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Arnold School of Public Health

Recent doctoral graduate Shelby Butz awarded John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship

November 22, 2019 | Erin Bluvas,

Shelby Butz, a May 2019 graduate of the Arnold School’s Ph.D. in Environmental Health Sciences program, has been chosen to join the 41st class of the John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship program. Based in Washington, D.C., the program is offered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and National Sea Grant Office.  

Butz’s one-year appointment is unique within the Fellowship in that it will be a dual appointment between the Environmental Protection Agency and the Coastal States Organization, a non-profit organization, where she will gain hands-on experience transferring science to policy and management. Though joining the program is a dream come true for Butz, making the decision wasn’t an easy one.

The well-rounded scientist had many options following her graduation, including a three-year postdoctoral fellowship in a Florida-based marine ecotoxicology lab. Drawn to the ocean since she was a child, Butz has traveled the world conducting research to better understand and protect marine environments.

The Norman J. Arnold Doctoral Fellow has studied in Myrtle Beach, Charleston, Colorado, and Australia and has presented her work at international conferences. Prior to that, she completed bachelor’s (Coastal Carolina University) and master’s (UofSC) degrees in marine sciences with nearly perfect GPAs and graduated with a 4.0 from her Ph.D. program.

While Butz's research experiences have been many and varied, her scientific home base has been the South Carolina SmartState Center for Environmental Nanoscience and Risk (CENR) under the tutelage of SmartState Endowed Chair and CENR director Jamie Lead. Working alongside her mentor, Butz delved into the field of nanoscience – incorporating it into her marine science research throughout her doctoral program.

During the interim between her graduation and the start of the fellowship program in February, Butz has been publishing her dissertation research, which investigated the uptake, accumulation and toxicity of metal nanomaterials in estuarine organisms such as algae, clams and oysters – supported by funding from the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Science Foundation. She’s also investigated a novel oil remediation technology developed by Jamie Lead at the NOAA mesocosms in Charleston and is assisting CENR research associate professor Buz Kloot in his Soil Health Lab. 

“I have studied and researched marine and coastal ecosystems my entire educational career, and I wanted to challenge myself to think differently and to grasp a new topic and data set,” says Butz of her decision to branch out. “In the grand scheme of environmental science, what happens on land affects the ocean so it definitely tied into my field as well.”

As she prepares for the next chapter of her career, Butz is looking forward to joining the melting pot of scientists associated with her Fellowship program and the D.C. area in general. She is particularly looking forward to continuing to build her knowledge and gain new perspectives that she can apply to making a difference in coastal and marine environments.

“Among the numerous other benefits – including a global network, invaluable experience in the federal government and highest governing science agency our nation has to offer – this fellowship program offers me the chance to learn and gain new skills and contribute to something bigger than myself and my specific niche of research,” Butz says. “I will be working with the federal government, NOAA, the EPA, nonprofit organizations, state governments and local communities to help facilitate the exchange of best science practices, knowledge, education and best monitoring and management techniques to improve environmental and human health.”


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