UMCES scientists awarded prestigious Fulbright scholarships

February 12, 2021

University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) Associate Professor Lora Harris and Ph.D. candidate Christina Goethel have been named Fulbright Scholars for 2021-2022. Harris will use her award to work in Finland on questions of estuarine ecology, and Goethel will use her award to support post-doctoral research and teaching in Iceland.

“These prestigious awards are a unique opportunity for our scientists to impact the future and make a difference, working with scientists around the world to find solutions to our global environmental challenges,” said UMCES President Peter Goodwin. “To have two scholars from our institutions selected is a testament to the relevant and impactful work being done here in Maryland and its global impact.”

The Fulbright program funds international exchanges between the U.S. and other countries. The scholars are selected for their academic merit and leadership potential to teach, research, and exchange ideas, and many have gone on to become heads of government, Nobel Laureates, and MacArthur Foundation Fellows. 

“These two awards exemplify the impacts that the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science has on our local community, the state and the globe,” said Professor Tom Miller, director of UMCES’ Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, home base for Harris and Goethel’s research. “We are so proud of these amazing researchers.”

Seeking Solutions for Global Challenges Award

University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Associate Professor Lora Harris is leading the SEAS Island Alliance Puerto Rico hub.

UMCES Associate Professor Lora Harris has been given the Seeking Solutions for Global Challenges Award by the Fulbright Finland Foundation in Helsinki. She will conduct research on coastal restoration and apply her understanding of restoration successes and challenges in the Chesapeake Bay with the Baltic Sea.

Harris is a marine scientist whose research focuses on how climate and management actions interact to affect water quality. She quantifies responses in estuaries to change at the whole system level, with a particular focus on understanding restoration pathways. Her research has included submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) and marsh plants, as well as how low levels of dissolved oxygen create challenges for restoration. She employs numerical modeling, takes advantage of large datasets, and for the past decade has leveraged a unique engineered aeration system to manipulate oxygen concentrations in entire tributaries.

“The opportunity to undertake comparative studies of our ecological understanding of restoration successes and challenges in the Chesapeake Bay and in the Baltic Sea, is both exciting and powerful,” said Dr. Harris. “It is equally satisfying to have the opportunity for cultural exchange and relationship building that is a hallmark of the Fulbright program in service of international collaboration and understanding.”   

She will be hosted at the Tvärminne Zoological Station, a laboratory of the University of Helsinki, during her four-month exchange and will collaborate most closely with Dr. Aleksandra Lewandowska.

Fulbright-Ministry of Foreign Affairs Arctic Scholar

Graduate student Christina Goethel has been named a Fulbright-Ministry of Foreign Affairs Arctic Scholar. She will teach courses at the University of Akureyri in northern Iceland on the importance of international and Arctic resident community scientific collaborations across the entire Arctic. For her Ph.D., she has been studying the effects of climate change on animals that live on the sea floor in the Bering and Chukchi Seas with UMCES professors Jackie Grebmeier and Lee Cooper.  

During her six-month fellowship, she will be teaching two courses—International Science Collaborations in the Arctic" and "Survey of Socio-economic Models and Sustainable Ecosystem Practices in the Pan-Arctic"—during the Spring 2022 semester

Goethel’s research has shown that changes in the community composition of animals that live on the sea floor can be related to the warming of the Arctic and the retreat of seasonal sea ice. These changes on the Pacific side of the Arctic are affecting ecological trajectories and Indigenous communities that place cultural and subsistence value on Arctic animals such as walruses and several species of diving ducks, or eiders.

“The opportunity to expand my work into a different part of the Arctic Ocean will allow me deeper insights into how these ecosystems are responding to climate change and how we move forward as an international community,” said Goethel.

She will use the University of Akureyri as a base and work with Dr. Oddur Þór Vilhelmsson, the director of the Natural Resource Science Program, and other faculty. This grant is funded by the Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs.