Colleen Bove ('14, Marine Biology)

Ryan Brabrand What do you do for your undergraduate research?

I am currently working in the Coral Reef Ecology lab over at the Center for Marine Sciences (CMS) with Dr. Alina Szmant. I have been working on my Honors Thesis for the past year studying the effects of the predicted reduction of seawater pH on corals. More specifically, I work with microsensors to measure the pH and oxygen levels within the coral at normal (pH 8.2) and reduced (down to pH 7.6) seawater pH. It is a unique look into the physiology of corals that may help researchers to understand how the predicted ocean acidification event may affect coral functioning, especially the calcification of skeletons.

What made you want to pursue an undergraduate research project?

From day one when I learned about the Departmental Honors Program, I had decided that I wanted to work in a lab on a research project. I enjoy hands-on experience so much and I learn better in labs so I thought it would be the perfect choice. The fact that I get to work with living corals, my favorite marine organism, was also a big plus!

How did you start your research project?

I had a very open schedule my first semester of Sophomore year and so I decided to email the Coral Reef Ecology lab at the chance that they may have a volunteer position for me to work in. Next thing I knew, I was getting to grow corals and once I finished with that, Dr. Szmant started to run ideas about honors projects past me. By the start of my junior year, I had my project selected and I was starting my initial experiments for my thesis!

Was doing your own research fun? Be honest.

I have always wanted to perform experiments and so every day that I get to be in the lab running experiments is so exciting. I love the unknown of what results I will get every time I perform a new experiment. But I will admit, it is not always easy. Working in biology means I am working with living organisms that at times just decide not to cooperate so I cannot get anything actual results!

It isn’t required to do research as an undergrad, so what advantages do you think this experience has provided you?

I think working on a research project helped develop critical skills for future work in my research area. I have been able to learn from top faculty about their research area by performing work hands-on with them. I have also had the opportunity to learn how to use some very hi-tech equipment that I would never have gotten to use in other required labs!

What recognition and/or grants did you receive for your research?

I have been awarded the CSURF Travel Award from UNCW to attend the 2014 Benthic Ecology Meeting in Jacksonville, Florida where I was also presented the award for the best undergraduate poster presentation at the conference. I will also be presenting my research at the Colonial Academic Alliance undergraduate research symposium in April, 2014 as an oral presentation.

What are your plans after you receive your degree from UNCW?

After I graduate, I want to attend a graduate program in pursuit of my PhD in the Marine Sciences. From there, I hope to eventually find a career at a University, conducting research of my own and teaching!

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