Marine Biology major is among this year’s Goldwater Scholars

Maybe glacier hiking was in the stars for UO marine biology student Jenna Travers.

Spending part of her childhood on the Alaskan coast, thanks to her father’s work in the United States Coast Guard, sparked a lifelong interest in glaciers and salmon. She spent three years each in Sitka and Juneau before moving to Astoria.

Now his pursuit of a degree in marine biology is being spurred by a scholarship from the Goldwater Foundation, named after former U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona. The foundation awards undergraduate scholarships of up to $7,500 to sophomores and juniors who intend to pursue research careers in the natural sciences, mathematics, or engineering.

The 417 winners of this year’s Goldwater Scholarship come from a pool of 1,242 students nominated by 433 institutions.

Travers, a junior at Clark Honors College, studies the link between climate change and how public policy shapes salmon issues in the Pacific Northwest.

“I’m not only looking at how glacial retreat will affect salmon populations, but also how glacial retreat and the resulting salmon decline will affect communities that depend on these resources,” said Travers, who will graduate in 2023.

“My thesis, which I’m defending this month, is about the science communication of this issue,” she said. “So I’m looking at how the overlapping climate issues of retreating glaciers and declining salmon are being framed by different stakeholders and how that might affect public perception of the issues, reactions to policies and willingness to participate in action. climate.”

When she came to the UO, Travers thought she would go into environmental law. But she soon realized she wanted to work on marine biology research to shape law and policy rather than become an environmental lawyer.

“I really missed my high school STEM classes, so I changed majors to marine biology and added a minor in legal studies,” she said. “Without strong environmental policies like the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, the courts would be utterly incapable of addressing environmental issues.”

The Marine Biology major also pursues three minors, in Legal Studies, Science Communication, and Geography. This type of interdisciplinary work is supported by the Environment Initiative, an effort to encourage experiential learning and research across multiple departments and colleges to find solutions to climate change and environmental issues.

“Coming from Astoria and having grown up in fishing towns in Alaska, I really want to work on fisheries and salmon management and restoration, so that’s my goal for the future,” Travers said. “Many populations in the Pacific Northwest are in crisis, threatened with extinction, and salmon are incredibly vital to the region’s economy, ecosystems and culture.”

She hopes the science communication minor will help her create more community-focused management strategies that include stakeholders in conservation plans that work for everyone.

Travers is preparing for a summer of glacier hiking in the North Cascades as part of her studies with OU’s Glacier Lab. The lab is a diverse group of graduate and undergraduate students studying the societal aspects of glaciers, icebergs, and snow around the world.

This will be Travers’ first chance to get out on the glaciers, which were previously in lockdown due to COVID-19.

“I’m going to be doing some field work this summer and not only hiking the glaciers but also measuring their retreat and other features about them, so I’m really excited for that,” she said. .

By Emmily Bristol, Provost’s Office

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