FIU student wins Females in Fisheries conservation scholarship

The seventh annual Noreen Clough Memorial Scholarship for Females in Fisheries has been awarded to Florida International University grad student Shakira Trabelsi, who began fishing at a young age and considers time spent multispecies fishing throughout Florida “transformative.”

“Fishing began for me in the canal in my backyard with my dad; we would fish there regularly until his passing when I was 7 years old,” said Trabelsi. “Angling in my free time, though, created and reinforced friendships, served as a mental reset and — in a small way — pays homage to my dad.”

Trabelsi, who is currently pursuing her master’s degree in Environmental Science, is investigating the health of the economically important wild redfish throughout Florida’s estuaries to determine if pharmaceuticals are affecting the health of exposed fish. She is evaluating the extent of exposure and assessing fish health through hematological and biochemical analyses.

“Studies in laboratory settings have shown that pharmaceuticals can alter the behavior of fish and negatively impact their health, yet negative impacts to health regarding pharmaceuticals in wild fish has not been assessed,” explained Trabelsi.

After graduating in 2024, Trabelsi hopes to work for a government agency as a biologist on issues regarding water quality and fisheries conservation through an ecotoxicology perspective.

“I can only hope to have even a fraction of Noreen Clough’s tenacity, passion and determination; she truly is an inspiration to women in fisheries like me,” said Trabelsi.

Noreen Clough blazed many trails in the field of fisheries. As the first female regional director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and later as the B.A.S.S. Conservation Director, her distinguished career was dedicated to the conservation and management of fish and wildlife. Clough passed away in January 2015. As a tribute, friends and colleagues established an endowment to provide a scholarship through the Southern Division American Fisheries Society Black Bass Conservation Committee for female students working toward a career in fisheries conservation.

Applicants for the Females in Fisheries scholarship came in from women across the United States and Canada who exemplified what Clough hoped to see in future fishery scientists.

“All of the young women who applied for the Females in Fisheries scholarship have a bright future in fisheries because, in addition to their academic strengths, they are all avid anglers — and that will serve them well as they pursue professional careers,” said Gene Gilliland, B.A.S.S. Conservation Director.

Gordon Robertson, retired Vice President of Government Affairs for the American Sportfishing Association and a longtime colleague of Clough’s added, “Noreen put a high value on lessons learned from recreational fishing from both a resource understanding and appreciation perspective but also from a perspective of understanding anglers and how they think and react to resource and social issues.”

Trabelsi will be awarded a $2,000 scholarship from the Southern Division American Fisheries Society Black Bass Conservation Committee.