Sam Thomas, GS/JTS ’10, has been awarded one of the prestigious 2009 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Hollings Undergraduate Scholarships. The scholarship award supports students both during the academic year and during the summer, when they are required to complete a research project.
For his research project, Thomas, an environmental biology and Jewish philosophy double-major who grew up in Westchester and Massachusetts, will travel to Puerto Rico to study the ecophysiology of mangroves. Focusing on how the plants respond to environmental changes, the project builds upon work done by the USDA Forest Service and NOAA; it will also be somewhat familiar territory for Thomas, who spent last summer working on the ecophysiology of red oak trees at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.
Ecophysiology, which studies the physiological changes an organism undergoes in response to changes in its environment, has become an increasingly relevant discipline, offering a way to quantify—and address—the ecological tolls of climate change and natural disasters. “Ecophysiology is a new, pioneering field,” said Thomas, who plans to apply to PhD programs after graduation. “It’s very interdisciplinary, combining ecology, cell biology, and physiology, and it’s obviously important—there are imminent global implications of the research.”