(May 27, 2015) --

Dr. Kelly Dorgan, Senior Marine Scientist, Dauphin Island Sea Lab has been named a recipient of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences Gulf Research Program Early-Career Research Fellowship. Dr. Dorgan is one of five scientists to receive this national honor; the award is for $76,000 over two years.

According to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) website, the Gulf Research Program was established following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill when the federal government asked the NAS to establish a new program to fund and conduct activities to enhance oil system safety, human health, and environmental resources in the Gulf of Mexico and other U.S. outer continental shelf regions that support oil and gas production.

Over its 30-year duration, the Gulf Research Program will work to enhance oil system safety and the protection of human health and the environment in the Gulf of Mexico and other U.S. outer continental shelf areas by seeking to improve understanding of the region's interconnecting human, environmental, and energy systems and fostering application of these insights to benefit Gulf communities, ecosystems, and the Nation.

Dr. Dorgan received her PhD from the University of Maine and conducted post-doctoral stints at UC Berkeley and Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Her research interests focus on how worms and other burrowing animals interact with their environments. Although abundant and ecologically vital, worms are difficult to observe because of their burrowing behavior and muddy environment.

For this fellowship, Dr. Dorgan will work on a specific project studying how worms, microalgae, and bacteria stabilize or destabilize sediments against erosion. “The idea is that worms that burrow destabilize sediments but microalgae and bacteria secrete ‘goo' that holds sediment grains together and increases stability,” she describes.