August 1, 2017

Counting fish and mapping eelgrass, MIT Sea Grant's three 2016 NOAA Hollings Scholars

MIT Sea Grant’s three NOAA Hollings Scholars will present their research at NOAA’s headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland this week.

The Hollings Scholarship program and MIT Sea Grant provided the students with an opportunity to pursue their interests, gain valuable educational and professional experiences, while contributing to solving issues of importance to NOAA and its stakeholders. With its focus on research, education, and stakeholder engagement, the Sea Grant Program is a natural host for Hollings Scholars.

Scott Nesbit, a rising environmental geography senior at University of Wisconsin Eau Claire, worked with MIT Sea Grant coastal ecologist Julie Simpson mapping eelgrass beds using unmanned aerial systems, more commonly known as drones. Nesbit took his previous experience using drones to map terrestrial habitats and applied it to the marine environment, tackling new challenges such as tidal cycles and sun glint on water, as well as feasibility issues including proximity to public and private airports. His final products included a step by step guide for using drones to map eelgrass for researchers and regulators hoping to capitalize on this cost saving tool, as well as a comparison of the different software products that exist to automate analysis of the aerial imagery. Read more about Scott’s research and his time at MIT Sea Grant.

“Working at MIT Sea Grant has provided me with a whole host of opportunities that I never would have had back in my home state of Wisconsin. The ability to work on research on my own, taking my base knowledge, coming here, tackling a problem, and being able to work through it and have to fight, and do my own research, do my own testing, talk with colleagues, try to figure out what works best. All that just gives me the confidence I will need once I get out in the real world and get a job.”
– Scott Nesbit, 2016 NOAA Hollings Scholar, after his 10 week internship at MIT Sea Grant.

Tzofi Klinghoffer, a rising computer science senior at University of Alabama and Caleb Perez, a rising bioengineering senior at University of Washington worked with MIT Sea Grant Marine Advisory Lead and coastal ecologist, Rob Vincent this summer to develop new technological solutions to monitoring fish populations. Klinghoffer's research focused on using image recognition to count river herring and scallops populations. Perez’s initial research focus was on using electrical fields and probes to detect fish populations, however, when it became clear that the electrical fields emitted by the fish were too weak for this application Perez and Klinghoffer collaborated on mimicking the secondary sensor application to image recognition, providing a stronger product and increasing the value of the technology for stakeholders and the Hollings Scholarship experience for the two Scholars. The technology being developed by these two Hollings Scholars at MIT Sea Grant is of great interest to NOAA, state, and local fisheries managers, streamlining the process, reducing time, cost, and resource requirements, and improving accuracy. Once complete, this technology will be made available for use by NOAA and other interested parties. Read more about Tzofi and Caleb’s research and their time at MIT Sea Grant here.

MIT Sea Grant was lucky to have such exceptional and dedicated students this summer. All three students plan to continue their research with their Sea Grant mentors and we hope to see more of what they have to offer soon!

The NOAA Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship places undergraduate students in programs across the country to gain hands-on research experience working with a NOAA mentor during a 10 week paid summer internship. In addition to the internship, students are given two years of tuition assistance. Student can apply to be a Hollings Scholar in the fall of their sophomore year. For more information oh how to apply go to NOAA Hollings Scholarship.


2016 NOAA Hollings Scholar Scott Nesbit. Read more about his research.