By Grace Neumiller
Since age 3, I’ve lived in the landlocked state of Minnesota, itching to dip my toes into the faraway ocean to learn about the vast arrays of biodiversity that traverse its waters. I’m so grateful to finally get my first in-depth look at our beautiful, diverse oceans through Colby College and Bigelow’s course focusing on the effects of global change on coral reef systems in Bermuda!
This program has offered me my first real taste of marine science, from my class formulating our own experimental questions about the health of Bermudan reefs in Maine to getting out to the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Science, a premier oceanographic research station on the cusp of the world’s most unique coral reefs.
With our wetsuits and snorkels, we truly dove into the field, using scientific methods to survey the reefs by performing fish identification, counts, and behavior analyses, and identifying key players affecting reef health in the various organisms living on the ocean benthos. Our class even got to conduct our own coral bleaching experiment, helping to design it, make sure it ran smoothly from start to finish, and practice lab methods like coral picking to extract sublethal data from the corals.
This opportunity to collect our own data in the field and carry out our own research project was invaluable. Up until this point, so much of my scientific experience in Colby classes has been highly regimented, leaving little room for exploration or personal investment in the work at hand. From diving along the reefs and seeing the positive impacts that conservation success stories can have on reef health firsthand, to glimpsing breaching humpback whales on the horizon during a boat ride back to the station, this JanPlan has provided me with some of the most invigorating and rewarding experiences of my Colby career so far.
Spending the last 2 weeks of JanPlan at Bigelow Laboratory was the icing on the cake of this authentic marine research experience. I am so grateful that as an undergrad, I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside such influential and inspiring marine scientists to draw real, meaningful conclusions from our data that have implications for further research on Bermuda’s reefs.
Presenting our process and findings to an audience of Bigelow staff members, I felt so proud of my class and all that we had been able to accomplish in the last month. This experience has emboldened my passion for marine science and has left me eager to learn more about our changing oceans. Thank you Nichole Price, Ben Neal, and Doug Rasher for guiding our class through this unforgettable experience!
Grace Neumiller is a Colby College student in the 2019 Colby-Bigelow Jan Plan course. This intensive experience provides an immersion in ocean research with an emphasis on hands-on, state-of-the-art methods and technologies.