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André Price

André Price of Elizabeth City State University participated in the 2012 PEP. He presented research at the 2014 Ocean Sciences Meeting in Hawaii, and plans to pursue a doctorate in marine science.

Nia Walker

Nia Walker, 2013 PEP student now at Harvard University, is interested in conservation biology.

February 23, 2015
Contact: Shelley Dawicki

PEP Students Learn About Population Dynamics at National Workshop

The Woods Hole Partnership Education Program (PEP) will be well represented at the 12th annual Marine Resources Population Dynamics Workshop March 1-7, 2015 at the Keys Marine Lab in Long Key, Florida. Two of the fifteen undergraduates selected for the week-long workshop are PEP alumni.

André Price and Nia Walker will explore the dynamics of marine populations and investigate case studies involving current issues in marine conservation and fisheries management.  The all-expenses paid workshop, designed for students with strong math skills who also have a basic understanding of ecology, is taught by University of Florida faculty and scientists at the National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries). Activities are designed to demonstrate the critical role modeling population dynamics plays in resource management decisions.

Price is an undergraduate student at Elizabeth City State University (ECSU), pursuing a bachelor’s degree in marine environmental science with a minor in geographical information systems. A member of the PEP class of 2012, Price conducted research on larval oyster behavioral responses to turbulence with biologist Lauren Mullineaux of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). In 2013 he studied fiddler crab ingress into the Newport River Estuary in North Carolina while a student in the Duke University Marine Lab Research Experience for Undergraduates Program (REU) in Beaufort.

During the academic year 2013-2014 he worked with his advisor at ECSU researching the effects of temperature on seagrass in order to study the possible effects of climate change. He returned to Woods Hole in 2014 as a WHOI Summer Student Fellow, researching the early life history of river herring. Price is a co-author of a paper to be published in Marine Ecology Progress Series that is based on the research he performed at the Duke Marine Lab in 2013.  In November 2014 he was awarded second place in the healthy ocean session at the NOAA Educational Partnership Program conference in Princess Anne, Maryland. 

“I can honestly say that I attribute the majority of my success as an undergraduate to the PEP internship.  It allowed me to form valuable professional connections with my peers and with people in the marine science community.  I learned about the WHOI SSF internship through PEP, and when I was accepted, I had a vital support group in Woods Hole that began through connections that I made as a PEP intern,” Price said of his experience.   

“PEP also helped me solidify that marine science was my intended path in academia.  After participating in the courses offered, the field trips, and the research experience, I knew that marine science was what I was meant to do.  It also motivated me to strive for success in the field by being able to meet other successful people in marine science careers that looked like me, and came from similar backgrounds.  As cliché as it may sound, PEP helped me see that my opportunities are limitless.”

Price plans to enroll in graduate school in the not too distant future, with plans to obtain a Ph.D. in marine science.

Nia Walker is a junior at Harvard College, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in organismic and evolutionary biology with a minor in English.  She is interested in marine biology and conservation and plans to pursue the intersection of these fields after graduation. A member of the PEP class of 2013, Walker worked on model organisms in the Joel Smith Lab at the Marine Biological Laboratory during her internship, examining gene regulatory networks and how various cells in organisms acquire their particular identities. She was awarded a research grant the year following her PEP experience to conduct comparative studies on gene regulatory networks in the cricket species Gryllus bimaculatus to documented gene expression patterns in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster

After a year working in the Cassandra Extavour Lab at Harvard, Walker left to pursue research for her senior thesis. She is now working in the Giribet Lab preparing to begin her thesis on coral larval dispersal and settlement gene networks. Lab head Gonzalo Giribet is the Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology and Curator of Invertebrates in the Museum of Comparative Zoology.

“My PEP experience exposed me to the possibility of seriously reconciling my interests in conservation biology and molecular/population genetics,” Walker said. “My ultimate career goal is to contribute to the general field of conservation biology in a two-fold way—by conducting research that will be eventually applied to the protection of species and by involving myself in the outspoken advocacy sector of the field.”

Walker plans to pursue a PhD. in marine biological studies and would like to conduct research on coral reef ecosystems.

Over the past 11 years, 183 students representing 28 states and 72 colleges and universities have participated in the spring Marine Resources Population Dynamics Workshop. The program has three objectives: recruiting top undergraduates into the field of fisheries population dynamics and careers with NOAA, training, and research.

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