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Margaret A. Davidson Undergraduate Resilience Research Scholar Guide

Funding Opportunity Description


The South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium (Consortium) has established the annual Margaret A. Davidson Undergraduate Resilience Research Scholars Program (Davidson Resilience Scholars) to provide opportunities for upcoming undergraduate students from marginalized or underserved communities to contribute novel and innovative ideas and solutions to help address the challenges we face as we look to become a more resilient society.

This fellowship program is being created in the name of Margaret Adelia Davidson, a resilience leader, teacher, mentor, and friend to many throughout the nation and the world, who left us in 2017. The purpose of this program is twofold, to broaden participation in marine and coastal environment-related professions by providing resilience research experience to the next generation of scientists, decision makers and citizens; and to enhance programs in our Consortium member institutions to conduct innovative resilience-focused research that contributes to adaptive capacity in our communities and economies.

About Margaret

Margaret was integral in the formation of the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium, and was selected as the agency’s Executive Director in 1983, serving in this capacity for 16 years. Margaret went on to work for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and established the Coastal Services Center (CSC). Then she served as Acting Director of NOAA’s Office for Ocean and Coastal Resources Management (OCRM) and guided the merger of NOAA CSC and NOAA OCRM. Always looking for a new challenge, Margaret became NOAA’s Senior Leader for Coastal Inundation and Resilience.

Margaret has been devotionally described in many ways by her peers, colleagues and friends – Visionary, Champion, Mentor, Intellectual, Networker, Leader, Trailblazer, Unique, Compassionate, Devoted, Extraordinary, Respected and her legacy will be continued in part through this initiative. She was adamant about young people and the diversity of face, place, and space, and the thought and passion they bring to the table, knowing that it is they who will have to step up and take on the future challenges that society must address, especially in its hope of becoming more resilient. Moreover, she always found that working outside-the-box ultimately resulted in more positive outcomes and effective change.


All communities face the risk of impacts by hazard events, including hurricanes, tornadoes, and droughts; and long-term chronic impacts of climate change such as tidal flooding and temperature rise. How quickly and successfully a community can plan for and recover from events and improve their capacity to adapt to the challenges determines its resiliency. Resilient communities plan ahead in order to reduce risk. This is called adaptive capacity. An informed and prepared community that has decreased its vulnerabilities by increasing its adaptive capacity will face fewer natural, societal, and economic impacts in the face of a hazardous event compared to a less resilient community.

Resiliency in coastal communities is especially important in the southeast United States, as these communities face a multitude of stressors, including coastal storms, heavy precipitation, earthquakes, tornados, tidal and nuisance flooding, sea level rise, and increasing pressures from growing populations, economic development, and gentrification. Overall, South Carolina’s coastal county population has increased 114% from 1980-2020, from roughly 686,000 residents to almost 1.47 million residents. All of the coastal counties have experienced population growth since 1980, with five of the counties (Beaufort, Berkeley, Dorchester, Horry, and Jasper) more than doubling in population size over this time frame. In 2020, residents in the eight coastal counties accounted for 29% of total state residents. Population density is higher along the coast as well at 215.22 persons/square mile in the coastal counties, compared to 157.07 persons/square mile in non-coastal counties (US Census Bureau, 2021). Along with growing populations comes increasing pressure of development. Developing coastal lands can place more and more critical infrastructure and people at risk to hazards in both urban and rural settings, and impact the ecosystems that provide natural risk reduction for all citizens.

The tourism and recreation sector contributes $4.47 billion to GDP in South Carolina’s coastal counties, and employs over 91,000 people in the coastal counties. The Port of Charleston exported over $40 billion in cargo in 2019 and imported $54 billion in cargo. For these economic reasons, along with many others, it is vital to maintain and increase our coastal communities’ resiliency in a manner that supports continued population and economic growth and diversification.  While many local communities have recognized the need to be resilient and are taking steps to identify their vulnerabilities and increase their adaptive capacity, there are still many knowledge gaps, access to resources and a limited number of ideas which serve as barriers to their actions. Cutting-edge and “outside-the-box” research in a variety of areas, such as in marine-related energy sources, resilient building materials, climate change, coastal processes, erosion control, energy efficiency, hazards, stormwater management, and nature-based tourism, among others, can provide communities with information needed to increase their resiliency.

Finally, and most importantly, there is a growing need to train the next generation of natural and social scientists, engineers, technicians, and decision-makers to assume jobs in both the public and private sectors which serve the needs of municipalities, communities, and neighborhoods. The Davidson Resilience Scholars program recognizes the need for diversifying the workforce to enhance our ability to reach these wide-ranging audiences becomes more critical each day and is designed to provide early career experience, training, and mentorship to students from marginalized and underserved communities.  

The Davidson Resilience Scholars program will address questions important to enhance resilient communities and economies.  Davidson Resilience Scholars will conduct projects that will address issues and opportunities as identified by the Statewide resiliency plans, local plans, the S.C. Sea Grant Consortium strategic plan, and other related strategic documents.

Award Information

Subject to funding availability, the Consortium seeks nominations to support up to six Davidson Resilience Scholars per year with Sea Grant funding at Consortium member institutions.  Application packages will each propose a total of up to $5,350 in funding. This includes a $3,500 student stipend, $1,500 mentor/faculty stipend, $600 in supplies, and/or travel for the student/mentor/faculty. These can be completed during the spring semester or through the summer or a combination that suits the research project. Successful scholars will automatically be eligible to complete a summer Community Engaged Internship through the Sea Grant Consortium* see below if they complete their Resilience research during the spring semester.  In addition, indirect costs are waived per policy of the Consortium.

There is no guarantee that funds will be available to make awards, or that any application will be selected for funding. The Consortium will not be responsible for any incurred project costs if this program fails to receive full funding.

Eligibility Information and Submission

The program is focused on students from marginalized and underserved communities who are first-year students, sophomores, and juniors. Successful candidates will focus their undergraduate research efforts on innovative coastal and floodplain resilience topics related to climate- and weather-related issues and impacts associated with sea-level rise, storm surge, flooding, and severe precipitation.

Proposals must be formally submitted by a faculty member who is familiar with the student and his/her credentials and is affiliated with one of the Consortium’s member institutions: The Citadel, Clemson University, Coastal Carolina University, College of Charleston, Medical University of South Carolina, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, South Carolina State University, the University of South Carolina, and Francis Marion University.

All Davidson Resilience Scholar nominations will be required to have a faculty sponsor(s) who will serve as the institutional PI for the proposal and supervise the Scholar’s work. The prospective Davidson Resilience Scholars are expected to complete the proposal package with their faculty members. The faculty will provide a letter of support and institutional endorsement.

Roles and Responsibilities

  1. Davidson Resilience Scholars program applicants’ expectations:
    1. Complete research proposal (see required elements below).
    2. Focus their undergraduate research efforts on the social, cultural, economic, and environmental issues related to climate- and weather-related issues (from sea-level rise, storm surge, flooding, severe precipitation, etc.)
    3. Participate in and present at a year-end, in-state resilience symposium.
    4. Submit a Consortium project report form.
    5. Develop final report poster with abstract.
    6. Participate in and present at the Consortium’s research symposium.
  2. Faculty Advisors/Mentors will:
    1. Be affiliated with one of the Consortium’s member institutions: The Citadel, Clemson University, Coastal Carolina University, College of Charleston, Francis Marion University, Medical University of South Carolina, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, South Carolina State University, and the University of South Carolina.
    2. Provide a letter of support that includes the student’s ability to complete the project and the faculty’s experience in mentoring undergraduate students.
    3. Serve as the institutional PI for the proposal, gain institutional endorsement and supervise the Scholar’s work, including developing methods, implementing the project and mentoring the student through the project.
    4. Participate in the Consortium’s research symposium.

Application and Submission Information

  1. Required Elements for Proposal:
    1. Cover/Signature page
    2. Budget form/justification
    3. Student 1-page resume and transcript
    4. Personal Statement
      1. Student icebreaker – one sentence to describe yourself and 5 adjectives that someone close to you might use
      2. Student personal education and career goals (maximum 500 words)
  2. Concept letter (500 words excluding title)
    1. Title
    2. Significance
    3. Approach
    4. Innovativeness of study
    5. Anticipated results
  3. Faculty/Mentor letter of recommendation

Upon award, faculty will be required to complete a NEPA Questionnaire

Submission Dates and Times

Faculty mentors must submit application materials via eSeaGrant by 5:00 p.m. local time by December 16, 2022. At least one week prior to the submission deadline, you will need to register in the eSeaGrant research and fellowships management system in order to receive login credentials. Please click on the “Register” tab to create an account.

As soon as registration is complete, you should receive a “Welcome” email with your login credentials. If you do not receive a “Welcome” email, please contact Susannah Sheldon at or 843-953-2083. Late submissions will be considered ineligible.

Application Review and Selection Process

  1. Evaluation Criteria
    1. Student 1 page resume (25 pts)  evaluates the student’s preparation for the work required by the project.
  2. Student personal education and career goals statement (25 pts) and Student icebreaker- one sentence to describe yourself and 5 adjectives that someone close to you might use (5 pts) for total (30 pts total) evaluates the student’s Concept letter.
    1. Title
    2. Significance (10 pts)
    3. Approach (10 pts)
    4. Innovativeness of study (5 pts)
    5. Anticipated results (5 pts)
  3. Faculty/Mentor letter of recommendation (15 pts)

Budget form/justification required.

Review and Selection Process

The Consortium will convene a review panel consisting of the Executive Director, Research and Fellowships Manager, HR Manager, and up to three members of the Consortium’s Program Advisory Board (PAB). The panel will select up to six scholar applications for funding. It is anticipated that applicants will be notified of the disposition of their applications by January 11, 2023.

Scholar Recognition

  1. S.C. Sea Grant Consortium’s Research Symposium – Scholars will be recognized in the Consortium’s spring research symposium.
  2. *Community Engaged Internship – Scholars will be able to take their ideas to the next level by participating in a community engaged internship. The purpose of this program is to broaden participation in marine and coastal professions by providing training and mentorship to the next generation of scientists, decision makers and citizens. Students will engage in place-based research, extension, education and/or communication that respects and integrates local ways of knowing. The students will engage with Consortium staff and conduct a project-based internship over the summer months that addresses a place-based need, participation in all CEI professional development and training opportunities, mentorship by Consortium staff and peer discussions with other intern participants in CEI across the country. The internship is part-time, and includes professional development training, national networking including travel to a national CEI meeting. The hours of commitment and total compensation will be determined with the Sea Grant staff as it best fits the project developed.