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Graduate Student’s ‘Sonic Reef’ Video Wins NSF Award

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    At the event, held at NSF headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, Erica Staaterman is presented with her award by Robert J. Zimmer, president of the University of Chicago and a former NSF fellow.

    University of Miami graduate student Erica Staaterman was among a group of National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellows honored recently for creating 90-second videos showing how their research could help shape the future.

    Staaterman, a doctoral student in applied marine physics and marine biology and fisheries at UM’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, won third place her video Sonic Reef in which she describes her work on underwater acoustics. The video competition was held as part of the 60th anniversary of the NSF’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program. Staaterman and others were recognized last month at NSF headquarters in Arlington, Virginia.

    “This award recognizes Erica’s pioneering work on bio-acoustics and larval fish navigation as well as her passion for underwater filmmaking,” said UM Applied Marine Physics Professor Claire Paris. “I am proud to have in my lab such an articulate advocate for coral reef conservation issues whose studies are already influential in our overall perceptions of the role of larval behavior in shaping marine populations.”

    Staaterman said the NSF fellowship “has provided amazing opportunities for me, but I also feel very fortunate to be a student in the Physical-Biological Interactions lab of Dr. Claire Paris. I chose to join this lab because of the cutting-edge research tools that are found here and nowhere else. The combination of the NSF fellowship and the research support of the Paris Lab has allowed me to pursue the research questions that interest me the most.”

    In addition to pursuing her research, Erica is passionate about science communication and believes that film is an excellent medium for communication science to the public. She co-directs a marine science and conservation film festival called Beneath the Waves, which hosts its flagship event in the U.S. every March, but is also expanding with mini-festivals occurring all over the world. “The fact that NSF challenged research fellows to produce these videos highlights the importance of this type of outreach. I am so grateful for this recognition,” Staaterman said.

    The Graduate Research Fellowship Program is NSF’s flagship initiative for graduate students in the science and engineering fields within NSF’s mission. It has been in operation almost as long as NSF itself, making an investment in students with demonstrated potential for significant achievements in science and engineering.

    The investments have paid off well: Among more than 200 Nobel laureates who have had NSF support since 1950, 40 were selected as Graduate Research Fellows. Graduate Research Fellows are well-represented among government leaders, business executives, writers, and members of the National Academy of Sciences. Examples include Marcia McNutt, director of the United States Geological Survey; Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google; and Steven Levitt, co-author of Freakonomics. Currently, about 12,000 students apply annually for Graduate Research Fellowships; only 2,000 receive these prestigious awards, which they take to U.S. graduate institutions of their choice.

    “Today’s Graduate Research Fellows will be tomorrow’s leading scientists and engineers,” said NSF Director Subra Suresh. “They will be called upon to embrace the opportunities and challenges of a new era in science, marked by growing interdisciplinary and cross-border scientific challenges and opportunities. NSF has had a long and distinguished history of identifying leaders and pioneers in science and engineering through the Graduate Research Fellowship Program.”


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