William J. Hargis Jr. Fellowship Award

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 2008 is Matthew Whalen.

Matt Whalen is a model student and scientist with a bright future. He is smart, hard-working, conscientious, and mature. Though his low-key manner may initially mask his many talents, they shine through immediately once you get to know him.

Matt Whalen and fellow grad student Rachael Blake conduct research on Hungars Creek.Matt’s thesis research tackles a key interaction in vegetated marine food webs, with implications for both basic food-web ecology and conservation of coastal ecosystems. He is employing newly developed techniques that promise for the first time to rigorously field-test the importance of small marine grazers, and is employing novel approaches to link the impacts of these grazers to their functional diversity.

In addition to his developing thesis research, Matt has quickly become invaluable to the Marine Biodiversity Group with his contributions to its regular field monitoring program, database management, and mentorship of REU research interns. He has begun a photographic library of local organisms, one of which graces the cover of this year’s VIMS annual report. He is also a good citizen, volunteering at the “Blue Crab Bowl,” Marine Science Day, and other venues. Matt is a can-do person—he hit the ground running in his first year and there is every reason to believe that he is going all the way. We’re lucky to have him at VIMS.

Congratulations, Matt!