Letise Houser and Mia Steinberg, graduate students at the University of Delaware College of Marine Studies’ Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes, have received highly competitive fellowships from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The fellowships provide each student with $37,000 to support their research in marine biology–biochemistry.
Houser, a doctoral candidate, was one of 22 students nationwide awarded the Greater Research Opportunities (GRO) Graduate Fellowship. “Getting this fellowship is definitely a great honor, probably the most prestigious one I have received so far — the excitement was overwhelming,” says Houser. “It has already opened a couple of doors for me because I was one of the students selected to give an oral presentation and sit on a discussion panel for an EPA conference for fellowship recipients.”
Under the guidance of Charles Epifanio, professor of marine biology–biochemistry, Houser is studying the larval stage of the blue crab, Callinectes sapidus. More specifically, she is trying to determine whether larval crabs can alter their horizontal swimming behavior so that they are transported to habitats that will encourage settlement and juvenile growth.
The GRO Fellowship will enable Houser to focus on the final steps in completing her doctorate — from finishing her research and analysis to writing her dissertation. She also will be able to purchase computer equipment that will assist her in analyzing her data and attend conferences to present her research.
Originally from Chicago, Houser enrolled at the College of Marine Studies in 2001, after earning a bachelor of science in aquatic biology and a bachelor of arts in English with honors in creative writing at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.
Epifanio also advises Steinberg, who was one of approximately 125 students nationally to receive the Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Fellowship. “I was thrilled to receive the grant!” says Steinberg. “It has definitely given me peace of mind — not only does it cover tuition and a stipend, but it also includes money that I can use to cover expenses related to my research.”
Steinberg, who is pursuing a master’s degree in marine biology–biochemistry, is focusing her research on the Asian shore crab (Hemigrapsus sanguineus), an aggressive invasive species on the U.S. East Coast. She is trying to establish whether the Asian shore crab has been unable to establish breeding populations along the West Coast because it cannot compete with two native species of Hemigrapsus that occur in this otherwise favorable habitat.
According to Steinberg, understanding why the Asian shore crab has not been successful on the West Coast will help us determine the factors that have enabled it to be so successful here on the East Coast. “My work also will provide insight into what causes a particular habitat to be vulnerable to the invasion of a non-native species,” she adds.
The STAR Fellowship will give Steinberg the opportunity to do some “hands-on work” with the native crab species Hemigrapsus oregonensis and Hemigrapsus nudus on the West Coast. “One of my committee members, Brian Bingham, teaches at Western Washington University, and I will most likely spend some time out there collecting specimens,” says Steinberg.
Originally from New Jersey, Steinberg enrolled at the College of Marine Studies in 2003, after earning a bachelor of arts in biology at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.