NOAA scholarship supports graduate student's elephant seal research

Sarah Kienle

Sarah Kienle, a graduate student in ecology and evolutionary biology at UC Santa Cruz, is one of four students nationwide selected by NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries to receive a 2015 Nancy Foster Scholarship.

This highly competitive scholarship program supports masters students for up to two years and doctoral students for up to four years. Kienle is a Ph.D. student co-advised by professors Daniel Costa and Rita Mehta. Her thesis project will examine the foraging ecology and habitat use of male northern elephant seals from multiple breeding colonies along the species range. Male northern elephant seals forage more coastally than female seals and overlap with several national marine sanctuaries, including Channel Islands, Monterey Bay, Greater Farallones, Olympic Coast and Cordell Bank. Kienle hopes this research will provide insights into how individuals, particularly males, will be differentially affected by climate change across the range of the species.

The scholarships were established in memory of Nancy Foster, a leader in marine resource conservation, a former assistant NOAA administrator for oceanic services and coastal zone management, and past director of NOAA's National Ocean Service. Congress created the scholarship in 2000 as a way to honor her life's work, 23 years of service to NOAA, and her contribution to the nation.