Experiences of Marine Science Experts: Second in a Four-Part Series

Rob Nowicki at Mote Marine Laboratory in the Summerland Key
Rob Nowicki at Mote Marine Laboratory in the Summerland Key

Last month, I introduced highly-educated Florida Keys marine science professionals. This month, we learn more about their field.

Q: What cool marine science did you do in college? 

Dr. Hanna Koch, Ph.D.: Eckerd College’s marine science program has a hands-on curriculum and engaging professors. Most courses had field components for exploring our environment and learning outside of textbooks/classrooms. Some labs included boat excursions to different marine habitats, e.g., tide pools and seagrass beds for collecting and identifying different organisms; others went to parks and wildlife preserves to observe local flora and fauna, as well as for ecology experiments. Others allowed us to develop our own independent research studies on campus. 

Heather Page, Ph.D.: I did lots of field trips to the beach, estuaries and local forests to learn about ecology and marine biology. My fondest memories are working in the benthic ecology laboratory where I assisted with research studying human impacts on estuaries and oyster reefs and led experiments examining effects of suspended sediments and nutrient pollution on oyster feeding physiology. I, also, completed two short-term study abroad opportunities in the incredible Galapagos Islands and Bermuda. In Bermuda, [I] received hands-on learning on tropical marine ecology research and met my (eventual) graduate advisor.

Derke Snodgrass: [Cool stuff included] the ecology of animals and their habitat at various life stages; also, learning it is not just one species or some arbitrary protection of species or species but the system-wide approach that is most successful and sustainable.

Q: Did you do an internship? 

Brooke Denkert Black, M.S.: I interned in my university’s marine science laboratory where I gained ample experience which set me well above the rest when it came to finding a job. The lab and field work gave me the opportunity to work in various disciplines: biology, chemistry, geology and physical oceanography. And yes, I was paid. A mentor taught me to never work for free; skills and time are valuable; get paid for them. Volunteer out of desire, not necessity.   

Robert Nowicki, Ph.D.: I did not do a traditional internship, but I did a research project my senior year on mollusks. After graduating, I became a paid technician at the University of North Carolina Institute of Marine Sciences, where I met many graduate students and started to form a plan to go to graduate school myself.

Page: I did internships every summer during college. During my first internship with Newport Aquarium’s husbandry team, I learned how to care for marine animals in aquarium settings and basic water quality monitoring. The following summer (2009), I participated in an NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates internship with Bodega Marine Laboratory (UC Davis). I conducted collaborative and independent research examining ocean acidification effects on larval oysters, an important species on the west coast. This internship taught me skills for a successful research career including research ethics, how to create effective science posters and presentations, how to write a scientific paper, and how to conduct rigorous research. This experience also taught me about ocean acidification, a topic I still research today. In 2010, I interned at the NOAA Kodiak Fisheries Research Center as a Hollings Scholar where I studied ocean acidification effects on juvenile Tanner crab growth and survival. This allowed me to dive further into ocean acidification research and I gained additional skills in using software programs for data analysis. Both the NSF-REU and Hollings Scholarship offered pay as well as free/reduced room and board.   

Snodgrass: A few. I worked on the biggest marine turtle nesting beach in the Atlantic, possibly the world, for two seasons, which included nesting surveys every morning, netting animals during the day for tagging, and marking nests and nesting females at night. I worked for a Ph.D. candidate studying movements of newly-hatched loggerhead turtle hatchlings as well as their behavior in response to various light and shadow types. Finally, I worked for an ichthyology professor studying the life history of crevalle jacks to learn how fast they grew and other biological aspects. All paid minimum wage.

Jill Borski
Jill Zima Borski lives in Islamorada, Fla. and is board chair of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association. Her website is www.jill-zima-borski.com