About the Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program

"You have pioneered an impressive national strategy for environmental management and served as an outstanding role model for women scientists across America." -- Vice President Al Gore in an April 2000 Letter to Dr. Nancy Foster

History

A picture of Nancy Foster getting an award
Former NOAA Administrator D. James Baker presents Presidental Rank Award to Dr. Foster.

On June 27, 2000, Dr. Nancy Foster, the former Assistant Administrator for Oceanic Services and Coastal Zone Management at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and Director of the National Ocean Service (NOS), died at her home in Baltimore, Maryland after a year-long battle with cancer. Her early understanding of marine ecosystems and their conservation, and the need to consider the interdependent roles of organisms in marine ecosystems, set her apart as a pioneer and visionary. This perspective laid the foundation for her 23-year tenure with NOAA, and brought a quality and strength to the agency unequaled in its history.

Throughout her career, Dr. Foster was well respected as a personal supporter of mentoring, a champion of diversity, and an advocate of fair and equal treatment of all people in the workplace. She personally touched the lives of hundreds of employees because she understood the strength and vision that could be awakened in others by believing in and recognizing their unique talents and contributions. She regularly reached out to institutions that historically served minority students, making it a personal goal to open doors and create linkages. In an April 2000 letter to Dr. Foster, Vice President Al Gore wrote, "You have pioneered an impressive national strategy for environmental management and served as an outstanding role model for women scientists across America."

In 2000, and within months of her death, the Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program was introduced in Congress and signed into law on November 13, 2000. A tribute to her life's work and passion, this program was introduced by Senator Hollings (D-SC) with co-sponsors Snowe (R-ME), Kerry (D-MA), Stevens (R-AK), Inouye (D-HI), Breaux (D-LA), and Cleland (D-GA). The program was introduced by Representative Saxton (R-NJ-3) with Representative Farr (DCA-17) as the co-sponsor in the House. This scholarship is named for Dr. Foster in tribute to her outstanding contributions in advancing NOAA's mission through her excellence leadership, mentorship and her life long passion for marine science.

The Nancy Foster Scholarship Program provides support for independent graduate-level studies in oceanography, marine biology, or maritime archaeology (including all science, engineering, social science and resource management of ocean and coastal areas), particularly to women and minorities. This program is administered through the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries as mandated by the National Marine Sanctuaries Act.


Dr. Nancy Foster's Legacy

A picture of Nancy Foster getting an award
Dr. Foster received the first NMFS Habitat Conservation Award.

Throughout her career, Dr. Nancy Foster was well respected as a personal supporter of mentoring, a champion of diversity, and an advocate of fair and equal treatment of all people in the workplace. She personally touched the lives of hundreds of employees because she understood the strength and vision that could be awakened in others by believing in and recognizing their unique talents and contributions. She regularly reached out to institutions that historically served minority students, making it a personal goal to open doors and create linkages. While at NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), she instituted the first NMFS Diversity Council and Charter and the first Pilot Mentoring Program. In an April 2000 letter to Dr. Foster, Vice President Al Gore wrote, "You have pioneered an impressive national strategy for environmental management and served as an outstanding role model for women scientists across America."


About Dr. Nancy Foster

Born in Electra, Texas, Dr. Nancy Foster was a graduate of the Texas Woman's College. She received her M.S. in Marine Biology from Texas Christian University and her Ph.D. in Marine Biology from George Washington University, where her doctoral research focused on the ecology and systematics of polychaetous annelids.

Dr. Foster worked as a biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and in the 1970s served as assistant professor and chairperson of the biology department at Dunbarton College for Women in Washington, D.C. During her doctoral studies, she worked at the Smithsonian Institution, where she studied marine invertebrates.

Dr. Foster began her NOAA career in 1977, first with the Office of Research and Development, followed by nine years as the Deputy Director and then the Director of the National Marine Sanctuary Program and the National Estuarine Research Reserve Program. Much of the success of the sanctuary program—a national treasure to the American people—is attributable to her tenure in its early years, and through her long-term support and advocacy.

Nancy Foster hosing down the newly recovered anchor from USS Monitor
In 1983, Dr. Foster hosed down the newly recovered anchor from the USS Monitor.

From 1986 through 1993, she was the director of the NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service Office of Protected Resources. In this position, she received accolades from conservationists for her measures to protect Snake River salmon and winter-run Chinook salmon. She also created the NOAA Habitat Restoration Center, established the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office and charged it with safeguarding the bay, and created the National Marine Mammal Tissue Bank, opening new doors to marine science and management. She also was a key player in developing the Marine Mammal Health and Stranding Act, which established the Marine Mammal Stranding Network.

Dr. Foster served as Deputy Assistant Administrator for the National Marine Fisheries Service from 1993 to 1997, where she led the first reorganization of the agency since 1972, and helped to create a more efficient, responsive, and scientifically rigorous agency. She served as the Acting Assistant Administrator for Fisheries from January through October 1993.

Dr. Foster was a marine biologist known for her science-based conservation of coastal aquatic life. Dr. D. James Baker, the former Administrator of NOAA, asked Dr. Foster to be the new head of National Ocean Service (NOS) in 1997. The longest-serving Administrator of NOAA, Dr. Baker recognized NOAA's need to take the lead in addressing coastal issues and Dr. Foster's leadership was part of his vision. During her short stay at the National Ocean Service, she increased the agency's strength and stature, and positioned NOS to lead the nation in coastal stewardship. The reinvention and invigoration of NOS, completed in 1999, was conceptualized and developed under her guidance. She was instrumental in building numerous pivotal partnerships within NOAA and the marine community, including the congressionally mandated Marine Transportation System Task Force and the NOAA University of New Hampshire Joint Hydrographic Center in 1999. Her work was also recognized internationally, particularly in the arena of marine protected areas, and she was named Marine Vice-chair for the World Commission on Protected Areas in 1998.

On June 27, 2000, Dr. Nancy Foster died at her home in Baltimore, Maryland after a yearlong battle with cancer.

Her Honors

Dr. Foster's professional accomplishments have been recognized through numerous awards, including three Department of Commerce Bronze Medals for the National Marine Fisheries Service Restoration Center and her work in salmon conservation. In 1993, she received the Department's highest award–the Gold Medal–for her leadership in providing stewardship of the nation's living marine resources. In 1999, she was honored with a Presidential Rank Award for her overall outstanding marine conservation leadership for the nation.

Within months of her death, the Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program was introduced in Congress and signed into law on November 13, 2000. Also in 2000, the Dr. Nancy Foster Florida Keys Environmental Center was named in her honor, and The NOAA ship NANCY FOSTER, commissioned on May 10, 2004, is named for Dr. Foster in tribute to her outstanding contributions in advancing NOAA's mission through her excellence leadership.


NOAA

studens in a canoeThe National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is an agency that enriches life through science. NOAA's reach goes from the surface of the sun to the depths of the ocean floor as they work to keep citizens informed of the changing environment around them. NOAA's mission touches the lives of every American in protecting life and property and conserving and protecting natural resources.

NOAA was formed under the Department of Commerce on October 3, 1970, through a conglomeration of three existing agencies that were among the oldest in the federal government. They were the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey, formed in 1807; the Weather Bureau, formed in 1870; and the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries, formed in 1871.

Currently, NOAA is made up of six line offices — National Weather Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Ocean Service, Office of Ocean and Atmospheric Research, National Environmental Satellite, Data and Information Service, and the Office of Program Planning and Integration. For more information about NOAA, visit http://www.noaa.gov.


NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries

The Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, part of NOAA's National Ocean Service, manages the National Marine Sanctuary System, a network of fourteen marine protected areas that encompass more than 170,000 square miles of marine and Great Lakes waters from Washington State to the Florida Keys, and from Lake Huron to American Samoa. The network includes a system of 13 national marine sanctuaries and the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.

studens rowing in a canoeThe NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries conducts, sponsor and facilitates research to better understand ecosystems and cultural resources in marine sanctuaries, their changing condition, and the significance of threats. The sanctuary system uses conservation science to support policy decisions, develop effective response capabilities, evaluate management practices and support broader NOAA-wide responsibilities for marine conservation and management. Science priorities are identified within national marine sanctuary management plans and are necessary to protect and conserve sanctuary resources, manage risks, reduce threats and respond to unexpected events. Science, education, outreach and policy development work together to raise awareness and prompt effective action that will address ocean problems.

Our national marine sanctuaries embrace part of our collective riches as a nation. Within their protected waters, giant humpback whales breed and calve their young, temperate reefs flourish, and shipwrecks tell stories of our maritime history. Marine sanctuary habitats include beautiful rocky reefs, lush kelp forests, whale migration corridors, spectacular deep-sea canyons, and underwater archaeological sites. Our nation's marine sanctuaries can provide a safe habitat for species close to extinction or protect historically significant shipwrecks. Ranging in size from less than one square mile to 137,792 square miles, each sanctuary site is a unique place needing special protections. Natural classrooms, cherished recreational spots, and valuable commercial industries—marine sanctuaries represent many things to many people.

Since Congress passed the National Marine Sanctuaries Act in 1972, the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries has worked cooperatively with the public and federal, state, and local officials to promote conservation while allowing compatible commercial and recreational activities. Increasing public awareness of our marine heritage, scientific research, monitoring, exploration, educational programs, and outreach are just a few of the ways the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries fulfills its mission to the American people. For more information about the National Marine Sanctuary System, visit http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov.


Scholarship

studens in posing in a treeThe NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries is seeking applications for the Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program from individuals, particularly women and minorities, who, due to financial constraints, may otherwise not be able to pursue an advanced degree in oceanography, marine biology, maritime archaeology and all other science, engineering, social science and resource management disciplines involving ocean and coastal areas. The program seeks to increase the number of women and minorities in these scientific disciplines, particularly as they relate to the mission of the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.


Administration

All correspondence should be directed to the Nancy Foster Scholarship email address: fosterscholars@noaa.gov

The mailing address for all Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program correspondence is:

Dr. Nancy Foster Scholarship Program
NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries
1305 East-West Highway, 11th Floor Rm 11423 
Silver Spring, MD 20910