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Doctoral student studies water in the desert

This summer, while Florida residents splash it up in pools, at beaches and in the sprinkler, many Californians will feel the effects of drought the California governor declaring a state of emergency. 

One USF doctoral student has been awarded a fellowship that allows her to partner with top professionals in the field of water preservation and recycling to deal with the growing issue of water scarcity while spending a year in Israel at the National Center for Mariculture in Eilat.

Boxman discovered the US-Israel Binational Agricultural Research and Development (BARD) Fund Post-Doctoral Fellowship from a colleague who had been awarded a different grant a few years ago. 

“Someone from Israel came and visited one of my committee members, and through their meeting and discussion, they suggested I apply for this fellowship,” she said.

During her time in Israel, Boxman will investigate the country’s water resource management with hopes of bringing her knowledge stateside to aid the U.S. in the ever-growing water scarcity problem.

According to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the entire Southwest Coast is experiencing serious drought conditions, and several other regions are feeling the heat as well. The Carolinas and Virginia are all experiencing abnormal dryness, and New England is in varying degrees of drought as of June 4.

However, water has not always been Boxman’s academic focus. She received a bachelor’s in wildlife ecology from the University of Florida but decided to pursue a master’s in a field that involved “more problem solving and less direct research.” 

“I decided to pursue engineering, which led me to the University of South Florida,” she said. “There, because … I have a background with fisheries and I also have a background with agriculture because of my bachelor’s degree, I started working on a grant that I could do with agriculture in my department.”

At USF, she completed her master’s in environmental engineering and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in engineering science. Though her first degree was in ecology, she said she is more interested in water and its management.

“One of my main interests is in water conservation and water reuse. Israel is a very arid country, and they are the world leader in water re-use,” Boxman said. “I want to work in that field, it’s the ideal place for me to go and learn about that.”

Specifically, she will be researching marine aquaculture, which Boxman said is “farming saltwater fish in contained systems.” According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, marine aquaculture “refers to the culturing of species that live in the ocean. U.S. marine aquaculture primarily produces oysters, clams, mussels, shrimp and salmon as well as lesser amounts of cod, moi, yellowtail, barramundi, sea bass, and sea bream.”

After the fellowship, Boxman said she hopes to continue researching aquaculture in order to learn better technologies and management of natural resources for better sustainable practices.

“I would like to pursue science policy, or the development of science policy, specifically targeted with our food systems,” she said.