Lara Noren (Marine Biology)

Lara Noren photoWhat do you do for your undergraduate research?

I study the relationship between sponges and algae throughout the mesophotic zone in Caribbean coral reefs. The day to day of my project consists of analyzing    photoquadrats from images taken by ROV (remotely operated underwater dive vehicle) dives throughout the Caribbean coral reefs. This analysis is to determine the percent cover of sponges and algae at different depths, and to determine sponge biomass based on thickness. This research is testing the hypothesis that sponges and algae have a positive ecological feedback loop.

How did you start your research project, and what do you hope to gain from it?

I originally got involved with this research project through a directed independent study (DIS) opportunity with the chemical ecology lab. I completed the DIS and then approached Dr. Pawlik about completing a departmental honors project after I had completed my DIS.

Do you enjoy your research?

I feel passionately about the research I am conducting and am intrigued by the scientific process of research.The project is challenging, but in a constructive way! It is difficult and fun to design a research question and implement data analysis techniques to understand a key component of a unique environment.

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

I hope to gain valuable technical skills in image analysis and a familiarity with the Caribbean coral reef ecosystem functions. Coral reef ecology is a growing field in marine biology, I think that my experience working in this ecological niche will aid my future career goals of research in marine ecosystems. I think there are many graduate programs that give preference to people with applied learning experience. It will help me immensely in the future because it has given me technical experience, a look into the world of research, invaluable contacts in the field, and a meaningful experience to put on my resume when applying for programs. I am now a more marketable employee, student, and scholar.

Did you receive any awards or recognitions for your research?

I received a CSURF Travel Grant, which allowed me to travel to the annual benthic ecology meeting to present my research. I am also currently a Research Ambassador with Honors/CSURF.

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