Pamela Braff (CAS ’11)

Enjoying the sunrise during an early morning collection.

Enjoying the sunrise during an early morning collection.

My BU days…

The most rewarding part of my time at Boston University was my involvement with BUMP.  The two BUMP Marine Semesters I participated in were the most thrilling, hectic, and amazing courses of my college experience. BUMP courses are designed to teach students how to become and think as scientists.  The academic challenges of BUMP extend much further than reading textbooks, memorizing facts, and preparing for exams. Instead of textbooks, BUMP students rely on binoculars, microscopes, waders, and snorkel gear to learn as much as possible about the marine environment.  Our homework consisted of researching primary scientific literature and developing experimental designs.  Exams and quizzes were replaced with actual field and laboratory experiments. Most importantly, through these hands-on courses, BUMP students gain critical thinking skills and experience unmatched by any other traditional college course.

Preparing a squid for dissection.

Preparing a squid for dissection.

Cold weather never stops BUMP students from getting out and doing research.

Cold weather never stops BUMP students from getting out and doing research.

You will find your best friends in BUMP.

You will find your best friends in BUMP.

My Alumni days…

After graduation I decided to expand my horizons and apply my research and GIS experience outside of marine science.  I began a nine month Fire/Habitat Management Internship at National Key Deer Refuge in the Florida Keys with the US Fish and Wildlife Service.  I was responsible for various GIS projects such as compiling geospatial fire history data and developing models to predict wildfire risk in fire prone communities. I was also trained as a wildland firefighter and participated in wildfire response and prescribed burns to manage habitat and reduce fuel loads.  I then surveyed vegetation and wildlife pre and post burn for fire severity and effects. I just finished up this internship at the end January and am hoping to attend graduate school in the fall for geography.

Giving a weather update to other fire fighters on a 2011 wildfire. (Courtesy of USFWS)

Using a drip torch on a prescribed burn at Florida Panther Wildlife Refuge. (Courtesy of USFWS)

Using a drip torch on a prescribed burn at Florida Panther Wildlife Refuge. (Courtesy of USFWS)

 

My advice to future alumni…

1)   Get as much research experience as possible.  It will make your college experience more enjoyable and open up many opportunities.  You will get to know your professors better and graduate schools love applicants with research experience.  For example,  I participated in an independent study and summer Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program with Professor John Finnerty. 2)   Be open to every opportunity. Take important courses even if you don’t think you will enjoy it . . . you might be surprised.  Marine GIS is my perfect example for this advice.  I expected this course to be extremely difficult and unpleasant.  While it was difficult, I found that I really enjoy geography and afterwards decided to pursue other similar courses. 3)   INTERNSHIPS. Not enough can be said for on the job experience.  If you are having trouble finding one, ask your BUMP professors.  They have amazing resources, ideas, and connections. 4)   Be persistent, remain positive, and stay committed. Each course, internship, and job will come with its own challenges and difficulties.  I saw more sunrises during BUMP than ever before in my life.  When you are waking up at 3:45 am to leave for a day of fieldwork, it is important to remember the amazing things you will see later that day.

UPDATE (Spring 2014): Pamela will soon start her PhD program at The College of William & Mary, Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS).