Keith Love with harbor seals LuSeal (front) and Bumper during a routine pool cleaning. (Credit: Woods Hole Science Aquarium/NOAA)
Love poses with Lavender, an endangered Kemp's Ridley marine turtle. Lavender spent part of its two-year rehabilitation at the Woods Hole Science Aquarium before being released in July 2008, equipped with a satellite tag for tracking. (Credit: Woods Hole Science Aquarium/NOAA)
Wetlands and vernal pools are something Hopkinton High School senior Keith Love of Hopkinton, Mass., finds interesting, so interesting that he wants to pursue a career in environmental studies.
For the past three years he has been a member of the high school’s Environmental Club and the student representative to the board of directors for the Vernal Pool Association, an environmental educational outreach organization. “I love being outdoors doing something active.”
This summer Love had a chance not only to be active but to learn more about the marine environment through a five-week internship at the Woods Hole Science Aquarium, the oldest continuously operating research aquarium in the United States, in Falmouth, Mass.
Love was one of three high school students accepted into the five-week program. Five additional high school students from across the country attended a two-week careers in marine science program at the facility, which he also attended.
Love not only learned about animal behavior and enrichment with the aquarium’s popular resident harbor seals LuSeal and Bumper, he also prepared meals and cleaned tanks for the approximately 140 species of fish, mammals and invertebrates like lobsters and crabs at the aquarium.
He and the other interns checked the water systems daily in the dozens of tanks, and learned what is involved in running a small marine research, education and conservation facility with 100,000 visitors a year.
Love helped explain the animals in the touch tanks to the Aquarium’s youngest visitors, attended lectures and seminars in marine science given by staff from NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center, which operates the Aquarium, and other local marine science organizations, and visited other zoos and aquaria in New Bedford and Nantucket. He spent free time in the evenings with the other interns enjoying summer on the Cape.
But his favorite activities by far were collecting specimens in local waters for the tanks and being out in the field learning how the marine animals in the aquarium’s collection relate to the real world. He also enjoyed just being in the village of Woods Hole, home to many of the world’s leading marine researchers.
“I have always been interested in the outdoors, but this was my first real experience in marine biology,” Love said. “The vastness of the knowledge in Woods Hole is amazing. It is such a small place but with such a massive focus of research on the marine environment. I’ve learned so much.”
His high school science courses in biology and chemistry, and in advanced placement environmental science this coming year, will help provide the classroom background he needs for a career in environmental science. But he has also had some practical experience.
Last summer Love had a volunteer internship at the National Heritage & Endangered Species Program at the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries & Wildlife in Westboro. He spent his days wading through vernal pools looking for spotted salamanders, endangered freshwater mussels and other endangered species.
He says his mother has been a role model in his studies and attributes his love of the outdoors and wildlife, especially birds, to the passion she shows for the environment and instilled in him, and still shares with him. Love enjoys all types of outdoor activities, from camping and hiking to biking and kayaking, that combine his interests in science, the environment and conservation with travel.
Once back at Hopkinton High School this fall, Love will be busy once again after school playing soccer for the high school team, of which he is captain, and traveling teams, and with winter and spring track, which he started last year to strength himself following an injury and found he really enjoyed. He likes playing guitar, and is pursing an interest in creative writing, especially poetry, developed during a school course last year.
“I feel most at home when I am doing fieldwork,” he said of the internship. “I have been able to apply concepts that I learned in terrestrial environments to the marine world. I like the beach, but I live for low tide, when I can explore the tide pools and see what is there.”
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