My REU project and the joy of being able to do science in my hometown

My name is Drew Collins, and I’m a rising junior at the University of New England studying Marine Biology. I’m one of the REU (Research Experience for Undergraduates) Interns working out of the Marshview Farm field station on the TIDE project.

As part of the REU program, interns must plan, orchestrate, and present the findings of a scientific study of their choosing (all within ten weeks!). We are not alone in this process however, as we have an incredible network of scientists working out of Marshview. The TIDE PIs (Principal Investigators, lead researchers) have been invaluable, giving us an endless stream of knowledge and advice they have gained through their many research projects and scientific endeavors. I know this advice will continue to help and guide me long after this summer is over. The RAs (research assistants) provide both advice and lend a hand with the lab work and fieldwork these projects require. In addition, all the REUs help each other, surveying creeks, gathering and counting snails, measuring gr ass clippings, and labeling everything.

Nathalie creek bank

Nathalie taking geomorphic measurements on one study creek such as point vegetation cover, bank crack widths, and creek depth.

My project is a joint project with Nathalie Moore. Together we are studying how the changing landscape of the marsh creeks is affecting mummichogs’ (a species of small fish that lives in the marsh) access to their invertebrate prey in the upper marsh. In order to get a large sample size of creeks, Nathalie and I have had to travel all over the Rowley and Ipswich salt marshes, exploring creeks not often visited. Once we had chosen and surveyed our creeks, we now must take measurements on the fish and the invertebrates at each creek, so we can see what kind of relationship there is between the landscape of the creek, the types and quantity of invertebrates, and the size, mass and behavior of the mummichogs living there.

Nathalie at Metcalf creek

Nathalie uses an old downed telephone pole to cross a ‘mosquito ditch’ while working at Metcalf creek

This internship has been a really exciting opportunity for me specifically, because the areas we study are practically in my backyard. I live just 10 minutes from Marshview, and I grew up here on the Great Marsh. To be able to do real science on these salt marshes, which have always held a special place in my heart has been a truly magical experience.

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