Christina Marmet CAS’11

My internship in the Giant Ocean Tank at the New England Aquarium.

My internship in the Giant Ocean Tank at the New England Aquarium.

My BU Days

I am an international student from France, and I have to admit I came to BU not having any idea what I wanted to study. My goal for the last 3 years had been to get into school in the USA, and now that I was finally there, I wondered “now what?” I took a couple of classes in earth sciences, but it’s after taking a class in oceanography that I finally realized the marine science program was really what I wanted to do. I was very lucky to have been able to enter the BU Marine Program and finally pursue what I truly loved.

Being in the BUMP program was absolutely one of the highlights of my time at BU.  I did the Marine Semester during my junior year and had the opportunity to spend days in the field studying salt marshes; and go to Belize to conduct research on a remote island. I remember all my “non-BUMP” friends were complaining about sitting in class the whole day, and meanwhile I was happily spending hours in the field, getting muddy, tan and wet. And it was the best time of my undergraduate career.

Giulio, our TA, looking at all the core samples my team had to process within a week during ES543

Giulio, our TA, looking at all the core samples my team had to process within a week during ES543

The marine semester was definitely the most challenging yet rewarding thing I’ve ever done. I feel like I have learned so much more from working in the field and in the lab than I would ever have by just sitting in a lecture. I took Estuaries and Nearshore Systems with Prof. Sergio Fagherazzi, who was probably the craziest and funniest Italian man I have ever met and who would keep a record of how many times we fell in the mud. I then took Marine GIS and Ichthyology, which eventually resulted in a field expedition in Belize taught by Pr. Phil Lobel.

The oven at the field house burnt some of our samples and we still had a lot to process!

The oven at the field house burnt some of our samples and we still had a lot to process!

After Sergio’s class, I was given the chance to work for Linda Deegan of the Marine Biological Laboratory Ecosystems Center in Woods Hole, processing salt marsh soil core samples.  But I remember sitting on the dock on Wee Wee Caye, Belize and thinking I was really lucky to be there and thankful I could study what I loved in such amazing places.

Fun times on the dock in Wee Wee Caye, Belize

Fun times on the dock in Wee Wee Caye, Belize

I was also part of the BUCOP program (now BU DDP), which allowed me to do a dual degree in journalism with a specialization in photojournalism in the College of Communication. At the same time, I was still able to work in Professor Finnerty’s lab through an Independent Study course, looking at corals’ genetics.

 

Diving in the Giant Ocean Tank at the New England Aquarium.

Diving in the Giant Ocean Tank at the New England Aquarium.

And finally, I was lucky enough to be an intern at the New England Aquarium, a BUMP academic partner, for a whole year during my senior year. I first started in the temperate gallery, where I learned to take care of various species of fishes such as sea dragons, groupers, cichlids but also stingrays and lobsters. During the second semester, I got the chance to intern in the Giant Ocean Tank, where I could help the aquarium staff with their daily duties, but also dive in the tank to feed the southern stingrays and many other species of fishes, or simply give Myrtle, the 560lbs and 80years old green sea turtle of the tank, a little shell scrub.

My Alumni days…

After graduating in May 2011, I made the decision of taking a year off to really think about what I wanted to do next. I knew I wanted to go back to graduate school for marine science, but I did not know where or to study what. And I felt like I wanted to see what else was out there first.

In September 2011, I started a 6-months internship in the Seychelles with a non-governmental organization called Global Vision International (GVI). The internship started with 3 months in a very secluded environment in the Baie Ternay Marine Conservation Area, where we learned in record time more than 100 species of corals in their juvenile form, and then we conducted daily surveys of coral reefs recruitment and health in partnership with the Seychelles National Park. After the 1998 El Nino event, more than 60% of the coral reefs were destroyed around the island, and it was important to monitor the recruitment of new species. Data had been collected for a couple of years, so we were able to compare our data to the previous ones and see an improvement in the marine park. We also contributed some data for the Seychelles Fishing Authority and the Marine Conservation Society of Seychelles monitoring invertebrate population, whale shark migration, plankton distribution, and marine turtle range.

Studying tiger and oceanic blacktip shark behavior during an internship in South Africa.

Studying tiger and oceanic blacktip shark behavior during an internship in South Africa (I’m on the left).

Conducting coral reef survey in Bay Ternay, Seychelles(I’m on the left for both photos).

Conducting coral reef survey in Bay Ternay, Seychelles(I’m on the left).

After this research, I was able to become a PADI Divemaster and to work in a dive shop in Beau Vallon, Seychelles for the following 3 months.

I can say it was the best thing I have ever done in my life so far. I am happy to know that I have contributed to the marine conservation effort the country is looking to make. I have had incredible times there and will forever cherish the memories of scuba diving with a manta ray, jumping off the boat to snorkel with a juvenile whale shark, observe two marine turtles fight, or simply the excitement of finding a rare coral recruit while surveying. It also gave me a direction in my life, as it triggered my interest in marine conservation, and made me apply to graduate schools that offered such a program.

I finished this internship in March 2012, and I will come back to the US in August to attend the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at the University of Miami and pursue a Master’s degree in Marine Affairs and Policy.

My advice to future alumni…

1. Internships. I bet you’ve probably heard this a million times, but internships are really the best thing you can do during your undergraduate career. Don’t be scared to get out there, travel around and apply, it is definitely worth it.

2. Try to get as many research opportunities during your time at BU. Build connections with your professors and try to work in their labs, it will give you valuable experience and knowledge, and they will be able to help you no matter what you decide for your career.

3.  Get SCUBA certified. I wasn’t when I came to BU, and it definitely was a plus when I was one of the rare few to be able to dive in Belize. It will open you many doors.

4.  Don’t be afraid to get dirty. I have sunk up to my waist in mud, been covered in fish scales after prepping the food at the aquarium, and gotten very wet simply cleaning tanks in the BU labs. In the end, you will get horribly wet, smelly and dirty, but that’s all this major is about, isn’t it?

5.  And finally, be happy and love what you’re doing. Not everyone will have the opportunity to spend weeks in Belize, months sailing across the Atlantic or a semester feeding a giant turtle, all that for science. Enjoy every opportunity and have the right attitude; you’re going into a wonderful field.

UPDATE (Spring 2014): Christina has completed her graduate degree at the University of Miami and is working as a marine scientist for an environmental consulting firm in Florida.