaders also led him to support the Scripps Community Outreach Program for Education (SCOPE), a volunteer organization composed of graduate students and researchers that connects the public directly with the incredible science at Scripps.
“I’m a big believer in outreach so the SCOPE program is very interesting to me, especially because it reaches young students,” he said.
The four student presenters closed out the event by participating in a Q&A panel discussion, a highlight for many attendees.
Cheryl Noncarrow said she looks forward to the annual brunch for this very reason, an opportunity to learn directly from the students in an intimate setting.
“We all can’t be scientists so I love being able to attend a function where people are talking about their research and talking about what’s important, and then we have the opportunity to discuss it,” she said. “We have the opportunity to be a part of this and because you guys involve us, it really makes a difference.”
– Brittany Hook