Jaime Frungillo (CAS ’11)

Marine Semester Fall 2010, Belize

Marine Semester Fall 2010, Belize

My BU Days…

When I first entered Boston University, I was an undecided major in the College of General Studies. I always enjoyed math and science, so I opted to take Biology and Calculus as my elective courses. I was searching for a major that I was passionate about; and as my sophomore year approached, I realized that major was Marine Science. Unfortunately, no one from CGS had ever transferred to the BUMP, and graduating in four years seemed unlikely. However, as the semesters went by, it was not as hard as I was advised. I took two summer courses and was able to participate in internships during my four years of undergrad.

During the summer going into my junior year, I had two internships. My first experience, working with marine mammals scientifically, came when I volunteered in Costa Rica as part of International Student Volunteers. Dolphins were used as bioindicators and photo identification was employed to estimate relative abundance and fungus documentation present on Tursiops truncatus. When I came back from Costa Rica, I began my internship for Jenkinson’s Aquarium. During my time at Jenkinson’s Aquarium I learned, researched and created enrichment toys for Atlantic harbor seals, cared for and cleaned the African penguins and parrot exhibits, and tested water quality.

 Gulfo Dulce, Costa Rica with International Student Volunteers: Photo identification of Bottlenosed Dolphins.

Gulfo Dulce, Costa Rica with International Student Volunteers: Photo identification of Bottlenose Dolphins.


Unlike most undergraduate institutions, Boston University offered an option for a Marine Science Major. Consequently, we had the opportunity to take classes like Marine Biogeochemistry, Ichthyology, and Physical Oceanography and participate in a research semester called the Marine Semester. During this semester, as part of Professor Kaufman’s Marine Megafaunal Ecology class, I went out on a research vessel in Stellwagen Bank, MA, and became familiar with CTDs, plankton tows, sonar, and drop cameras. While on the vessel, I gained more experience recording marine mammal presence and behavior in researching what influences humpback whales’ foraging behavior. The BUMP students also got the chance to take a trip to Belize with Professor Lobel and Professor Fulweiler to snorkel and observe the surrounding coral reefs and the reef fish. The Marine Semester also introduced me to geospatial systems in the Marine GIS class where I studied the relationship between climate-related disasters and forecasts. This class led me to work with Pablo Suarez on the Red Cross disaster database.

My Alumni Days…

After I graduated Boston University, I decided to take a year off to evaluate my interests for graduate school. I wanted to gain more experience in the field, but opportunities in marine science are very limited for someone with only a Bachelor’s Degree. I therefore opted to work for Huntington Learning Center tutoring math and science to sixth through twelfth grade students. The experience has become very rewarding because I take pride when my students perform better in school and on standardized tests. Also, the position has given me a chance to keep my skills sharp and has made me more qualified and comfortable educating others.

My volunteer work in Costa Rica and my experience in Stellwagen have given me an interest in marine management and marine mammal conservation. It is also from these experiences that I have become interested in how marine mammals respond to environmental changes and anthropogenic influences. In order for me to obtain a position in these areas I am most interested, I need to further my education by attaining a Masters in Marine Conservation and Management. Duke University offers this program and I will be proudly attending in the fall. Duke’s program provides a firm foundation of Marine Science with courses in Economics, Marine Policy, Ecology, and Biochemistry of Marine Mammals and through these course offerings, I believe I will be taught how to obtain and succeed in a Marine Science career.

My Advice to Future BU Students…

1. Try to get as much experience as possible while you are in school. Many opportunities are available to undergrad students and your professors have many field connections. Volunteer, Intern, Travel while you are able to do so.

2. Work hard. Do not get lazy and skip homework or fail to study for tests. Do not get discouraged when you are studying late nights and waking up early mornings to get all your work done. You will get the work done and succeed in class as long as you are putting in your best effort.

3. Be willing to get your hands dirty. As a volunteer and intern, you might be sent into situations that are less than ideal, but just stick it out. Through my internship at Jenkinson’s Aquarium, I had to scrub salt off glass, cut up fish, clean the kitchen, and clean penguin and seal cages. But it was all worth it because during my internship I learned about harbor seal husbandry and was able to create new enrichment toys and record their interactions with them! It was one of the best experiences of my life.

4. Have fun!