University of Delaware
Interns hike up the Great Dune in Cape Henlopen State Park.

UD Interns: Marine science

NSF's summer undergraduate research program gets underway at UD


(Editor’s note: UD Interns is an occasional series that looks at enriching internship opportunities enjoyed by University of Delaware students, and provided by UD to students from other institutions.)

1:56 p.m., July 8, 2014--Every year, a handful of universities around the country host prestigious National Science Foundation-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) programs, pairing the best and brightest undergraduate students with research scientists.

This year the University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment enters its 27th year as an REU site, welcoming 10 interns to the Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes to conduct research alongside faculty in the School of Marine Science and Policy

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“It’s amazing to be a part of good, up-and-coming science research,” said Annie Procaccini, a student from the University of Vermont and one of this summer’s interns.

Procaccini and Kelley McBride, a student at the University of Rhode Island, are working with associate professor of oceanography Matt Oliver. Their projects are to compare sea surface temperature predictions to the actual temperatures measured by a pair of satellites in order to determine the accuracy of the predictions. 

These temperature prediction models will then be used as part of habitat models for Atlantic sturgeon and sand tiger sharks, respectively.

As soon as they arrive, the interns hit the ground running and begin their research projects. This year’s projects range from determining the change in manganese speciation in rivers over time to examining how the presence of fish affects zooplankton migration.

“What makes this program so special is the diversity of environments and topics the students are exposed to,” said Ana Dittel, the coordinator of the REU program at UD since 2001.

While research is the main focus for the interns, REU students also have the opportunity to participate in outside activities, like a recent field trip to Cape Henlopen State Park. On this trip, the interns toured the park while Evelyn Maurmeyer, an adjunct faculty member at UD and a CEOE alumna, gave a short explanation of coastal geological processes. 

Students also have the opportunity to go to weekly seminars given by the faculty, where they learn about topics relating to scientific research and communication.

One of the benefits of being in the program is that it provides the students with an opportunity to pursue interests that may not necessarily be situated within their official course of study. Brian Simmons, a rising senior studying geology at Marshall University, will spend his summer working with professor of oceanography Katharina Billups to determine past ocean currents and climate using carbon and oxygen isotopes found in cores from ocean floor sediments near Bermuda.

“I have always been interested in climate change,” Simmons said. “This is a great opportunity to experiment with research in climate change and see if it’s something I would want to pursue.”

The interns are hard at work now, and will be for the next month and a half or so. The program ends on Aug. 15 with a presentation of their work to the UD faculty and their peers.

The 2014 REU summer interns are: Chris Angell (Earlham College), Alex Creed (Eckerd College), Laura Damiani (Duke University), Thomas Itin (Tulane University), Laramie Jensen (Carleton College), Erin Landis (College of William and Mary), Kelly McBride (University of Rhode Island), Rachel Oidtman (Cornell University), Annie Procaccini (University of Vermont), and Brian Simmons (Marshall University).

For more information about the program and to inquire about the 2015 program, visit the CEOE REU program website

Article by Eadoh Reshef


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