Western Environmental Science student Madison Gard of Tucson, Arizona has been awarded a 2021 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Ernest F. Hollings Scholarship, which recognizes exceptional students in a broad range of STEM fields and provides awardees up to $9,500 in academic assistance for two years of study, plus a 10-week, full-time paid internship at a NOAA facility during the summer between their junior and senior years.
This year, the NOAA Office of Education selected 125 Hollings Scholarship recipients nationwide, and four scholarships were awarded to students enrolled in Washington colleges and universities, including Gard.
Tom Moore, director of Western’s Fellowship Office, said Gard was very deserving of the scholarship, as are all of Western’s past Hollings awardees.
“All colleges and universities compete on the same playing field [for the Hollings scholarship], so Western students are competing with folks from Stanford and Harvard,” said Moore. “It just shows the quality of instruction, in particular, that Huxley offers.”
Gard, a member of Western’s Honors Program, is majoring in Environmental Science with a Marine Emphasis, with minors in Spanish and Honors Interdisciplinary Studies. Growing up, her family spent time in Cholla Bay, Mexico where she said she loved to go beachcombing and exploring tidepools. Seeing the impacts of pollution and climate change take its toll on the beach and its creatures during her lifetime was what drove her to pursue a career in environmental stewardship, and said she hoped her NOAA internship next summer will reflect her interest in working to save the oceans.
“I'm hoping to be placed into one of the NOAA fisheries research facilities, potentially in Alaska or Massachusetts,” said Gard. “Working in fisheries would be especially fascinating, since fisheries are one of the main intersections that humans have with oceanic populations. I'd love to conduct research that informs sustainable fishery management decisions.”
For now, she is involved with graduate student Zoe Lewis' research in the Marine Mammal Ecology Lab that is examining pinniped (seals and sea lions) predation on Chinook salmon. Going forward, Gard is eager to gain additional experience working in the field on land restoration projects. After graduating from Western in Spring 2023 she said she plans to attend graduate school to earn a doctorate and conduct research to inform decisions on ecosystem management.
“Though I'm still finding my place in everything, I ultimately hope to have a career that will contribute towards coastal habitat conservation and restoration,” said Gard.
Gard’s faculty advisor, Huxley Professor Erika McPhee-Shaw, said Gard was deserving of her award and that she would make the most of the opportunity.
“This is a real honor and demonstrates strong passion and an intense level of scholarship,” she said.
The NOAA Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship is available to students with 2nd-year standings. Eligible majors include oceanic, environmental, biological, and atmospheric sciences, mathematics, engineering, remote sensing technology, computer and information science, physical and social sciences including geography, physics, hydrology, geomatics, or teacher education that support NOAA's programs and mission.
The scholarship application period for the next cohort of Hollings recipients opens on Sept. 1 and will close on Jan. 31, 2022. For more information, contact the WWU Fellowship Office at firstname.lastname@example.org.