Miselis chosen as Foster Scholar

(February 3, 2006) Virginia Institute of Marine Science graduate student Jennifer Miselis has been awarded a prestigious Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for her work to better understand the interaction between coastal geology and beach erosion.

Miselis is pursuing a Ph.D. degree at VIMS under the guidance of faculty advisor Dr. Jesse McNinch. Their field studies of the barrier islands of Virginia and North Carolina are helping to explain how the depth, extent, and configuration of near-shore sand bars affect beach erosion and build-up, particularly during and after major storms.

Miselis's most recent findings, soon to appear in the Journal of Geophysical Research, indicate that the volume of sediment in the surf zone is a better predictor of long-term shoreline changes than conventional parameters such as shoreface slope or grain size.

"A volume metric that accounts for both seafloor geology and morphology better represents the geologic character of the shoreface and may help to improve existing predictive models of shoreline change," says Miselis.

"That's a very important finding," says McNinch. "Particularly in light of continued coastal development along the nation's vulnerable barrier-island shorelines."

Miselis is one of only five graduate students from the around the nation chosen for the 2005-2006 Foster award. The other four recipients hail from the University of California San Diego, the University of Rhode Island, Oregon State University, and the University of Georgia.

Miselis's receipt of the Foster Scholarship is particularly impressive, says McNinch, as it follows closely on the heels of another prestigious award—the National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship —which supported the first three years of Miselis's research.

The Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship recognizes the career contributions of its namesake, who served as NOAA's Assistant Administrator for Oceanic Services and Coastal Zone Management, and Director of the National Ocean Service. Foster's early understanding of marine ecosystems and their conservation, and the need to consider the interdependent roles of organisms in marine ecosystems, set her apart as a pioneer and visionary.

The Foster Scholarship Program provides support for outstanding scholarship and encourages independent graduate-level research in oceanography, marine biology, or maritime archaeology, particularly by women and members of minority groups. The scholarship carries a 12-month stipend for each student of $20,000 and an annual cost-of-education allowance of up to $12,000. Masters students may be supported for up to two years, and doctoral students for up to four years. About four scholarships are awarded each year.