Doctoral Student from Biological Sciences Selected for Acclaimed NOAA Fellowship

Desktop News | January 2023

Jake Dybiec, a biological sciences doctoral student, has obtained a paid fellowship from the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, an institution under the purview of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  

The fellowship will cover Dybiec’s rent and living expenses for the next two years, thus relieving him of teaching duties for these years. 

For 18 months starting from September 2022, Dybiec will be engaging in intensive fieldwork at Weekes Bay in Fairhope, Alabama. In Weekes Bay, Dybiec will be doing research on eutrophication in estuaries and exploring its impact on agriculture reserves in Alabama. 

Inspired by his hometown, Cleveland, Ohio, Dybiec’s Ph.D. research focuses on “how different changes in the environment can affect how wetland plants interact with each other” and how the loss of these wetlands due to nutrient enrichment, erosions, and other stressors affects ecosystems or estuaries that act as interfaces between the land and the sea. This unique strain of doctoral research bears similarity to the NOAA-funded project he will be doing at Weekes Bay. 

The fellowship will help Dybiec advance in his academic research, gain practical experience in his field through close-up interactions with community members and field workers, and eventually produce societally transformative results. 

“NOAA does great research, a lot of nongovernmental organizations, they do a lot of research,” Dybiec said. “So, I’m hoping by working with people who work with the general public a lot more than we do here at UA that I can learn how to better convey my ideas in a way that can hopefully lead to some broader societal changes.” 

Dybiec also hopes to develop his professional skills during the fellowship. As he noted, his area of study is interdisciplinary and requires interactions with people from different types of organizations and of a wide array of academic backgrounds. 

“There are a lot of national meetings that I’m required to attend, to meet with other fellows, and talk about my research with other professionals,” said Dybiec. “I want to learn how to work with professionals outside of academia, how to develop a professional network, how to talk about science to people who are stakeholders, but not necessarily scientists, and how you come up with collaborative ideas with people that then become science which then hopefully become action.”  

Dybiec attributed his success with obtaining the fellowship to his departmental advisor Julia Cherry who linked him to the opportunity, helped him with his fellowship proposal, and has generally been integral to helping him “understand and talk about the broader societal implications of his work” in professional settings. 

Dybiec hopes that the fellowship will put into perspective many of the lessons he has picked up from working with Dr. Cherry and will subsequently help him discover the specific career path he wants to pursue after completing his Ph.D.