Tammy Bleier ('14, Marine Biology)

Photo of Alexa Sterling What do you do for your undergraduate research?

Before transferring to UNCW I implemented an independent study that concentrated on daytime coral reef activity versus nocturnal activity in San Salvador, Bahamas. Since arriving at UNCW I have assisted various students (undergraduate and graduate) working in Dr. Finelli's lab. Some projects have included periwinkle snail response to blue crab chemical cues, oyster spat recruitment to artificial reefs, and Cliona sponge recruitment to various substrates, among others. My honors project will be focusing on the susceptibility of the eastern oyster to infection by Cliona.

What made you want to pursue an undergraduate research project?

Experience. I've learned so much through lectures and labs, but wanted to take my education at UNCW a step further. Science is about digging deeper; it's about asking questions and testing those questions. I wanted to experience that for myself firsthand.

How did you start your research project?

I was lucky to have started out my UNCW career working in Dr. Finelli's lab; it allowed me to work on a wide array of student research. After involving myself in the process of other student's projects, I became particularly interested in the sponge Cliona, which rampantly infects oysters in this area. I read papers on studies previously done on Cliona and noticed a lack of information on oyster susceptibility to the sponge, which formulated my research question.

Was doing your own research fun? Be Honest.

Yes! It's a rewarding process. You learn so much and become an expert on what you're studying. I especially enjoy getting into the field, but processing data in the lab can be fun too. It's also enjoyable to share your results with your peers. It takes a lot of time and effort, but it's worth every minute.

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

Doing an honors project has taught me to be flexible and patient, because things never go as planned. You have to be able to cope with the unexpected. It has also deepened my problem solving abilities. Not only is a research project in and of itself a problem to be solved, but you learn to deal with the hiccups that happen in the process. I've also been able to network with other professors and students at the Hatchery at the Center for Marine Science.

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

I received a CSURF Research Supplies Award, and will be applying for a travel grant to present my project at the Benthic Ecology Meeting in March.

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

I hope to attend graduate school and get involved with non-profit organizations working on conservation and species management.

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