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Peter Jenkins

Peter Jenkins on boat

A West Virginia University student recently earned a prestigious national scholarship from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Peter Jenkins, a sophomore wildlife and fisheries resources student in the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, has been named to the 2016-18 class of Ernest F. Hollings Scholarship Program.

Jenkins is only the second WVU student to earn a spot in the program. The first was Hannah Clipp, a senior wildlife and fisheries resources student, who was a member of the 2014-16 class.

It was actually Clipp who inspired Jenkins to apply for the scholarship.

“I attended a WVU Student Society of Conservation Biology meeting last fall where she discussed her experience in the program and explained in depth its value,” he said.

Designed to increase undergraduate training in oceanic and atmospheric science, research, technology and education, the program recruits and prepares students for public service careers with NOAA and other natural resource and science agencies. It also aims to recruit and to prepare students for careers as teachers and educators in oceanic and atmospheric science while improving scientific and environmental education in the United States.

The scholarship provides an academic stipend of $9,500 for a student’s junior and senior years and an additional $7,000 stipend for a 10-week summer internship in 2017.

Although he didn’t expect to receive such a prestigious award, Jenkins submitted his application and crossed his fingers for good luck.

With a notification date of April 1, 2016, Jenkins was initially suspicious when he saw a congratulatory e-mail in his inbox.

“I felt as though it was all a sick April Fool’s joke played by my friends,” he laughed. “Once I read the e-mail I knew it wasn’t a joke and I was on cloud nine.”

Jenkins, whose family instilled in him a passion for the outdoors, believes his extensive involvement in undergraduate research and student organizations as well as prior internships helped him stand out to the scholarship committee.

He’s an active member of the WVU American Fisheries Society and has been a work study student for Kyle Hartman, professor of wildlife and fisheries resources, since his freshman year.

Under Hartman’s direction, Jenkins has been able to assist graduate student researchers with field work and data entry.

“This has given me the opportunity to learn firsthand what I’ll be doing after I graduate which is huge for the wildlife and fisheries field,” he said.

In addition to his work at WVU, Jenkins also spent last summer as an aquatic ecology intern with the Old Woman Creek National Estuarine Research Reserve in East Huron, Ohio.

“The estuary is where Old Woman Creek flows into Lake Erie. It is a cool ecosystem because it is a barrier beach estuary system, meaning it opens and closes contact with Lake Erie throughout the year,” he explained.

As an intern, Jenkins sampled adult, juvenile and larval fish as well as invertebrate communities within the estuary.

He also developed his own research project to explore fish diversity in correlation to water depth regardless of surrounding vegetation.

“I am returning this year and am looking forward to creating a quality research project that addresses a major issue in the ecosystem I’m working in. I am also looking forward to working with the great group of people at Old Woman Creek,” he said.

While he’s still exploring potential career paths, Jenkins knows his major and internship experiences have him on the right track.

“I am just glad to be able to follow my passion so that I never have to ‘work’ a day in my life,” he said.