Our REU interns are back at their respective colleges after a busy summer of independent research here at LUMCON. Over the past ten weeks, they presented a project proposal, designed a scientific study and progressed through the “try-tweak-redo-repeat” process that is the scientific method! Each intern presented his or her research at a student symposium on August 11th, in Cocodrie.
Ashley McDonald is a rising senior at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida. She is majoring in marine science with a minor in Italian and is an active member of the college’s Marine Science Club. Growing up in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, Ashley strived to learn and understand as much as she could. “I have always wanted to understand how and why things work. Ever since I was in preschool, I wanted to know as much as I could about the world around me and science allows me to do that”.
Ashley learned about the REU program through her mentor at Eckerd and applied to the LUMCON site because of the unique location and possible research topics. “I chose LUMCON because it gave me opportunities that other programs did not. I have become interested in wetlands, restoration, and mangroves and coming to live in the middle of a wetland seemed like a great place to be,” Ashley explained. Her project, under the guidance of Dr. Brian Roberts and his post-doc Dr. Anthony Reitl, examined how Gulf ribbed mussels affect the productivity of marsh cordgrass and the shared soil. From a restoration standpoint, a positive relationship between these two species could be beneficial for the larger ecosystem. Both ribbed mussels and cordgrass are shown to act as soil stabilizers and may prevent, or at least slow down, shoreline erosion. Ashley hopes her time at LUMCON will prepare her for a possible future in research or academia. “I’ve been able to experience theory in my classes, but actually being able to ask and answer questions myself is something else entirely”. She plans to go onto graduate school after finishing at Eckerd in the spring but is still figuring out those details.
When asked about her favorite aspect of being in Cocodrie, Ashley said: “I love watching the sunset on the back deck behind the building. It’s the perfect way to end the day!”
Look for more profiles here and on CWC and LUMCON social media!