Florida Tech Graduate Student in Biological Oceanography Receives SOBAC Fellowship

MELBOURNE, FLA.—Xiao Ma, a master’s student in biological oceanography at Florida Institute of Technology, Department of Marine and Environmental Systems (DMES), was recently awarded a fellowship from the Save Our Bay, Air and Canals/Waterways (SOBAC) Endowed Fellowship Fund. Advised by Kevin Johnson, DMES associate professor, Ma expects to graduate in

May 2014. She will receive over $1,300 in fellowship funds for her winning essay, “Copepods: A Crucial Component of Marine Environmental Protection.”

Ma is originally from the capital city of Xining City of the Qinghai Province, in northwest China. In 2012, she earned her bachelor’s degree in marine biology from the Xiamen University in the Fujian Province just over 1,300 miles south of Beijing.

“This is the first time I’ve ever received a fellowship and I’m so thankful to SOBAC for this opportunity,” said Ma. “I plan to use my award towards purchasing a projector and a chamber for my experiments.”

Ma is researching zooplankton ecology focusing on the phototaxis of small marine or freshwater crustaceans called copepods, and their observed behavior under different lights. The third recipient of the SOBAC fellowship, she plans on pursuing a doctorate in biological oceanography in the future.

The first SOBAC fellowship was awarded in 2011 to Jayden Roberts and to Holly Sweat in 2012.

Before it was dissolved in 2006, SOBAC was a nonprofit, citizen-based volunteer organization initially formed in 1999 to question placing the world’s largest desalination plant on the Tampa Bay Estuary. SOBAC experts put on record the organization’s many environmental concerns regarding the plant’s potential effect on water quality. The organization tackled other issues as well, which met their goals to preserve, protect and improve both air and water quality throughout the Tampa Bay region.

A DMES alumnus who was active with SOBAC suggested that the funds remaining in the SOBAC account be used to create a fellowship. With SOBAC’s initial gift of $21,661 to Florida Tech, an endowment fund was established in 2006 to assist graduate students in their studies of air and water quality.

Donations can be made to the SOBAC Endowed Fellowship Fund by calling the Florida Institute of Technology Office of Development at (321) 674-8962, or writing to the office at 150 W. University Blvd., Melbourne, Fla., 32901.

Florida Tech’s marine science program is part of the DMES. The department offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in coastal zone management, earth remote sensing, environmental science, environmental resource management, meteorology, ocean engineering and oceanography.

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