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Three University Students Named USDA Graduate Fellows

March 16, 2015

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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Three graduate students from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi were named as 2015 USDA Graduate Fellows. The students, Maria Rodriguez, Mayra Lopez, and Melinda Martinez, were three of 20 recipients selected from across the nation to attend a Career Preparation Institute held March 11-14 in Frisco, Texas.

Additionally, the students and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi were publicly recognized as part of the opening festivities of the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education annual meeting on March 12.

The purpose of this conference is to increase the number of individuals in the food and agricultural sciences to pursue an advanced degree and/or employment in the USDA or related agency.

Mayra Lopez earned a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science with a concentration in Environmental Policy and Regulations at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi in 2011. She is pursuing a Master of Science in Environmental Science at the University and is a Graduate Research Assistant at the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies. Her research is focused on understanding socio-economic processes and how they drive environmental education, management, and policy. This knowledge can be used to comprehend how the public’s perception of ecosystem services can affect natural resource management and economical/ecological resilience. Lopez is also involved in several community outreach events that encourage young, underprivileged students to pursue the STEM fields for their college education.

Maria Rodriguez received her Bachelor of Science in Ecology in spring 2013. During her junior year at the University, she was engaged in a Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation- funded project, conducting undergraduate research and acquiring valuable field and lab techniques. In spring 2014, Rodriguez accepted a NOAA Environmental Cooperative Science Center fellowship, and has entered into the Environmental Science graduate program.  Rodriguez works in the Coastal Conservation and Restoration Ecology Lab at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.  Her research focuses on the oyster disease, Dermo, which is caused by a protozoan parasite. This research will aid in the understanding of ecological implications of reduced freshwater inflow to bays and estuaries due to climate change.

Melinda Martinez received her Bachelor of Science in Marine and Freshwater Biology from the University of Texas at Austin. After graduation, she was a research assistant with El Centro Ecológico de Akumal in Akumal, Quintana Roo, Mexico, to aid in seagrass conservation efforts for marine protected areas. She also, helped develop the seagrass monitoring program in Puerto Morelos, Quintana Roo, Mexico. She is pursuing a Master of Science in Environmental Science at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. Martinez conducts research in the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies. Her research topic focuses on short-term wetland sediment accretion rates on Mustang Island, Texas. She volunteers in the Corpus Christi area with the Texas High School Coastal Monitoring Program to help engage students in coastal research by teaching them how to measure beach profiles and observe the beach and dune environment.