By Beth Liles

Two undergraduates on the MBL campus are excitedly preparing to present talks on their summer research tomorrow: Diara Townes and Victoria Morgan, both students in the Woods Hole Partnership Education Program (PEP).

Now in its second year, PEP immerses undergraduates in the rich scientific and academic culture of the Woods Hole research community, and introduces them to leaders and colleagues in their fields of interest. Sixteen PEP students are being mentored in several Woods Hole institutions this summer, including Townes, who is from Hampton University, and Morgan, from Cornell.

PEP student Diara Townes works with MBL veterinarian Amy Hancock in the Marine Resources Center. Photo by Tom Kleindinst

PEP student Diara Townes works with MBL veterinarian Amy Hancock in the Marine Resources Center. Photo by Tom Kleindinst

“This has been the most exciting summer in my undergraduate career,” says Townes. “Not only am I gaining exquisite research experience, but I am also making lasting friendships and amazing professional connections.”

Designed primarily for juniors and seniors interested in marine and environmental science, the PEP curriculum consists of a four-week course followed by six-to-eight week individual research projects. The students are presenting their research findings tomorrow, August 13, from 8:30 AM to 1 PM in the Tilley Conference Room, U.S. Geological Survey Woods Hole Science Center, 384 Woods Hole Road (Quissett Campus), Woods Hole.

MBL veterinarian Amy Hancock in the Marine Resources Center has been mentoring Townes. They are evaluating a new fish anesthetic on various ornamental species to observe its effects on the animals. Townes is also working with Kristy Owen at NOAA’s Woods Hole Science Aquarium. They are measuring dissolved oxygen (DO) levels in the facility’s three main reservoirs and six exhibit tanks to determine if there is a correlation between DO levels and the fish disease exophthalmia (“pop-eye”).

Morgan is working with Ecosystems Center scientist Jim Tang, testing the method to measure carbon dioxide emissions from soils and measuring stem respiration from the Center’s Harvard Forest field site. The project goal is to examine the climate change impact on ecosystems and the feedback of ecosystems to the climate.

Victoria Morgan places soil samples into an oven in order to get a dry measurement of the bulk density of the soil. Photo by Tom Kleindinst

Victoria Morgan places soil samples into an oven in order to get a dry measurement of the bulk density of the soil. Photo by Tom Kleindinst

“I’ve learned more about the oceans and climate change than I expected,” Morgan says. “I’ve met lots of wonderful people, and I’ve had experiences that will remain with me for years to come. I plan on spreading the good news to my fellow Cornellians: PEP is a wonderful program and I really want others to participate in it!”

PEP is a partnership between the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) and the Woods Hole Diversity Initiative, a multi-institutional effort to promote diversity in the Woods Hole science community. Members of the Diversity Initiative include NOAA Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC), Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, USGS Woods Hole Science Center, SEA, the MBL, and Woods Hole Research Center.

The science institutions in Woods Hole are committed to building a diverse and inclusive community. People from all cultures and all backgrounds can feel welcome in Woods Hole, whether they are visiting, spending a season as students, or spending part or all of their careers working here. PEP is just one of many Woods Hole Diversity Committee efforts. To learn more, go to http://www.woodsholediversity.org/

2010 PEP students and directors: Top Row:  Zachary Williams, George Liles (PEP Program coordinator, NEFSC), Delawrence Sykes, Alexander DeLeon, Nam Siu.  Row 2: Lucy Flores, Emily Motz, Christopher Cepero, Brian Redding, Ambrose Jearld (PEP Program director, NEFSC).  Row 3: Joniqua Howard, Lane Boyer, Melika Uter, Rachel Rochon, Victoria Morgan  Bottom Row: Angela Anorve, Delores Toledo, Anna-Mai Christmas, and Diara Townes. Photo by Sateesh Rogers

2010 PEP students and directors: Top Row: Zachary Williams, George Liles (PEP Program coordinator, NEFSC), Delawrence Sykes, Alexander DeLeon, Nam Siu. Row 2: Lucy Flores, Emily Motz, Christopher Cepero, Brian Redding, Ambrose Jearld (PEP Program director, NEFSC). Row 3: Joniqua Howard, Lane Boyer, Melika Uter, Rachel Rochon, Victoria Morgan Bottom Row: Angela Anorve, Delores Toledo, Anna-Mai Christmas, and Diara Townes. Photo by Sateesh Rogers