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General Description of Research Fellowship and Research Assistantship Opportunities:

There are two programs that specifically support graduate students who conduct research in Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve for their Ph.D. thesis or their Master's thesis. The NOAA Graduate Research Fellowship Program, described below (please scroll down), is funded through the federal Coastal Zone Management Program and awarded through the Estuarine Reserves Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Two of the Graduate Research Fellows are awarded for research at Padilla Bay at any one time. Graduate Research Fellowship awards may be for one to three years. A second program is the Research Assistantships in Estuarine Science and Coastal Zone Management awarded by the Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in cooperation with the Padilla Bay Foundation and the Tesoro Northwest Oil Company. One to four research assistantships have been awarded each year for the last ten years. Research Assistantships are awarded for 12 to 18 months. Further information about the Research Assistantship Program is provided below.

Estuarine Science and Coastal Zone Management
at the
Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve


Applications are now being accepted. Download information here.

Under the combined cooperative sponsorship of the PADILLA BAY FOUNDATION, TESORO NORTHWEST COMPANY, and the COASTAL ZONE MANAGEMENT PROGRAM of the Washington State Department of Ecology, the PADILLA BAY NATIONAL ESTUARINE RESEARCH RESERVE is pleased to announce the availability of Research Assistantships in Estuarine Science and Coastal Zone Managemen for 2013. These opportunities are open to college students at the senior and graduate level who are seeking support for thesis research as assistantships. The number of research assistantships to be awarded in 2014 is dependent on funding and has not yet been determined. More than forty research assistantships have been awarded over the last twenty years.

Research Assistantships: Research assistantships will be awarded to graduate students seeking to fund thesis work in Padilla Bay or work comparing Padilla Bay with other Washington bays or estuaries or coastal zone management issues anywhere in Washington. These assistantships require the sponsorship of a college/university faculty member who will supervise the student’s thesis in coordination with the Reserve’s research staff. A contract with the student totaling $5,000 will be provided over a twelve to eighteen month period. Submittal of a final report/thesis is required at the conclusion of the contract. Proposals for research on any aspect of estuarine science or coastal zone management and policy will be considered. During 2014 Padilla Bay NERR is particularly interested in proposals addressing the ecology of the non-native eelgrass, Zostera japonica, and its role in the ecosystem.

Qualifications: Applicants should usually be accepted into a Master's or Doctoral program in marine science, biology, botany, zoology, or one of the related natural or physical sciences.

Application Procedure and Date: Applications will be considered and may be awarded throughout 2014. First consideration will be given to applications received by April 25, 2014 . The number of awards will be dependent on funding, and notification may be in several stages. Applications for research assistantships should include 1) a cover letter; 2) a research proposal including: title, abstract (one paragraph), background/ rationale for the project (including relevant scientific literature), objectives, methods, anticipated importance of the results to science and/or management, a schedule/timetable for project activities, description of outside support or facilities needed and available to complete the project, and literature cited; 3) curriculum vitae including academic background and research/work experience; and 4) a letter of sponsorship from their faculty advisor including agreement to oversee the applicant’s research project and provide access to needed equipment and/or facilities. Inquiries may be addressed to Sharon Riggs at sriggs@padillabay.gov. Application material should be emailed (preferred) to Sharon Riggs at sriggs@padillabay.gov or sent via postal mail to Sharon Riggs, Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, 10441 Bayview-Edison Road, Mt. Vernon, WA 98273-9668 by April 25, 2014 for first consideration.

The Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve is managed by the Washington State Department of Ecology in cooperation with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. As one of 28 National Estuarine Research Reserves around the coastal United States, its objectives include protection and restoration of the natural resources and the provision of opportunities for research, monitoring, and long-term scientific and educational programs. Located in western Skagit County, Washington, Padilla Bay contains one of the largest contiguous eelgrass (Zostera marina) meadows in the Pacific Northwest. The PBNERR has research support facilities, laboratory space, field equipment, overnight bunkrooms, and vessels to provide limited assistance for field studies. Prior arrangements should be made with Reserve staff if assistance will be needed.

Graduate Research Fellowship Recipients

Graduate Research Fellowship Program



Grants are available on a competitive basis to students admitted to or enrolled in a full-time masters or doctoral program at U.S. accredited colleges and universities. Fellowships may be funded for up to three years to support thesis research. The Graduate Research Fellowship provides students the opportunity for hands-on training in ecological monitoring. The award amount is $20,000 per year and may be used for research, tuition, and other expenses. The application deadline is November 1. To learn more about the Graduate Research Fellowship Program, visit the GRF website at the Estuarine Reserves Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce.