Students from colleges and universities around the nation are now immersed in the annual 10-week summer internship program at the University of Delaware’s Graduate College of Marine Studies at the Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes. The majority ofthe students are supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates office.
This year, Dr. Ana I. Dittel, a research scientist in marine biology-biochemistry, took over the helm of the internship program from oceanographer Jonathan H. Sharp. “I am excited about becoming director of the program. It gives me an opportunity to interact with outstanding undergraduates from a variety of academic programs who are interested in conducting research in marine science,” says Dr. Dittel.
“The students work on individual research projects throughout the summer and under the direct super-vision of a faculty member at the college,” continues Dr. Dittel. “The goal of the program is for students to gain both practical and theoretical experience through laboratory and field-related activities.”
The interns also participate in a three-day research and training cruise aboard the University’s 120-foot research vessel Cape Henlopen and attend weekly seminars designed to introduce them to the breadth of marine research. The program ends on August 10 with an oral presentation of their research findings.
This year’s interns include three students from the University of Delaware: Michael League, Erin Grey, and Ray Iglay. League, of Pembroke, Massachusetts, is a junior biology major who is also working toward a certificate in secondary education. Under the guidance of botanists John Gallagher and Denise Seliskar, he is working on a project that will help combat the tendency of Phragmites, or common reed, to become a dominant species in area salt marshes. When this plant becomes dominant, plant diversity is decreased, waterfowl and aquatic species access is limited, and use of the salt marsh as a nursery for fish is reduced.
“My ultimate goal is to become a professor of marine biology,” says League. “This experience will help me with my decision to attend graduate school and pursue my interests in the marine sciences.”
The Asian shore crab (Hemigrapsus sanguineus), an invasive species that was first discovered off the coast of New Jersey, is the focus of three projects. Erin Grey, a junior biology major from Newark, Delaware, is working with marine biologist Charles Epifanio to determine the settlement pattern of the post-larval stage (megalops) of this non-native crab in the Delaware Bay. Because the crab is able to disperse during this stage, the settlement pattern indicates areas where the crab is most likely to invade.
Epifanio also is advising Ray Iglay, a sophomore majoring in wildlife conservation with a minor in biology. Iglay is measuring the hatching frequency of the Asian shore crab to determine whether the females use the spring high tides as a mechanism for dispersal of their larvae. His project is funded through the University’s Undergraduate Research Program.
Under the guidance of marine biochemist Adam Marsh, Megan McCloskey of Springfield, Pennsylvania, is also studying the Asian shore crab. A senior majoring in biology and Spanish at Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania, McCloskey is looking at variations in the metabolism of the larval stages of the crab. Her project will shed some light on how this crab has been able to successfully invade so many different environments along the East Coast — ranging from North Carolina to New Hampshire.
P. J. Rusello, of Crestwood, Kentucky, is a senior at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Russello is working with oceanographer Andreas Münchow to determine water circulation and mixing patterns in the Atlantic Ocean off the southern coast of New Jersey. His work will provide information that is crucial to understanding how pollutants or other materials are dispersed in the coastal waters of New Jersey.
“I applied to the summer intern program because I am interested in coastal habitat restoration and preservation,” says Rusello. “My hope was that this program would serve as a starting point in the study of coastal water systems and extend my studies as an environmental engineering major.”
Matthew Niemitz, of Carlisle, Pennsylvania, a junior majoring in geology at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, is working with geochemist Katharina Billups to determine the temperatures of the sea surface during a period of relative global warmth, from 4.2 to 4.1 million years ago. This information is an important key to understanding past climate changes.
“I wanted to do this program to discover more about marine science and, in particular, paleoclimatology and paleoceanography,” says Niemitz. “I am very impressed with my adviser and the time she has put into helping me with my project.”
Jennifer Hewson, of East Meadow, New York, is a junior majoring in biology and English at Washing-ton College in Chestertown, Maryland. Under the guidance of oceanographer David Hutchins, Hewson will observe how dissolved organic materials from both iron-enriched and iron-starved phytoplankton affect the growth rate and efficiency of various marine bacteria. Not only are bacteria a crucial link in marine food webs, but they also play an important role in converting the organic material produced by phytoplankton back to carbon dioxide. This has important implications for atmospheric carbon dioxide and global climate changes.
Susannah E. D. Karin, of Nashua, New Hampshire, a senior majoring in marine biology at the Uni-versity of Maryland in College Park, is working with oceanographer Doug Miller. She is using a statistics-based computer program to determine how fresh water that is discharged in groundwater seeps affects the marine organisms that live on the bottom of the Cape Henlopen sandflat.
Michelle Blickley, a junior majoring in marine science at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, is working with marine chemist George Luther to determine what causes the seasonal variation in concentration of hydrogen sulfide in Torquay Canal and Bald Eagle Creek. This toxic compound has been suspected as being responsible for the menhaden kills in past seasons.
“I chose this program because of its reputation, as well as the opportunity to observe the research that is being conducted at this facility,” says Blickley of Scott Depot, West Virginia. “It is a valuable part of my education to get hands-on experience and meet members of the scientific community.”
Laura Eierman, of Jarrettsville, Maryland, is a senior majoring in biology and environmental marine science at Salisbury State University in Salisbury, Maryland. Under the guidance of marine biologist Patrick Gaffney, Eierman is conducting DNA analyses on the Patagonian toothfish. This fish is found in the waters of the Southern Ocean that circle Antarctica and is in danger of commercial extinction within the next few years. Previous work by Gaffney and others has indicated that the populations in various parts of the ocean are different and should be managed as separate fisheries. Eierman’s work will help to distinguish the different populations.
Chris Ellison is a senior from Paradise, California, majoring in biology and botany/plant pathology at Oregon State University in Corvallis. Under the guidance of marine biologist Craig Cary, he is studying the bacteria that live in marine sponges. These bacteria are thought to be responsible for changing nitrogen into a form that can be utilized by the sponge. Because these sponges live on the roots of mangroves, the mangroves also benefit from the presence of these bacteria. These bacteria may also be recycling nitrogenous wastes, which is important to the health of the mangrove environment.
Working with marine biologist David Kirchman are Maryanne Arienmughare and Temitayo Adetunji from Lincoln University in Oxford, Pennsylvania. Their work is supported by the Department of Energy. Arienmughare, a sophomore majoring in biology/pre-medicine from Tampa, Florida, is growing Vibrio harveyi, a typical marine bacterium, in containers of amino acid, nitrate, or ammonia. This will provide information on which source of nitrogen this bacterium prefers and whether it competes for the same nutrients as the plants in our oceans.
Adetunji, also a sophomore majoring in biology/pre-medicine from Amherst, New York, is studying an unusual species of microbe that was found at the bottom of a shallow lagoon in Florida. These microbes are unusual because although they look like plants, they appear to require plant organic material to grow instead of carbon dioxide. They are believed to play a role in the ecology of environments in which there is little sunlight.