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bluefin tuna larva A summer intern examines plankton at the Narragansett Lab. Photo Credit: NOAA Fisheries/Katey Marancik, NEFSC
tiny bluefin tuna larva Small bluefin tuna larva collected from the Slope Sea during a 2013 research cruise aboard the NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow. Tuna research at sea continues in 2017 aboard the NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter. Photo credit: NOAA Fisheries/Katey Marancik, NEFSC

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May 11, 2017
Contact: Shelley Dawicki

NOAA College-Supported Internship Program Students in Narragansett's Plankton Lab

Over the past six years, the NEFSC’s Ocean and Climate Branch (OCB) Plankton Lab at the Narragansett Laboratory in Rhode Island has hosted 10 interns through the NOAA College-Supported Internship Program, which partners with 16 colleges and universities that provide students with stipends and help match students with NOAA mentors at facilities across the country. These internships run approximately 10 weeks between late May and early August.

"These internships are a great opportunity for students to see and be a part of real research, but they also bring so much enthusiasm to our work that we all benefit from the experience," said Katey Marancik, a fish biologist who coordinates the program at the Narragansett Laboratory.

Staff from the OCB Plankton Lab train students in basic plankton sample processing, introducing them to the vast world of larval fish and planktonic-invertebrate research leading to an independent research project and development of oral and/or poster presentations. In addition, interns are offered opportunities to meet other NOAA researchers and visit other labs in the NEFSC system. Field opportunities are also provided when available.

Past intern projects have ranged from helping test new technology to testing old hypotheses using new methods. In 2016, two interns from Mount Holyoke College used plankton samples to examine biodiversity in the Slope Sea. This poorly sampled region of the ocean, from the northeast United States shelf edge to the northern edge of the Gulf Stream, is a new area of interest to NEFSC scientists since the discovery of a bluefin tuna spawning ground in the area.

The interns spent the summer learning how to identify a few larval fish and paralarval squid taxa, participated in a short sampling cruise to the area, and presented their findings to the Narragansett Lab at the end of the summer and to their school community in the fall. Their summer also included day trips to the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology, the Southern New England Chapter of the American Fisheries Society’s summer meeting, and Woods Hole to explore the Woods Hole Science Aquarium and attend a stock assessment data meeting at the Woods Hole Laboratory.

These summer internships have helped launch students into other exciting experiences. Interns have gone on to present their summer research at the Scientista Symposium/Women in STEM or to use their summer experience with OCB to get other internships, such as through the NOAA Hollings Scholarships and Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) programs, or additional field experiences such as the STEMSEAS program and the Sea Education Association's Sea Semester.

This year’s interns at the Narragansett Laboratory come from Washington College in Maryland and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. In addition to a three-week research cruise collecting plankton samples from the Slope Sea and down the U.S. Atlantic shelf to Miami, Florida, the interns will be learning about larval fish taxonomy, digital microphotography, and image analysis techniques. The 10-week adventure exploring the research of the NEFSC begins the first week of June and continues until early August.

In addition to the Five College Program, which includes Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in western Massachusetts, other participants in the NOAA College-Supported Internship Program include Clark University, Stony Brook University, Duke University, the University of North Carolina, and Washington, Vassar, Hartwick, Grinnell, Middlebury, Holy Cross, and Bates Colleges.

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