Two Students Receive Hollings Scholarships

Two undergraduates within the Honors College at the College of Charleston have received coveted oceanic and atmospheric research scholarships.

hollings-hirshKacey Hirshfeld and James Peyla were named 2016 Hollings Scholars by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The Ernest F. Hollings Scholarship is named in honor of the former governor and U.S. senator from South Carolina. Beyond providing financial assistance for two academic years, the Hollings Scholarship also allows students to work in a NOAA lab over a summer.

For Hirshfeld, a love of marine biology began in elementary school when she was introduced to sea turtles. “Since then,” she says, “I’ve maintained that interest and also expanded heavily into the conservation facet of marine biology. After college (and graduate school) I want to do something that combines conservation-based research and outreach. I’m really looking forward to the NOAA internship to expose me to new research topics, hopefully conservation related and ideally with sea turtles. The Hollings Scholarship is a great opportunity for me to partake in intensive research, make connections with people in my field, and be able to present my research to other marine biologists and the scientists at NOAA.”

Hirshfeld has been collaborating with biology professor Craig Plante this year to analyze native benthic microalgal communities in a cove near Grice Marine Laboratory, as well as the greater Charleston area.

This research has been really great for me,” says Hirshfeld. “Dr. Plante has been a great mentor and I’ve really enjoyed being involved in a hands-on application of my major. Research is a big part of my career goals and I’m happy to have had the opportunity to do it while at CofC.”

Returning the compliment, Plante credits Hirshfeld as a standout student.

“Although she’s only a sophomore, she’s very confident in herself,” says Plante. “That confidence, combined with some research experience she gained as a high schooler, has allowed her to work in my lab quite independently already.  Of course, she’s also very sharp, so she picks up new methods and concepts quickly.  I have no doubt that she’ll do very well as a Hollings Scholar.”

hollings-peylaPeyla, meanwhile, hopes the Hollings scholarship might allow him to further study cephalopods, or at least some type of ocean invertebrate.

Specifically, Peyla says he would like to research “all aspects of the biology of cephalopod mollusks (octopus, squid, cuttlefish, and nautilus), especially their ecology, evolution, physiology, and behavior.”

Peyla, who is a William Aiken Fellow within the Honors College, credits his research experience in the lab of Dr. Robert Podolsky as a crucial reason he received the Hollings Scholarship.

“Dr. Podolsky has been an amazing mentor: he not only challenges me to think critically, but he encourages me to pursue my own interests and projects,” says Peyla. “Currently I am engaged in an independent research project involving the distribution of the Atlantic brief squid (Lolliguncula brevis) in the coastal and estuarine waters of South Carolina.”

Hirshfeld and Peyla follow in the footsteps of Morgan Larimerand Sarah Kate Shore, two William Aiken Fellows in the Honors College who were awarded Hollings Scholarships in 2015.

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