Announcing the 2022-2023 Sea Grant Scholars

By Anna Marchessault
November 03, 2022

Lake Champlain Sea Grant welcomes our second ever cohort of Sea Grant Scholars! Selected undergraduate students at the University of Vermont (UVM) receive a 13-month Sea Grant Scholarship including a financial award, internship experience, and professional development opportunities.

Four new Sea Grant Scholars are joining us this year. Each student is from a different college at UVM: Jenna Abbey-Lowell, a sophomore studying Environmental Studies in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources; Graecia Aine Pacheco, a junior studying microbiology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; Nidhi Konnanur, a sophomore studying Neuroscience in the College of Arts and Sciences; and Chiamaka Ozigbo, a sophomore studying Biomedical Engineering in the College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences.

Prior to the start of fall classes, the Sea Grant Scholars participated in a professional development immersion week. They met the staff and fellows at Lake Champlain Sea Grant, learned about the mission and values of the organization, and participated in a variety of tours and trainings.

"During the Sea Grant Scholars professional development week, I was exposed to many different aspects of sustainable living and introduced to people who really emphasized the importance of doing what you love," shared Nidhi Konnanur, 2022 Sea Grant Scholar.

The Scholars had the opportunity to get to know one another as they paddled with fellows, staff, and partners to learn about the geography and habitats of New York’s Ausable River, a major tributary to Lake Champlain. From there they learned about business leadership while exploring aquaponics and aquaculture facilities in northern Vermont. They later toured green stormwater infrastructure sites and composting facilities to better understand connections between land use and water quality in the basin. At Burlington’s North Beach, the Scholars learned about cyanobacteria and public health connections, while thinking about how their unique careers might relate.

They wrapped up the week learning about and practicing their interview skills. Their travels took them north, south, east, and west of Burlington, seeing first-hand how people’s chosen careers connect them to the water. The week concluded with a presentation from the first cohort of Sea Grant Scholars about their experiences in their summer internships.

“I am grateful to the many professionals who took time to share their knowledge and expertise with the Scholars during the immersion week,” said Lake Champlain Sea Grant Associate Director Kris Stepenuck. “Learning from those individuals was a meaningful way to help the Scholars expand their understanding of Lake Champlain Sea Grant, the basin and its economies, and potential careers that relate to their chosen majors, and to gain skills that will help them move into those careers.”

By this time next year, these Scholars will have completed their own summer internships. They will each be matched with a STEM-focused business or organization involved in developing and sharing science-based information to benefit the environment or local economies in the Lake Champlain basin or in their hometown watershed.

"I am excited to gain work experience in the field I am interested in this summer," explained Jenna Abbey-Lowell. "I hope to work somewhere with a hands on opportunity. I would also love to travel for work this summer!"

The Sea Grant Scholars program supports diverse scholars, selected based on academic ability, commitment to a career in science or related field, financial need, and first-generation college student status. The Scholars program strives to grow representation of and help to prepare Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), or first-generation college students for successful careers in science, science communications, technology, policy, natural resources management, engineering, or related fields.

 If you’re interested in becoming a Sea Grant Scholar, learn more about the scholarship.