SEA Currents: Woods Hole Partnership Education Program
Sometimes things don’t go as planned. Of course there will always be small miscalculations; running out of microscope slides, minor lab math mishaps, or running out of that one magical reagent you forgot about. Now these kinds of things are generally no problem, a simple run to the store or an hour or two with a pencil and paper can fix these. But what happens if there is an issue with the project itself? After all there are deadlines to meet, supervisors to answer to, and other people relying on your results.
Today my mentors Meagan Gonnea and Jennifer O’ Keefe Suttles took me out to the field where we analyzed data from the marshes that are being used within the project that I am working on. One of the marshes that we visited was Stony Brook, which is located in Brewster, MA.
Today is the end of my first week of the internship segment here at Woods Hole PEP, and it’s been one experience after another. I go to Amherst College, a liberal arts college not too far from Woods Hole. As great as it is, the chance to work in the field doing research hasn’t really come my way- until my internship began at the Woods Hole Research Center. You might expect a research internship to consist of working in sterile labs, poured over glass vials and odd instruments, and to a certain degree you may be right.
Before coming to Woods Hole, I had only departed Baltimore with academic aspirations one other time. The summer between my eighth and ninth grade years I attended a Lead America summer program at Georgetown University, and it was amazing because I was able to meet kids just like me from all across the country. I have the opportunity for the second time in my life, here in Woods Hole while participating in the Partnership Education Program, to learn and grow with others from across the globe.
My research is about validating aging methods for Lophius americanus. In order to do this I need to dissect them to remove their illicium, otoliths, and vertebral columns. The dissection room is located on the first floor of the NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center. It’s a clean room longer than it is wide with work benches along a windowed wall. We take the monkfish out of the specimen freezer (which is a brisk -10°C) the day before to thaw. One by one we lay the fish out on a measuring board to measure their total length. Then we weigh tem and place them back on the board to begin cutting.
Today, I along with several of my PEP peers marched in the nerdiest Fourth of July Parade I have ever seen. First, let me give you a sampling of just a few of the groups that marched. The Grass lab wore grass skirts and marched with a giant tick made from an umbrella as they chanted “Ticks in the Grass!”. The spectroscopy group shouted “Electrons excite!” and then “Photons emit!” in an elaborate demonstration of how emission spectra are generated. One group marched with a gigantic sea urchin dome that was used to hide people dressed as gametes that would run out of the urchin when it “spawned”.
My name is Amber Durand, and I am a rising junior at Howard University, majoring in Biology and minoring in Chemistry. In my quest to find a summer internship, I was very open to exploring the different branches of science. One afternoon, my mentor pulled me aside and encouraged me to apply to the Woods Hole Partnership Education Program. I had never heard of Woods Hole, Massachusetts, but after reviewing the program’s website and contacting the program director, I decided to apply. Having had no experience in ocean or environmental sciences, I was quite unsure about my standing in the application process.
I began my academic journey at a community college, then transferred to my dream school: University of California, San Diego (UCSD) as a Marine Biology major. In fact, I just completed my first year! Before I transferred to UCSD, I presented my summer research with the Sarasota Dolphin Research Program at the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science National Conference in Washington, DC. and PEP was there. Like many, I heard many noteworthy accomplishments about Woods Hole which initially intimidated me to walk past their table.
When I found out I got accepted into the PEP program I was ecstatic. However, I was graduating from college on the same day that I was scheduled to depart NYC for Woods Hole. I felt like all my hard-work was for nothing and went unnoticed. A few weeks into the program I was surprised by my PEP colleagues who planned a graduation ceremony for me.
I could feel my hands getting clammy as I got off the Peter Pan bus in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. It was 9:30 PM and in a couple minutes, I was going to be greeted by Dr. Adrienne George. While waiting for Dr. George, I was lucky to have met another PEP student, Lynnette. Lynette and I were both from the UC system and we both knew what an honor it was to be selected into the Partnership Education Program. On our way to the SEA campus, I couldn’t help but smile.