(December 02, 2022) --

2023 John A. Knauss Policy Fellow Matt Hodanbosi

University of South Alabama (USA) and Dauphin Island Sea Lab (DISL) Ph.D. Candidate Matthew Hodanbosi will spend the next year as a Science & Technology Ocean and Coastal Enterprise Fellow for the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System Office. This office is part of the NOAA National Ocean Service (NOS) and coordinates Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS®) implementation. Hodanbosi earned this opportunity by being named to the 2023 John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship Program.

He will be based at the NOAA main campus in Silver Spring, MD. The specifics of his portfolio have not yet been determined but will focus on supporting IOOS and NOAA to accelerate the growth of the New Blue Economy on national to global scales.

“I was thrilled when I learned of my placement with the IOOS Office,” Hodanbosi said. “The importance of observational data and long-term monitoring to the management of our coastal resources cannot be overstated. For example, the historical data from DISL's Alabama Real-Time Coastal Observing System (ARCOS) are critical to my research on environmental stressors affecting Mobile Bay's dolphins.”

Hodanbosi on the SeaWorld capture boat during manatee health assessments. He's pulling in the net after deploying on a manatee.

Hodanbosi is one of 86 finalists for the Sea Grant Knauss Fellowship nationwide, and one of two from DISL/USA. Ph.D. Candidate Jesse Gwinn is also a finalist and will be in the NOAA Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (OAR) Division's Global Ocean Monitoring and Observing (GOMO) Program at the NOAA main campus in Silver Springs, Maryland.

Hodanbosi started his work at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab as an intern with the Alabama Marine Mammal Stranding Network (ALMMSN). That internship led to a paid stranding technician position while he pursued his Ph.D. at USA.

The ALMMSN is the only entity authorized to respond to stranded marine mammals in the state of Alabama. Through his work in the ALMMSN and the Marine Mammal Research Program, Hodanbosi has developed a range of technical and quantitative skills to address key questions in marine megafauna ecology and conservation.

Hodanbosi cleans teeth from stranded dolphins in the MMRC Necropsy Lab. The teeth will be cut in half to assist in aging the dolphins.

“Humans and marine mammals often rely on the same ocean resources and spaces, so utilizing observational data to maintain healthy coasts will benefit both of us,” Hodanbosi explained. “My familiarity with environmental monitoring and my passion for marine megafauna will be valuable attributes to support IOOS and NOAA in their goal of growing the nation's ocean and coastal economy in a sustainable and equitable way.”

Hodanbosi’s research focuses on understanding the effects of freshwater discharge on the ecology of bottlenose dolphins. This topic is important because bottlenose dolphins are considered a sentinel species for ecosystem and human health. Understanding the impact of environmental stressors on bottlenose dolphins could indicate concerns for other species in the northern Gulf of Mexico.

“I am really excited about Matt's opportunity to work with the Integrated Ocean Observing System team,” Dr. Ruth H. Carmichael, a faculty member for DISL and the USA School of Marine and Environmental Sciences and Hodanbosi’s Ph.D. advisor, said. “The data and predictive tools collected and developed by IOOS are fundamental to understanding the physical and chemical environment that supports all life in the world’s oceans. Matt will have a unique opportunity to learn more about these data and processes that are critical to understanding his own research in marine mammal demographics and ecology.”

The IOOS program also manages the Animal Telemetry Network, Marine Biodiversity Observation Network, and many others that have direct links to and applications for Hodanbosi’s dissertation research. Those pieces will be a benefit to Hodanbosi’s research with the ability to broaden his professional network.