Margaret A. Davidson Fellowship

The two-year Margaret A. Davidson fellowship brings a graduate student to conduct research at the Reserve to address a key coastal management question. These questions help Hudson River communities understand coastal challenges and impacts to influence future policy and management strategies.

The annual stipend for a Margaret A. Davidson fellow is $41,000 for research and travel, and an additional equipment and supply budget of approximately $7,000. Research being conducted at the Reserve is intended to be a substantial part of the fellow’s degree research. At least 6 weeks must be spent at the Reserve each year.

The Reserve’s current Margaret A. Davidson fellow, Clara Chang of Columbia University, is exploring the impact of sea level rise on the Hudson River’s marshes using sediment core research.

Click here to view our recorded Davidson Fellowship Info Session. 

The application for the 2022-2024 cohort is now closed. Please stay tuned for our next application cycle. 

Fellowship Research Topics

Full description of research topics are listed below. For more information, points of contact for each topic are listed in the descriptions.

Submerged Aquatic Vegetation

There was a 90% loss of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) in the Hudson during an extreme storm event in 2012, and we know from GIS data that while Vallisneria americana is recovering, it does not include all pre-2012 areas and seems to be a genetic monoculture, but we do not know if transplanting native Hudson River SAV is a viable restoration option, or why invasive Trapa natans expanded into some shallow water areas but not others. Therefore, to prepare for large-scale restoration, we want to know if transplantation of native Hudson River SAV is feasible and if so, what conditions maximize restoration success and inhibit Trapa invasion. 

Reserve point of contact for additional information: Sarah Fernald, Research Coordinator,, (845) 889-4745 x111. 

Elevation of Structures

We know that sea-level rise will change the location of mean high water and this will affect public trust lands. But, we know that actual, observed daily water levels often exceed the calculated mean depending on conditions at the moment of observation, including large storm events. The potential daily water elevations that exceed the mean level under “normal” conditions is especially valuable information when designing and permitting coastal shoreline projects. Therefore, we would like a framework to pursue this issue that could include an inventory of existing guidance and the development of an economic cost/benefit analysis of providing coastal flood protection at elevations above mean high water versus the expected frequency of exceeding those elevations and identifying the point of diminishing returns of investment in coastal protection to increasing heights.

Reserve point of contact for additional information: Dan Miller, Habitat Restoration Coordinator,, (845) 889-4745 x110.

Social Justice and Outreach

Hudson River Reserve conducts several local outreach and education events and we know the audience includes several minority groups. But, we do not know how effectively we are communicating our core messages and successfully reaching communities of color, low-income families, or members of the LGBTQ+ community. Therefore, an analysis of the exchange of Hudson Valley information with marginalized groups would inform how to improve this outreach

Reserve point of contact for additional information: Maija Niemisto, Educator,, (845) 889-4745 x107.

Plant Herbivory

Native tidal marsh plant species, particularly smooth cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora), play a critical role in stabilizing and protecting marsh edges, and are experiencing significant grazing pressure and additional stresses from sea-level rise, invasive species, and nitrogen pollution at Piermont Marsh. But, little is known about how these stressors might be interacting to affect vegetation composition and dynamics. Therefore, we need to identify the primary sources of herbivory and understand how they are potentially interacting with other stressors to affect marsh structure and resilience.

Reserve point of contact for additional information: Brian DeGasperis, Restoration Biologist,, (845) 889-4745 x116.