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@ University of Rhode Island

I came to UAS as a through the National Student Exchange as a junior from the University of Rhode Island majoring in marine biology. I chose to exchange here because of the setting and the marine biology program UAS offers. As a student coming from a school with about 15,000 undergraduates it was a much homier feel with an undergraduate population of about 4,000.
In my year here I have been given a number of wonderful opportunities for experience in the marine biology field. It all started with an intertidal romp at low tide with some other students. The intertidal is so rich with life here it’s amazing to be able to turn over a rock and uncover multiple baby sea stars, look at baby sea anemones and adult sea anemones the size of your fist or larger.

The second big thing I was able to participate in was Sitka’s WhaleFest. This was part of a class I took that reviewed and discussed scientific papers about recent work being done in the marine mammal field over the semester. In November we traveled to Sitka and had the opportunity to listen and talk to some of the big names in marine mammalogy. 

Since the school is so small you have a much more intimate relationship with your professors. This helps set you up for some great opportunities first because your professor knows your name. Because of this I was able to talk to my marine mammalogy professor about working with her on her harbor porpoise research project. With this opportunity I have been exposed to field techniques and what goes into having your own research project.

In my marine mammalogy class we got some amazing first had experiences. The first was the opportunity to perform a necropsy on a harbor porpoise that had been killed in fishing line the summer before. This was a great experience to get to physically see these organs that we’d learned so much about. This was also beneficial because we got exposed to what would happen if we had to perform a necropsy in the future.

Group photo in front of MedeiaThe second opportunity we were given was to be out on the Fish and Game boat the Medeia for three days and two nights. On this expedition our goal was record all marine mammals we observed and when humpbacks were spotted to photograph and identify them.

The first day on the Medeia was overcast all day; the fog was low and thick with some rain in there off and on, and no sign of marine mammals…ahh the life of a scientist. Things did eventually pick up and we observed some Dall’s porpoise and got to photograph a couple of humpbacks before anchoring near Admiralty Island.

Day two started out dreary as well, but the sun came out later that morning to make for a beautiful day. Day two was much more exciting than day one, we had multiple groups of Dall’s porpoise come up to the boat and bow ride, we got to count harbor seals and Steller sea lions hauled out, and got to observe multiple humpbacks. We came across two humpbacks and went over to get some photo ID’s on them. Once we got closer to the whales mayhem broke out, two whales turned into three all in different directions, and everyone was trying to get that elusive fluke picture. This group was even more exciting because one of the whales was lunge feeding near the. After leaving the group we docked on an island that used to be an old logging camp. Here we got to get off the boat and explore the island, the intertidal was amazing here too, there were more clams than I had ever seen, and they were all squirting water in what could have been a choreographed water show.

Day two ended with a beautiful sunset, and day three began with the sun peeking through the clouds. On our way back to Juneau we saw some more Dalls porpoise, and came across a humpback. When things seemed to be dying down we encountered a yearling humpback breaching, and he did not breach only once it was closer to five times in the ten or so minutes we watched him. This was the last animal we saw on the trip but what a great finale.

As a marine biology student at UAS the opportunities to learn and participate in the science field are plentiful and of some of the greatest quality.


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