SEA Currents: News
November 14, 2018
SEA Assistant Scientist Kelsey Lane wins NSF Graduate Research Fellowship
Kelsey Lane, SEA assistant scientist from 2013-2018 and S-233 alumna, was recently awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.
Q: Kelsey, Congratulations! Can you tell us more about what this means? When did you apply, and how did you find out you had won?
A: Thanks! It was a big surprise for me since it's so competitive. The Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) means that I have my own funding for graduate school so I can focus on my research.
I applied for the fellowship (and graduate schools) in the fall of 2017. I was working at the SEA office as the Interim Science Program Coordinator, so I had great support from SEA as I applied. Kerry Whittaker helped me revise my research proposal. Audrey Meyer and Laura Cooney, two SEA Chief Scientists, wrote me letters of recommendation and Deb Goodwin helped with my whole graduate school process. Jeff Schell helped me with Sargassum sampling ideas. I couldn't have done it without all those SEA chief scientists.
I found out I got the fellowship in April, the same day I was joining the Corwith Cramer to sail my last trip. It was a whirlwind figuring out all the logistics of the fellowship from the ship.
Q: Where will you go to graduate school?
A: I just started at Oregon State University (OSU) in Corvallis, OR in September. I am studying Marine Resource Management for my Master's degree. It's an interdisciplinary program in marine science and marine policy. I would like to continue on to a Ph.D. in Ocean Ecology and Biogeochemistry, here at OSU.
Q: Tell us more about your proposal, and the research you will be doing.
A: I wrote my proposal based on the plankton communities in the Sargasso Sea. I had some research ideas after sailing the Marine Biodiversity and Conservation (MBC) semester as Teaching Assistant in spring 2017. The Sargasso Sea is such a unique area and SEA has an amazing longitudinal dataset there. I proposed using environmental DNA and metabarcoding to compare the plankton community found with molecular techniques to our dip net analysis using taxonomic ID and microscopy. This could allow us to make long-term inferences about changes in the Sargasso Sea with SEA's long-term dip net data.
At OSU, I work with Dr. Jennifer Fehrenbacher studying ocean foraminifera, which are microplankton that build shells out of calcium carbonate. Geologists use their shells, found in ocean cores, to recreate past climate. I'm exploring their microbiome and potential impacts of ocean acidification.
Q: Did SEA help prepare you for this achievement?
A: Yes! My student trip was pivotal for me, as I discovered I wanted to study ocean science. I grew up in South Dakota, so I didn't discover marine science until college. Working for SEA as an Assistant Scientist for four years broadened my oceanographic knowledge and inspired me to pursue a graduate degree. It was a dream job! As an Assistant Scientist, I learned to deploy, process, and analyze data in such a wide breadth of disciplines: from chemical, physical, geological and biological oceanography. I sailed in three different oceans and spent over 1000 days at sea. I also realized my love of teaching through mentoring student projects. The best thing I got from SEA is the amazing community of friends and shipmates, from fellow crew, Captains, Chief Scientists, students to office colleagues. I have friends (or find friends) with SEA ties wherever I go!
Q: What advice do you have for SEA students who are interested in doing advanced scientific research?
A: Get involved! Whatever that looks like for you, if it's working in a lab or volunteering on a field season, or sailing with SEA. The best way to start developing your own questions is to get exposure to real life data. It's easy to take on projects that someone else has developed, but try to make your own hypotheses. There are so many unanswered questions just waiting for someone to tackle them.