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Urban Coast Institute

Four Students Awarded UCI Endowed Scholarships

The Urban Coast Institute (UCI) has awarded endowed scholarships to four outstanding Monmouth University students for the 2022-23 school year. Mia Najd will receive an Ann and Alfred L. Ferguson ’13HN UCI Endowed Scholarship; Jessica Maguire will receive an Urban Coast Institute Endowed Scholarship; and Nicole Cappolina and Jasmine Barzin will receive MacDonald Family UCI Endowed Scholarships.

The UCI established endowed scholarships at Monmouth to support undergraduate students pursuing a B.S. or B.A. degree including, but not limited to, Marine and Environmental Biology and Policy, Political Science, or a Global Sustainability minor, with a demonstrated interest in coastal, marine and environmental studies. The scholarships are intended to encourage Monmouth students to become active, global citizens while fostering an understanding of the coastal and marine environment and communities, legal studies, public policy, and research methods.

The Ann and Alfred L. Ferguson ’13HN UCI Endowed Scholarship and MacDonald Family UCI Endowed Scholarship have been available to support students since the 2020-21 school year. This is the first time the Urban Coast Institute Endowed Scholarship, established by the UCI Advisory Committee, has been awarded. A Rita Mangan UCI Endowed Scholarship will also be made available in 2023.

Meet this year’s endowed scholarship awardees below.

Jasmine Barzin

Jasmine Barzin

Class and Major: Junior, Marine and Environmental Biology and Policy

In Her Own Words: “I have always had a passion for helping conserve our marine environments. Throughout my college experience, I hope to travel abroad to make connections while participating in faculty-based research. My future goal is to do in-field research for a marine biology-based organization. I also hope to continue scuba diving and become an instructor.”

Nicole Cappolina

Nicole Cappolina

Class and Major: Junior, Marine and Environmental Biology and Policy

In Her Own Words: “I grew up on the coast of Ocean City, New Jersey, and I have always had a passion for the ocean and the environment. My intern experience at the Cape May Whale Watch and Research Center has given me a taste of what it is like to work in the field and I enjoyed every minute of it. At the end of this experience, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in this path.”

Jessica Maguire

Jessica Maguire

Class and Major: Junior, Marine and Environmental Biology and Policy

In Her Own Words: “I am extremely passionate about conservation and protecting the world’s ecosystems because I want to help maintain the earth’s beauty for future generations. My curiosity about the environment has driven me to get involved in research and travel opportunities that have fueled my passion for marine and environmental science even more.”

Mia Najd

Class and Major: Senior, Marine and Environmental Biology and Policy

In Her Own Words: “I define myself as a hardworking, motivated, and passionate environmental and marine biology enthusiast. The program here at Monmouth has given me critical problem-solving skills and confidence in both biology and policy of the environment.”

Monmouth Partners with NOAA Internship Program to Build Diversity in Marine Fields

Professor Jason Adolf demonstrates some equipment on the deck of the R/V Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe for students from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Inclusive Fisheries Internship Program.

Monmouth University hosted 15 students from academic institutions around the country in June as part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Inclusive Fisheries Internship Program (IN FISH!). Now in its second year, IN FISH! provides paid internships to undergraduates from underrepresented populations, with the long-term vision of building skills for success within marine resource fields and diversifying the NOAA Fisheries workforce.

IN FISH! interns spend two weeks completing a for-credit course in complex systems and ecosystem dynamics followed by eight weeks working with a mentor on a research or resource management project. The students stayed in Monmouth’s Garden Apartments from June 5-18 before moving on to complete the project-based component of their internships in locations from Sandy Hook to Seattle.

On June 10, the IN FISH! students boarded Monmouth’s R/V Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe for a hands-on exploration of Sandy Hook Bay’s chemical and physical properties. Led by Endowed Professor of Marine Science Jason Adolf, the group deployed various technologies to map the seafloor and record the water’s salinity, clarity, and temperature at various depths. The interns split into two groups, rotating between the Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe and the Marine Academy of Science and Technology’s R/V Blue Sea, where they conducted fish trawls and benthic sampling. Urban Coast Institute (UCI) Marine Scientist Jim Nickels and Monmouth University Marine and Environmental Biology and Policy (MEBP) majors Richard Kane, Marie Mauro and Nicholas Occhiogrosso were also aboard assisting with the exercises.

“The students were great. I was struck by the questions they asked and how interested they are in both the science and policy sides of the work,” Adolf said. “Some of them haven’t had the chance to go out on a boat as part of their educational experience before. There were students from big schools and others from smaller schools that don’t have access to these kinds of resources.”

While at Monmouth, the students also toured facilities around the region such as the NOAA James J. Howard Marine Sciences Laboratory, the Cape May/Wildwood commercial fishing port, and the Rutgers University Center for Ocean Observing Leadership to learn from professionals in marine fields.

NOAA internship students with faculty leaning how equipment works from faculty member.

Adolf has helped organize IN FISH! since its inception last year, when it was conducted virtually due to the pandemic. He served as the mentor for Middlebury College student Malia Armstrong, working with her and UCI Postdoctoral Researcher Chris Haak to create a web app that allows users to analyze 15 years of state data on hazardous Enterococcus bacteria levels off New Jersey beaches. Adolf said the project made the data more accessible to the public and easier to see the relationship between heavy rainfalls and bacterial blooms at specific beaches.

While still a young program, IN FISH! has already become highly competitive, with nine applications submitted for each available internship. Among this year’s talent pool Is Monmouth University MEBP major Emily Vasquez, who will complete her internship with mentor Katherine Mills of the Gulf of Maine Research Institute in Portland, Maine.

Monmouth’s participation in IN FISH! is the latest step in its commitment to advance diversity, equity, inclusion and justice on and off campus and through its ocean science and policy programs. Adolf said he anticipates Monmouth will continue to provide its support and partnership in future summers. “It made sense to me from the start that Monmouth University should be a part of IN FISH!,” Adolf said. “It’s a great relationship to have between a federal agency and an educational program and it has an important mission.”

Morocco Lecture Series: A Tale of Two Historic and Inspiring Destinations

By Randall Abate, Rechnitz Family/Urban Coast Institute Endowed Chair in Marine and Environmental Law and Policy

Professor Abate at  Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakesh
Professor Abate at Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakesh

My visit to Cadi Ayyad University’s campuses in Marrakesh and Safi, Morocco, from May 23-29 was divided in content and location. I spent the first two days in bustling Marrakesh, where I delivered lectures on climate change governance and litigation. The next two days were spent in the quaint and historic seaside town of Safi, where I delivered lectures on climate change and ocean governance.

On May 24-25, I delivered two lectures in Marrakesh to master’s and Ph.D. students across many disciplines. The first lecture addressed lessons from COP 26 and current global climate governance challenges and the second lecture addressed standing obstacles in global climate litigation.

The students were so engaged and impressive. Their English speaking skills were outstanding and they asked probing questions on all aspects of the issues. Their enthusiasm was infectious and it reminded why I have been delivering these lectures around the world for the past decade.

Small group photo taken after lecture in Marrakesh in Morocco
Small group photo after lecture on standing in global climate litigation in Marrakesh.

This cross-cultural exchange of ideas isn’t replicable in my teaching and lecturing in the U.S. In these lectures, I feel like I’m part professor and part cultural ambassador to impart and absorb cultural realities than underlie global environmental issues. One’s understanding of these issues is significantly enhanced in a cross-cultural context.

The three-hour drive between Marrakesh and Safi on Wednesday was long and uneventful, and it added to my post-flight fatigue and the challenge of the busy first two days in Marrakesh. But the drive provided rich rewards upon arriving in Safi, with its quaint, historic, and welcoming charm of a small, seaside city.

Coastal view of Safi in Morocco
The quaint and historic coastal city of Safi in Morocco

On May 26-27, I delivered two lectures in Safi to a large gathering of undergraduate students, professors and administrators (including the dean). The first lecture was on my Climate Change and the Voiceless book and the second was on the U.S. position on party status to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Both lectures were part of a major two-day ocean science conference event, which has been hosted by Cadi Ayyad University in Safi for the past several years.

Abate stands in front of lecture hall in Safi during the two-day Ocean Science Forum
Professor Abate in front of lecture hall in Safi during the two-day Ocean Science Forum

I also had the pleasure of judging a moot court exercise on the maritime boundary dispute between China and the Philippines in the South China Sea, which featured several animated undergraduate students playing their advocacy roles very effectively. About half of the undergraduates were proficient in English and those who weren’t were eager to communicate with the assistance of translation from my host, Professor Samira Idllalene. Professor Idllalene delivered an online presentation in a session of the Monmouth University Institute for Global Understanding-UCI Global Ocean Governance Lecture Series last year.

Professor Idlallene did a remarkable job organizing this significant conference event and all of the lectures in my week-long visit to both cities. She also arranged for me to meet with representatives of an NGO on marine archaeology in Safi on May 26. This NGO is interested in partnering with Monmouth on faculty/student exchange and research opportunities on marine archaeology. The NGO has invited me to participate in a coastal governance conference in Safi in the fall.

Additional Links

The 12th century Koutoubia mosque in downtown Marrakesh.
The iconic 12th century Koutoubia mosque in downtown Marrakesh.
Professor Abate poses with 2 master's students who traveled four hours from Casablanca to hear his May 24 lecture in Marrakesh.
Professor Abate poses with two master’s students who traveled four hours away from Casablanca to hear his May 24 lecture in Marrakesh.

Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe Scholars Launch Summer Research Projects

The Urban Coast Institute’s (UCI) Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe Scholars program will provide funding for 10 students and eight faculty members to conduct summer research on topics ranging from the prevalence of home raising and rebuilding in Monmouth County since Hurricane Sandy to which plant species have the best potential for restoring New Jersey’s ghost forests.

The Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe Scholars program supports students and faculty of all disciplines in pursuing their passions for marine and coastal issues through experiential research. The program provides grant opportunities for student researchers and faculty mentors to conduct projects of their own design that advance the Urban Coast Institute’s mission and Monmouth’s Strategic Plan. Each year, the program funds dozens of hands-on research positions that provide real-world experience to students while helping make a positive impact in coastal communities.

In this round, funding was approved for four student-faculty collaborative summer research grants and two faculty enrichment grants. The program also provides support for projects administered through the Monmouth University School of Science Summer Research Program (SRP) that advance the goals and objectives of the UCI. Two SRP projects being conducted by four student researchers will receive UCI grants this summer.

The projects below commenced in May and will continue throughout the summer.

Barnegat Bay Marsh Island Restoration Planning

Student Researcher and Major: Keilan Swanzey and Jagger Turano-Riley, Marine and Environmental Biology and Policy

Faculty Mentor: UCI Associate Director Tom Herrington

The team will work to develop a restoration plan for marsh islands off Long Beach Township in Barnegat Bay that can improve the system’s ecological health and protect nearby communities from flooding, coastal storms and climate threats. The researchers will study effective methods for restoration, conduct fieldwork with Barnegat Bay Partnership and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service personnel, and deploy current meters and other instrumentation in the area of the islands to inform the restoration plan.

Exploring Restoration Strategies for Salt-Flooded Maritime Forests

Student Researcher and Major: Emma Gould, Marine and Environmental Biology and Policy

Faculty Mentor: Professor Pedram Daneshgar, Department of Biology/Marine and Environmental Biology and Policy Program

This research will focus on which native plant species would be best to reintroduce into ecosystems where saltwater intrusion has established ghost forests, and when the optimal time to reintroduce native species would be. Fieldwork will be conducted at Cattus Island County Park in Toms River and Gateway National Park in Sandy Hook to survey which species are growing in ghost forests and healthy forests. Seedlings of those plants will be grown in the Monmouth University greenhouse and undergo experiments to determine their salt tolerance and the best time for them to be reintroduced into ghost forests after a coastal flooding event.

Sea-Level Rise Impacts in Monmouth County, New Jersey: A GIS-Based Analysis of Home Adaptation, Protection, and Elevation Modifications Since Hurricane Sandy (2012)

Student Researcher and Major: Alessandra Conte, Anthropology (M.A.)

Faculty Mentor: Assistant Professor of Geography Geoffrey Fouad, Department of History and Anthropology

This project is a graduate master’s thesis focusing on the response of communities in Monmouth County since Hurricane Sandy in the form of elevating homes to protect against future floods. The project will gather and analyze public records to create a publicly accessible GIS map that visualizes homes that have been raised across the county since the October 2012 storm.

Voice-Assistive Technology for Elderly and Individuals with Complex Cognitive and Communication Needs: Increasing Access to Care for Those Apart of Coastal Communities

Student Researcher and Major: Claire O’Connor, Speech-Language Pathology (M.S.Ed.)

Faculty Mentor: Assistant Professor Yao Du, Department of Speech-Language Pathology

The investigators will recruit two coastal residents (one a senior citizen with mild cognitive deficits and another individual who requires an augmentative and alternative communication device) and examine how they can use the Amazon Alexa technology to access online healthcare services. The study aims to review the efficacy of how assistive technology can promote independence remotely in individuals of vulnerable populations, explore the limitations of accessing healthcare when living in coastal areas, and how assistive technology can be modified for access to healthcare.

Faculty Enrichment Grant Projects

Ecotherapy: Taking it into Practice

Faculty Researcher: Associate Professor Megan Delaney, Chair, Department of Professional Counseling

Student Researcher: Marielle Spero (graduate research assistant), Department of Professional Counseling

The study seeks to explore the utilization of ecotherapy practices of counselors previously enrolled in an ecotherapy course and how the concepts and tenets explored and experienced in class shape emerging counselor identity. Participants of this study will be graduates of the Monmouth University Professional Counseling program and former students of the ecotherapy class.

Superstorm Sandy and Monmouth County 10th Anniversary Interviews

Faculty Researcher: Specialist Professor of Public History Melissa Ziobro, Department of History and Anthropology

Oral history interviews will be conducted with 20-25 narrators from Monmouth County coastal communities, with particular attention paid to factors that influenced decisions on whether or not to raise or rebuild their homes. The interview transcripts will be made publicly available, including through their addition to the Monmouth University libguide Tracking Sandy: Monmouth County Remembers.

School of Science Summer Research Projects

Harmful Algal Blooms in Monmouth County Coastal Lakes

Student Researchers and Majors: Marie Mauro and Nicholas Occhiogrosso, Marine and Environmental Biology and Policy

Faculty Mentor: Endowed Professor of Marine Science Jason Adolf, Department of Biology/Marine and Environmental Biology and Policy Program

This project will build on research that started in 2018 on the prevalence and causes of harmful algal blooms in Monmouth County’s coastal lakes, including citizen science water quality monitoring work conducted through the Coastal Lake Observing Network (CLONet). Students will focus on (1) determining the diurnal cycle of dissolved oxygen in coastal lakes, and (2) the impacts of coastal lakes on ocean beach water quality this year.

Reptile and Amphibian Ecology and Conservation in Urbanized and Suburbanized Ecosystems

Student Researchers and Majors: Adriana Simancas and Christopher Meehan, Marine and Environmental Biology and Policy

Faculty Mentor: Assistant Professor of Wildlife Ecology Sean Sterrett, Department of Biology/Marine and Environmental Biology and Policy Program

The team will study the persistence of reptiles and amphibians in areas heavily developed by humans through activities including surveys of turtle populations in Monmouth County’s coastal lakes and experiments with the use of drone technologies to detect and estimate their populations. More specifically, students will be contributing to three projects around this theme: 1) long-term data collection of turtle population dynamics in Lake Takanassee; 2) assessing the relative abundance of the non-native red-eared slider in coastal lakes and evaluating its competitive advantage on native turtles; and 3) developing methods for measuring carapace length and determining sex of diamond-backed terrapins from drone images. 

Fall Funding Opportunities

Monmouth University students and faculty are invited to apply now for fall Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe Scholars funding opportunities. Fall grants available include:

  • Faculty Enrichment Grants for the enhancement of existing curriculum, new curriculum development, research and scholarship, and team-teaching opportunities. Proposals will be accepted through Aug. 12, 2022.
  • Mini-Grants are also available to faculty and students for conference fees, symposia, guest speaker honoraria, equipment and supplies, and other needs to be determined on a case-by-case-basis. Applications can be submitted at any time and are reviewed on a rolling basis.

Those interested may apply via the UCI Funding Opportunities page on the MyMU Portal (Monmouth University sign-in credentials required). For more information, contact UCI Associate Director Thomas Herrington at

These opportunities have been made possible through the generous support of many corporate and private donors. If you would like to make a tax-deductible gift to the UCI, please use our Give a Gift Now form.