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Marine Science Graduate Student Awarded Nationally Recognized Fellowship

Marine Science Graduate Student Awarded Nationally Recognized Fellowship

Arley Muth, a first-year Ph.D. student in the Department of Marine Science, was one of 52 graduate students nationwide who were recently awarded a Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Graduate Fellowship from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Marine science Ph.D. student Arley Muth researches the effects of ocean acidification.

"As one of the nation's premier research universities, UT-Austin can be proud of the work of its students and for fostering the next generation of leaders in environmental science," said EPA Regional Administration Ron Curry. "Congratulations to the future Dr. Muth and to all of this year's STAR fellows."

EPA's STAR Graduate Fellowship program supports graduate students across the U.S. pursuing environmental degrees. This highly competitive program began in 1995 and since then, has awarded nearly 2,000 STAR Fellowships. Master's students are awarded a maximum of $88,000 over two years and doctoral students up to $132,000 for three years.

Muth is researching the effects of ocean acidification and how it may change the algal assemblages that grow on rocks in the Arctic. She's studying at UT's Marine Sciences Institute (MSI) in Port Aransas alongside Professor Ken Dunton. We sat down to talk with her about her research and what the new fellowship means.

What drew you to study kelp populations in the Arctic?

During my undergrad, I studied botany and I read papers about Arctic plant species that had adapted to live in their environment. I was able to see this firsthand while doing fieldwork in Greenland. I think it's amazing to look at these adaptations and how these plant species live in such crazy, stressful conditions. In Greenland, I remember looking at a pile of dirt that looked like the Greenland Ice Sheet had just uncovered it, but when I looked closer there was actually these amazing plant species that were able to live there.

You spent the summer studying kelp beds off the Arctic Coast of Alaska. Can you talk more about this?

Our research focused on how these diverse and productive marine ecosystems are able to persist in the challenging Arctic environment. We looked at their response to perturbations caused by sea ice loss, increased river discharge and frequent storm activity.

What attracted you to UT?

As the assistant editor for the Journal of Phycology, I got to work with Ken Dunton who is an associate editor. After learning about his work, I knew I wanted to do my research at MSI. I also taught a marine ecology lab in Port Aransas and loved that experience. The resources and opportunities here are amazing and working with someone who is a successful scientist and an expert in this field is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

What does securing the STAR Graduate Fellowship mean for you?

Receiving this fellowship gave me the opportunity to pursue my passion. To have your own funding gives you flexibility and freedom in steering the direction of your research.

What do you hope your research accomplishes?

My research focuses on the effects of climate change and how these changes are going to affect species interactions within kelp systems. These systems occur worldwide – in temperate and cold environments – and the kelp species are often referred to as "foundation species." If you look at a food web and you take the kelp away, you lose all the associated animals and organisms. They're important for fisheries and subsistance living, so whatever affects kelp forests, affects many other species in the food web. I hope my research informs the public how these near shore systems will be impacted with climate change.

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Tuesday, 21 November 2017

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