NOAA 2001-087
Contact: Stephanie Balian


The Department of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration awards the newly established Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship to five outstanding graduate-level researchers, in the fields of oceanography, marine biology and maritime archaeology.

Soon after the death of NOAA's Dr. Foster, in June of 2000, Congress created the scholarship as a means of honoring her life's work and contribution to the nation. The funding is drawn from the National Marine Sanctuaries Act which is administered by NOAA's National Ocean Service. The current funding enables NOAA to award five scholarships. Each scholarship recipient will receive an annual stipend of $16,800 and up to $12,000 annually for tuition. Doctoral students are eligible to continue the scholarship program for four years and masters-level students for two years.

This is the first year of the program and NOAA received over 500 applications for the five awards. "We received a large number of applications from a pool of extremely well-qualified students. It is great to see such interest in the first year of the program," said NOAA Acting Administrator, Scott Gudes. Students were evaluated based on financial need, academic excellence, recommendations and a statement of intent which also indicated the student's research and career goals.

The five recipients are as follows:

Winnie Wing Yee Lau, Seattle, Washington: Ms. Wing Yee Lau is currently pursuing a doctorate in biological oceanography at the University of Washington. As an undergraduate, Ms. Wing Yee Lau majored in both integrative biology and environmental sciences at the University of California at Berkeley. Ms. Wing Yee Lau decided to pursue a graduate degree in basic scientific research not only because she loved making new discoveries but also because she realized that a solid scientific knowledge is the foundation of effective management of ecosystems.

Ku'ulei S. Rodgers, Waimanalo, Hawaii: Ms. Rodgers is currently pursuing a doctorate in marine biology. Ms. Rodgers was born and raised on the island of O'ahu, the main island in the Hawaiian chain. Ms. Rodgers has always been employed in the marine field. She spent several years working as an ocean recreation specialist teaching drownproofing to public school children and as a marine mammal trainer at an oceanarium. However, Ms. Rodgers' career in marine biology began late in life at Windward Community College where she quickly developed a strong background in marine science. Rodgers' continued her education by earning her master's degree at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa where she narrowed her focus to coral reef research. Rodgers' current doctoral work also focuses on coral reef research. Rodgers' is specifically working to identify bioindicators that may serve as an early warning of coral reef decline.

Stefan Claesson, Biddeford, Maine: Mr. Claesson is pursuing his doctorate in natural resources at the University of New Hampshire. Mr. Claesson received his bachelor's degree from Boston University and his masters in nautical archeology from Texas A&M University. Born in Worcester, Massachusetts to Swedish immigrants, and raised in Cape Neddick, Maine, he has always had a strong connection to the sea and an equally strong interest in maritime history and archaeology. Mr. Claesson has conducted archaeological surveys for shipwrecks and other vestiges of maritime culture along the southern coast of Maine for the past five years. Mr. Claesson is currently working to develop a Geographic Information System for the management and preservation of maritime cultural resources in New England.

Jennifer Wagner Whiteis, Trumansburg, New York: Ms. Whiteis is pursuing a doctorate in oceanography. Ms. Whiteis started her academic career at the University of North Carolina in Wilmington where she studied Earth sciences and she then transferred to Cornell University where she graduated with a bachelors degree in geology. While studying at Cornell, Ms. Whiteis was awarded a NASA Space Grant Fellowship to carry out a project using remote sensing techniques to study physical ocean parameters that impact coral disease in the Caribbean Sea. This experience motivated her to continue studies with a more detailed, in-depth research project using a combination of multiple satellite sensors and in situ data to examine the impact of global climate change on Caribbean corals.

Laurie Ann Sorabella, Gloucester, Virginia: Ms. Sorabella is currently pursuing a masters in marine biology at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. Ms. Sorabella's research centers on estuarine and coastal habitat restoration and on citizen involvement in restoration initiatives. Ms. Sorabella's thesis, entitled "Oyster and Seagrass Interactions in Ecological Restoration," has two objectives. First, to define the most desirable oyster strain for use as broodstock in oyster reef restoration and second, to characterize water quality changes associated with a restored oyster reef and estimate the potential for reefs to create a more habitable environment for seagrasses. Before graduate school, Ms. Sorabella became inspired by the power of community involvement when she worked as Virginia habitat restoration coordinator for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

"Throughout her career, Dr. Foster was well respected as a personal supporter of mentoring, a champion of diversity, and an advocate of fair and equal treatment of all people in the workplace. This scholarship is an excellent way to pay tribute to her life,"added Gudes.

The applications represented all the coastal regions of the United States, including several from Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. Applications were ranked by a panel of NOAA employees and finalists selected based on the ranked scores. A separate panel selected the five award winners for the 2001-2002 school year from the finalists.

A call for applications for the 2002-2003 school year is expected to be released some time this fall.

NOAA's National Ocean Service is a federal agency devoted to exploring, understanding, conserving, and restoring the nation's coasts and oceans. NOS promotes safe navigation, supports coastal communities, sustains coastal habitats and mitigates coastal hazards. NOS balances environmental protection with economic prosperity and leads the effort to ensure that our nation's coastal areas remain safe, healthy and productive. NOS is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

For more information, check the Foster scholar Web site at