U.S. College Students Get Credit at UMES for Marine and Environmental Studies

  • Friday, December 4, 2009

    U.S. College Students Get Credit at UMES for Marine and Environmental Studies

    New Woods Hole, Mass., program encourages diversity, self-discovery

    Lawrentz, SamaraPRINCESS ANNE, MD-A group of junior and senior students from colleges and universities across the nation studied marine and environmental sciences in Woods Hole, Mass., while gaining college credit through the University of Maryland Eastern Shore through the new Partnership Education Program, or PEP.

    "This program complements other initiatives in STEM and in the marine sciences in particular which are offered at UMES," said Dr. Paulinus Chigbu, director of the Living Marine Cooperative Research Science Center at UMES.

    PEP is designed to promote diversity in the science community of Woods Hole, home to six major marine research laboratories and thousands of investigators who conduct research worldwide, through a summer science internship program.  The students spent four weeks in classes focusing on global climate change followed by six to eight weeks of hands-on individual research projects with a scientific mentor from one of the participating institutions.  Participating institutions are the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), the NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center, the Sea Education Association (SEA), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and the Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC). 

    As head of the advisory committee for the Woods Hole Scientific Community Diversity Initiative signed by the six organizations in 2004, Dr. Ambrose Jearld Jr., a fisheries biologist at NOAA and the PEP program director, has spent his career working to make the scientific community a more welcoming place to individuals with different backgrounds and experiences.  "We need a lot of different ideas and Jearld, Dr. Ambroseviewpoints, and we need to be recruiting young people into the field," Jerald said of the diversity effort.  "Expanding the opportunities for young people from underrepresented segments of the population, who are interested in science and may not realize the possibilities, is what PEP is all about." Jearld, a native of North Carolina, received his bachelor's in biology from UMES, attended graduate school in Oklahoma and has worked at NOAA Fisheries since 1976.                                           

    Two out of the 16 PEP participants, Joe'Ella Caddle of Trinidad, West Indies and Samara Lawrentz of Nassau, Bahamas, are marine science students from UMES.  Caddle, a senior, studied the history and ecology of Eel Pond at Woods Hole with research mentor Joel Sohn of MBL.  Caddle, who loves to be out in the field, collected samples and identified species in the pond and used the Wood Hole Historical Collection to discover history about the source.  "The skills and knowledge gained will help me to be more prepared for graduate school and in deciding on my own research project," said Caddle.

    Lawrentz, a junior, learned to use image analysis software and imaging techniques to estimate the reproductive health of monkfish with another research mentor Dr. Anne Richards of NOAA Fisheries.  "I never did this before, and although I am more interested in field work, it was a really good learning experience.  I can use image analysis in many applications, so who knows where [in her career path] it will lead," she said.

    For the PEP organizers, that is the kind of reaction they had hoped for.  "We think the program succeeded in providing opportunity for students, and we hope PEP succeeded in changing expectations on many levels," said Jearld.  "We still have a long way to go.  PEP 2009 was one group of students, one summer.  Diversity doesn t come naturally, and we have to keep at it.  It is worth the investment."

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    Gail Stephens, assistant director, UMES Office of Public Relations, 410-651-7580, gcstephens@umes.edu

    Shelley Dawicki, Research Communications, NOAA/NMFS/NEFSC, 508-495-2378, Shelley.Dawicki@noaa.gov.

    Photos courtesy of PEP/NOAA  

    Photo1:  Samara Lawrentz, a marine science major at UMES and PEP participant, researches the reproductive health of monkfish.

    Photo2:  A fisheries biologist with NOAA Fisheries Service, UMES alumnus and PEP Program Director Dr. Ambrose Jearld works to make the scientific community at Woods Hole, Mass., more diverse.