Summer 2023 Blog

Week 1: Let’s Dive In

Summer has arrived which means IMET is welcoming its 22nd cohort of summer interns. For those joining our blog for the first time, the IMET Undergraduate Summer Internship Program provides hands-on research opportunities for undergraduate students from backgrounds with limited access to environmental/marine research opportunities.
Each intern works with a Principal Investigator (PI) on a specific research project. These projects fall under one of IMET’s three research areas: Sustainable Seafood Production; Environment, Animal, and Human Health; or Energy, Water and the Environment. In addition to their time in the lab, the interns attend seminars, training sessions, and workshops throughout the summer. Including a weekly Friday session with various speakers and activities.
The interns first week consisted of orientation, lab training, and a workshop on poetry in science. At orientation, the interns finally got to meet their IMET mentors. These are the faculty, graduate students, and staff the interns will be spending the next nine weeks with. The orientation covered topics such as IMET history, facilities management, security, use of animals, lab conduct and more. These topics brought our students face to face with more of IMET’s incredible minds, Executive Director Dr. Russell Hill, IMET Summer Internship Director Dr. Eric Schott, Faculty Research Assistant John Stubblefield, and administrator Sarah Hughes.
During their Friday session with Dr. Kate Gillespie, the interns completed a workshop called Poetry in Science. They got to explore the creative side of science by using scientific principles to write poems. Communicating science in a way that people can engage with, understand, and celebrate is incredibly important. This session is designed to help our interns think about the role of communication and creativity in the research they will be doing over the next couple of months.
The summer is already off to a great start and we are looking forward to sharing our interns research journey with you! We enjoyed meeting the students this week and thought you might like to meet them too. Please learn more about our nine interns below and make sure to check back in next week to see what they have been up to in the lab!

Meet Our Interns:

Name: Nathan Paz
School: University of Guam
School Year: Rising Senior
Major: Biology
From: Yigo, Guam
Current career goal: Medical Doctor
What you're looking forward to at this internship: Meeting everyone at IMET and seeing the diversity in STEM!
IMET Mentor: Dr. Sook Chung, Faculty PI
Name: Elizabeth Rojas
School: University of Maryland, College Park
School Year: Rising Junior
Major: Biology
From: Silver Spring, MD
Current career goal: My career goal is to become a Physician Assistant, focusing on the public health sector impacted by environmental factors.
What you're looking forward to at this internship: I'm so excited to be involved in a lab group passionate about finding new research on how certain conditions impact our local Baltimore microalgae community and how that implements onto a larger scale. 
IMET Mentor: Nick Gallagher, PhD Student
Name: Allison Shupp 
School: Northeastern University
School Year: Rising Senior
Major: Marine Biology
From: Fairfax, VA 
Current career goal: Research career studying marine organisms.
What you're looking forward to at this internship: Learning new lab skills that I can apply later in my career.
IMET Mentor: Muddassar Iqbal, PhD student
Name: Marlon Waits
School: University of Maryland College Park
School Year: Recent Graduate, 2023 
Major: Biology
From: Accokeek, MD
Current career goal: Make something cool as a biochemist or materials engineer.
What you're looking forward to at this internship: Mass spectrometry analysis
IMET Mentor: Dr. Eric Schott, Faculty PI & Dr. Tsvetan Bachvaroff, Faculty PI
Name: Avani Patel
School: University of Maryland College Park
School Year: Rising Junior
Major: Biology
From: Aberdeen, MD
Current career goal: I am planning on going to medical school and hope to become either an anesthesiologist or cardiologist.
What you're looking forward to at this internship: I am looking forward to doing hands-on research and applying concepts learned to real-world scenarios and research. I am also looking forward to meeting other like-minded students.
IMET Mentor: Dr. Jim Du, Faculty PI
Name: Noah Mansfield
School: Loyola University Maryland 
School Year: Rising junior
Major: Biology
Current career goal: No idea! I could be in medical school or anything else in science.
What you're looking forward to at this internship: Getting lab  experience and running experiments on the mussels I get to collect. 

IMET Mentor: Allyson Kido, MS student

Name: Danielle Ferguson
School: Morgan State University
School Year: Rising senior
Major: Biology
From: Columbia, MD
Current career goal: Marine biologist/animal biologist
What you're looking forward to at this internship: Learning more about marine science and getting more experience in the field of biology.
IMET Mentor: Emily Jolly, PhD student
Name: Charles Cutignola
School: Rutgers New Brunswick
School Year: Rising Senior
Major: Environmental Engineering
Current career goal: Environmental Engineer 
What you're looking forward to at this internship: Learning as much as possible from the people here.
IMET Mentor: Matthew Stromberg, PhD Student
Name: Braxton Kess
School: Coppin State University
School Year: Rising senior
From: Baltimore, MD
Current career goal: Geneticist 
What you're looking forward to at this internship: Helping marine life and the environment in any  way that I can. 
IMET Mentor: Jennifer Herrera, PhD student

Week 2: Getting Comfortable

Week two started with an Environmental, Health and Safety lab training for our interns. They learned how to conduct themselves in a laboratory and how to use lab equipment in a safe and thoughtful way. These are skills that will help them in their internship and in any lab they enter throughout their education and careers. 
As the interns continue to get more comfortable in their labs they are starting to narrow down their research projects. We spoke with some of our interns and learned more about the science they are focusing on. Here’s an example to give you an idea of the types of projects they are working on:

Danielle Ferguson is an intern in the lab of Dr. Allen Place. With the help of her mentor, PhD student Emily Jolly, and lab mates, Danielle is exploring the microbiome of land-based aquaculture-raised fish being fed alternative diets. The goal of land-based aquaculture is to protect the oceans and marine life while continuing to feed our growing population. However, despite the fact that fish raised in land-based aquaculture units are not coming from the oceans, their food still is. Fish meal is typically made from small oceanic fish. If our goal is to protect the oceans, then we need to find a way to feed aquaculture-raised fish without pulling their food from the sea. That’s where Dr. Place’s lab comes in. The Place lab is exploring alternative protein sources for fish feed. These options could include pellets made from insects or algae. However, we need to understand how these ingredients impact the fish before using this idea more extensively. That’s where Danielle comes in. Danielle’s project is focused on exploring the microorganisms living within these fish to see what impacts alternative diets have on aquaculture-raised fish and their microbiome.

All of our interns have fascinating research projects ranging from dinoflagellate toxins to optimal growing conditions for mussels in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and so much more! You will be able to read about each project in next week’s blog.

This week at the Friday session, the interns met with Keith Snipes. His experience as an actor, poet, and vocalist make him an unconventional yet innovative mentor. He is eloquent, open, and very personable. To start off their session, the interns got to practice describing their research projects to Keith in a way that was accessible and engaging. After these introductions Keith spoke about the concept of “imposter syndrome”. Together, he and the interns defined imposter syndrome as the belief that you do not belong in an environment despite your past successes. They discussed where this feeling comes from and the importance of rewriting the narrative happening in your mind. IMET employee, River Segreto joined the interns in this discussion and shared her belief in the benefits of “thought training”. She explained that she is consistently working on stopping the negative thoughts from running wild in her brain. She redirects her thinking or activity whenever this happens and overtime she has seen the negative thoughts start to quiet. Thank you to Keith and River for such wonderful advice and discussion. See you soon for week 3 of the IMET Summer Internship Program!

Week 3: New Friends

Welcome back to week three of the IMET Summer Internship Program. This week goes down as one of the best yet! Our interns have settled on their research projects so we can get a better idea of what they’ll be up to for the next six weeks! You can see the project summaries they wrote for you at the end of this blog!
In addition to learning more about the science they will be working on this summer, the interns were invited to attend the naming of the Rita Rossi Colwell Center. The Rita Rossi Colwell Center, previously the Columbus Center, is the building that houses IMET. On Thursday, we celebrated the naming of the building in recognition of the inspiring career and work of Dr. Rita Colwell. Dr. Colwell is an environmental microbiologist credited with almost 800 publications. She was the first female Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and was instrumental in the founding of our building for the purpose of expanding environmental science education and research in Baltimore City.
The ceremony included speeches by Chancellor Jay Perman, President Sheares-Ashby, President Goodwin, NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan, and even Dr. Colwell herself. The celebration was held under the tented roofs of our beautiful building and included great food and music. Amidst the glamor, our interns had the rare opportunity to network with politicians, scientists, presidents, and community leaders.

In addition to learning more about the science they will be working on this summer, the interns had a wonderful Friday session with our friends at Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE). BGE is an Exelon company that provides gas and electric services to more than 1.2 million customers in Maryland. BGE supports the local community, sustainability efforts, and green energy. They are also a generous supporter of the IMET Internship Program. Seventeen BGE interns along with leadership staff members including BGE President & CEO Carim Khouzami, Senior Vice President of Government, External, and Regulatory Affairs Alex Nuñez, and Director of Corporate Community Impact Tanya Terrell, spent the day interacting with our interns and learning more about IMET. Their day included tours of IMET laboratories and the Aquaculture Research Center, talks by IMET Director Dr. Russell Hill, BGE President & CEO Carim Khouzami, and IMET faculty member Dr. Yantao Li, and a delicious lunch with even better conversation. Together the interns got to share their internship experiences with one another, learn more about IMET and BGE’s environmental sustainability and conservation efforts, and practice their networking skills.

We had a great day learning more about BGE and making new friends. Thank you to BGE for their support of this program and the time they took to come visit us. You can learn more about BGE’s environmental commitment here. Thanks for reading! See you next week!
Allison Shupp
Zebrafish galectin-1 (drgal1-L2) in Innate Immunity Against Bacterial Pathogens
Proteins called galectins are shown to bind to bacteria and these proteins may reduce infection from bacteria in zebrafish and other fish used in aquaculture. But we are unsure how the galectins affect the host’s immunity from these pathogens. Therefore, I am conducting experiments to see how these zebrafish galectins bind to different bacterial pathogens to improve their immune response.
Avani Patel
Gene Expression of Chaperone Proteins in Heat Shock Factor Mutant Zebrafish
I am looking at gene expression of different chaperone proteins, Hsp90a1, Hsp70-8b, and Unc45b, in zebrafish with Smyd-1b and Hsf-1 mutations. This is to better understand the role of Hsf-1, a transcription factor, in regulating chaperone proteins such as Hsp90a1, Hsp70-8b, and Unc45b during the stress response, which is activated when there is environmental or cellular stress. My experiment is going to use Smyd-1b mutant zebrafish to mimic the cellular stress condition. We performed In-Situ hybridization on the embryos to look at the gene expression of three different chaperone proteins.
Marlon Waits
Survey of Australian Algal Toxicity
I was given 14 samples of phytoplankton isolated from Australia. These phytoplankton belonged to genera that were associated with harmful algal blooms. I was tasked with conducting several assays in order to determine whether they exhibited signs of toxic activity that would lead to a harmful algal bloom and fish/bivalve kills.
Nathan Paz
Blue Blood: Structural Analysis of Limulus polyphemus Hemocyanin
This study compared the hemocyanin (Hc) of the Atlantic horseshoe crab with other marine decapods. We found unexpected connections within the hemocyanin superfamily, as Limulus Hc showed a closer relationship to prophenoloxidase than other decapod Hc.
Noah Mansfield
Effects of Temperature and Salinity on Clearance Rate of the Dark False Mussel, Mytilopsis Leucophaeata 
Waterways are polluted with excess amounts of nutrients, leading to algal blooms and the negative effects that come with them. In The Inner Harbor, the Dark False Mussel has been identified as a species that can help reduce excess nutrients in the water column, but due to climate change, Dark False Mussels may not be able to continue to thrive in changing temperatures and salinities, therefore we need to study these Mussels under different conditions to understand how they could be affected.
Danielle Ferguson
Effect of salinity on the blood chemistry of Atlantic Salmon ( Salmo salar) grown in a recirculating aquaculture system (RAS)
Aquaculture production has increased rapidly over the last few decades to meet the world’s demand for seafood. Fish like Atlantic Salmon can be grown in a recirculating aquaculture system to help satisfy this demand. Thus it is important to analyze what conditions in these systems may cause an effect on the health of these salmon.
Charles Cutignola
Off-flavor Removal Technologies in Recirculating Aquaculture Systems
Recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) and land-based aquaculture is becoming a widely used technology for commercial fish production and especially Atlantic salmon, a commercially popular fish amongst consumers. But, “earthy” and “musty” off-flavor compounds, specifically geosmin and 2-MIB, have become a significant economic problem for producers in land-based aquaculture systems. Therefore, we need to develop new technology to remove the compounds efficiently and economically from these systems to improve the consumer product.
Braxton Kess
Assay Development of a Novel Blue Crab Virus
Maryland’s fisheries have heavily relied on the blue crabs to make profits and many Marylanders are also relying on the blue crab for their delicious taste, but there is a virus hurting blue crabs, causing them to become sick. Therefore, my project is focusing on creating a PCR test for this virus so that we can diagnose them quicker and save the blue crab population.
Elizabeth Rojas
Microalga Scenedesmus obliquus become resilient to salinity gradient when exposed to 10% CO2
The Chen Lab, partnered with HY-TEK Bio, have found a strain of algae that has optimal results in high levels of CO2 for carbon sequestration. It has resistance to photo-stress, so it has led to further inquiry to what other stresses it may resist. Using various gradient levels of salinity of Scenedesmus Obliquus, known as HTB1, we were able to see that HTB1 has a higher density when grown in 10% CO2 in comparison to air, and that other valuable products like carotenoids can also be made as well!

Week 4: The Beauty of Not Knowing

Week four was the busiest week yet. Between lab experiments and meetings with their mentors the interns attended multiple events throughout the week:

Tuesday: A visit with President Sheares-Ashby
President Valerie Sheares-Ashby came to IMET on Tuesday to sit down and chat with our interns. Dr. Sheares-Ashby is the sixth president of UMBC and the first woman to serve in the role. In addition to being president, Dr. Sheares-Ashby holds a faculty position in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. On top of being a strong leader and science superstar, she is incredibly warm and personable. President Sheares-Ashby shared her journey into academia in an accessible and inspiring way. She discussed the importance of finding a good mentor and acknowledged her mentors for their past and present help. She shared the importance of “not knowing”, “not knowing is beautiful, it means your world can only grow larger”. She also spoke about the importance of community and surrounding yourself with good people who believe in you.
When Dr. Sheares-Ashby’s mentors first told her they thought she could be a university president; she wasn’t so sure. However, she decided, if they thought she could do it, she would give it a try- and look at her now! The discussion was absolutely wonderful and we are extremely grateful to President Sheares-Ashby for taking the time to meet with our interns and share so much wisdom with them. We wish you all could have been there to meet her, everyone can learn something from our UMBC President. 
Wednesday: SEAS Islands Alliance Tour
We had the awesome opportunity to receive visitors from the SEAS Islands Alliance. The SEAS alliance is an NSF-funded program to "empower students in Guam, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands to pursue their interest in marine and environmental sciences through scientific and professional development training and mentorship". It has leadership from Maryland Sea Grant and UMCES faculty members James Pierson and Lora Harris. Both graduate-level and undergraduate interns from the SEAS program traveled quite the distance to get to IMET including University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) and University of Guam (UOG). The SEAS interns and IMET interns spent the day together touring the Schott and Saito laboratories at IMET as well as our Aquaculture Research Center. The group then had lunch together and were joined by Curtis Bennett, the National Aquarium’s director of equity and community engagement. 
Thursday: IAN Science Communication Training
Science Communicators from the Integration and Application Network traveled to IMET to give the first science communication training session of the internship. The training session ran most of the day and included lessons on using narratives in science, how to summarize research, ways to visualize data, how to design presentations, and so much more. Our interns got to practice creating their own research summaries using the “and, but, therefore” technique to effectively explain what they are researching, why it is necessary, and how it could impact the community. Everything they learned in this session will be immensely helpful in their final research presentations and throughout the next steps of their career.
Friday: IMET Picnic
The interns got a well deserved break at the end of this busy week. After a breakfast check-in meeting with Keith Snipes the interns attended the annual IMET Picnic at the Gunpowder Falls State Park. In addition to delicious food the interns got to enjoy playing volleyball, cornhole and a couple rounds of Uno! This week flew by, we can’t wait to see what next week has in store! See you then!

Week 5: Science In Design

This was a short week at IMET. With the fourth of July holiday falling on Tuesday, our interns had a well deserved break. Despite the short workweek, there was no shortage of work to be done. On Wednesday, they had the entire day to focus on their lab work. It is clear how integrated the interns have become in their labs. We love seeing them heading out to collect samples from the harbor, meeting their lab mates in the conference rooms, and getting statistics lessons from Dr. Bachvaroff. 
As their skills in the lab continue to grow we want to make sure they can share these skills with their peers, advisors, and the general public. As important as science is, we need to know how to communicate our research in a way that others can understand and engage with the results. To help with this, the interns had their second training session with the Integration and Application Network’s science communicators this week. This session focused on how to use Adobe InDesign and Adobe Illustrator to create clear and
engaging scientific graphics. Adobe InDesign and Adobe Illustrator are powerful tools for publishing and graphic design. If you have used either, you know how helpful a tutorial like this is. While difficult to use at first, both applications are extremely worthwhile to learn. The instructors walked the interns through the software’s basic abilities and how to effectively use them. Following along on their computers, the students were attentive and engaged. IAN is an amazing resource and we are grateful for their participation in the IMET Summer Internship.
To end this short week, the students met with former IMET intern and alumna, Amanda Lawrence. Speaking with them over zoom, Amanda described her journey through graduate school to her current position in the National Sea Grant Office. Amanda gave the students great insight into the different paths you can take in your career. She emphasized the importance of finding a mentor, networking often, and exploring different opportunities. Amanda also explained her prior belief that graduate school was made for people interested in pursuing careers in academia. As her journey in STEM progressed she realized this is not the case and encouraged the interns to pursue further education. Amanda completed her masters thesis in Dr. Sook Chung’s lab here at IMET, the very same Dr. Sook Chung who is mentoring intern Nathan Paz this year. She quickly learned how helpful it is to have a masters degree and how important it was in getting a career outside of academia. The interns asked Amanda questions about her current position and past lab work. At the end of the discussion Amanda reiterated the importance of networking and let the interns know she would be happy to speak with any of them in the future if they had any questions or needed advice. Thank you so much Amanda for taking the time to speak with our interns, we hope to see you next year!

Week 6: Exploring your Options

This week, the interns met with Dr. Micah Miles, an Environmental Protection Specialist at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). She not only shared her journey with the interns, but emphasized the importance of taking risks, carefully choosing areas of interest (even outside mainstream career paths) to advance their career and personal goals.
Dr. Miles recounted a diverse range of intriguing positions she undertook to explore her career interests. Her journey began with a desire, during high school, to become a veterinarian. However, after a six-month veterinary internship focused on spay/neuter and declaw procedures, she realized it didn’t make her feel as excited as she once thought. Despite initially envisioning a career like Steve Irwin's, Dr. Miles realized that achieving her conservation goals required scientific expertise and graduate-level research.

During her master’s degree, she spent a summer interning with the National Park Service in California where she studied reptiles and amphibians in and around the Santa Monica Mountains. Her research involved analyzing data collected over several years to estimate population size, survival mechanisms, and other factors for various species.

Pursuing a Ph.D. was not her initial goal, but with the support of her peers, mentors, and the organizations she worked with, she decided to pursue it. She enrolled in the Integrative Conservation Program, a multidisciplinary program combining ecology, forestry, anthropology, environmental education, and marine biology. For her Ph.D. funding, she obtained a prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (NSF-GRFP).

After obtaining her degree, Dr. Miles realized that the urban/wild interface was where she could make the most impact. She stressed to the interns that this realization came from a long line of opportunities where she was able to try on different hats. She encouraged them to explore memberships in societies or organizations relevant to their interests as a way to stay connected to people who can help keep them motivated and stimulated. She also stressed the importance of voting and creating meaningful change.

Other highlights from the week! The interns have been exploring Baltimore city and the surrounding areas. A group hopped over to Camden Yards on Friday to watch the Orioles beat the Marlins 5-2!



Week 7: The Riverkeeper

This week the summer intern group was visited by Fred Tutman. Fred, the founding Patuxent Riverkeeper, is not only an experienced outdoor adventurer but also stands as one of the most tenured Waterkeepers in the Chesapeake area. He is the sole African American Riverkeeper in the United States. Fred holds truly exceptional environmental expertise and profound knowledge of the land and riverways. During the discussion, he also shared with the group details of his impressive blacksmithing skills.
Fred discussed the importance of protecting water quality in both urban and rural areas. The impact is not only on recreational activities like swimming and fishing, but also on public health due to contamination of drinking water. Fred highlighted the Patuxent River as a crucial waterbody in Maryland. Not only does the river reside solely within the state's borders, but Fred shared that the activism around the Patuxent was the sole impetus for the Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Movement. However, the Patuxent’s health has been affected by various factors like coal plants, development, military bases, and contamination from forever chemicals like PFAS.

Fred’s discussion with the intern group talked as much about family heritage as it did about River Keeping work. Fred has significant family connections with Baltimore. His uncle, Henry Hall, was one of the founders of the National Aquarium in Baltimore. Additionally, one of his ancestors was the founder of the Matthew Henson society, celebrating the achievements of the polar explorer Matthew Henson.

As the longest-serving and oldest among the 19 Riverkeepers in the area, Fred took pride in the progress made over the years (considering that there were only seven riverkeepers when he began two decades ago). He considers the fact that he is the sole African American Riverkeeper in the entire United States reflects the unintentional lack of diversity present in the environmental field. Fred believes that environmental experiences differ across class and racial boundaries, making it challenging for people of color to navigate and participate fully in conservation movements. To address this, Fred emphasized the importance of mentorship, as it could help people of color find their place in the environmental space and contribute to meaningful change.
Fred spoke about the importance of community activism and the need for mentoring to develop future leaders. He compared blacksmithing to activism, where both involve working with raw energy and shaping it into something useful and productive. He stressed the importance of engaging the community's energy constructively and channeling anger into positive action.
 We thank Fred for his time and hope to come visit him on the Patuxent!

Week 8: Our Streets are Our Streams

With the end of their internship in sight, the interns spent the week finalizing their experiments, analyzing their data, and working on their final presentations. The interns could be seen in our conference rooms and lunch areas creating and practicing their presentations with one another. After working so hard this week, we brought in an incredible speaker to meet with the interns. Alice Volpitta, from Blue Water Baltimore, came to IMET on Friday and gave a presentation on her work as the Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper. Alice protects the Baltimore Harbor, speaks on behalf of the people who live around the harbor, and takes legal action against polluters, including Baltimore City itself.

Blue Water Baltimore is a non-profit organization that cares for Baltimore’s rivers, streams and Harbor through science, education, and legal advocacy. Blue Water Baltimore monitors the environment by collecting and analyzing water samples from the Baltimore area. Using this data, environmental observations, collaborations, and feedback from the community, Blue Water Baltimore protects our waterways through education and litigation. Alice explained that legally, “waterways don’t belong to anyone, they belong to everyone”. If someone is ruining your experience of the water you have the right to take legal action. This is covered under the federal Clean Water Act. Alice’s presentation today focused on one main point, that “our streets are our streams”.

Using many images and graphics, Alice described how sewage systems across the country are old and failing. In Baltimore specifically, the stormwater pipes run parallel to the sewage pipes. Due to their failing condition, the pipes have begun leaking into one another. Stormwater pipes run straight from the streets to our streams, therefore, anything entering these pipes also enters our streams, including sewage. Conversely, if heavy storms occur stormwater pipes become overloaded and leak into the sewage pipes. This excess water quickly overwhelms the pipes causing sewage to enter our groundwater, streets, waterways, and homes.

Alice encouraged everyone to vote for politicians who support environmental causes and clean water. She also asked that we be mindful of what we put down our drains. Whatever we clean in the sink and flush down the toilet enters our sewers and inundates an already overwhelmed system. Thanks to Alice and Blue Water Baltimore for their work protecting our community and its waterways. Thanks for tuning in, see you next week for our final blog of 2023!!


Week 9: Grand Finale

It is the last week of the IMET Summer Internship Program. Our interns have been a wonderful addition to our institute this summer and we will miss seeing them playing Uno in the lunchroom! This Friday our interns were joined by their families, mentors, and colleagues for a day to celebrate their research. Each intern presented their work to an in-person and remote audience at IMET. Let’s take a look at how much they learned!

Nathan Paz | Blue Blood: Structural Analysis of Limulus polyphemus Hemocyanin | Mentors: Dr. Sook Chung and Dr. Tsetso Bachvaroff
Nathan’s research focused on hemocyanin, a protein that transports oxygen, in Atlantic horseshoe crabs. This protein is what gives horseshoe crab blood its blue color when exposed to air. Nathan’s work compared the hemocyanin of horseshoe crabs to other marine invertebrates. The research yielded unexpected connections within the hemocyanin superfamily (a group of closely related molecules possessing a similar function). The hemocyanin in Atlantic horseshoe crabs showed a closer relationship to prophenoloxidase, an innate immunity protein, than the hemocyanin in other marine decapods. Both of these proteins can be found in the blood of horseshoe crabs which is an important medical product critical for detecting bacterial substances that can cause illness to humans.
Noah Mansfield | Effects of Temperature and Salinity on Clearance Rate of the dark false Mussel, Mytilopsis Leucophaeata | Mentors: Allison Kido and Dr. Eric Schott

Noah’s research focused on the dark false mussel and its ability to reduce excess nutrients in the water column. In order to explore this ability he needed to better understand how dark false mussels are affected by salinity and temperature. Using samples pulled from the Inner Harbor, Noah monitored and compared the clearance rate (rate at which particulates are cleared by filtration) of dark false mussels at different temperatures and salinity levels. From this research, he concluded that temperature has a significant impact on the dark false mussel’s clearance rate while salinity does not have a significant impact. This is important to understand so we can determine if this is a viable solution for cleaning up harmful algae from the water column in the face of climate change.

Marlon Waits | Survey of Australian Algal Toxicity | Mentors: Emily Jolly, Dr. Al Place, and Dr. Tsetso Bachvaroff

Marlon’s research investigated different phytoplankton to determine whether they exhibited signs of toxic activity that would lead to a harmful algal bloom and fish/bivalve kills. Using 14 samples of phytoplankton isolated in Australia, Marlon set up an experiment to explore each phytoplankton’s lytic capabilities, or their ability to rupture a cell. His experimental results suggested the strains used in his research possessed no toxic activity. It is important to understand more about phytoplankton and its ability to cause harmful algal blooms as increasing global temperatures can lead to more frequent algal blooms.

Allison Shupp | Zebrafish galectin-1 (drgal1-L2) in Innate Immunity Against Bacterial Pathogens | Mentors: Muddassar Iqbal and Dr. Gerardo Vasta

Allison’s research focused on proteins called galectins and how they may reduce bacterial infection in aquaculture-raised fish. Galectins are shown to bind to bacteria but it is unclear how the galectins affect the hosts immunity. Allison’s research explored how zebra fish galectins bind to different pathogens to improve their immune response. It is important to understand the abilities of galectins to reduce bacterial infection as a way of reducing illness in aquaculture-raised fish.


Braxton Kess | Assay Development of a Novel Blue Crab Virus | Mentors: Jennifer Herrera and Dr. Eric Schott

Braxton’ s research focused on a virus impacting the blue crab population. In order to diagnose and prevent this virus from spreading there needs to be a new method of detection. Braxton’s research focused on creating a PCR test specific to this virus so diagnosis can occur faster. This research resulted in the development of a qPCR assay for the virus. The diagnosis of this virus is important for maintaining the health of Maryland’s fisheries which are highly dependent on the blue crab.


Charles Cutignola | Off-flavor Removal Technologies in Recirculating Aquaculture Systems | Mentors: Matthew Stromberg and Dr. Yonathan Zohar

Charles’ research focused on exploring new options for removing off-flavor in land-based aquaculture. Off flavor is an earthy or musty flavor that accumulates in fish raised in land-based aquaculture systems. The flavor is a result of the bacterial metabolite, geosmin. Charles’ research explored the ability of soybean wax to reduce geosmin concentration in water. His experiment resulted in 60% absorption of geosmin in the first three days of wax placement. In order to reduce our impacts on the oceans we need to find an alternative way to feed our growing population. Growing fresh fish in land-based aquaculture systems could be the solution.

Avani Patel | Gene Expression of Chaperone Proteins in Heat Shock Factor Mutant Zebrafish | Mentor: Dr. Jim Du

Avani’s research focused on the gene expression of different chaperone proteins in zebrafish. Chaperone proteins assist in the process of protein folding to ensure proteins function correctly. In response to stress, certain chaperone proteins called heat shock proteins are produced. Avani explored the role of heat shock factor 1 in the regulation of heat shock proteins during the stress response. Her research concluded that, under stress conditions the increase in expression of certain heat shock proteins is dependent on heat shock factor 1.

Danielle Ferguson | Effect of salinity on the blood chemistry of Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar) grown in a recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) | Mentors: Dr. Al Place

Danielle’s research explored the difference in blood chemistry between salmon grown in freshwater and salmon grown in saltwater. To explore this Danielle collected and compared blood samples from salmon raised in freshwater tanks and salmon raised in salt water tanks. Danielle compared the metabolites found in the blood to determine the differences. Her research concluded that salinity does have a significant effect on salmon blood chemistry but the blood of both fresh and saltwater raised salmon remained healthy.

Elizabeth Rojas | Microalga Scenedesmus obliquus become resilient to salinity gradient when exposed to 10% CO2 | Mentors: Nick Gallagher and Dr. Feng Chen

Elizabeth’s research explored the effect of salinity on algae grown at high levels of carbon dioxide (CO2). Elizabeth grew the same strain of algae at various levels of salinity. She did two versions of this experiment, one in air and one in 10% CO2. Her research concluded that this strain of algae is able to grow under salt stress. However, its growth decreased at higher levels of salinity. The algae exposed to 10% CO2 was more resilient to salt stress than the algae grown in air. This is important to understand as climate change is caused by increased CO2 entering our atmosphere. Algae that uses high levels of CO2 to grow could be a solution to this problem.

Altogether, the final presentation day went spectacularly well, with interns showing off their skills as researchers and communicators. Throughout the presentation day, there were many acknowledgements and notes of gratitude from the interns, as well as from the faculty advisors. Noted among those thanks were:
  • Our funders, whose support makes this program possible: Mary Catherine Bunting, the Venable Foundation, the Charles A. and Lois H. Miller Foundation, BGE, Maryland Sea Grant and the National Science Foundation
  • The internship program faculty advisors: Dr. Eric Schott, Dr. Rosemary Jagus, and Dr. Tsvetan Bachvaroff
  • IMET and UMCES Staff: Dr. Russell Hill, Sarah Hughes, Samantha Heyn, Sabreena Nazar, and Sam Sibanda
  • UMCES Integration and Application Network Staff
  • The workshop leaders, Keith Snipes and Dr. Kathleen Gillespie
  • All our Friday guest speakers