Week 3

This week has encompassed my most, and least favorite parts of the Summer so far, and I feel that I am that much closer to narrowing the many paths toward my future career.

NOAA collected approximately 1000 steelhead, chinook and coho fish for various research projects. However, with that many fish, the

Interns and graduate students dissecting fish

NOAA scientists needed more hands to help separate the parts, so NOAA hosted a three day “Fish Cutting Party”. At 8:30AM on Monday, I headed over to the Barry Fisher Building to participate in my first dissection. As a vegetarian, I was curious about how I would handle the experience. Immediately, as I stepped into the white room filled with tables, I felt as though I was thrown into a sushi bar and was signed up for a fast track course in ichthyology. I put on my latex gloves and gathered two sets of each metal tool – scissors, a big scalpel, a small scalpel and tweezers. The graduate students there (James and Andrew) explained that the researchers wanted to separate the stomach, intestines, anterior kidney and posterior kidney (for the parasite lab), a part of the caudal fin (for the genetics lab), the head and a metal tag (situated between the eyes and the nostrils) that was used for migratory tracking. There were plastic bags for every fish part which were then placed in an ice beaker. The most important thing was to have an organized system so that no part was overlooked and forgotten.

There were several difficulties that I encountered during this dissection process. If the fish was too frozen, it was more difficult to cut into. Yet, if the fish had thawed too much, the plate that we were cutting on started to resemble a blood bath. In addition, I thought that after a while, I would get accustomed to the fishy smell, however, it only got worse over time. There was a minimum time requirement to volunteer for, either two half day sessions or one full day commitment. Since I was planning on going to OSU for the StrengthsQuest Part Two Seminar on Tuesday, I had eight hours of fish-cutting on Monday to “enjoy”. At one point, I had to cut through a fish eyeball to get to the tracking device. The most surprising aspect of this dissection to me, was the crunchy sound that was produced whenever I cut into the fish. Overall, I am glad to have had a first experience with dissection, but I have a feeling that it is also going to be my last!

My favorite part of the Summer so far, and especially of this week, has been my progress in narrowing down my interests. Liz Lopez is an experienced intern with UROC this Summer, from California State University Monterey Bay. She has participated in an REU at HMSC two years ago and has been a mentor for other undergraduate students to help them discover their interests. She generously offered to help me with narrowing down my multiple interests and showing me how to go about researching graduate schools. I always thought that the academic focus has to come before searching for graduate school, but Liz helped me realize the benefits of reversing the process. This way, I can see what professors have published to better understand what a scientific word translates to, in its application. Let me explain; from lectures and reading articles off of national geographic alone, my idea of what “Marine Ecology” is or what “Deep Sea Research” is, has been very different from what scientists who do work with the two fields are actually studying. This disconnect between the definitions in my mind and the scientific world of research has been a huge obstacle in the past. However, with some good direction, I have a feeling that I am on to a clearer path.

I have discovered new interests for perusal, such as the effects of climate change on top predator ecology, as well as the social aspect that connects research to people interaction. A bonus to doing all this research, is that it can only prepare me for what is to come, in terms of future internship opportunities and graduate school.

Happy Weekend!

Stacy

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