Barret Wessel: On Fulbright Mission to Explore Soils and Happiness in Denmark

A soil and watershed sciences Ph.D. student has been awarded a Fulbright Grant

Barret Wessel, a soil and watershed sciences Ph.D. student in the Department of Environmental Science and Technology.

Image Credit: Edwin Remsberg

June 30, 2016

Barret Wessel, a soil and watershed sciences Ph.D. student in the Department of Environmental Science and Technology (ENST), has been awarded a Fulbright grant for research in Denmark for the 2016-2017 academic year. He is the first ENST student to be awarded this highly prestigious grant.

While in Denmark, Barret will study two marine ecosystems and apply soil science approaches to generate benthic (sediment and substratum) maps and conceptual models of the bottom of the Odense Fjord, to build on similar work that he has conducted on the Rhode River subestuary of the Chesapeake Bay. 

Barret hopes that by comparing the soils in these two types of estuaries, he will be able to develop better concepts for mapping them and predicting what types of soils will be found in what areas of these estuaries. “This research is important because it will allow rapid, low cost, quality maps to be made of estuarine subaqueous soils,” he explains. “These maps will be used to select appropriate locations for shellfish aquaculture, reef restoration, and submerged plant restoration, among other estuarine management activities.”

Why Denmark?

In Denmark, Barret has secured affiliations with Drs. Erik Kristensen and Mogens Flindt of the University of Southern Denmark. Dr. Kristensen is a scientific collaborator with ENST professor and Barret’s advisor- Dr. Martin Rabenhorst.

Besides scientific opportunities that Denmark is offering, Barret wants to understand what it takes to live in the world’s happiest country. “Denmark is a fascinating country. It is rated as one of the happiest countries in the world, and by many objective measures it is one of the most advanced countries in the world,” says Barret, who will live there for 10 months.

Upon his return to the U.S., Barret plans to complete his dissertation, pursue a professorship or extension career, and continue to research geographically diverse marine ecosystems, particularly in Nordic countries.  

Seventeen University of Maryland students and recent graduates were awarded Fulbright grants to study, conduct research or teach English abroad during the 2016-2017 academic year. The students and alumni will travel to 15 different countries around the world to carry out projects in fields such as dance, environmental science, public health, biology, international relations, history and geography. Others will be teaching English at diverse schools and universities.