December 15, 2009
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Anne Marie Eich, Ph.D., has become the first University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) student to earn the highly competitive John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship from the National Sea Grant, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The Sea Grant Knauss Fellowship places graduate students with extensive field-research experience in positions with the federal agencies that establish and enforce national policies affecting the natural resources connected to the country's oceans, coastal regions and Great Lakes.
Eich, a native of Tuscaloosa, is the first fellowship recipient from UAB and also the only one from Alabama or Mississippi in 2009. Hundreds of fellowship applications from universities in the 32 National Sea Grant states were considered, and 51 students were granted fellowships.
"I have chased the Knauss Fellowship since first learning about it as a master's student and am so proud to have finally captured it with the help and hard work of my professors and advisers here at UAB," Eich said.
Through the fellowship, the 29-year-old will spend one year working as a Fish and Wildlife Biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. She will be stationed at offices along the Atlantic Coast in Virginia and will begin her work in February 2010.
"I will be a liaison between field researchers and the service's managers who are responsible for the country's wildlife policies," Eich said. "The experience will help me decide if my future will be in research or as a representative of a federal wildlife or conservation agency."
Eich said her five years of high-profile work as a research assistant in the UAB Department of Biology made her a prime candidate for the Fish and Wildlife Service position and helped secure her fellowship win. She studied the conservation efforts to save the Kemp's ridley sea turtle in the Rancho Nuevo community along the Mexican coast. The Kemp's ridley was long the most endangered sea turtle in the world before conservation efforts began in the 1970s.
"My research with the Kemp's ridley consisted of tracking the species' recovery and working to identify the predators that most threaten the population's future expansion," Eich said.
Thane Wibbels, Ph.D., a UAB professor of biology, said Eich "worked night after night using cameras with motion detectors to catalog the predators that are threatening the Kemp's ridley.
"If you only consider all those sleepless night tracking coyotes, skunks and raccoons, she has definitely earned this fellowship," Wibbels said. "But her research was certainly so much more involved and has meant so much to the survival of the Kemp's Ridley sea turtle."
Eich formally completed her research and course work in December 2009 and received her Ph.D. from UAB during the university's doctoral hooding ceremony Dec. 12.
Anne Marie Eich. Download image.
The UAB Department of Biology is a dynamic academic partnership that provides a broad-based graduate and undergraduate curriculum. Most members of the graduate faculty have research specialties in comparative biochemistry, physiology and eco-physiology of aquatic organisms. A second, important department research focus is environmental microbiology.