Dr. Hargis established this annual award to recognize a first-year graduate student based on superior academic performance and a demonstration of exceptional promise in marine research. Nominations for the Hargis Fellowship are made by instructors in the first-year core courses and forwarded to the Dean of Graduate Studies.
The winner of the William J. Hargis, Jr. Fellowship for 2009 is Natalia (Jaime) Blackburn.
Jamie Blackburn is a model student in every sense of the word. In the core classes, she was an active participant and her many questions often augmented the lectures, sometimes leading to an alternative way of looking at a difficult concept. She sometimes raised an issue that could legitimately be the basis of a research proposal. Her responses to exam questions and homework were always a pleasure to read, as she had such a solid grasp of the concepts and her answers were concise and focused on exactly the key points.
Jaime's love in research revolves around plants, and specifically seeds, and just how a seed becomes a plant. Plants produce millions of seeds but the path to a successful seedling requires passing through a series of environmental sieves to find just the right spot to germinate successfully. Jamie's research interests at VIMS will involve seagrasses with the SAV Restoration and Research program. The SAV program has been using seeds in seed-based restoration efforts but their research has faced a significant bottleneck—most seeds never successfully establish. Jamie will be exploring the processes leading to seed burial and greater seedling establishment that could have important implications in restoring seagrasses not just here in the Chesapeake but worldwide where seagrasses are threatened by human development.