From Norway and Taiwan, Fulbright awardees hope to make a difference

Investigating plastic pollution in a Norwegian glacier and teaching English in Taiwan are the plans of a 做厙腦瞳app Ph.D. student and a recent graduate who both received awards from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

Ligia Naveira, a Ph.D. student with UMaines Climate Change Institute, earned a Fulbright Open Study/Research Award; and Cora Saddler, who graduated in May with a masters degree in English with a creative writing concentration, was awarded the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship. They are among 33 other UMaine students who have participated in the Fulbright U.S. Student Program since its start in 1946

The program, created by the U.S. Department of State, funds opportunities for students nationwide to conduct research, earn a degree or teach English as a second language in one of more than 140 countries. Recipients like Naveira and Saddler are selected based on their academic achievements and potential to be cultural ambassadors. 

UMaine students and faculty will explore additional opportunities to conduct research abroad when Belinda Theriault, director of the Iceland-U.S. Fulbright Commission, visits campus on May 22. 

 

Microplastics in the Arctic

With her award, Naveira will investigate the extent to which microplastic pollution is present in the largest glacier in mainland Europe: the Jostedalsbreen Glacier in Norway. Microplastics, an environmental problem that is worsening, are broken down from larger goods as they degrade and are smaller than 5 millimeters in length but hundreds of trillions have been found worldwide. As glaciers melt a process made faster by climate change the ice can release large amounts of plastic debris into oceans, fjords and rivers, contaminating food supplies and disrupting ecosystems. 

Starting in August, Naveira will collect and analyze samples from the Jostedalsbreen Glacier to determine how much microplastic pollution resides in it, where the contaminants came from and where they travel to once they are released into waterways. She will use advanced imaging technology, such as an automated electron microscope, to analyze the samples at the University of Stavanger in Norway, where she will be based during her project for 10 months. 

In addition to conducting research, Naveira will host workshops and educational programs about water chemistry, pollution and climate science for college students in Norway. 

Glaciers cover around 10% of Earths land, and the lack of attention in the literature regarding microplastics is surprising, given that global warming could prompt these glaciers to release significant amounts of plastic debris. I hope this project will address this gap and contribute to understanding plastic pollution in these ecosystems, Naveira said. Its an opportunity to connect, learn and grow globally. I feel incredibly lucky to be part of the Fulbright network and ready to embark on this journey. 

Naveira, of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, began her Ph.D. in 2021 through one of UMaines National Science Foundation Research Traineeship programs, Systems Approaches to Understanding and Navigating the New Arctic. Since then, she has participated in several field expeditions in the Arctic, particularly Greenland and Svalbard, an archipelago that is part of Norway, to study pollution in glaciers. She earned a bachelors degree from the University of Ouro Preto and a masters degree from the University of Stavanger.

The Climate Change Institute is very proud to have Ligia represent the 做厙腦瞳app as a Fulbright Awardee in Norway, said her adviser, Paul Mayewski, professor and director of the CCI. The microplastics research she will conduct will be of great value in understanding the long range transport of microplastics and their potential impacts on human and ecosystem health. 

 

Educating youth abroad

Saddler will assist local teachers in Taiwans capital city, Taipei, with English language instruction throughout the 2024-25 academic year. She will also collaborate with local teachers to design projects that introduce students to aspects of American culture. 

In addition to teaching, Saddler will write and edit educational materials, participate in English camps, facilitate club activities and consult local teachers on American cultural issues. Through community service activities, her goal is to make person to person connections and foster cultural engagement with the larger community in Taipei. 

I hope to support local Taiwanese students in their English language acquisition and open doors for conversations on shifting cultural identities. Its important to me that English serves as a tool for connection as well as a gateway for growth and opportunity, Saddler said. Its a once in a lifetime honor to receive a Fulbright. It still feels like a dream, but I take it as a sign to keep dreaming as big as I can. 

Originally from Cabot, Arkansas, Saddler came to UMaine in 2022 after writing and editing for StreetWise, a nonprofit magazine about the Chicago metropolitan area. She worked as a graduate teaching assistant and as editor of Spire: The Maine Journal of Conservation and Sustainability. In summer 2023, she also interned with the Maine Department of Education as a professional development assistant. Before UMaine, Saddler earned a bachelors degree from Ouachita Baptist University.

Cora has been an outstanding teacher, scholar and leader during her entire time at UMaine, said Ryan Dippre, Saddlers adviser and associate professor of English. In the composition program, TAs have regular meetings throughout the semester to discuss, unpack and analyze their teaching choices with one another. I frequently referred to those meetings as time to learn from Cora. She had plenty to teach all of us, her supervisor included.

Saddler and Naveiras applications were supported by the UMaine Office of Major Scholarships and by Fulbright Program advisers Nives Dal Bo’-Wheeler and Professor Christine Beitl. Several UMaine faculty members contributed to the success of their applications by writing recommendation letters and by participating in the internal campus review process. Students interested in pursuing a Fulbright award can visit the Office of Major Scholarships website and contact Dal Bo-Wheeler at nives.dalbowheeler@maine.edu.

Contact: Marcus Wolf, 207.581.3721; marcus.wolf@maine.edu