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I Got My Dream Internship in Marine Biology, This is How it Went

By Liel Shachr

Girl on boat

One of my biggest loves has always been nature- more specifically, the ocean. When you’re a kid, When you’re a kid, a lot of people "I want to be a marine biologist when I grow up." I was one of them, and for me it came true this summer.

I had the unique privilege of interning at the Big Bend Seagrasses Aquatic Preserves (BBSAP) over the summer in Crystal River, FL. The BBSAP team manages two of the FDEP’s Aquatic Preserves, which spans over one million acres of submerged lands across 5 counties. During this time, I was able to gain hands-on-experience with field work and learn management practices from the BBSAP team.

A dolphin coming to the surface with seagrass

As part of their program, they conducted annual seagrass monitoring surveys, in which I learned biological monitoring techniques and data analysis. I learned how to identify seagrass and algae species and assist with coverage analysis surveys to assess the percentage of seagrass covering an area. I also assisted with urchin surveys, conducting test measurements, and coverage analysis. A big part of this meant going out into the field to collect data. The team and I took a boat out to the different sites and dove in with our snorkel gear! I got up close and personal with many of Florida’s beautiful ecosystems, and saw different marine species such as bull sharks, sting rays, and dolphins.

Throughout the duration of my internship, I assisted with the team collecting monthly water samples, as they are responsible for collecting valuable water quality data. I acquired essential skills such as calibrating, post calibrating, and deployment. The team also gave me more insight into the program and explained their importance for scientists who could potentially use this data for their research. We also collaborated with different projects and government agencies in the area. We joined the FSU Marine

Fish swimming in seagrass

Turtle Research Ecology and Conservation group (MRTEC) to view loggerheads and green sea turtles being caught, tagged, and released in St. Martins Marsh!

Another highlight was a trip up to the Rainbow Springs Aquatic Preserves where we helped their team spearfish for invasive plecos, which erode the banks of the river due to their digging of nests. I also participated in one of the many cleanups that BBSAP participates in. At the Cedar Key Marine Debris Cleanup that BBSAP helped make happen, where we removed over 50 pieces of pollution.

A marine biologist working in seagrass

This summer internship made me fall in love even more with the nature that surrounds us. Spending my days out at sea, snorkeling, and watching marine wildlife swim around freely made this summer extremely special for me. I gained eye-opening knowledge on several of Florida’s environmental issues such as marine pollution and invasive species. Lastly, I learned seagrass is criminally underrated. They are an essential part to the ecosystem that plays a significant role in water quality and habitat for species. The most important thing I learned though is that everyone can make a difference just by being kinder to our coastal habitats. Be careful when boating so you don’t leave prop scars, which can damage or even prevent seagrass from growing back. And of course, spend more time exploring nature. It can change your life like it changed mine!

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