Graduate Research Fellowship

The National Estuarine Research Reserve System funds a Graduate Research Fellowship (GRF) program through the 27 National Estuarine Research Reserves. This program provides master's degree students and Ph.D. candidates with an opportunity to conduct research of local and national significance that focuses on enhancing coastal zone management. Fellows conduct their research within a National Estuarine Research Reserve and gain hands-on experience by participating in their host reserve's research and monitoring programs for 15 hours per week. Graduate Research Fellowship projects are based on the reserves' local needs, the reserve system's national priorities and the students' interest. These fellowships provide the student with a stipend of $20,000 per year, and can be funded for up to three years. Each reserve can have a maximum of two GRFs at any one time.​​

For more information about deadlines and applying, please visit: 

Note: The Graduate Research Fellowship Program is not offering Fellowship opportunities for 2013. Stay tuned for future information regarding the program.

Current Graduate Research Fellow

Jennifer Bryan, M.S. CandidateJennifer Bryan

Jug Bay Component, 2011 – 2013
University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
Environmental Sciences Graduate Program

Abstract. There is a scarcity of data documenting the impact of sea level rise for tidal freshwater marshes such as the Jug Bay component of the Maryland Chesapeake Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. Studies in salt marsh ecosystems have proposed that a dynamic equilibrium between vegetation and sediment capture facilitates the capacity for many marsh platforms to respond and adjust to current rates of sea level rise. However, these hypotheses have not been tested in freshwater tidal systems. While sea level rise in freshwater wetlands may also be accompanied by changes in salinity, I propose focusing on how increased inundation affects one important species widely distributed at the Jug Bay NERR. Wild rice (Zizania aquatica) populations have been under management at Jug Bay since the 1990’s due to extensive herbivory by Branta Canadensis and subsequent restoration efforts. Here I propose using Z. aquatica planted in experimental “marsh organs” that manipulate inundation levels while facilitating measurements of morphology, biomass, and sediment capture. I will use existing NERR surface elevation table (SET) data, historic mean sea-level rise data, and available LiDAR imagery to design and site the marsh organ structures. Sedimentation devices, such as net sediment tiles and filter pads, will be installed near the marsh organs to collect data for a sediment capture model.

Plant morphology, depth, velocity, water quality parameters, and sedimentation data will be collected throughout the growing season in the marsh organs and control plots. The second research year will include more intensive measurements of belowground biomass throughout the growing season and model simulations. Maps identifying Z. aquatica populations at risk from SLR, and model output regarding feedbacks related to the changes in plant morphology associated with SLR will inform reserve manager decision-making regarding Z. aquatica conservation and restoration to maintain biodiversity and ecosystem services in Jug Bay.