As apex predators – or predators at the top of their food chain – sharks are considered essential in a sustainable ocean ecosystem.
With this in mind, a University of Mississippi doctoral student has completed biological research related to sharks and marine management, which has received national recognition.
Jill Hendon of Mounds View, Minn., was recently presented with the 2008 Walter B. Jones Memorial Award for Excellence in Coastal and Marine Graduate Study. She was recognized for her research on the stress physiology of sharks at the awards ceremony last month hosted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Washington, D.C.
According to an award letter from NOAA official David Kennedy, a distinguished panel of judges selected Hendon from an impressive field of nominees. He said her dedication and hard work epitomize coastal stewardship.
Hendon’s graduate study research to protect and preserve coastal areas has focused on marine animal health at the physiologic level by analyzing blood samples. The work could lead to better marine management practices, she said.
“By examining the stress health of several sharks in a population, inferences could be made about the overall health of the population,” Hendon said. “Because sharks are apex predators in our oceans, their presence is essential for achieving and maintaining a sustainable ocean ecosystem.”
Hendon’s passion was developed as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Through an affiliation with the University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Lab, Hendon spent a summer there taking marine-related field classes. The work led to a master’s program in marine immunology at USM and her involvement as a volunteer scientist with the NOAA’s long line shark survey. While there, she met UM marine biologist Glenn Parsons, who encouraged her to pursue her current research.
“This award could not have been given to a more deserving individual,” said Parsons, Hendon’s academic adviser. “Jill is a great student and one of the most genuine people I know. I am certain that she will continue to make significant contributions to the study of stress physiology and marine science, and she will be an exceptional member of the academic community.”
Hendon expects to complete her doctoral degree in 2009. She hopes to continue pursuing research focused on the eco-physiologic approach to coastal management practices.
“I enjoy teaching and would love to continue educating students and the community about the amazing facets of our coastal ecosystem,” she said.