Since she was seven years old, Ashley Katin '14 has known what she wanted to do with her life—to study coral reefs and shark populations.
So it was only natural that for three weeks this August, the marine biology major would find herself in Cobscook Bay, Maine, with 16 of her Suffolk classmates, studying the impact of ocean salinity on the feeding patterns of barnacles.
“I have never been around anything like this,” Katin says of her experience taking a three-week intensive course at the University’s R.S. Friedman Field Station. “It is one of the reasons I chose Suffolk, because I could get a hands-on experience.”
Every other August for the past quarter-century, the biology department has sponsored the three-week course, complementing lectures on marine biology, ecology, and field botany with independent field work opportunities. Senior marine biology major Jake DelGreco '14 studied the effects of ocean pH levels on green sea urchins, while marine biology major Edward Hall '15 examined how the shell shape of the common periwinkle affects its vulnerability to predators such as crabs.
The 70-plus acre Friedman Field Station, founded in 1968, is directed by associate professor of biology Carl Merrill. It’s a different world from Suffolk’s downtown Boston campus, located an eight-hour drive away along a pristine, rugged coastline just miles from the Canadian border. The area boasts a remarkable biodiversity and exceptional tidal range, making it ideal for studying marine life.
Environmental science major Vena Joseph '15 says that her work at the field station helped her better understand how mankind’s activities affect the environment.
“Humans have a great impact in the ecosystem,” says Joseph, who wants to get a graduate degree in public health and study tropical medicine. “It is so evident.”
Students bunked up in rustic cabin accommodations and had opportunities to kayak in the bay, visit nearby state parks, and go on a whale watch.
They also met people like Mark Grant, BS '96, who works as a sector analyst for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Northeast Regional Office in Gloucester, Mass. For Katin, that encounter was invaluable.
“One of Mark’s colleagues is doing a Ph.D. on shark biology, so I now have a real contact in the field,” she says. “This experience has confirmed what I want to do.”