Christy Loper, a doctoral candidate in marine policy at the University of Delaware’s College of Marine Studies, is among an elite group of 40 students from across the nation to receive the 2005 Dean John A. Knauss Fellowship. The fellowship program provides these students with a unique opportunity to gain an understanding of the marine policy process at the federal level.
The year-long fellowship, which begins on February 1, is sponsored by the National Sea Grant College Program in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The fellowship program was established in 1979 in honor of former NOAA Administrator John A. Knauss, who was one of Sea Grant’s founders and the founding dean of the Graduate School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island.
Loper has been assigned to the Coastal Resources Assessment Branch in the Special Projects Office of NOAA’s National Ocean Service. This branch provides services such as data management, collection, and analysis that will assist the National Ocean Service and other agencies in finding better solutions to major issues concerning the use of coastal resources in the United States.
During the coming year, Loper will be working on a pilot project to demonstrate the socio-economic benefits of having an integrated ocean observing system in the Gulf of Mexico. An integrated ocean observing system collects physical oceanographic data such as sea surface temperatures, tides, and ocean currents and then distributes this information to scientists and resource managers and other users in a timely fashion.
The data can be used to enhance the prediction of weather and global climate, which are influenced by the ocean, as well as monitor the effects of human activities on coastal areas. Ocean observing systems are designed to provide social and economic benefits that range from improving the safety and efficiency of marine operations to mitigating the effects of natural hazards.
At the University of Delaware, Loper is conducting research on the environmental and social impacts of coastal tourism, particularly on small-island developing states. “Tourism is considered to be a more sustainable alternative for economic development than consumptive enterprises such as mining or logging,” she says. “However, tourism also can degrade the natural resources upon which it depends.”
Under the guidance of Jeremy Firestone, assistant professor of marine policy, Loper is developing a suite of marine policy tools that can be used to more effectively manage the coastal resources of these small-island states, while still encouraging economic growth through tourism.
Prior to enrolling at UD, Loper worked for two years as a scientist for a planning and resource management firm in Los Angeles. She has a master’s degree in marine affairs and policy from the University of Miami in Florida and a bachelor’s degree in biology and environmental studies from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida.