“I really couldn’t have gotten here without COA,” she remarked. “Throughout my time here, I’ve been challenged to develop a self-directed education, with the support of a remarkable group of professors, classmates, and colleagues. I’m thrilled about this next step.”

Ellie will travel to the South Island of New Zealand where she spend ten months working with Dr. Mads Thomsen in the UC Marine Ecology Research Group. As part of Thomsen’s lab, she will be in the field manipulating the coverage of marsh grasses and mussels and measuring the responses of other organisms to such changes.  The goal is to better understand what are known as ‘habitat cascades’ — those beneficial but indirect effects one organism has on another in an ecological community.

Dr. Helen Hess, faculty member in biology, commented, “It’s exciting to think of Ellie spending a year in New Zealand, with all the challenges, responsibilities and rewards that go along with being a Fulbright Fellow.  She takes on new projects with sincerity and joy, bringing a nimble mind, an admirable work ethic, and a lively curiosity and openness to her endeavors.  I am very happy to see her honored with this Fellowship, and I very much look forward to hearing from her while she’s in New Zealand.”

The Chapel Hill, NC native transferred to COA from University of California Davis in 2013.  Her undergraduate career at COA has included courses in Wildlife Ecology, Immunology, and the Ecology and Evolution of Parasites, but she has also studied Mathematics and the Humanities, including courses on Differential Equations and Brontë, Austen, and Eliot. When it was time to do an internship, as all COA students are required to do, she applied and was accepted at the Duke University Marine Lab. It was there that she was introduced to Dr. Thomsen.

“Through my internship, I came to understand that, as much as I’m drawn to a project or a particular question, it’s also really important to me to be working alongside people that inspire and push me,” Ellie explained. “Dr. Thomsen was someone recommended very highly, and as excited as I am to dive into the project, I’m also looking forward to being part of the lab community.”

Ellie’s achievement puts her in good company at COA, where five faculty members have received Fulbright scholarships to research or teach abroad.  She plans on pursuing graduate work following her Fulbright, and at this point sees herself working on community-based conservation or science communication.

The Fulbright Program is one of the most prestigious awards programs in the world. According to their website, “53 Fulbright alumni have won Nobel Prizes, 78 have won Pulitzer Prizes, and more Nobel laureates are former Fulbrighters than any other award program.”

The program, which is run by the US State Department, was established to “increase mutual understanding between the people of the US and other countries through the exchange of persons, knowledge, and skills.”


College of the Atlantic was founded in 1969 on the premise that education should go beyond understanding the world as it is, to enabling students to actively shape its future. A leader in experiential education and environmental stewardship, COA has pioneered a distinctive interdisciplinary approach to learning—human ecology—that develops the kinds of creative thinkers and doers needed by all sectors of society in addressing the compelling and growing needs of our world. For more, visit http://www.coa.edu.