Andrew Castagno ’21M Receives Prestigious Fulbright Grant

Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Andrew Castagno ’21M has been named a recipient of a Fulbright grant to conduct research in Iceland.

“I'm extremely excited to be funded in a way that lets me focus exclusively on my research,” said Castagno, who will receive his master’s degree in marine science this spring. “The opportunity to perform research in a country where I will be immersed in the environment that fascinates me is an incredible opportunity that I am very grateful for.”

Castagno’s research focuses on the link between sea ice meltwater concentrations and marine ecosystem productivity in the Arctic, particularly in the region near the Fram Strait, a sea channel connecting the Arctic Ocean and the Nordic Seas. The region has been experiencing massive increases in algal blooming at the same time as it is experiencing increases in sea ice meltwater flux due to warming Arctic temperatures, he said.

“This bloom provides energy to the entire ecosystem, so understanding how it will be affected by increased sea ice melt or a potential loss of sea ice is important,” Castagno added.

In 2019, Castagno was a part of a research team that explored the relationship between the springtime sea ice melt and marine species that depend on the ocean for survival in the Arctic. The Arctic expedition was led by led by assistant professor of physics and physical oceanography Till Wagner. Greenpeace provided a ship and logistical support for the expedition.

“In the course of my thesis research I have worked on a similar topic, but due to the challenges of Arctic research I was only able to collect a handful of isotope samples, which are helpful in estimating meltwater concentrations and ecosystem productivity,” said Castagno. “The Fulbright will allow me to gather a much more robust collection of isotope samples, hopefully allowing me to expand upon the trend I've observed in my thesis work.”

Castagno received an Iceland Fulbright/National Science Foundation Arctic Research Award. The Fulbright Program is a highly competitive, merit-based grant for international educational exchange for students, scholars, teachers, professionals, scientists and artists. The U.S. Student Program is designed to give recent graduates and master’s and doctoral candidates opportunities for personal development and international experiences. To learn more about the Fulbright Program, contact UNCW Advisor Theodore Burgh at

- Venita Jenkins