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Senior wins Watson Fellowship to study coral reefs

By Public Affairs on March 14, 2015 12:00 AM

Environmental studies-history major Rennie Meyers ’15 has won a Watson Fellowship to pursue a year of independent study after graduation. Photo By Chris Lydgate

Environmental studies-history major Rennie Meyers ’15 has won a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship to study the formation of artificial coral reefs.

Rennie's project is titled Deep Water, Horizons: Artificial Reef Communities, Above and Below the Water Line and she will pursue it in the Canary Islands, Fiji, Brunei, and Japan.

"From oil rigs to submerged eco-art to coral farms, coral growth occurs at the hands of humans with or without their intent," her proposal states. "By exploring interactions between human and non-human communities above and below artificial coral habitats in four island nations, I will engage artificial or anthropogenic reef habitats and the humans who have (sometimes accidentally) created and lived with them. I hope to better understand the ways in which humans continue to alter the marine landscape, to photo document those landscapes, and to consult with the human communities responsible for these new habitats in the face of global climate change."

Rennie is writing her senior thesis on the development of marine ecology in Monterey Bay from the 1880s to the 1970s with Prof. Josh Howe [history 2012-]. Her friend Sasha Peters ’15 also won a Watson fellowship.

“I am completely off the walls about this fellowship,” she says. “There is a deep sense of promise and adventure for my time after Reed, even with the road bumps that I know lie ahead. I am honored and ecstatic and bewildered that I get to share this experience with Sasha, who has grown so much with me at Reed. Reed's influence is so present in my project—studying environmental history taught me to find the human narrative and agency in stories of global climate change. Even being on a campus this size points out all the places where I have an opportunity to effect change for the better. I am so deeply indebted to Josh Howe for his persistent mentorship, the efforts of all the faculty and staff that helped me through this project and process, and family support along the way.”

The Watson Year provides fellows with an opportunity to test their aspirations, abilities, and perseverance through personal projects that are cultivated on an international scale. Watson Fellows have gone on to become CEOs of major corporations, college presidents, diplomats, artists, lawyers, doctors, journalists, and renowned researchers and innovators. The program offers a stipend of $30,000 to 50 fellows to pursue an independent study of something they are passionate about in a country that is not their own.

Since the program began in 1968, Reed students have won a total of 67 Watson Fellowships, including Cole Perkinson ’13, who won a Watson to go to Africa and research Zimbabwean music.