When I arrived at SDRP as part of an undergraduate internship in 2007, I was assigned to a project that was investigating the effects of red tide on dolphin prey species.
At first I was disappointed.
I had been anticipating that I would be working closely with dolphins, but as it turned out my summer would be filled with long hard days of fishing with a large mesh net, called a purse seine. Boy was I in for a surprise.
I never could have anticipated how exhilarating it would be to sample fish in Sarasota Bay.
I spent, by far, one of the best summers of my life learning about boating, seining, and fish. I can still remember bringing up our first net and grabbing hold of my first pinfish, trying not to get pricked by spines while trying to get a good length measurement.
Dr. Damon Gannon was the lead scientists on this project, and he was truly an inspiring mentor. He, along with Elizabeth Berens and Sandy Camilleri, taught me the skills to sample, measure, identify species, and collect/organize data. He also shared priceless advice on applying and succeeding in graduate school. I am truly thankful for the skills, which I now use on a daily basis that I learned while an intern at SDRP. My summer in Sarasota introduced me not only to some amazing people I will never forget, but also to the boundless world of fish biology.
After that summer, I started orienting my course work towards fish biology, taking ichthyology, fish ecology, etc., eventually deciding I wanted to get a Master’s degree. I applied to Towson University to work with Dr. Jay Nelson, in his fish physiology lab in the fall of 2010. I somehow managed to talk him into working on an estuarine species he had never worked with in his lab before, the striped bass, more commonly known as rockfish.
We designed my project to explore what factors contribute to the hypoxia tolerance in this species. Hypoxia (2 mg O2 L-1) occurs annually in the Chesapeake Bay, which is an important spawning and nursery habitat for this species. Therefore, it is important for managers to understand how this commercially and recreationally important species responds and copes with low oxygen concentrations.
Like many budding scientists, I had heard that experimentation is not an easy road, but experiencing it yourself is another story. I had a few bumps along the way, but came out on the other side with some novel and exciting results. I am currently finishing up writing the final chapter of my thesis, writing manuscripts for publication (including a letter published in Science magazine in July 2012!), and preparing to defend in the next couple months.
In my spare time, I am applying to jobs that will allow me to continue researching and learning about the incredible things fish are capable of. I found my passion for research while with SDRP, I have honed those skills as a master’s student, and I hope to continue in research in the future. Someone once told me that “effective management is predicated on sound science.” I hope my research will contribute to our knowledge of how these creatures utilize the environment, to help us better manage human impact.
I am very thankful that I got to spend a summer fishing with SDRP. I am proud to say that I belong to the SDRP family, and I hope that one day I will find myself again on R/V Flip, heading out into Sarasota Bay to seine, watching the resident dolphins jump in our wake.
This article was published on page 41 in the January 2013 Nicks n Notches.
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