A Wayne Community College graduate has been awarded the opportunity to work in an Alaskan field research expedition.
Matthew Herring of Dudley was presented a Loomer Earthwatch Expedition Scholarship by the Foundation of Wayne Community College. The scholarship covers the cost of his participation in a field research expedition. Earthwatch engages volunteer citizen scientists in environmental research to assist conservation efforts around the world.
Herring chose to volunteer with the 10-day “Sea Otters and Seagrass in Alaska” expedition. Through observation and collection of data at Prince of Wales Island, participants in this project help scientists understand the ecological impact of sea otters on their environment in order to better protect the once-endangered species.
Volunteers on this expedition conduct surveys of seagrass and prey animals such as fish, crabs and invertebrates; identify shells of clams that have been consumed, count and observe otters, and process and enter data for seagrass and invertebrate samples.
When not in the field, volunteers have opportunities to interact informally with researchers and visit tribal cultural sites and museums.
Herring is a 2017 graduate of Southern Wayne High School and earned his associate in engineering degree from WCC this spring. He plans to major in aerospace engineering at North Carolina State University.
The scholarship was first offered last year. It was awarded to LaKimberly Swinson and Marleigh Read. They chose to participate together in a project that studied the pathology of trees in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington in the summer of 2018.
Maureen Loomer, a retired WCC biology instructor, established the scholarship in memory of her husband, Dr. Lance Loomer. She used the prize from her 2014 WCC Distinguished Chair Award to participate in an Earthwatch expedition in Acadia National Park in Maine.
She said she wanted students to have the same “exhilarating, transformative experience.”
Earthwatch is an international nonprofit organization that connects citizens with scientists to improve the health and sustainability of the planet. For the last 45 years, Earthwatch has empowered nearly 100,000 volunteers to join leading scientists on field research expeditions that tackle critical environmental challenges around the globe, from climate change to ocean health, human-wildlife conflict, and more.
The Foundation of Wayne Community College provided 580 scholarships worth nearly $408,674 this academic year to students enrolled in WCC college credit, workforce continuing education and transitional programs courses.
In addition to raising and dispersing funds for scholarships for WCC students, the Foundation provides funding for innovative campus projects and employee recognition and offers cultural programs for the community.