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Our 2021 NOAA-Wide Education Program Students Share Insights

July 29, 2021

The NOAA Office of Education offers many student opportunities and every year, some of these students choose to work with mentors at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center.

Collage of interns from the 20201 Programs

NOAA Office of Education provides a portal for many student opportunities offered across the agency. This year, the Northeast Fisheries Science Center is hosting 18 students recruited through four of these. The students hail from seven states and 2 countries, and 16 different colleges and universities in 11 states and 2 countries. 

Projects range from developing areas such as offshore wind energy, environmental DNA, ocean acidification, and ocean pollution, to technologies like bioacoustics, to problems important for NOAA’s missions to recover endangered species and build sustainable fisheries. Their study areas range from the Northeastern United States to waters off Australia and the Falkland Islands. 

In each profile, students outline their project, why it's important, and—always the best part—insights they’ve gained into a marine science career during their time with us.

Educational Partnership Program with Minority Serving Institutions (EPP/MSI)

The primary long-term goal of EPP/MSI is to increase the number of students, particularly from underrepresented communities, who attend higher education institutions that have NOAA Cooperative Science Centers.

Alexandra Grayson

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Alexandra Grayson

Bio:

Hometown: Baltimore, Maryland

University: Howard University in Washington D.C.

Major: Environmental studies

Internship Mentor(s): 

Project:

I'm working on a literature synthesis related to offshore wind and benthic invertebrate communities to see if there is a relationship between offshore wind development and the benthos.

Insight:

This internship has introduced me to literature and methods of offshore wind. It’s helped me to become more familiar with the process and understand the value of systemic review and meta-analysis. It’s also helped me enhance my skills with R, a computer programming language scientists use.

Mya Sharpe

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May sitting on stern of boat with fishing rod and seaweed.

Bio:

Hometown: Brooklyn, New York

University: Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland

Major: Biology

Internship Mentor(s): 

Project:

Wild Atlantic salmon have been listed as endangered since 2000 due to anthropogenic activities, environmental effects, and predation. For my project, I’m analyzing images of juvenile wild Atlantic salmon (smolts) scales collected between 2013 and 2019 to calculate their seasonal and plus-growth. I’m then going to compare it with weekly water temperature and precipitation to see if they had any impact on smolt growth.

Insight:

What I enjoy about my internship is being introduced to a new area of NOAA. I knew after my first summer with NOAA I wanted to work with NOAA Fisheries for my next internship. If I decide to pursue a career in fisheries science, I will definitely work with scale imaging. My internship experience provided me with a great mentor and helped me learn how to analyze fish scales for growth, learn new statistical techniques, and make some networking connections.

NOAA EPP/MSI Experiential Research & Training Opportunity (NERTO)

The NOAA Experiential Research & Training Opportunity is a win-win for NOAA and its MSI Cooperative Science Center academic partners.

Shakira Goffe

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Shakirag Goffe

Bio:

Hometown: Plainfield, New Jersey and Richmond, Virginia

University: University of Maryland Eastern Shore in Princess Anne, Maryland

Major: Master’s degree program in marine, estuarine and environmental science

Internship Mentor(s): 

Project:

For my project, I’m analyzing and comparing the maturity parameters of American plaice sampled in Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine.

Insight:

My internship helped me learn about fisheries science and how to scrutinize data for accuracy and use in computer modeling analyses. It also helped me make connections and network with others in my field. 

Ryan Rubino

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Ryan Rubino hiking in the foothills.

Bio:

Hometown: Niantic, Connecticut

University: Texas A&M University, Harte Research Institute, in Corpus Christi, Texas

Major: Master’s degree program in fisheries and mariculture 

Internship Mentor(s): 

Project:

I’m using video collected with GoPro cameras to analyze and compare the behavior of scup (Stenotomus chrysops) found around a shellfish farm’s oyster aquaculture cages and natural rock reef habitat in Long Island Sound.

Insight:

After finishing my masters degree, I'd like to go into the fisheries or oyster aquaculture field. This internship experience was the perfect cross of the two. I learned how to categorize and score fish behavior using behavioral software called Observer and expand my knowledge of fisheries and aquaculture gear interactions. I’m hoping that the knowledge and skills I’ve gained during this internship will help me get a job in this field later this year.

Ashley Silver

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Ashley Silver at the beach.

Bio:

Hometown: Portsmouth, Virginia

University: University of Maryland Eastern Shore in Princess Anne, Maryland

Major: Doctoral degree program in marine, estuarine, and environmental science

Internship Mentor(s): 

Project:

For my project, I’m investigating new growth parameters for American plaice. The growth rates of American plaice found in Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine are different. American plaice found in Georges Bank have a faster growth rate than those found in the Gulf of Maine. This species will be undergoing a research track assessment in 2022. Understanding and evaluating new growth parameters will be key for this assessment and help in fisheries management decisions.

Insight:

This NERTO opportunity helped me gain further knowledge with using growth models to investigate and compare growth rates for multiple fish species, as well as, become proficient in R coding. I hope to have the opportunity to not only learn more about using growth models to determine differences between growth rates in finfish, but also apply insight and perspective from my research experience. My internship also gave me the opportunity to collaborate with other researchers in my career field.

Hollings Scholars

Established in 2005, the Hollings Scholarship Program provides successful undergraduate applicants with awards that include academic assistance (up to $9,500 per year) for 2 years of full-time study and a 10-week, full-time paid ($700/week) internship at a NOAA facility during the summer.

Skylar Gering

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Skylar Gering

Bio:

Hometown: Palm Desert, California

University: Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California

Major: Computer science and mathematics

Internship Mentor(s): 

Project:

I’m comparing two ecosystem monitoring techniques, active acoustics and environmental DNA (eDNA), to help provide evidence on the effectiveness of eDNA and to verify acoustic classifications. Acoustic ( sound) data is collected and used to classify types of marine life found in the ocean. Environmental DNA data comes from water samples collected in the ocean and analyzed for DNA of marine life. I’m developing code to compare these two types of data.

Insight:

I'm a computer science and mathematics major and before this internship, I’d never worked with acoustic or eDNA data. I had the opportunity to jump into a new field, increase my skill set, and push through new challenges. I now feel confident working with large acoustic data sets and have increased flexibility as I work towards scientific goals. I am grateful for my supportive mentors, and I’ve enjoyed working with such a diverse group of scientists.

Jack Gerrior

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Jack Gerrior on beach with speciman.

Bio:

Hometown: Middleborough, Massachusetts

University: Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts

Major: Marine science, safety, and environmental protection

Internship Mentor(s): 

Project:

For my project, I’m comparing injury types and frequency of injury types in migrating Atlantic salmon smolts. Smolt data was collected from 9 rivers in Maine between 1997 and 2019. Atlantic salmon are an endangered, anadromous species that have been extirpated from all United States river systems south of Maine, with fewer than 2,000 adult fish remaining within the Gulf of Maine Distinct Population Segment.

Insight:

It was great to have the opportunity to collaborate with research scientists and fisheries biologists that have years of experience monitoring, studying, and managing this critically endangered species of fish and work with other Hollings interns focusing on Atlantic salmon research. I got to work with datasets in RStudio, learn how to identify types and causes of salmon smolt injury, and prepare acoustic telemetry probes before field deployments. Deploying telemetry probes in local fishways in my town was definitely exciting.

Rebecca Harrigan

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Rebecca Harrigan holding small turtle in plam of her hand.  Other students in waders in the background.

Bio:

Hometown: Brooklyn, New York

University: Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts

Major: Biological sciences

Internship Mentor(s): 

Project:

My project analyzes the biological effects of elevated carbon dioxide on marine arthropods to better understand the consequences of ocean acidification (OA). Building upon a database created by interns in 2020 and following guidance by the NOAA Central Library, my work refines and applies meta-analytical techniques to provide a robust OA assessment on marine arthropods.

Insight:

My favorite part about my internship is being able to work closely with people who have similar interests and career paths as me. This internship has shown me what it is like to work for NOAA, how to conduct research, and what to think about when applying for graduate school programs. The most useful thing I have learned are the methods for conducting a systematic review. This knowledge will improve my ability to search through literature, extract data from objectively relevant papers, and synthesize findings.

Nicholas Hayes

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Nicolas Hayes

Bio:

Hometown: Simsbury, Connecticut

University: University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Major: Mathematics

Internship Mentor(s): 

Project:

Using passive acoustics, I’m developing a dolphin vocalization classification system that can accurately attribute dolphin calls to species. 

Insight:

The staff and researchers at NEFSC have been an invaluable resource in developing crucial career skills. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time spent working alongside these experts. They’ve offered useful insight into future career possibilities.

Korianna Hays

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Kori Hays

Bio:

Hometown: Irmo, South Carolina

University: Clemson University in Clemson, South Carolina

Major: Biological sciences

Internship Mentor(s): 

Project:

I’m studying the soundscape of an Australian marine park! We launched an underwater microphone to continuously record sound for three months in an area off the coast of Australia. I then manually looked through spectrograms (pictures of the sound waves) and picked out any biological sounds that occurred each hour and identified what species of animal made the noise. This gives us an idea of what animals are present within the parks and if there is excessive human activity. Since the marine parks are so vast and remote, using acoustic technology is a good way to survey them and help inform management strategies.

Insight:

Before this summer, I had no experience with bioacoustics, but decided to take the leap and try something entirely new. It couldn’t have worked out better! Not only do I have a more diverse resume, but I’ve found a love for a whole new field of marine science. My mentor, Jess, has been instrumental in my success this summer. She has welcomed me into the NOAA Fisheries world and ensured I was supported and that I got the best experience possible, even though it was virtual.

David Hugo

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David Hugo holding catfish on his shoulder.

Bio:

Hometown: Richmond, Virginia

University: Duke University in Durham, North Carolina

Major: Biology and environmental science

Internship Mentor(s): 

Project:

I’m documenting the physical stresses that migrating fish experience in passing over low-head dams. To do this, I’m using collected data and existing literature on stress thresholds to identify areas in rivers that will likely be a high injury risk to migrating fish.

Insight:

During my internship I learned a great deal about the different factors that affect the success of fish migration, both locally and in the context of Atlantic salmon conservation. I also mastered the operation of a new piece of technology (neutrally buoyant transmitters) used in fish passage research and had the opportunity to plan and conduct fieldwork at local field sites.

Hana Koilpillai

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Hana Koilpillai holding a small dog.

Bio:

Hometown: Northville, Michigan

University: Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida

Major: Marine science and animal studies

Internship Mentor(s): 

Project:

My research project focuses on analyzing photographic evidence of non-lethal attacks on North Atlantic humpback whales by killer whales (orcas). The North Atlantic Humpback Whale Catalog consists of more than 10,500 non-calf individuals identified by fluke photographs. I was one of two reviewers who examined each ID photo for the presence and severity of orca scars: rake marks, teeth indentations, and missing tissue. The distribution of scarred individuals across six high-latitude North Atlantic feeding grounds in the Gulf of Maine, waters off the coast of Canada, Iceland, Greenland, Norway, and the United Kingdom will determine if orca interactions on humpbacks are evenly distributed across the North Atlantic.

Insight:

Although the plans for this internship changed due to COVID, it’s been an amazing experience. This project has been perfect for me as my research passions center on cetacean behavior and communication. I’ve learned so much about humpback whales in general and their interactions with orcas. I gained important skills such as image recognition and database management. Most importantly, I’ve grown as a scientist and been encouraged to ask questions and seek answers through my research.

Benjamin Minch

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Benjamin Minch in tux with soccer ball.

Bio:

Hometown: Huntington Beach, California

University: Biola University in La Mirada, California

Major: Biology

Internship Mentor(s): 

Project:

Changing climate is likely to affect marine resources in numerous interacting ways. White perch are a key member of estuaries and inland waters of the eastern United States and I’m studying the effects of temperature on the viability, condition, and timing of events of their sensitive early life-stages. To do this, I’m analyzing images of white perch larvae one day post-hatch to identify if their morphology changes because of increased water temperature. I’m also looking at how long larvae survived without food and how many survived the hatching period.

Insight:

This internship has done a great measure to expose me to the world of ocean science, specifically fisheries biology. I’ve gained valuable experience in statistical analysis, coding, and image analysis which will help me in my anticipated future career in marine biology. The most useful thing I learned was how to create data applications and packages to perform data analysis to boost the efficiency of this project.

Camille Wilson

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Camille Wilson in front of a waterfall.

Bio:

Hometown:

University: University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia

Major: Environmental sciences

Internship Mentor(s): 

Project:

The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory designed the ARC800 Sensor Fish and it’s now available to purchase. Sensor Fish collect data on the physical conditions within dam turbines and fishways without subjecting live fish to the potentially harmful conditions. My project is based on learning how these sensors work and understanding their best uses and limitations. I’m conducting laboratory experiments to test responsiveness and precision of the sensor in recording temperature, pressure, acceleration, and angular velocity.

Insight:

One of my favorite parts of my internship has been working with such new technology. We’re teaching our mentors how to use these devices so they can deploy them in the Penobscot River, Maine. It’s really cool knowing your work is going to help with future research. Before this internship and the internship selection process, I didn't know how well my interests aligned with fisheries research. Now I know that is another direction I can look when searching for graduate school or career opportunities.

Jiaxin (Julie) Xu

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Xu Jiaxin

Bio:

Hometown: Irvine, California

University: Swarthmore College in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania

Major: Biology and environmental studies

Internship Mentor(s): 

Project:

Using passive acoustic data collected from bottom-mounted recorders, I’m investigating the presence and distribution (seasonal and spatial) of endangered baleen whale species in the South Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Falkland Islands. Species of interest include sei whales and southern right whales. Other priorities of the project include: 

  • Use an acoustic analysis software called Raven to identify target vocalizations from species of interest.
  • Assess how well an automated classifier is working at picking up the various calls in the sei whale acoustic repertoire.

Insight:

I appreciate that my internship gave me the opportunity to meet with two wonderful mentors, one from NOAA Fisheries and one from African Aquatic Conservation Fund. My favorite part about this internship is that I got to work with new raw science data. I learned how to work with acoustic data using Raven, a software program developed by Cornell Lab of Ornithology. This is an important skill to have when studying marine mammals including whales and will help my future career in marine biology tremendously.

Kathryn Zic

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Kathryn Zic

Bio:

Hometown: Middletown, New Jersey 

University: The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio

Major: Environmental science

Internship Mentor(s): 

Project:

For my project, I’m creating a weekly time series to monitor the change in microplastic abundance and composition at Horseshoe Cove in  Sandy Hook, New Jersey. The goal is to determine how quickly the landscape of plastic pollution changes on a given beach over time. This project may provide more information on what kinds of plastic polymers and additives are being exposed to marine organisms.

Insight:

One of the most useful things about this internship is it makes information I know on paper feel more tangible. It took a lot of work to change my knowledge of chemistry from memorized knowledge to working knowledge, but it makes the work I do so much more interesting. It was also great to become more familiar with specific subtopics of environmental science.

NOAA College-Supported Internship Program

Since 2006, has partnered with selected colleges to provide undergraduate students college-funded summer internship opportunities. Students are enrolled in one of the partner colleges and participate and apply through that college. NOAA provides students experience in science, policy, and science communication.

Shuyi Lin

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Shuyi Lin holding puppy.

 

Bio:

Hometown: Fuzhou, China

University: Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont

Major: Environmental studies and chemistry 

Internship Mentor(s): 

Project:

Through this remote internship, I’m analyzing the chemical characterization of marine microplastic collected from the seabird Cory’s shearwater. I analyzed 38 samples through a technique called Gas chromatography-mass spectrometer (GC-MS). It works by breaking down large polymers through heat and allows us to detect and analyze small traces of plastic substances. Because different types of plastic have different abilities to absorb pollutants, using GC-MS helps us determine the types of plastic present in various samples.

Insight:

My favorite part of this internship was figuring out the exact type of plastic from a completely novel chromatogram. The process felt like solving a puzzle and I really enjoyed the sense of accomplishment after solving it. I think that it’s very satisfying knowing that this result can potentially contribute to a greater project for the benefit of the environment. As my first research experience in the subject of environmental chemistry, this experience has been very rewarding. 

Jenna Stanley

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Jenna Stanley giving tumbs up while scuba diving.

Bio:

Hometown: Manasquan, New Jersey

University: Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts

Major: Environmental science and policy

Internship Mentor(s): 

Project:

Industrial chemicals in waterways pose a serious threat to the health and success of estuarine and river ecosystems. These ecosystems are the backbone of recreation and act as sources of food in New Jersey. My project uses microscopic images of ovaries, gills, livers, and spleens in white perch to examine the current health of this species in New Jersey waterways. This documentation will add to other research currently being done on these polluted ecosystems.

Insight:

This internship is building off of the research I’ve been working on for the past year with the Northeast Fisheries Science Center. I have a new appreciation and understanding for the research that NOAA scientists participate in. Through this program, I’m developing a network of professionals in a field I am passionate about. I’ve also developed and refined my skills in using microscopy, measurement software, and navigating scholarly databases for the information I need. I’m most excited however, to share my experience with others.

 

For more information, please contact Heather Soulen.

Last updated by Northeast Fisheries Science Center on September 13, 2021