National Marine Fisheries Service

07/31/2020 | News release | Distributed by Public on 07/31/2020 13:25

Internships Reimagined—Going Virtual in 2020

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

Bio:

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

  • Science Center: Chris Chambers

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 Labhave 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

Bio

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

  • Science Center: Ruth Haas-Castro
  • Maine Sea Grant: Justin Stevens

Project:

I'm analyzing data on the abundance and distribution of the double-crested cormorantsin 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

Bio:

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

  • Science Center: Frederick Wenzel

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.

Clara Benadon

Bio:

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

  • Science Center: Ruth Haas-Castro
  • Penobscot Indian Nation: Dan McCaw

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

Bio:

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

  • Science Center: Dvora Hart

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

Bio:

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

  • Science Center: Chris Chambers
  • Science Center: Ann Petersen

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

Bio:

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

  • Science Center: Ruth Haas-Castro
  • Maine Sea Grant: Justin Stevens

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.

Kristen McCauley

Bio:

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

  • Science Center: Genevieve Davis

Project:

My project involved using passive acoustics data gathered from an underwater gliderin 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

Bio:

University: Bowdoin Collegein 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:

  • Science Center: Ruth Haas-Castro
  • University of Maine PhD student: Sarah Rubenstein

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

Bio:

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

  • Science Center: Renee Mercaldo-Allenand Julie Rose

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

Bio:

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

  • Science Center: Joshua Hatch

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

Bio:

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

  • Science Center: Chris Chambers

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

Bio:

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

  • Science Center: Chris Chambers
  • Science Center: Ann Petersen

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

Bio:

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

  • Science Center: Dvora Hart

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.