The Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship Blog

Marine Biology Students’ Study Abroad Experience Leads to Summer Research

While studying abroad in the Bahamas, students explored coral reefs, collecting data – and inspiration – for their projects as part of the University’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program.

July 24, 2019

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications
Photography by Robert Rattner

Image of Dump Reef
Krystina Braid ’21 (right) at Dump Reef.

Krystina Braid ’21 has been fascinated by the ocean and by marine life since she was a little girl. While studying abroad earlier this summer on San Salvador Island in the Bahamas, she snorkeled by the tropical reefs – something she had always dreamed of doing.

Image of Anna Mariano ’20
Krystina Braid ’21 and Dr. Roman Zajac

"I saw a nurse shark, which is one of my favorite animals,” said Braid, a marine biology major. "We conducted a mini research project, forming our own hypotheses and answering those questions with data we collected underwater.”

Braid is continuing her research this summer through the University’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program. She’s analyzing video footage that she collected at Dump Reef, and she’ll examine the impact that changes in the coral reefs are having on the reef’s fish community structure.

"Studying abroad was extremely beneficial because it allowed me to set up go-pro cameras on the reef and collect the video footage I am analyzing this summer,” said Braid. "As part of the course, I learned about many of the common fish species that reside on the reefs, so it greatly aided me in committing many different species to memory before even beginning to analyze the videos for my SURF project.”

"If I had not studied abroad, my SURF project would not have been possible."Anna Mariano ’20
Image of Anna Mariano ’20
Anna Mariano ’20

Anna Mariano ’20, studied in the Bahamas with Braid, taking a "Tropical Marine Biology” course on the island and visiting several reefs. Also a participant in the University’s SURF program, Mariano’s research is focusing on identifying which species of algae are present around San Salvador.

"The best part about studying abroad was studying aspects of coral reefs,” said Mariano, who plans to pursue her master’s degree and, eventually, a career in marine biology research. "My goal for my SURF project is to determine if there are bloom-forming algae species around the island, since certain blooms have been causing many problems in the Caribbean. If I had not studied abroad, my SURF project would not have been possible.”

For Braid, studying abroad and taking part in the SURF program are enabling her to get her feet wet in the field of research, potentially shaping the trajectory of her future.

"Marine conservation is a huge movement in today's society, and I'd like to be part of trying to conserve our oceans,” said Braid. "I’m hoping to gain a better understanding of this tropical marine environment while also exploring research as a possible career path.”