Two undergraduates to engage in coastal summer research

Edith Vincze-Farago
Edith Vincze-Farago

Although the spring semester at their respective universities is over, undergraduate students Kelly Jiang and Edith Vincze-Farago won’t be taking down time from their academic pursuits this summer.

Jiang, who is majoring in marine science at UConn, and Vincze-Farago, who is majoring in environmental systems and sustainability at Southern Connecticut State University, are the 2024 recipients of the CT Sea Grant Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship. The fellowship, begun in 2020 to increase diversity in marine sciences by offering summer research opportunities with a $5,000 stipend to students from underrepresented populations, will enable Jiang and Vincze-Farago to conduct research alongside faculty mentors.

“The goal behind this fellowship is to diversify the body of students who have the opportunity to engage in marine research and continue on into marine and coastal-focused professions,” said Syma Ebbin, CT Sea Grant research coordinator. “The program has been successful in locating motivated students and mentors, and catalyzing their research endeavors to create lasting and meaningful summer learning experiences.”

Both students’ projects will contribute to their long-term career goals and better understanding of the coastal and marine environments in alignment with CT Sea Grant’s strategic plan.

“This work will be very valuable to me, because coastal resilience is my interest,” said Vincze-Farago, who will be using a drone to map Chaffinch Island Park in Guilford, analyzing the data, researching town records and interviewing town officials and local residents about the municipally owned site.

Working with Professor Scott Graves at SCSU, she hopes their work will piece together how and why the shoreline habitat is migrating landward as it shrinks, to better inform future management decisions.

“We’re trying to figure out what’s influencing it the most, how it’s actually happening,” she said.

After emigrating from Romania nine years ago, Vincze-Farago earned a GED and then an associate’s degree at Housatonic Community College before enrolling in Southern. She hopes to pursue a graduate degree in coastal environmental studies. A Fairfield resident, she is currently an intern in the Greenwich Conservation Department.

“It’s interesting to see how different towns manage natural resources, and how much attention they pay to them,” she said.

Kelly Jiang
Kelly Jiang

For their project, Jiang will work with Professor Ashley Hamilton, monitoring lead CT National Estuarine Research Reserve, to study the underwater habitat of aquaculture gear in eelgrass meadows. The research will involve deploying GoPro cameras on oyster cages, anchored in eelgrass without cages and in bare sediment with and without cages. The work will take place at a Groton site from June through August to document how the cages affect the underwater habitat, and Jiang will analyze the video footage for fish and invertebrate communities and behavior. It builds on an ongoing project at the NOAA Milford lab which has demonstrated that oyster cages in rock reef environments create a rich underwater habitat for fish and other marine organisms. In this project, Jiang will be building on skills they acquired last summer as an intern at the CT NERR when they helped with another project using GoPro cameras.

A Colchester resident, Jiang said they were introduced to aquaculture as a high school student at the Marine Sciences Magnet High School of Southeastern Connecticut in Groton, and their interest has grown further at UConn.

“I just really enjoy doing aquaculture, and I like working in ecology and conservation,” said Jiang, the child of Chinese immigrants. “I’m going to write a thesis out of this project, which will help me in my career and as I pursue a master’s degree.”

CT Sea Grant Associate Director Nancy Balcom noted that the faculty mentors are a key part of what has made this fellowship successful.

“The proposed projects, focused on resilience and aquaculture, are also helping to shape career paths,” said Balcom. “We appreciate the time and effort the mentors put into ensuring these students experience rewarding research opportunities this summer.”

Read the New Haven Register article about Kelly Jiang and Edith Vincze-Farago.

More information: Judy Benson, CT Sea Grant communications coordinator: