Margaret A. Davidson Fellowship

The 2023 application period is open. 

Informational Webinar 9/7/23

About the fellowship

The Margaret A. Davidson Graduate Fellowship is a program through NOAA's Office for Coastal Management that will provide funding to graduate students admitted to or enrolled in a master’s or PhD program to conduct estuarine research within one of the National Estuarine Research Reserves. Through a research project, fellows address a key reserve management need to help scientists and communities understand coastal challenges that may influence future policy and management strategies.

One two-year fellowship opportunity will be available at the each of the 29 National Estuarine Research Reserves, including the North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve (NC NERR), which includes Currituck Banks, Rachel Carson, Masonboro Island, and Zeke’s Island reserve sites. 

Fellowship benefits include:

  • The ability to develop meaningful cross-discipline research projects in conjunction with scientists, community leaders, and other organizations.
  • Networking opportunities with the annual fellowship class of 29, plus the other professionals across the reserve system, NOAA, and community partners.
  • Professional guidance and mentoring in a variety of disciplines, including facilitation and communication. Fellows will also have quarterly career-readiness training.
  • The development of research partnerships between universities and reserves.

Current Fellow (2022-2024): Daniel Bowling

Interested students are encouraged to explore the management priorities (listed below) and discuss potential projects with Justin Ridge, the NCNERR research coordinator.

The next fellowship class will begin in summer of 2024.

Information Webinar hosted by the N.C. Coastal Reserve

September 7th from 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM EST. Register here.


Eligible applicants must be U.S. citizens admitted to or enrolled in a full-time graduate program at a U.S. accredited college or university, working to obtain a master’s or doctoral degree. Applicants must plan to be enrolled for all of the first year, and the majority of the second year, of funding.


Summer 2023 - Call for applications

December 4, 2023 - Applications due

May/June 2024 - Recommended students notified 

August 1, 2024 - Fellowship begins


About Margaret A. Davidson 

This fellowship honors the legacy of NOAA’s Margaret A. Davidson. Margaret was a true visionary in the coastal management world, someone who saw the future with clarity and knew how to push for innovation and, frankly—shake things up. She defined excellence in many categories, always raising the bar with the goal of helping coastal communities thrive. This approach is what NOAA and the research reserves are striving to achieve with the Margaret A. Davidson Graduate Fellowship program.

2024 Management Needs

Tab/Accordion Items

To inform future coastal management strategies, the reserve is interested in projects that quantify ecosystem services and help us better understand how these services may change in response to climate change, invasive species, and coastal development. Potential study projects include better quantification of ecosystem services provided by oyster reefs and marshes related to wave dampening, shoreline protection, and maintenance of water quality; and comparative analyses of ecosystem services provided by wetland or aquatic non-native and native species.

Host reserve: North Carolina

Contact: Justin Ridge, Research Coordinator,

Habitats at the reserve are vulnerable to climate change impacts (e.g., sea-level rise, increases in storminess and temperature), and their vulnerability is influenced by human activities (e.g., sand placement, dredging). The reserve is interested in projects that provide more information about habitat vulnerability and potential actions to increase resilience. Possible projects include: evaluating the potential for habitat migration; building upon current resilience work at the Rachel Carson Reserve; and understanding the vulnerability of ocean beach and marsh habitats at the Masonboro Island Reserve, and recommending opportunities to enhance resilience.

Host reserve: North Carolina

Contact: Justin Ridge, Research Coordinator,

As part of the System-Wide Monitoring Program, reserve habitats are mapped from the uplands to the intertidal marsh-water edge. We have used remote sensing, including aerial imagery and drones, to map select areas of intertidal habitats, and we continue to expand the integration of remote sensing tools. The reserve is interested in proposals to develop novel methods and workflows to remotely assess intertidal to-subtidal habitat components at user-defined spatial (e.g., patches to landscape) and temporal scales (e.g., before and after events, seasonal, and annual cycles) to better monitor wetland, oyster, and submerged aquatic vegetation habitats and integrate with broader-scale mapping efforts.

Host reserve: North Carolina

Contact: Justin Ridge, Research Coordinator,

Note, this priority is only listed in the management priorities of the ‘host’ reserve (North Carolina NERR), but was co-developed with staff from the following NERRs in the Southeast (from north to south): North Inlet-Winyah Bay, ACE Basin, Sapelo Island, and GTM. Applicants interested in addressing this management priority should contact North Carolina NERR, but we anticipate the applicant potentially working with all of the Reserves listed.

The reserve has identified sedimentation, degraded water quality, sea-level rise, and invasive species as stressors for the Zeke’s Island Research Reserve in their 2020-2025 management plan. Causes and extent of changes at the site, however, are not well understood. We seek research partnerships to help us better understand water quality trends and other contributing factors that may be influencing changes in water depth and water quality, including ecosystem metabolism, episodes of hypoxia, and algal mat growth. The project will use the reserve’s monitoring data and other relevant data.

Host reserve: North Carolina

Contact: Justin Ridge, Research Coordinator,

The reserve has connected with nearby, historically underserved communities through our education programs (i.e., school field trips to the Rachel Carson Reserve and Masonboro Island Reserve), but we lack an understanding of how these communities use the reserve sites and how to meaningfully connect with and serve these communities. We are seeking proposals for research and partnerships that will help us better understand the underserved communities located near reserve sites and design an effective engagement strategy. 

Host reserve: North Carolina

Contact: Justin Ridge, Research Coordinator,