Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Summer Interns Part 1

You may have met some of our Bermuda Program Interns last week on Ocean Academy's blog, http://biosoceanacademy.blogspot.com/2015/07/bermuda-program-interns-part-1.html, but we would also like to introduce some of our Summer Interns!
The Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS) offers internship opportunities to both undergraduate and recent graduate students.  Internships may run for 8, 10 or 12 weeks in the summer, with flexible timing and duration.  BIOS interns can expect to work in BIOS laboratories with faculty and staff mentors,  participating in active research projects of mutual interest. A BIOS intern could have the opportunity to participate in an open-ocean research cruise aboard the R/V Atlantic Explorer, SCUBA dive on Bermuda’s coral reefs, learn progressive techniques from scientists at the forefront of their field, gain hands-on experience with cutting-edge laboratory equipment, and engage in workshops and seminars with peers and BIOS staff. 

Meet Darlene!

Darlene is a fourth year undergraduate student at Dalhousie University studying Marine Biology.  This is a second career for Darlene, who previously worked as a chemical technologist in various labs.   Darlene has always had a love of the ocean, and with her involvement in BIOS Darlene says, “everything is coming together now.”

1. How would you describe the project you have worked on at BIOS?
My main project is to clear space in the library for the new interactive classroom, the Mid-Atlantic Glider Initiative Collaboration (MAGIC) Room.  The MAGIC Room will have multiple large screens and on those screens you will be able to view the BIOS gliders in real time.  The gliders are remote controlled AUVs (autonomous underwater vehicles).  The classroom is going to be a great learning tool for the students and visitors who come through here because they’ll get to see the gliders gathering data in real time. 

2.  I see you took a course here at BIOS last summer.  Can you tell me about that experience and also why you chose to return for an internship this summer?
I took the Coral Reef Ecology course as a Dalhousie student last summer here at BIOS, and really enjoyed everything about it—the instructors and the Institute.  I enjoyed the course so much that when I heard that they were looking for someone to help in the library, I jumped at the chance to return and be a part of the project. 

3. Why did you choose BIOS?
I chose BIOS because of the coral reefs and location, and the fact that it is a top-notch facility with renowned scientists working here.  I would definitely promote it to any other intern who wants to come here because I know they are going have a good experience and get a good education. 

I just get such a good feeling when I am here.  Everyone is so friendly, so welcoming.  How would you not have a good time here?  It’s just not possible.

Meet Brett!

Brett is a fourth year Marine Biology student at Dalhousie University.  This summer Brett is working as a volunteer intern under Dr. Eric Hochberg.  His research this summer is part of his honors thesis,  “The Effects of C02 on Coral Reef Primary Productivity.”

1. How would you describe the project you are working on at BIOS?
We’re studying how C02 emissions, and ocean acidification due to increasing carbon emissions, affect coral reefs’ function.

2. Why did you choose BIOS?
I found about BIOS through Dalhousie University.  I was in oceanography course, which was the first ocean focused course that I took in university, and my professor suggested that I apply for the scholarship to take the BIOS Coral Reef Ecology class this summer.  I researched BIOS and read about it, and the more I read, the more excited I got.  So I applied for the scholarship and decided 3 weeks wouldn’t be enough, so I looked into how I could do some research for my honors thesis and Eric agreed to help me out.
3. Has anything in particular impressed you while you have been at BIOS?
The attitude of everyone; everyone is really open and welcoming and passionate about his or her work.  Everyone is really excited to come to work in the morning, and excited to talk about what they’re doing.  


Stay posted to meet more of our great Summer Interns here at BIOS!

Friday, July 3, 2015

University of Southampton Voices

University of Southampton students hard at work
University of Southampton is a leading research university in the UK, and ranks in the top 1 percent of universities worldwide.   For the past 6 years, Southampton professors have been bringing students to BIOS to take an environmental studies field course held during the month of June.  

Cathy Lucas, one of four Southampton professors on the trip, expressed her appreciation for BIOS: “they [BIOS] look after us and give us what we need in terms of the coral reefs and labs, and it’s convenient to be able to stay on the site. Our experiences have always been really good which is why we keep coming back.”  Cathy specializes in jellyfish and fondly recalled the time that the group dived the reefs and were surrounded by ctenophores [comb jellies]. 

Cathy Lucas
I spoke with Henry and David, two Southampton 4th year students working towards their MSc in Marine Biology, an integrated undergraduate and masters program offered by Southampton. 

1.     How has your trip been?
Henry: We’ve had a great time out sampling every day.  I’ve never been snorkeling like this before.

David:  I’ve had a great time as well. 

David and Henry
2.     What did you hope to learn?
David: I hoped to learn more about sampling and doing experiments, and I have learned it’s quite a long process and a lot of work organizing people to do it.

Henry: I’ve now had first hand experience with coral reefs and identifying them.  Just doing science.  I haven’t had a chance to do this prior to this experience.

3.     What are your career plans?
David: I am a dive instructor and want to do something like that and after these weeks at BIOS I am now thinking about marine archaeology.

Henry: I was always considering teaching—as a surf instructor or tutoring, or open an oyster farm.  I think being here, hearing the education outreach speech by JP… it’s something I want to do.  Another girl in the group is interested in educational outreach and that’s something I’m also interested in. 

I also spoke with students Pippa, Annie, and Joe about their BIOS experiences:
1.     How has BIOS been?
Pippa: We’ve done a lot of sampling.

Joe: This is different from things we have done before, just looking at the ecology of the place. 

Pippa: It’s our first time designing our own sampling.  The highlight of the trip was yesterday on the boat.  We went out with Tim Noyes and did coral sampling.  We went to a coral reef where the cruise ship had crashed and compared the reef to a normal reef.  It was quite harrowing to see thousands of years just destroyed in one day… it happened so recently. 

Annie, Joe, and Pippa
2.     What have you gained from this experience?
Joe: I learned a lot about reef systems here.

Annie: The main thing that I have gotten from this experience is how to design experiments and work well with others.

3.     What have you liked most about BIOS?
Annie: The R/V Atlantic Explorer was awesome.

Joe: The invasive species lecture by Tim was fascinating.

Pippa: This trip made me realize that I want to go abroad and work.

Annie: This trip really inspired me to travel and work outside the UK and get involved in science in these types of places and it’s worth working hard for. 

4.     What do you want to do in the future?
Pippa: I want to go into media documentation in science.  Science is usually dumbed down, but there are not really documentaries for scientists. 

Annie: Initially I was looking at biotechnology and biofuels but this trip has inspired me to do more research. Maybe slightly less academic.  I am going to do sampling on the R/V AE which will be quite fun.  I’ve realized that there are lots of options for marine biologists, and not just one thing.

It was great speaking with the students, and we are so looking forward to hosting more Southampton students and professors soon!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Dr. Munson and Washington College

Meet Dr. Donald Munson. Dr. Munson has a PhD in Zoology and was chair of the Biology Department at Washington College for 12 years and director of Environmental Studies for 15 years.  In 1990 he was awarded the endowed chair, the Joseph H. McLain Professor of Environmental Studies, which he held until his retirement in 2013.  Since 1997, Dr. Munson has been bringing Washington College students to BIOS during the summer to teach a class on coral reef ecology.  Although he retired from teaching, Dr. Munson is back in Bermuda to train another professor to take over the program. 

I was able to sit down and speak with Dr. Munson one sunny afternoon at BIOS, and ask him some questions about what it has been like coming to BIOS to teach over the past 18 years.  Dr. Munson was full of admiration for BIOS, and couldn’t say enough great things about the station.  It was so interesting to hear about BIOS over the years from the perspective of a long-time visiting professor.

With nostalgia he told me, “In my opinion, BIOS is the best station… I’ll miss it here.  I wish I could come back.  I’d even wash the dishes!”

Dr. Munson’s love for BIOS was evident throughout our interview.  Here are some of his answers to my questions:

  1. Reflecting on your past 26 years at BIOS, what are some of your most memorable moments?
Although I have many memories of Bermuda friends (some unfortunately gone), I still think of people here whose friendship has meant (means) much to me. I hesitate to start listing names because I will leave some out, but Jane Burrows, Butch, Bomber (boat captain), the staff in Wright Hall, chefs, and many more, have made my time here quite wonderful.  However, my most memorable moments are family moments. I was fortunate to have been awarded Grants–In–Aid for several years (1992 – 2013) that made it possible for my family to accompany me for 2-3 weeks on station during summers. My children are now 33 and 31 respectively, but I still can vividly recall when we stayed in 'Jet Stream' and we would fish and swim at the 'cement beach'.  They were good family times that I will never forget.  Those memories continue to draw me back to BIOS. My family still fondly remembers those times spent together here.

  1. In our brief discussion earlier, you mentioned how BIOS was one of the best stations that you have visited.  Can you elaborate on why this is the case?
It is the safest and the easiest to reach. Money is the same as the USA. Medical facilities are fine. Through the years I have had to take a few students to [the] hospital (small things – allergic reactions, stubbed toes, etc.). Myself and the students were always treated well and with respect.

  1. What do you think you will miss most about coming to BIOS?
I will very much miss the friendships, both on and off station, that I have been fortunate to have developed through the years.  Again, too many to list, but it goes from scientists, to bartenders, to shop owners/managers, bus drivers, etc. I will truly miss them but will continue to return whenever I am able to do so.

  1. If you had to choose one word to sum up your experiences here, what word or words would you choose?  Why?
It has been a most wonderful “Bermudaful” experience.

  1. Lastly, do you have a personal favorite quote or life mantra that you follow?  What is it?

The only person you should compete with is yourself. The rest is extraneous, irrelevant and wasted effort. It takes much of one’s life to learn, and accept, that. True love is what “it’s” about.

Special kind of trip
In addition to speaking with Dr. Munson, I also was able to speak with 4 of his students about their experiences at BIOS.  Paige Cahoon, a rising junior and Environmental Studies major with minors in Biology and Political Science, liked that being at BIOS had a “local feel” and that the group “got to see things that you wouldn’t normally see if you were just visiting.” 

Another Washington College student, Jessica Daunoras, also expressed appreciation for being awarded opportunities that not many people have been given, “I’ve really enjoyed just experiencing places that not a lot of people have been like Nonsuch Island and Northrock.  It’s a different experience coming through BIOS than staying at a resort or doing a cruise…I thought we would only snorkel a few times.  Turns out we went snorkeling every day, sometimes twice a day, and we fit work in there too.  We really got to experience the island.  Yesterday we studied all day and went to the caves near Tom Moore’s jungle.”  

Lauren Bacharach, also couldn’t say enough good things about her time here at BIOS:
“It’s been incredible.  I’ve had an absolute blast.  I don’t want to leave…We’ve just had incredible adventures everyday, things you don’t get to see in most places.  I grew up in Massachusetts so it’s nice to see your feet here.  I’m better in water than on land, so I’ve loved all of the snorkeling and time in the water.  I really wanted to learn more about Bermuda and the ecology and the ecosystems and experience it first hand, and I definitely got to experience it… I know a lot more than I did when I came in.  Our professors have been great.  It’s pretty sweet learning about something and then seeing it in the water and being like ‘there it is!’  I really like the atmosphere of BIOS, the different staff we’ve gotten to know.  Everyone has been really great, from kitchen staff to boat captains.”

Angelica was engrossed in her independent research project when I spoke with her, and she was really enjoying the research aspect of her time at BIOS.  She explained her research on black band disease in brain coral: “I have been working on independent research on black band disease in brain coral.  The organism suffocates the polyps then eats it as it suffocates it.  It can move as fast as 4-5 mm a day which doesn’t seem like a lot, but in this type of slow growing coral, which only grows .5 mm in a year, that is a lot.  It starts out infecting brain corals but it can move on to other corals as well…ocean acidification is making a better home for these bacteria, and an acidic environment already weakens the coral.”

Inspiring careers
In addition to enjoying all that Bermuda has to offer, the students I spoke with unanimously agreed that their time at BIOS has influenced their future career aspirations.  Jessica explained, “for the longest time I wanted to go to medical school and then pharmacy school, but being here and seeing all the different animals and fish, I think maybe I want to do something with the ocean and medicine.  Even like a veterinarian for the ocean, I don’t know…I had doubts about medical school and pharmacy school, and I thought coming here and being able to experience a different side of biology would help me decide what to do in the future.”  When I told her that it seemed like it had helped her, she enthusiastically answered, “definitely.”

Angelica Mullins also found that her time at BIOS has clarified her career goals, “I’ve always been a water baby and I thought that this trip could show me what I wanted to do.  Coming here has done that for me.  I’ve seen how everything trickles down to the water. I’ve always been by the water.  Being here has solidified that I want to work with these creatures as a marine mammal veterinarian or doing research.  My ultimate goal is to open up a stranding center for marine mammals that are displaced and need to be nursed back to health.”

Paige explained that she didn’t know a lot about coral reefs or oceans, and that her time at BIOS really opened up her eyes to sort of threats that the coral reefs face, “I didn’t really know how bad it was.”  As a result, she says she is now much more interested in the conservation of reefs and oceans.

Lauren Bacharach echoed the same sentiment, “this trip has definitely solidified my passion for the ocean and preserving what we have left—I want to do good things in a good place and this has definitely pushed me to that goal.”

The student’s love for the Washington College course at BIOS shines through in their interviews.  It is clear that Dr. Munson’s 18 years of hard work leading the program continues to be appreciated, and that all of his efforts will continue to be valued much into the future.  We at BIOS look forward to hosting Washington College students soon, and are so grateful for the legacy that Dr. Don Munson has created.  Thank you Dr. Munson for all that you have done over the past 18 years!  We hope to see you soon!