A Tale of Two Students – SCeMFiS-Funded Undergrads in the VIMS Molluscan Ecology Lab – May 2018
Khalil Russell and Jason Trumble have very different backgrounds, yet both are seeking the same goal – to eventually teach biology. They are sharing time together in the VIMS Molluscan Ecology Lab understanding the methods for aging clams by counting the rings in their shells – much the same way scientists can age a tree by counting its growth rings. And as it turns out, there are many rings to count in clam shells since they live for a very long time.
Khalil says that he has learned more about clams in the past week than ever thought possible and was amazed to find out how old they could be. He says, “I knew about the tree Methuselahs but ocean quahogs…. who would have thought?!” This curiosity about the world around us has lead Khalil on a path toward biology with his ultimate goal to eventually become a research professor. For now, he has a passion to tell others about these complex living things. He says, “Trying to transmit that information to others in the world is huge. The people that are genuinely curious tend to foster that curiosity in others.” That passion and curiosity was also a factor in Russell being awarded a W&M 1693 Scholarship.
But Khalil is realistic and understands that directions change. There was a point during his freshman year he wasn’t sure he wanted to continue with research or continue the pathway toward becoming a research professor. However, in his opinion, hands-on experience was the most important thing to help fuel this spark. His work at VIMS has not been his first research experience but says it’s his first truly enjoyable experience. He can see that the research being done here has a purpose and direction.
Jason Trumble is also taking in as much knowledge from the VIMS Molluscan Ecology Lab as he can in two weeks while he is visiting from the University of Mississippi (USM). He is working with Dr. Eric Powell at USM's Gulf Coast Research Laboratory as part of the National Science Foundation's Veteran Research Supplement program, helping to determine the age of samples of Atlantic surfclams in order to determine the impact of climate change on extant populations. A 13-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force as a weather forecaster, observer, and curriculum developer, Jason holds a B.S. in Geosciences (cum laude) with a concentration in Operational Meteorology from Mississippi State University, and an A.A.S. in Weather Technology from the Community College of the Air Force. Now he is back in school and pursuing a B.S. in Biological Sciences, with a minor in Mathematics.
Once again, teaching is the ultimate goal for this upstate NY native – however, rather than college, he has his sights set on teaching high school biology. Mississippi is looking for biology teachers and Jason wants to impart knowledge to young people to get them excited about the sciences. He always excelled at biology and always loved studying it. Jason says, “A passion for teaching in a STEM field stems (pun intended) directly from having been blessed with teachers that were passionate in their own right. My desire is to carry the torch and exemplify these instructors in order to ignite the same love of the sciences in the next generation.”
Taylor Daley, USM
SCeMFiS-funded graduate student Taylor Daley, as well as her major professor, Dr. Robert Leaf, had the opportunity to travel to Lund’s Fisheries Inc. and meet with Jeff Kaelin and Wayne Reichle. Fish from Lund’s harvest were obtained for the study. Weight and length measurements from 863 Atlantic Chub Mackerel (Scomber Colias) were taken on-site and data will be used to describe weight-at-length characteristics. Otoliths were collected from approximately 400 fish from a wide distribution of size classes, which will be used to determine the length-at-age relationship. Gonads for histological analysis were also collected.
Dr. Leaf and Daley also met with Meghan Lapp, Fisheries Liaison for Seafreeze, to tour Seafreeze facilities and arrange the logistics of sample delivery. A total of 524 fish from Seafreeze’s harvest were sampled for the project. Seafreeze also provided historical catch reports for Atlantic Chub Mackerel, which will allow the examination of the historical length frequency composition of the harvest.
In September 2016 Daley traveled to the Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole (NEFSC), MA to collaborate with NOAA age and growth expert Dr. Eric Robillard. Dr. Robillard agreed to partner on the project and provide technical support. Daley and Dr. Robillard derived an effective method of processing and analyzing otoliths. A total of 356 otoliths were selected from a representative range of size classes for each month sampled. These include 16 obtained from the Northeast Groundfish Survey. In March 2017 Daley made another trip to the NEFSC to collaborate with NOAA scientists and analyzed all 356 otoliths. This data is currently being analyzed to determine the length-at-age relationship.
Daley is also involved in an international otolith exchange. She has made connections with international (Spanish, Portuguese, and Canary Islands) experts in Atlantic Chub Mackerel age and growth. It is intended that the information sharing performed on the webinar will greatly assist in reaching the objectives of the project as well as giving SCeMFiS a global reach. Dr. Leaf has funded Taylor Daley to complete training in histology from Nancy-Brown Peterson to describe reproductive characteristics. Daley has processed the first 100 histology samples and is beginning analysis.