SEA Currents: Woods Hole Partnership Education Program
Over the past 5 weeks I engaged in research under the mentorship of Heidi Sosik and Stace Beaulieu. The project I was working on is captioned “Assessing the temporal relationship between morphotype and genotype for ciliate data from the Martha’s Vineyard Coastal Observatory”.
Ciliates are microscopic, unicellular, eukaryotic-protists that are characterized by the presence of hair-like structure (cilia) that are found on or around these organisms.
During my freshman year at Howard University, I participated in a research-intensive honors laboratory, a PHAGES program, which ignited my interest in the field of microbiology. The objective of this course was to isolate, analyze, and characterize a bacteriophage from the environment. Bacteriophages are viruses that infect bacteria, as well as replicate within the bacteria. This course enlightened me about the intricacies of how phages infect bacteria, what type of differences are in their genomes, and how phages could be used in a variety of biomedical, health, environmental, and ecological functions.
Woods Hole continues to exceed my expectations. These past nine weeks with the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC) have been fun, but very demanding: coring 30 centimeters (cm) of soil, hugging trees, and clipping vegetation. Not to mention, the bug bites! Regardless, this was the adventure I was seeking.
This internship has been a great and exciting experience. From the course on climate change, to the interesting field trips, and the cool research. Now that the days are beginning to count down and we’re close to our final presentation day it’s crunch time. Most of us are working hard with our mentors to finalize the work we have been doing for the past two months so we can present our findings.
When I was in high school I participated in the Mathematics Science Engineering Academy pipeline program hosted by Fort Valley State University. The mission of this program is to “alleviate the underrepresentation of women and minorities in the energy industry”. As a rising ninth grader I travelled with them to Reston, Virginia, headquarters of the United States Geological Survey (USGS).
The course section of the Partnership Education Program (PEP) is over and I have transitioned full-time into the lab at Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) Ecosystem Lab for my research on Sea turtles with Maureen Conte (MBL) and Heather Hass (NOAA). The course section was hard-work but I was able to push through it. I started working on my research on July 5, 2017 and so far I am having the most fun and learning new things that I never thought of.
Despite all the research and social experiences I’ve had as part of the PEP program so far, the past couple of days of being in the program have me setting my sights beyond this summer and even beyond graduating college. Several days ago we took the time to attend a panel of WHOI graduate students working on their doctorates, to hear what they had to say about preparing for graduate school.
When I was younger I would travel to a new place and never think about being there. I would have an experience and not be in the moment, I would passively participate in a moment. I honestly lacked an appreciation of “the moment”. I didn’t know that as I got older, most of the people that I had these great experiences with would no longer be part of my life. I didn’t realize that sometimes there are perfect moments that might only happen once in your life. I didn’t realize I was having a perfect summer until after it was fall.
I can’t believe it’s week seven. My time in PEP is flying and it has been an absolute dream! During my seven weeks, I have engaged in research, workshops and have developed wonderful friendships with my mentors and peers. For some time, I have been fascinated by hydrothermal vents, so to be studying them is a great honor and accomplishment. In the lab, I have been given the opportunity to familiarize myself with vent organisms and to analyze their community composition after a lava eruption on the seafloor.
For those of us who like the outdoors more than they like cubicles, ecosystem science is a field of opportunity. When you study coastal wetlands, every day is literally a field day. Since we use a portable gas analyzer that both collects and analyzes data in the field, there is very little need for lab work. This means I can spend my entire day working in coastal wetlands learning about the way each site sequesters carbon.