National Science Foundation Interns Arrive at BIOS

The 2021 National Science Foundation Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) cohort of interns at BIOS comprises nine students from undergraduate academic institutions across the United States, including Puerto Rico. For 12 weeks, these students will work together—and alongside BIOS faculty and research staff—on hands-on research projects in three broad themes in ocean science: biological production and exports, coral reef systems ecology, and plastics in the marine environment. Over the course of the program, they will gain valuable foundational skillsets that are applicable across science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, such as data management, scientific writing, record-keeping, and public speaking. Be sure to follow us on social media to see what they're up to as they embark on their journeys!

In late August, nine undergraduate students from schools across the United States, including Puerto Rico, arrived at BIOS for the 2021 National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) internship program. This annual program, which runs for 12 weeks every fall, pairs undergraduate students with BIOS faculty and research staff for independent research projects in a variety of topics in the marine and atmospheric sciences.

Now in its 30th year, the NSF REU program at BIOS offers participants the opportunity to gain practical, hands-on research experience in the laboratory and field, while learning fundamental skills used across the science disciplines, including experimental design, record-keeping, scientific writing, and public speaking.

In the past, REU interns worked alongside their mentors on research projects in diverse subjects, such as modeling local fish populations; investigating the microbial communities that live on Sargassum seaweed; looking at the impact of sunscreen ingredients (oxybenzone) on Bermuda’s corals; and using underwater robots, called gliders, to study the dynamics of phytoplankton production.

However, this year, the program was redesigned to encourage collaboration among both the interns and their mentors. Instead of nine separate projects, there are now nine projects based around three broad research themes: biological production and exports, coral reef systems ecology, and plastics in the marine environment. Each of the three interns working within a theme will tackle a research question related to one aspect of that theme, allowing the projects to build upon each other, much like collaborative, interdisciplinary research programs do in practice.

“We are very excited about the new format for REU research this year, and we are looking forward to training another cohort of young research scientists,” said Andrew Peters, associate scientist and director of university programs at BIOS. “We are also extremely grateful that we have again been able to hold the REU program in person at BIOS, despite the ongoing challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The collaborative project design wasn’t the only change to this year’s format. “We also started off with a two-week research ‘boot camp,’ which gave the students the foundational knowledge needed to thrive in the program, and introduced them to the necessary background on the three research themes and team-based structure,” said Samantha de Putron, associate scientist and assistant director of university programs at BIOS. “This also gave all students, mentors, and associated staff the opportunity to get to know each other before the program was fully underway.”

BIOS’s 2021 REU interns include:

Olivia Dudley
New York University (NY)
Major: Environmental Studies
Theme: Plastics in the Marine Environment

Siarah Hall
Louisiana State University (LA)
Major: Coastal Environmental Science
Theme: Coral Reef Systems Ecology

Jacob Harrison
University of Michigan (MI)
Major: Environmental Engineering
Theme: Plastics in the Marine Environment

Kelley Koehler
North Carolina State University (NC)
Major: Zoology & Biochemistry
Theme: Coral Reef Systems Ecology

Sarah Lehman
Pennsylvania State University (PA)
Major: Geoscience & Biology
Theme: Biological Production and Exports

Kaitlyn Lindholm
University of Idaho (ID)
Major: Biological Engineering
Theme: Biological Production and Exports

Margaret Lockwood
University of Kansas (KS)
Major: Physics
Theme: Plastics in the Marine Environment

Natalie Munich
St. Mary’s University of Minnesota (MN)
Major: Environmental Biology
Theme: Coral Reef Systems Ecology

Orlando Rios Cortes
University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras (PR)
Major: Environmental Science
Theme: Biological Production and Exports