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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.

Prof. Abate to Deliver Lectures in Italy, Denmark and Finland

Rechnitz Family/Urban Coast Institute (UCI) Endowed Chair in Marine and Environmental Law and Policy Randall Abate will take Monmouth University worldwide in the coming weeks through a series of invited speaking engagements hosted by European universities.

Photo of Randall AbateAbate will deliver a May 31 presentation at the University of Eastern Piedmont (Italy) during a “Climate Change and the Protection of Future Generations and Biodiversity” panel event (see event poster). Also at the university on June 6, Abate will deliver a lecture on “Standing in Global Climate Litigation in the U.S. and Canada.”

Next Abate will deliver the June 13 lecture “Standing in Global Climate Litigation: Learning from Best Practices” at the University of Copenhagen Faculty of Law (Denmark). He will follow with a podcast interview on “The Climate Show,” co-hosted by Associate Professor on Environmental and Climate Change Law Beatriz Martinez Romera, who served as a panelist on last year’s Monmouth University Institute for Global Understanding-UCI webinar “Global Perspectives on Adapting Marine Shipping Governance and Maritime Sovereignty to Respond to Climate Change.” Abate will serve as a visiting scholar at the university from June 13-15.

On June 16, Abate will deliver a keynote lecture at a University of Helsinki Law School (Finland) event centered on his book “Climate Change and the Voiceless.” Abate’s talk will be followed by lectures from four legal scholars on topics related to the book: The event will be held in a hybrid format and members of the public may register to view it online.

Watch: League of Women Voters Interview with Prof. Adolf on Health of Coastal Lakes

The League of Women Voters of Southern Monmouth County interviewed Monmouth University Endowed Professor of Marine Science Jason Adolf in the May 5 episode of its “Facts & Issues” public access television series. Host Marie Curtis and Adolf discussed the degradation of Monmouth County’s coastal lakes and opportunities for the public to help by monitoring the waters as a volunteer with the Coastal Lakes Observing Network.

Monmouth’s Ajmera Serves on Closing Panel of Mid-Atlantic Ocean Forum

Riya Ajmera

Riya Ajmera answers a question at the Mid-Atlantic Forum on May 6.

Monmouth University’s Riya Ajmera provided a first-ever student perspective on the closing panel of the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Forum, hosted May 5-6 by the Mid-Atlantic Committee on the Ocean (MACO). The annual event gathers hundreds of professionals and stakeholders representing federal and state agencies, Tribal entities, marine industries, nonprofit research and advocacy organizations, and the public to collaborate on ocean planning issues.

In the video below, Ajmera shared her takeaways from the two-day event’s proceedings in a conversation with fellow panelists Mike Jones, environmental outreach program manager, U. S. Fleet Forces Command/U. S. Navy; Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean Chair Kimberly Cole; MACO Tribal Lead Kelsey Leonard of the Shinnecock Indian Nation; Emily Shumchenia, director of the Regional Wildlife Science Collaborative for Offshore Wind; Jerry Barnes, marine affairs manager for Dominion Energy’s Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project; and Healthy Ocean Coalition Executive Director Sarah Winter Whelan.

A rising senior majoring in Chemistry with a Concentration in Biochemistry/Minor in Journalism, Ajmera authored a white paper in the fall that examined the nature and scope of risks to marine environments posed by offshore wind farm development in the Mid-Atlantic and science-based policy options that can mitigate harm to marine species and promote marine biodiversity. Her research was conducted with support from the Urban Coast Institute’s (UCI) Heidi Lynn Sculthorpe Scholars Program and guidance from Rechnitz Family/UCI Endowed Chair in Marine and Environmental Law and Policy Randall Abate.

Monmouth Presenters at Forum

The Forum panels had several additional Monmouth connections, with presentations by alumna Tatiana Castro, UCI Postdoctoral Researcher Chris Haak and UCI Communications Director Karl Vilacoba. UCI Director Tony MacDonald also served as a facilitator throughout the event.

Castro and Haak

Tatiana Castro (top) and Chris Haak speak at the Forum.

Castro, who graduated with a B.S. in Marine and Environmental Biology and Policy in 2016, detailed her efforts with the nonprofit Billion Oyster Project to restore oyster reefs in New York Harbor during a poster session highlighting the work of early career professionals and students. Click here to watch a video of her presentation and here to view a PDF of her poster file.

Haak and Vilacoba both served on the Forum’s “Sustainable Ocean Ecosystems” panel (click here for video). Haak provided a presentation on fisheries habitat modeling research he is conducting with the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Vilacoba, who serves as project manager for the Mid-Atlantic Ocean Data Portal, offered a glimpse of new and upcoming GIS maps on the site that depict marine life distributions and habitats.

For more information on the Forum, including a full list of panel videos and presentation files, click here.

Monmouth Receives Federal Funds to Improve Coastal Resilience in Naval Weapons Station Earle and Socially Vulnerable N.J. Communities

The Monmouth University Urban Coast Institute (UCI) will receive federal funding for two projects that bolster resilience to extreme coastal storm and flooding events in Naval Weapon Station (NWS) Earle and its surrounding communities and help economically disadvantaged New Jersey municipalities improve their resilience and readiness for climate threats. The Community Project Funding was included in the $1.5 trillion fiscal year 2022 government appropriations bill signed into law in March.

NWS Earle

A military vessel docked at the Naval Weapons Station Earle pier.

Rep. Frank Pallone secured $450,000 as part of the Department of Defense (DOD) appropriations for the NWS Earle project, which will be led by UCI Associate Director and New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium Resilient Communities and Economies Specialist Thomas Herrington. The project will build upon a 2019 Raritan/Sandy Hook Bay Coastal Resilience Planning Study conducted by Monmouth County and the DOD that created 11 concept plans for projects that would improve resilience in and around NWS Earle, including steps to address worsening bayfront erosion that could jeopardize the long-term operation and safety of the installation’s pier, facilities, and navigational channels.

The funding will advance one or more of the highest-priority projects through the design and engineering phases needed to make them shovel-ready. The project team is expected to include Monmouth University faculty and students, NWS Earle, and other partners involved in the 2019 study.

“We know the climate crisis is here and that sea level rise threatens the Jersey Shore and coastal communities across the country,” Pallone said. “This is exactly why I fought for federal funding to strengthen coastal resilience along the Shore, including the Bayshore communities, so that we can protect them from major weather events and flooding. This funding will enable cutting-edge research at Monmouth University to help us better understand how we can bolster our state’s defense against the effects of the climate crisis. I’m grateful for the work our scientists and engineers are doing to advance this important cause and look forward to seeing their conclusions.”

The second project, secured by Sen. Cory Booker and supported by Sen. Robert Menendez, will receive $460,000 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for the UCI to partner with local leaders and stakeholders in overburdened communities and planning and resource experts to produce climate adaptation plans that foster equitable community resilience. Herrington will lead a project team that works with selected municipalities from Atlantic, Camden, Cumberland, Essex, Middlesex, and Union counties that express interest in receiving planning assistance.

The project will pilot methods for engaging stakeholders in socially vulnerable communities, who are often difficult to reach in planning processes. To overcome these barriers, the team will use collaborative approaches that aid in engaging all community members, including providing compensation for participants’ time and scheduling meetings at hours favored by residents. The community-centric engagement and planning process will develop resilience and adaption plans that can serve as a model for disadvantaged and environmental justice communities throughout the state.

“Research has shown that communities of color and those with limited economic means have borne a disproportionate share of the brunt of coastal hazards caused by climate change, such as sea level rise and chronic flooding,” Herrington said. “This project will ensure that the participating towns have access to the resources they need to plan for the future and provide residents a greater voice in the process.”

“The fact that climate change disproportionately impacts Black and Brown communities as well as underserved populations must be taken into account as we work to build more resilient infrastructure,” Booker said. “This project from Monmouth University will foster collaboration between researchers and environmental justice communities to develop future plans to mitigate the effects of climate change. I was proud to support the federal funding that made this initiative possible and look forward to seeing the results it produces.”

“At Monmouth, we feel a strong responsibility to be a force for positive economic, cultural, and social development in our communities. Higher education institutions should seek ways to partner with other local enterprises and social service organizations to improve communities, and these two projects exemplify this commitment perfectly,” Monmouth University President Patrick Leahy said. “We are extremely grateful for the confidence in our capacity for delivering science-based solutions to resiliency issues that affect the safety and quality of life of our neighbors.”

The federally funded projects are being managed through the UCI’s Coastal Community Resilience Initiative (CCRI). The CCRI focuses on providing community resilience and planning support for disadvantaged communities, promoting the development of natural features and green infrastructure to improve the resilience of communities and ecosystems, and working with other Monmouth University partners and outside experts to advance elements of the New Jersey Coastal Resilience Plan.

Student Q&A: Najd and Rankl on Launch of Love Blue Monmouth Chapter

Evan Rankl and Mia NajdMonmouth University students Mia Njad and Evan Rankl are forming a Monmouth chapter of Love Blue, a nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting oceans through community outreach and beach cleanups. The group, which is currently in the process of obtaining club recognition by the University, has begun its work of planning student-led beach sweeps along the Jersey Shore. Its next will be held at 11 a.m. on April 24 at Seven Presidents Park’s beach in Long Branch.

We caught up with Njad and Rankl, the chapter’s president and vice-president, to learn more about Love Blue and their plans for the group on campus. To get in touch or for more information, visit the Love Blue Monmouth Chapter on Instagram at @lovebluemonmouth.

 Student name, year and major:

  • Mia Najd, junior, marine and environmental biology and policy major
  • Evan Rankl, junior, finance and real estate major

Q: What drew you to get involved with Love Blue and organize a chapter here at Monmouth?

Our first knowledge of Love Blue was in the fall 2021 semester, when Nick Olson with Love Blue Stockton came up and coordinated a cleanup with two Monmouth clubs. That day, hearing them talk about what an exploding organization Love Blue is and getting to be a part of such a special movement was an eye-opening experience. Immediately we felt like there was no reason for Monmouth to not have our own Love Blue. Being a mile from the beach, tons of Monmouth students utilize the area, which makes it our responsibility to keep it clean and beautiful. It’s a great group of people with great potential and an even greater cause!

Q: What are your hopes for the Monmouth chapter of Love Blue? What types of activities do you expect to offer or be involved in?

Our hopes are to continue to grow our presence throughout the school and make a big impact in the amount of trash that Love Blue has taken off our beaches. The most important activity that we aim to offer are regularly scheduled beach cleanups with various campus groups. We are excited to work closely with the Urban Coast Institute and all of the resources that Monmouth has to offer. Love Blue is a certified (501 c3) nonprofit organization, so we also hope to hold some fun and creative fundraisers as well as get community businesses involved through our Seal of Support. Students can also get excited about leadership opportunities!

Q: Are you seeking members or volunteers? How can others get involved?

Absolutely! We encourage as many people to come out as possible. If you are a Monmouth student looking to become a member, give @lovebluemonmouth a follow on Instagram to stay up to date on the next meeting or cleanup. If you want to be more involved with Love Blue Inc. as a whole volunteers, you can check out to see all of the locations that you can get involved at as well as ways to donate!

Q: What is your ocean story?

We both grew up with a certain love and appreciation for the beach and its wonders:

NAJD: A particular moment that cemented my love for the beach and marine life was during one of our summers in South Carolina when we found a stranded baby sea turtle stuck in the dune grass. That night under the moonlight we safely stood behind and watched as it made its way to the water. We learned that South Carolina does a great job of making sure that residents’ outdoor lights must be colored red or facing down and away from the water so as to not confuse the sea turtles that are trying to follow the moonlight. Memories like that are always so special and fulfilling and make me excited for my future in marine science.

RANKL: My memorable story is from when I was younger going to the local beach state park in Florida, called Stump Pass, with my mom. We would go around and pick up garbage and enjoy the beautiful views. In Florida, taking care of the beach was always taught from a young age in elementary school. My parents always taught me to care for the ecosystems. I hope to bring that same importance to New Jersey beaches too!

MacDonald, Abate to Attend U.N. Ocean Conference in Portugal

U.N. Ocean Conference logoThe Urban Coast Institute (UCI) has been granted special accreditation for the 2022 U.N. Ocean Conference, to be held in Lisbon, Portugal, from June 27 to July 1. UCI Director Tony MacDonald and Rechnitz Family/UCI Endowed Chair of Marine and Environmental Law and Policy Randall Abate will attend the event and participate in its proceedings.

Co-hosted by the governments of Kenya and Portugal, the conference seeks to “propel science-based, innovative solutions aimed at starting a new chapter of global ocean action,” according to its website. Member states are expected to adopt a declaration to implement and facilitate the protection and conservation of the ocean and its resources. Stakeholders from governments, businesses and civil society are also expected to make commitments to address ocean-related issues affecting their communities, countries and beyond.

The conference will focus on eight thematic dialogues: marine pollution; ocean acidification; deoxygenation; ocean warming; sustainable fisheries and other ocean-based economies; scientific knowledge; marine technology; and the international legal framework for the conservation and sustainable use of the ocean and its resources. Participants will review the opportunities and challenges in these areas with the ambition to advance commitments and action on wide-ranging ocean issues. A report from the relevant chairs is expected at the end of the conference.

“The purpose of the conference is to bring governments, experts and civil society groups together to advance UN Sustainable Development Goal 14 to ‘conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources.’ While this conference will focus on a global context, it is recognized that actual implementation requires actions at the national and local levels,” MacDonald said. “Nothing could be more relevant to the UCI, which is committed to reversing the deterioration of coastal waters caused by pollution and impacts of climate change, and sustainable management of ocean resources.”

He added that Monmouth students and other young people have a unique role to play to assure that decisions made by governments today will protect the oceans for their future.

“Professor Abate and I hope to bring back lessons learned and engage students with the UCI and Monmouth’s other U.N.-focused activities and programs, including the Institute for Global Understanding, U.N. Academic Impact, the U.N. Framework Convention for Climate Change, and the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development,” MacDonald said.

In the fall, MacDonald and Abate participated as official observers at the 26th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26), held in Glasgow, Scotland. Over 40,000 representatives of world governments, industries, advocacy organizations, scientific and policy bodies, and other interests gathered to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change. MacDonald and Abate shared their insights from the proceedings on a COP26 Trip Journal and a subsequent webinar.

MacDonald also serves as a member of the U.S. National Committee for the U.N. Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. The committee encourages diverse and cross-sectoral participation, convenes activities and serve as a communication channel for the U.S. ocean science community regarding national and U.N. Decade events.

The Ocean Conference will be the second held by the U.N., with the first having been in New York City in 2017.