Link Foundation Fellowships Newsletter

Inside this Issue


Meet this Year's Fellowship Recipients

We Proudly Introduce The Link Foundation/Smithsonian Graduate Research Fellowship Awardees For 2016-2017


Azra Blythe-Mallett, University of the West Indies, Mona Campus
Project: The Genetic Diversity and Composition of Queen Conch (Strombus gigas) Population in Jamaica and Relations to Project Management
Research Advisor: Dr. Stephen Box

As a doctoral candidate at the University of West Indies in Jamaica, Azra Blythe-Mallett is investigating the genetic composition of Queen conch (Strombus gigas) populations as a management and conservation tool to protect this commercially important fishery. She is working with the Marine Conservation Program at SMS to process and analyze conch samples from representative populations across the Caribbean.



Bart DiFiore, Yale University
Project: Herbivore Behavior in Grazing Halos Surrounding Coral Patch Reefs: An Indicator of Predator Abundance?
Research Advisor: Dr. Valerie Paul and Dr. Stephen Box

SMS/Link Fellow Bart DiFiore is pursuing his master’s degree at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, where he is using a combination of remote-sensing, satellite imagery, and field observations to examine predator-prey interactions around coral patch reefs, both inside and outside marine protected areas. While at SMS, Bart is conducting field experiments in the Florida Keys and around the Carrie Bow Cay Field Station in Belize.


ImageNicole Johnston, Georgia Institute of Technology
Project: The Tropicalization of Temperate Reefs in a Changing World: Evaluating Effects of Acidification and Warming on Novel Coral-Algal-Herbivore Interactions
Research Advisor: Dr. Valerie Paul

Nicole Johnston is a doctoral student at Georgia Tech’s School of Biological Sciences where she is conducting research on the impact of human-induced stressors on ecological functions of coral reef ecosystems. As an SMS/Link Fellow, she is focusing on how ocean acidification alters the chemically-mediated interactions between corals and algae.


The Smithsonian Marine Station (SMS) has a long history of supporting the academic pursuits of students at all levels of education. One of the most successful programs is the 12-week Graduate Student Fellowship program, supported by a grant from the Link Foundation.

The association between the Smithsonian and the Link Foundation extends back to 1953, soon after the Foundation was established by Edwin A. and Marion C. Link. Mr. Link was a skilled aviator and is recognized as a mechanical genius. He is best known for his invention of the first Flight Simulator in 1929, and he later shifted his interest to ocean engineering and marine science and developed the Johnson-Sea-Link submersibles. 

The Link Foundation aims to support individuals and nonprofit institutions with research goals and interests that align with those of the founders, namely modeling, simulation and training, ocean engineering and instrumentation, and energy resources conservation and development.

The SMS at Fort Pierce, FL, received its first award from the Link Foundation in 1998 in support of graduate student fellowships in the marine sciences.  Annual awards from 1998-2016 have totaled $283,500, and have supported 62 graduate students. 

The Link Foundation/Smithsonian Institution graduate student fellowships are offered on a competitive basis through the Smithsonian Institution’s Office of Fellowships, and supports the research efforts of three to four graduate-level students each year.  During the 12-week program, Fellows work in association with members of the Smithsonian professional research staff who are either Marine Station investigators, or marine scientists from other Smithsonian entities who carry out a part of their research at the Station.  Students are provided with work space at the station, full access to all the Station’s resources, as well as the guidance and expertise of their appointed research advisor during their fellowship.   

Several Link Fellows have gone on to complete doctoral degrees and have returned to SMS as postdoctoral fellows. Others maintain a relationship by continuing to collaborate with SMS researchers or by bringing students of their own.

The staff of SMS looks forward to continuing to provide research opportunities to students through on-going support from the Link Foundation. Graduate students interested in the program should visit  for information on application requirements. The deadline for the 2017 cycle is February 15, 2017.