Before this summer, I had never spent a full day in a professional lab. But I knew I was passionate about science and wanted to learn more about marine biology. For most of the time, I worked with Jessica Griffin on an experiment for her Ph.D. titled “The Importance of Environmental Context in Mediating Interactions Between Clams and Eelgrass.” Before I had even been to the CMIL lab, I was out in the field in the freezing cold water at 7 am with a shovel and a cooler to collect seagrass to begin the experiment. I was stunned to see how much life, all the tiny critters, that hitched a ride in what we brought back to the lab. It opened my eyes to their environment, and how all these plants and animals interact with one another in a place, I wouldn’t have thought about. Over the next few weeks, we let the seagrass acclimate, took measurements to ensure consistency, and added clams and algae to the water tanks.
Unfortunately, we began to see many clams die, and we decided to troubleshoot the problem. We had provided more oxygen, created sunshades for the troughs, then finally tested the water for their levels of ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite, finding all three were dangerously high in the algae tanks.
The experiment ended up having to be restarted. Still, from this, I learned how much I enjoy investigating possible solutions to problems and working with others to find an answer. I also helped set up an experiment in the field that looked at how Asian Mussels affect local eelgrass beds. It was incredible being part of something so much larger than myself, and I am grateful for the trust placed in me to play such a significant role. One of my favorite aspects of spending the summer at CMIL was the sense of community and friendships. You would be surprised at how much you can learn about someone when you spend all day tying seagrass together or sifting for mussels in the morning. Everyone was so incredibly kind, welcoming, and happy to give advice or teach you something new. Breaks for lunch were spent strategizing, talking about weekends, and laughing. I had the opportunity to work with other graduate students and get a glimpse into their lives and experiments. I helped reinforce oyster heart monitors with glue and took a boat trip to release lobster traps, where I learned that I am sadly, very prone to seasickness.
Nonetheless, I enjoyed every minute with the wonderful people associated with this program. They are incredibly inspiring and have become my role models. I am in awe of their tenacity and am thankful to have been taught by them. I knew almost nothing about the daily life of a marine biologist. Now, I have lived it firsthand, and it only made me realize they are a thousand times cooler than I had ever known. I will take everything I learned with me into the future and view this summer as one of the best. Thank you so much to Jessica and everyone at CMIL!