Internships Reimagined—Going Virtual in 2020

August 04, 2020

Scientists at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center got creative to make sure their 2020 students could have the best internship experience possible in these challenging times.

2020 student graphic

When mentors at our Science Center realized that lab facilities would be closed over the summer, they got creative. Using virtual meetings and cloud-based platforms, mentors and their students have been connecting and working on research that supports NOAA Fisheries’ mission. From analyzing the impacts of ocean acidification and investigating unusual mortality events (UME) in seals, to policy and conservation work with sea-run fish and analyzing fish behavior videos, these students are gaining real-world research experience and overcoming challenges in a shifting landscape. Let’s meet some of our 2020 students!

Tait Algayer

Tait Algayer

Bio:

University: The College of New Jersey in Ewing, New Jersey
Major: Biology
Hometown: Middletown, New Jersey
Internship type: The College of New Jersey Internship Program
Mentor: 

Projects:

  • December 2019–May 2020: I explored the resilience of juvenile summer flounder (Paralichthys dentatus), winter flounder (Pseudopleuronectes americanus), and the American horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus) in response to elevated temperature and carbon dioxide levels. The work I helped with focused on quantifying how the morphology—size, shape, and/or structures—of juvenile marine organisms varies in their early life stages. 
  • June 2020–August 2020: I’m collaborating with other interns in a comprehensive study on the sensitivity of marine arthropods to ocean acidification. We are surveying peer-reviewed papers published from 2010 to 2020. The goals of this meta-analysis are to explore how marine organisms with calcifying exoskeletons respond to varying carbon dioxide levels and to gain insight on how consistently rising carbon dioxide levels in our oceans could potentially affect marine ecosystems. Response variables that were measured included metabolic processes, behavior, exoskeletal content, reproductivity, mortality, and mass. 

Insight:

The past 8 months working at the James J. Howard Marine Sciences Lab have been wildly challenging, enlightening, and more than anything, unprecedented. The transition from in-lab to at-home work has made me more flexible in my mindset and adaptable as a young scientist. My favorite part about my internship was meeting interesting, like-minded people that inspired me to venture further into the field of marine biology. I ended up working closely with a lot of people that I have never even met in person, which allowed me to build connections all over the country while sitting at a desk in my bedroom. Overall, I think this experience has forced me to be more creative in order to overcome the barriers presented by a remote internship.

Hallie Arno

Hallie Arno

Bio

University: College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine
Major: Human ecology
Hometown: Lincolnville, Maine
Internship type: Undergraduate Internships in Diadromous Ecosystem Research Program
Mentors: 

Project:

I’m analyzing data on the abundance and distribution of the double-crested cormorants in the Penobscot River to inform restoration efforts and contribute to the larger picture of the ecology of the Penobscot River. 

Insight:

It’s been a great experience to learn data analysis skills with real data that could have an impact on future management. I hope that this data will be useful in informing ecological restoration efforts, both on the Penobscot and in other areas in the future. I will use the data analysis, writing, and research skills I have gained for future research projects. 

Hannah Aycock

Hannah Aycock

Bio:

University: University of South Carolina in Columbia, South Carolina
Major: Marine science
Hometown: Leesburg, Virginia
Internship type: Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship
Mentor: 

Project:

Investigated the 2018–2020 pinniped unusual mortality event (UME) on the East Coast using aerial survey data. I identified areas of high density and species mixing. I mapped my results and compared the population distribution to stranding data. 

Insight:

The immense collaboration within this project was not only beneficial to my learning experience, but it also expanded my perspective of the impact of the UME. I am still perplexed by the many unanswered questions, and as a researcher, it excites me to witness the potential possibilities of future research. 

Teemer Barry  

Teemer Barry

Bio:

University: University of Maryland Eastern Shore in Princess Anne, Maryland
Major: Environmental science
Hometown: Durham, North Carolina
Internship type: EPP/MSI Undergraduate Scholarship Program
Mentors

Project:

I used a handful of open-source software to analyze phytoplankton communities within the Northeast United States Continental Shelf (NES). My project contributes to the Joint Polar Satellite Systems (JPSS) goal of developing phytoplanktonic remote sensing algorithms and to help better understand how certain environmental characteristics influence phytoplankton class compositions in highly productive areas.

Insight:

Being able to develop crucial career skills at such an early stage was a fantastic experience. The time I spent working with the staff and other researchers was both highly enjoyable and informative to the broader field of data analysis.

Clara Benadon

Clara Benadon

Bio:

University: Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine
Major: Biology, ecology, evolution, and marine biology
Hometown: Dickerson, Maryland
Internship type: Undergraduate Internships in Diadromous Ecosystem Research Program
Mentors: 

Project:

This summer I’m investigating how dam policy has historically affected fishery health on the Penobscot River. I'm analyzing a contentious hydroelectric relicensing project that has degraded natural resources in tribal waters. We hope to use the story we compile to help steer future policy decisions towards conservation.

Insight:

This summer is the first time I’ve dipped my toe into environmental policy. It’s been so rewarding to expand the scope of my marine knowledge from data-driven research into real-world conservation efforts.

Ayinde Best

Ayinde Best

Bio:

University: Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts
Major: Environmental science
Hometown: Boston, Massachusetts
Internship type: Woods Hole Partnership Education Program (PEP) 
Mentor: 

Project:

For my project, I’ve been working with Dr. Hart and Hayden Stuart to annotate HabCam images of the seafloor from the 2015 Northeast Fisheries Science Center scallop survey. The survey is normally used to count the number of sea scallops, waved whelks, fish, and skates, but for our study, we focused on species not normally tracked in the annual survey. By doing this, we’re able to get an idea of the population size of species not usually surveyed, providing a better understanding of the benthic community.

Insight:

I’ve learned a lot from this project, with some of the highlights including the surveying methods and just what happens on the scallop survey. However, my favorite part of the project was just being able to look at pictures of the seafloor all day. As a kid, I would always be on boats wondering what was beneath the waves, so to spend my summer observing just that was a dream come true. Besides new knowledge and skills, especially coding in R, I’d say the most valuable thing I’ve learned during my time at PEP is just how widespread and helpful the PEP family can be. Everyone I’ve met has been open to making themselves available to helping each one of us further our education and careers.

Jessica Briggs

Jessica Briggs

Bio:

University: Penn State University in University Park, Pennsylvania
Major: Environmental resource management
Hometown: Erie, Pennsylvania
Internship type: Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship
Mentors: 

Project:

I'm working with a team looking at how sediments from an industrial area adjacent to the Lower Passaic River in New Jersey might impact white perch. I've been collecting information about how toxicants might impact external fish features like shape and coloration.  From this, I’ve developed a set of fish body characteristics that are easily identifiable with a computer image analysis system. 

Insight:

My internship has given me a valuable look into how government-funded science works. While the system can be complicated, in the end, you are able to work on projects that have an impact on communities and our country. Through my internship, I have become more skilled at evaluating and understanding scientific articles to gather information about a topic.

Margaret Campbell

Margaret Campbell

Bio:

University: University of Maine in Orono, Maine
Major: Dual major in marine science and history
Hometown: San Diego, California
Internship type: Undergraduate Internships in Diadromous Ecosystem Research Program
Mentors: 

Project:

This summer I’ve been working on the Diadromous Fish Project, part of the Maine Sea Grant and Northeast Fisheries Science Center’s Diadromous Ecosystem Research Program. I’ve been researching all aspects of river herring management to better understand how the fishery is managed. River herring are a complex species with an even more complicated management structure. Additionally, I have been analyzing biological samples and running data within the Penobscot River to evaluate the sustainability metrics of river herring restoration. Finding a return rate for fish in specific watersheds will help us better understand river herring and how to restore the stock.

Insight:

Having an online internship has given me the opportunity to piece together the story of river herring via video calls with people within the Department of Marine Resources, a fisheries biologist within a tribal nation, and NOAA faculty. Hearing from such a broad range of perspectives has shown me how complex a single species of fish can be.

Nilanjana Das

Nilanjana Das

Bio:

University: Stockton University in Galloway, New Jersey
Major: Marine science and biology
Hometown: East Windsor, New Jersey
Internship type: Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship
Mentors:   

Project:

Aerial seal surveys in the Northeast typically require a time-consuming image analysis process, so my goal was to automate this analysis using machine learning. With the software Video and Image Analytics for Marine Environments (VIAME), my mentors and I are training an object detector that could produce abundance estimates for gray and harbor seal populations in a fraction of the time it currently takes. 

Insight:

Tackling a machine learning project was not at all what I expected to do this summer, but I couldn’t be more grateful to have experienced a new area of marine science. It was also rewarding to collaborate with both NOAA scientists and software developers to make artificial intelligence more accessible at the Science Center. None of this would have been possible without my incredibly supportive mentors. I really think their commitment to making our virtual internship meaningful made all the difference in my experience, and hope I have the chance to work with them in person someday!

Dexter Davis

Dexter Davis

Bio:

University: Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington
Major: Environmental science (marine)
Hometown: Seattle, Washington
Internship type: Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship
Mentors: 

Project: 

I’m a Hollings Scholar looking at how a Atlantic silverside's health is impacted by its mother and what time of year it was born. Using ImageJ, an open-source image processing program, I collected measurement data from more than 1,000 larval Atlantic silverside images. These larvae originally came from spawned adult females taken in the 2017 spawning season. I organized and analyzed the data from 2017 and 2018 larval and adult female measurements to explore relationships between females throughout the spawning season and between years.

Insight:

Having the opportunity to work on my own project for the first time has given me a glimpse of my future and what it means to be a marine scientist. Data collection can be tedious but seeing the results and patterns gives me a sense of accomplishment. It feels like you're cracking the code of how nature works. This summer isn't exactly how I expected it to be, but working semi-independently on this project has taught me how and when to ask for help, when to trust myself, to know my own limits, and how to problem solve. I’ve improved my networking, communicative, and motivational skills and learned how to code in RStudio to create effective graphs. These few months of working at NOAA Fisheries have inspired me to keep pushing ahead, trying my hardest. I know I'll end up in a career doing what I love. I'm incredibly grateful that I got this chance. I hope that in the future perhaps I can collaborate in person with anyone I've met this summer.

Katie Innamorato

Katie Innamorato

Bio:

University: Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Major: Environmental science
Hometown: Broomall, Pennsylvania
Internship type: Drexel Co-op Program
Mentors: 

Project:

I’m looking at how Atlantic silverside offspring quality might be impacted by their mothers and when they were born. Silverside eggs were collected in Sandy Hook, New Jersey, in 2017 and 2018.

Insight:

I am very grateful to have this experience virtually amidst COVID-19. Because of this, I am able to continue gaining experience in developing research hypotheses and utilizing online programs to further my scientific and professional growth.

Kristen McCauley

Kristen McCauley

Bio:

University: Savannah State University in Savannah, Georgia
Major: Marine science
Hometown: Savannah, Georgia
Internship type: Woods Hole Partnership Education Program (PEP) 
Mentor: 

Project:

My project involved using passive acoustics data gathered from an underwater glider in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary to determine when and where haddock spawn. 

Insight:

The most valuable thing that I have learned during this PEP experience is to not be afraid of talking or making connections with those around you because the people you meet at Woods Hole are the ones who want you to succeed the most.

Lucie Nolden

Lucie Nolden

Bio:

University: Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine
Major: Dual major in Earth and oceanographic science and religion
Hometown: Lexington, Massachusetts
Internship type: Undergraduate Internships in Diadromous Ecosystem Research Program
Mentors: 

Project:

My project has focused on the impact of Penobscot River dams on Atlantic salmon egg quality. I’ve been analyzing egg size data and studying the relationships between egg size and number of eggs, salmon fat at spawning, water temperature before spawning, and eye-up rate—a way to predict hatch success. The results will inform the construction or removal of hydropower projects and fishways on the Kennebec and Penobscot Rivers.

Insight:

My favorite part of this experience so far has been learning how to play with data in RStudio and visualize the real-life relationships between different variables using graphing and statistical tools.

Brandon Rose

Brandon Rose

Bio:

University: Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida
Major: Marine science 
Hometown: Geneva, Illinois
Internship type: Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship
Mentors:

Project:

I’m working on the Milford Lab’s GoPro Aquaculture Habitat Project. I’m reviewing GoPro camera videos collected adjacent to oyster aquaculture cages and on natural rock reef and sand and shell seafloors. I review footage to determine how quickly fish return to these habitats following disturbance from camera deployment. For each continuous 90-minute video, I am recording "time of first arrival" for the four most abundant finfish species: black sea bass, cunner, scup, and tautog. I will also evaluate whether "time of first arrival" can be used as a proxy to estimate relative fish abundance.

Insight:

Although I am disappointed that we could not conduct in-person internships this summer, our ability to rapidly transition to a virtual setting is a testament to the resilience and perseverance of the scientific community.

Christopher Roman Sandoval

Christopher Roman Sandoval

Bio:

University: University of Texas at El Paso in El Paso, Texas
Major: Environmental science
Hometown: El Paso, Texas
Internship type: Woods Hole Partnership Education Program (PEP) 
Mentor: 

Project:

We’re using the data collected from satellite tags placed on loggerhead sea turtles to create dive profiles that help us determine migratory patterns and behavior. Satellite tags record dive depth, time values, and dive duration among many other variables. Individual sea turtles can do hundreds to thousands of dives.  

Insight:

The PEP program has been an amazing experience. I’ve learned a great deal about oceanography, coding, and presenting myself in the science community. I’ve learned how being a minority in the science field can affect me and those around me. More importantly, it taught me that since I am a minority, I need to push myself for greater things, to be part of the change, and to create a stronger and a more diverse community within the science field. BE DISRUPTIVE! During these unprecedented times, I was not able to meet any of my cohort or members of PEP in person, but they have felt nothing short of family and will be remembered long after my time in this program is over.

Toni Sleugh

Toni Sleugh

Bio:

University: Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa
Major: Double major in biology and environmental studies
Hometown: Carmel, Indiana
Internship type: Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship
Mentor: 

Project:

My project focuses on the biological responses of marine arthropods to predicted future levels of ocean acidification. I have been the lead intern working on this project.

Insight:

My favorite part about this internship is the independence I’ve had to develop my own project and learn new skills. This project has allowed me to take full ownership of my project, formulate a question based on gaps in previous research, develop an original procedure, and collect and analyze data. It has been such a learning experience to be involved in the research process from start to (almost) finish! I’ve learned lots of useful new skills, like how to evaluate and critique research papers, ways to structure data, and new techniques for statistical analysis. This internship has helped me get a more holistic view of how research works, which will help me be better prepared when I start graduate school next fall.

Jenna Stanley

Jenna Stanley

Bio:

University: Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts
Major: Environmental science and policy
Hometown: Manasquan, New Jersey
Internship type: NOAA College-Supported Program
Mentor: 

Project:

My project deals with the effects of highly-toxic compounds known as dioxins on white perch (Morone americana). My role is to help design and develop the methods for taking quantitative measurements of the liver and gonads using histological techniques. 

Insight:

This internship has not only refined how I think about my position as a young scientist in fisheries science but also has helped me learn the importance of connecting with people to create a network of support for my future.

Hayden Stuart

Hayden Stuart

Bio:

University: New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, New Mexico
Major: Fisheries biology
Hometown: Los Lunas, New Mexico
Internship type: Woods Hole Partnership Education Program (PEP) 
Mentor: 

Project:

We are conducting a survey in order to determine populations of sea scallops, wave whelks, fish, and skates from the mid-Atlantic to George’s Bank. Through this, we can determine how many individuals of these species can be harvested without damaging the ecosystem. We are also looking at the ecosystem as a whole; we want to see how scallops interact with non-target species, such as sea stars and hermit crabs, in order to see how those species interact. We determine this by mapping out the distribution of each species and looking at how their distributions relate to one another.  

Insight:

I’ve learned a lot about the nature of oceanic research and the non-invasive, observational methods in which scientists observe life on the seafloor. I highly recommend this. It’s a very different and fascinating perspective looking at life at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

 

For more information, please contact Heather Soulen.

Last updated by Northeast Fisheries Science Center on August 10, 2020