16 May To the Keys I Go – An Introduction
Hello everyone! My name is James Puentes and this summer I’ll be working as a biology assistant at Biscayne National Park in Homestead, Florida. I’m ecstatic for the next three months of helping environmentalists, biologists, educators, and ecologists conduct their research whilst conducting my own. This summer, I will be conducting creel surveys asking fishermen about their catches, days, and the new fishing regulations that have been implemented. I’ll be starting soon, so look forward to reading about my experiences in the field, in the lab, and in the office!
As a marine biology and education dual major at Nova Southeastern University (NSU), I have built bridges between the Fischler Academy of Education and Halmos College of Arts and Sciences. I became the Fischler Academy’s first marine educator and founded the Fischler Marine Education Initiative my freshman year. In my sophomore year, I became the co-founder of the Fischler Marine Environmental Education Center (MEEC) Cooperative. This collaborative effort between the MEEC team’s education center and Fischler’s educators led to new bridges between educators of the class and the field.
Outside of Fischler, my sophomore year was the start of my Halmos undergraduate research efforts with Dr. Lauren Nadler in her animal behavior lab at the Oceanographic Center. Dr. Nadler and her team taught me the basis of data analysis. During the next year, I worked tirelessly collecting data from fish videos to determine schooling sizes, nearest neighbor distances, responses to stimuli, and how to interpret outliers. I also had the opportunity to work with Dr. David Kerstetter and another student from the fish and avian lab during the start of my junior year. This research project examined the differences in optic lobe and eye sizes in fish and related them to different feeding methods.
Consequently, my interest in Mosaics in Science rests upon the foundation of my marine education mindset and career aspirations in marine conservation biology. I wish to become both an educator of the marine environment, as well as a researcher, to further our knowledge of poorly known marine and aquatic ecosystems. Getting selected for this position as the Mosaics in Science diversity intern at Biscayne National Park puts me closer to integrating the research and education sides of marine biology. Being involved in the research efforts at Biscayne National Park will allow me to gain further insight into my own research aspirations and help my mentors complete their research goals.
Lastly, in furthering my knowledge of understanding and educating the general public, as I conduct the creel surveys that assess fisherman experiences and total catch accountability, I will be improving on how to communicate with people to determine their understanding of the Biscayne marine environment and educate them on the rules and regulations that protect the sustainability of organisms being caught.