Alexandra Mancini ('13, Marine Biology)

Tracy Still What do you do for your undergraduate research?

I am doing a retrospective study using the 22 years of data our program has on strandings of marine mammals in the state of North Carolina. As a member of the marine mammal lab I also assist other students and research associates with their projects and participate in UNCW Marine Mammal Stranding Program.

What made you want to pursue an undergraduate research project?

I was a volunteer with the UNCW Marine Mammal Stranding Program since my freshman year. I became more and more interested in the work that Dr. Ann Pabst and her lab do and knew that I wanted to do my Honors project with her lab from day one.

How did you start your research project?

I was an active member of the UNCW Marine Mammal Stranding Program starting in my first semester at UNCW. I took Dr. Pabst's Marine Mammals course as one of my biology electives and was proactive during public necropsy events held by the lab. As a senior I enrolled in Dr. Pabst's Marine Mammal Functional Morphology seminar and was asked to take on a more involved role in the lab. I began attending lab meetings and discussing relevant topics in the marine mammal realm and began my Honors project the following semester.

Was doing your own research fun? Be Honest.

It was! I loved all aspects of being a part of the lab, which ranged from doing work in a computer to assisting with necropsies of stranded marine mammals. Getting to do my own exploratory analyses on a large data set was a big challenge, but I knew I was up for it. I am working with a very big hot button topic in the news and in marine mammal studies right now - cetacean strandings and military sonar use. It is a very important subject and being the first to analyze our data in this way is not only rewarding but also an honor.

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

Working in this lab and working on my Honors project has pulled together everything I have learned in my classes at UNCW. I have applied what I have learned in all classes, from BIO 201 to my senior seminar. These topics range from literature research and review, paper-writing techniques, and methodology to the physiology and biology of different organisms.

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

I have accepted the Marine Mammal Internship with Gulf World Marine Park in Panama City Beach, Florida. There I will be a member of the marine mammal stranding team and will learn how to manage and care for the park's resident bottlenose dolphins, rough-toothed dolphins, California sea lions, and African black-footed penguins. After that I will hopefully complete another internship and start looking for a job in the field of marine mammal care, training, and research.

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