Three URI grad students named Coastal Institute Fellows

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KINGSTON, R.I. – May 9, 2012 – Three graduate students studying marine affairs at the University of Rhode Island have been named Coastal Institute Graduate Fellows and will engage in interdisciplinary research about coastal resource management.

Nicole DeAngelis of Cherry Hill, N.J., Catie Foley of Nashua, N.H., and Kristen Ounanian of Medfield, Mass., each received a $3,000 stipend as part of the fellowship to use towards their education and research expenses.

“Our Graduate Fellows program provides support to graduate students to further their work in some aspect of coastal ecosystem management, encompassing everything from environmental and social sciences and marine policy to communication and the arts,” said Q Kellogg, assistant director of the Institute. “The work that the Fellows undertake contributes to the Coastal Institute’s mission to leverage ongoing research, catalyze new projects, and facilitate effective management of Rhode Island’s valuable coastal resources and communities.”

DeAngelis is studying eco-labeling certification programs in the aquaculture industry and interviewing Rhode Island aquaculturists to learn their opinions about eco-labeling and their interest in participating.

“There are many eco-labeling programs but no aquaculturists in Rhode Island seem to be seeking certification at this time, so I wanted to research why,” said DeAngelis.

A graduate of Lehigh University, DeAngelis will spend this summer working for the National Marine Fisheries Service analyzing how the agency incorporates climate change into its endangered species decision making process.

Foley is developing a biodiversity index for the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank fisheries in an effort to compare how an ecosystem-based model of fish abundance compares with the single-species models presently used by fisheries managers.

“The issue of biodiversity really resonates with me,” said Foley, who received her undergraduate degree in biology from Wellesley College. “I come at everything from a very scientific biological standpoint, but the Marine Affairs Program here at URI is making me consider the social science aspects as well.”

This summer Foley will compare trends in biodiversity with the implementation dates of environmental policies to determine if the policies affected species abundance.

Ounanian is studying the effects of diminishing fish stocks on coastal communities in New England and Denmark by examining how these communities transition from being fisheries dependent to focusing on other industries.

“Most communities talk about their vulnerability and their resilience, but they pay little attention to the transition,” said Ounanian, a graduate of Northwestern University. “If you’re a 16-year old, the decision about whether to become a fisherman or go to university is changing in many of these places.”

She will begin her research with a case study in East Greenwich, where some small marinas still cater to fishermen rather than to higher-paying recreational boaters. “I want to document what people value about this waterfront and why the shanties of Scallop Town have persisted there over the years,” she said.

The URI Coastal Institute aims to increase understanding of the relationships between human activity and the condition of the coastal environment and its resources. It works in partnership with numerous local, state, federal and international agencies to help solve the complex problems of human use and development in coastal environments.