For many scientists, considering and pursuing a career in science results from a particularly formative teacher in school. For Dr. Jeff Krause, Dauphin Island Sea Lab plankton ecologist, this mentor was Mr. Russell Quackenbush. Mr. Quackenbush was Dr. Krause’s 9th grade biology and 10th grade marine biology teacher. To honor this relationship and ‘pay it forward’, Dr. Krause offered a scholarship and research experience to a high school student interested in marine science. This incredible experience is funded by a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to Dr. Krause (OCE 1558957). The scholarship covers tuition and room and board for the 4 week residential summer class in marine science offered by Discovery Hall Programs (DHP), 2 weeks of research experience in Dr. Krause’s lab at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab and a stipend.
In the 1960s, Russell Quackenbush attended a National Science Foundation program that allowed him to spend a year at the University of Oregon immersing himself in biology. He credits this experience with shaping how he approached and taught biology for the rest of his career (which extended into the early 2000s), and how he engaged students. When Dr. Krause spoke with Quackenbush about the scholarship in his name, the knowledge that this scholarship would be supported by NSF gave him the feeling of life coming full circle. As Dr. Krause put it “this opportunity gave me a way to say thanks to somebody who helped me along the way”.
Ansley Chaplin, a rising 12th grader at Davidson High in Mobile was selected as the 2016 scholarship recipient. Ansley learned about many aspects in the field of marine science, successfully completing Discovery Hall Program’s course in marine science along with more than 25 new best friends. She then took her knowledge across the street to the Dauphin Island Sea Lab's research facility and worked with Dr. Krause and his Ph.D. student, Rebecca Pickering-Turner. Starting with only this class background in marine science, Chaplin conducted research on the interaction between silicon and germanium on the diatom community in Mobile Bay, and whether large (e.g. >0.5 mm) and numerically rare diatoms may be important in local coastal waters.
Diatoms are single celled phytoplankton which form a siliceous (i.e. glass) shell. If there is not enough silicon in the environment, diatoms will not reproduce or grow. Since diatoms are an important group at the base of the food chain, low diatom production potentially results in less food for organisms higher on the food chain.
As part of her research, Chaplin learned many tools of the trade including how to approach a research question, how to use specific instruments and lab protocols, how to collect, analyze and interpret data, and that results do not come from a book. Research can teach us new and exciting things. She also learned the importance of perseverance, because experiments seldom work the first time. After you learn from your initial mistakes and correct your approach, Chaplein learned perseverance gets you to the second or third or fourth experiment that yields results. Perhaps most importantly, Chaplin realized the importance of collaboration in research. She thoroughly enjoyed working with everyone in the Krause lab and recognizes that these folks were a key to her success.
“I would like to stress how this opportunity opened so many doors for me. I entered into the summer not knowing much about phytoplankton and by the end of the experience I feel I am much more prepared for undergraduate research," Chaplin said.
Ansley is continuing her research as part of her senior year project.
In turn, Dr. Krause really appreciated having Ansley in the lab.
“Ansley is now an important part of our team, her work this summer contributed to a bigger picture of what we are learning about the phytoplankton community," Dr. Krause said. "Should she want to come back and continue research in this area, it would be great to have her in the lab again."
The Russell Quackenbush scholarship will be offered again in the Summer of 2017. If you know of a student who is thinking about marine science as a career, please open doors for them and put them in touch with Dr. Krause (email@example.com) or Discovery Hall Programs (DHPSummer@disl.org) to learn more.