Susan Park, who graduated from the University of Delaware’s College of Marine Studies in August with a doctorate in oceanography, has received a Coastal Management Fellowship, sponsored by the Coastal Services Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Park, who was endorsed by the University of Delaware Sea Grant College Program, was one of six candidates nationwide to receive the two-year fellowship.
The Coastal Management Fellowship was established in 1996 to provide on-the-job education and training opportunities in coastal resource management and policy for postgraduate students as well as project assistance to state coastal zone management programs.
“Susan Park is a perfect choice for the Coastal Management Fellowship,” says Dr. Carolyn A. Thoroughgood, director of UD’s Sea Grant College Program and dean of the College of Marine Studies. “In addition to her academic achievements, Susan has a number of special skills and experiences relevant to this award. She has consistently participated in community outreach programs involving high school students at both the local and national level and has developed a computer-based clearinghouse for exchanging information on the Asian shore crab — a bioinvasive species.”
Park, whose fellowship began on August 1, was assigned to the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management in Boston. She will work closely with her mentor, Jason Baker, invasive species program coordinator, to create a rapid-response protocol that can be used to control newly discovered aquatic invaders. Although it initially will be used in Massachusetts, the ultimate goal will be for all the member states and provinces of the Northeast Aquatic Nuisance Species Panel to adopt the protocol.
According to Park, aquatic invaders are non-native species that have been transported to a region through human activity. These invaders subsequently become established by maintaining a reproducing population. When these non-native species become established, they can upset the natural balance of native plants and animals and can have devastating effects, both ecologically and economically.
“While prevention is the key to the problem of invasive species, there will always be some invaders that slip through the system,” says Park. “Therefore, both the state and the region must have a mechanism to detect new invaders and then eradicate or control their populations before they become a problem.”
At the College of Marine Studies, Park’s research focused on the spread of the Asian shore crab, Hemigrapsus sanguineus, along the East Coast of the United States. This bioinvasive species was first discovered in 1988 in Cape May County, New Jersey, and has since extended its range from Maine to North Carolina.
“My research at UD inspired me to learn about the policy and management of invasive species,” says Park. “Although I have a good scientific knowledge of invasive species, I have had no experience in applying this knowledge to managing invasions. Working with the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management provides a good opportunity to use my skills as a scientist, while getting the experience I need to continue in the field of marine policy.”
Upon completion of the fellowship, Park plans to continue working on environmental problems from a combined science and management perspective.