Two URI sophomores earn prestigious Hollings Scholarship from NOAA

Award provides $19,000 toward tuition, plus paid internship

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Max Zavell of Highland Park, Ill., and Erin Tully of New Britain, Conn., have been awarded the Ernest F. Hollings Scholarship. Photo by Randy Osga

KINGSTON, R.I. – April 12, 2018 – Two University of Rhode Island students have been awarded the Ernest F. Hollings Scholarship from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the most prestigious scholarship awarded to undergraduates studying the marine sciences. Since 2009, URI students have won 25 Hollings Scholarships, at least one every year and one of the highest totals of any institution in New England.

The 2018 recipients, both sophomore marine biology majors, are Erin Tully of New Britain, Conn., and Max Zavell of Highland Park, Ill.

The award provides the students with a total of $19,000 toward tuition in their final two years of undergraduate study plus a paid summer internship at a NOAA laboratory. In addition, they will attend two NOAA conferences and are provided additional funds to attend two scholarly conferences at which they will present the results of their internship research.

The scholarship program is designed to increase interest in oceanic and atmospheric science, increase support for environmental stewardship, and recruit students to public service careers at NOAA and other governmental science agencies.

Tully became interested in marine science after a childhood visit to her local zoo. ”From then on, I read all the books about life in the sea that I could and looked for every opportunity to get real hands-on experience in the field,” she said. “I have always loved learning everything I could about the oceans.”

She applied for the Hollings Scholarship at the behest of her mentor, URI graduate student Alexa Sterling, who earned the scholarship in 2013. “I’ve always known that I wanted to work for NOAA one day, and the Hollings Scholarship is a great step toward that goal,” said Tully, who is secretary of the URI Marine Science Society and a member of the Society for Women in Marine Science. She is also a research assistant in the lab of Professor Bethany Jenkins, where she is studying the interactions between marine bacteria and diatoms.

Tully hopes that her Hollings internship takes her somewhere on the West Coast to study fisheries. After graduation in 2020, she plans to earn a doctorate. “From there I hope to go work for the EPA or NOAA doing research that is going to help educate the public about how important the ocean is,” she said.

For Zavell, it was a trip to Shedd Aquarium in Chicago – and the salt water aquariums and reef tanks he maintained at home – that inspired him to pursue a career in marine biology. A recreational scuba diver and a member of the URI Marine Science Society, he is working in Assistant Professor Hollie Putnam’s lab on the effects of rising sea temperatures and ocean acidification on coral health and survival.

“I applied for the Hollings Scholarship because I thought that it would be a good way to communicate my interests in both research and public outreach and education,” he said.

Zavell hopes his Hollings internship will be at one of NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program sites. Like Tully, he plans to earn a doctorate after graduating from URI and continue his research and outreach on corals at a university or research institute.

The students will attend a NOAA conference for Hollings Scholars in July, and early next year they will learn which NOAA lab they will be assigned for their summer internship.

In all, 27 URI students have received this scholarship since its inaugural year in 2005. The NOAA Hollings Scholarships have provided more than $450,000 in scholarship funds to these students, who majored in marine biology, aquaculture and fisheries, ocean engineering and marine affairs.