Hello everyone and happy fall! I wanted to take this opportunity to blog about my major (the best major) here at the Academy and that is MES or Marine and Environmental Sciences. Within my major, I focus on two of the three intended tracks which are biology, physical oceanography and chemistry (I study biology and physical oceanography). I may be a little bit biased but I promise I am not exaggerating when I say that MES majors have the most fun at the Academy. We are constantly in the labs doing hands-on dissections, or out trawling for fish on the Thames River. Any other major will admit that they are jealous of the countless field trips we have to the beach, the Inner Space Center at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography, or the Mystic Aquarium. I also find that learning about the environment that we will be operating in and around as officers is not only beneficial, but absolutely essential to our futures.
The one thing about being an MES major that makes me a little bit different is my directed study program, which goes on outside of class. My directed study is focused on stress physiology in marine mammals. More specifically I am working with Mystic Aquarium to determine if saliva samples collected from the exhale of whales will be indicative of stress levels present in hormones like cortisol and aldosterone that are present in blood samples. Every Thursday afternoon I head over to the aquarium’s labs located on the UCONN Avery Point Campus in Groton, Connecticut. At the labs, I work on a variety of tasks for the project including the analysis of samples (from 9 different Beluga whales captured and released in Bristol Bay, Alaska) in the flow cytometer; as well as archiving blood samples from past veterinary records for the Belugas at the aquarium along with stranded animals that the aquarium has rehabilitated or blood samples received for other studies. Along with my lab work, I also get to travel over to the aquarium to collect the actual samples as well, which involves working with the whales, always an absolute dream come true!!
Along with my work with the Aquarium, I also work with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) out on Cape Cod. WHOI currently has a buoy deployed off of Martha’s Vineyard that contains a hydrophone and satellite system to record and transmit noise picked up in the vicinity. The noise we are looking for is whale calls. Based on the songs the buoy hears, we can identify the species of the whale in the area, which is especially important for the conservation efforts of the critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whale. The website designed and created by WHOI is in the process of being turned over to me and a couple cadets for constant analysis and publication regarding the resulting species in the area.
Another thing I was lucky enough to participate in this past summer, which was associated with my major, was the discovery of the S.S. Coast Trader, a shipwreck off the coast of Vancouver, along with the team at the University of Rhode Island (URI) and on the Nautilus (a research vessel operated by the graduate school at URI). There is so much more I could say about my major, but I know no one has the time to read all that. Anyway, in conclusion, I could not be any happier with my major and the incredible opportunities I’ve had thus far here at the Academy. I will continue to happily [MES]s around here at school with my fish, my whales, and of course my homework and I hope to keep you all updated! Don’t hesitate to email me with any and all questions.